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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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Ferguson Bakery, Vandalized During Riot, Receives $100,000 in Donations

Thursday, November 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Natalie Dubose had a dream to open her own business — a bakery and cake shop along a busy thoroughfare in Ferguson, MO. In June, she opened Natalie’s Cakes  & More and, by most accounts, was making a go of the concern.

But on Monday night, rioters broke her display windows and trashed several very expensive baking machines.

But Dubose wouldn’t give up. And with a little help from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and actress Patricia Heaton, it looks like her dream is still alive.

Washington Times:

A Ferguson bakery owner says she is “so humbly blessed” after receiving nearly $100,000 in online donations to repair her shop that was damaged by looters.

Natalie Dubose, who owns Natalie’s Cake’s & More at 100 S. Florissant Road in Ferguson, said rioters damaged the shop’s windows and baking equipment overnight Monday, after a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Ms. Dubose started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to repair her shop and has received a wave of support, including from “The Middle’s” Patricia Heaton and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Brandi Glanville.

“Thank you to actresses Patricia Heaton and Brandi Glanville for supporting me!” she wrote in an update on her page. “I must have missed thousands of other tweets, and I’m so sorry I can’t mention them all. The sweet lady who offered money from her social security check brought me to tears … Thank you to EVERYONE for the kind words, prayers, and emotional support.”

The account reached $98,241 in only 20 hours since it was created.

“May God turn this tragedy to a lesson in the power of the love of strangers,” wrote one donor. “I stand with you Natalie and pray God’s blessing and protect on you!”

“Natalie, along with my little bit of money goes all my prayers and thoughts for your success,” wrote another. “Hang in there and stay strong. I am rooting for your continued presence in Ferguson — we have to keep your community strong, with love and hope. Best Wishes.”

Two total (white) strangers originally set up the Go Fund Me accounts.

 

Limbaugh devoted a segment of his show to the fundraising effort and has a widget on his website linking to the Go Fund Me page:

A poor woman saved up everything to open her cake store in Ferguson. She’s African-American and she had nothing to do with any of this that went down, but her store got destroyed. So people set up a couple of Web links for Americans to donate to give her a chance to rebuild. I don’t even know if she had anything to do with it. I think others set it up for her. Not sure about that.

Anyway, so many of you are coming through on this that it’s really heartwarming to see. Did you go check it out? I had a couple people tell me that a lot of you are logging in and donating. I think it’s great, and you’re renewing people’s faith, or you’re solidifying it in some cases, which is also what I want to do later in the program with the true story of Thanksgiving.

A great Thanksgiving story.

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Where’s Ben Affleck When You Need Him?

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You may recall actor Ben Affleck’s reflexive defense of Islam when comedian Bill Maher and author Sam Harris referred to the religion as a “motherlode of bad ideas”:

“Gone Girl” star Affleck took umbrage at the pair’s contention that Islam is, in Harris’ words, a “mother lode of bad ideas” and that liberals are squeamish about criticizing Islam for stances on women and LGBT issues because people “have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where every criticism gets confused with bigotry toward Muslims as people.”

Affleck said Harris — a neuroscientist known for works criticizing religion — and Maher were guilty of using a broad brush themselves.

“It’s gross. It’s racist,” Affleck said. “It’s like saying ‘shifty Jew.’ “

You have to wonder how Affleck will respond to the contention by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey that it’s “against nature” to think men and women are equal.

“You cannot put women and men on an equal footing,” he told a meeting in Istanbul. “It is against nature.”

He also said feminists did not grasp the importance of motherhood in Islam.

His comments often seek to appeal to his pious core supporters, says the BBC’s Mark Lowen in Istanbul, but they anger more liberal voters.

Turks who have more secular views argue that the government’s social policies are taking the country in a dangerous direction, our correspondent says.

Mr Erdogan has previously urged women to have three children, and has lashed out against abortion and birth by Caesarean section.
‘Delicate nature’

His latest remarks were delivered at a women’s conference in Istanbul.

“In the workplace, you cannot treat a man and a pregnant woman in the same way,” Mr Erdogan said, according to the Anatolia news agency.

Women cannot do all the work done by men, he added, because it was against their “delicate nature”.

“Our religion regards motherhood very highly,” he said. “Feminists don’t understand that, they reject motherhood.”

He said women needed equal respect rather than equality.

Mr Erdogan also told the Istanbul meeting that justice was the solution to most of the world’s issues – including racism, anti-Semitism, and “women’s problems”.

The Turkish leader often courts controversy with his statements.

Earlier this month, he claimed that Muslims had discovered the Americas more than 300 years before Christopher Colombus.

In his 11 years as prime minister, Mr Erdogan became a crucial player in regional politics

You can easily see Affleck’s dilemma. Does he trash Erdogan, who is only repeating the Islamic view of women, or does he defend Muslims for their misogyny?

Actually, if Erdogan wants to leave 50% of the population of his country on the sidelines, it’s his problem not ours. It’s what gives western countries a huge advantage over Islamic countries that oppress women and keep them from fully contributing to society.

Turkey was, at one time, a modern secular country. But over the decade that Erdogan and his Islamist Justice and Development party have been in power, the slow, inevitable decline of democratic institutions, as well as the Islamization of the army, has made Turkey the backwater of NATO.

Erdogan is far less circumspect lately about revealing his Islamic views. It should raise the question about Turkey’s continued participation in the alliance, given his coziness with the Muslim Brotherhood. He has refused to recognize Egypt’s new government, calling President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi “illegitimate.” Tellingly, he has adopted the Muslim Brotherhood supporters’ four-fingered “Rabia” salute as a part of his party’s rallying cry.

As the mask continues to fall, revealing Erdogan for the Islamist tyrant he is, dupes like Ben Affleck are going to have to decide which side of history they wish to be on.

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An Alternative View of the Issues Surrounding the Ferguson Grand Jury

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I don’t agree with this take on issues surrounding the Ferguson grand jury by Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe. But it is a valid interpretation based on his worldview that police are gunning for black kids and that nothing is being done about it.

The national hysteria over the Ferguson grand jury is a fresh indictment of America. The core issue is a charge of police brutality by a white officer shooting an unarmed black 18-year-old man. Yet all around the country, the talk is about black violence.

Here in Boston, police are sending out robocalls to public school students and sending messages to college students to stay calm. In Oakland, California, businesses are putting steel plates on their doors. In Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck said he hopes to get advance notice from Missouri authorities about whether or not the grand jury indicts Ferguson officer Darren Wilson for Brown’s shooting. And in Ferguson, some schools are already closed in anticipation of the decision, gun sales have skyrocketed and a state of emergency was declared by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

To be sure, Attorney General Eric Holder and many black clergy have also asked for police restraint for any protests after the grand jury decision is announced. But such balanced pleas have been drowned out by the drama of an FBI warning that the grand jury’s decision “will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure.” The memo said people “could be armed with bladed weapons or firearms, equipped with tactical gear/gas masks, or bulletproof vests to mitigate law enforcement measures.”

Meanwhile, police restraint is hard to come by.

Jackson points to the incredible shooting in Cleveland involving a 12-year-old boy with a pellet gun who was gunned down by officers. Another incident in New York City involved the shooting of a man in a dark stairwell  by a rookie cop.

Understandable confusion and an accident? Not according to Jackson:

Until the nation frets more about actual police killings than it does speculating on potential black violence, questions like Mallory’s will continue to be asked.In 1968, the literary critic Hoyt Fuller wrote, “Black people are being called ‘violent’ these days, as if violence is a new invention out of the ghetto. But violence against the black minority is in-built in the established American society.”

As if to prove that Fuller continues to be right, USA Today two weeks ago reported that the number of fatal police shootings around the country last year was nearly nine a week, the highest in two decades. Earlier this year, the newspaper reported that nearly two black people a week were killed by police in a seven-year span ending in 2012. While one in five black people killed by police are under 21, only one in 11 white people killed by police are so young.

And many criminologists say we hardly know the full truth as USA Today found that only 750 of 17,000 police departments around the nation file killings by police with the FBI.

Jackson concludes:

So far, the nation has settled for the worm’s eye view on police while maintaining an eagle watch for an explosion by black people. Although few want riots, the disparity between these views is so blatantly unequal that it guarantees that violence against the black minority will remain built into established American society.

Does all the talk about potential violence because of the Ferguson grand jury decision constitute a kind of intimidation in and of itself? I think it does. But it’s a tactic by authorities to keep the peace. The speculation about violence is meant to warn the radical elements that the police will be ready for anything. As for ordinary citizens, the warnings and preparations make it advisable for them to avoid the protests altogether.

I’m just wondering if all this speculation about violence breaking out isn’t actually contributing to an atmosphere where violence becomes inevitable. It certainly raises the tension to unbearable levels where a release of some kind becomes necessary. You would hope that release takes the form of peaceful protests — but there are a lot of wild cards in the mix and quite literally, anything can happen.

I don’t share Mr. Jackson’s perspective, but I understand it. His positions may be based on a skewed worldview, and faulty reasoning, but it’s very difficult to walk a mile in his shoes.

Trying to understand the frame of reference of someone who holds polar opposite views of your own is never a wasted exercise.

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Why Is the Ferguson Grand Jury Taking So Long?

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Grand jury deliberations are as secretive as the conclave of cardinals who elect the pope. Unlike trial juries, which can be sequestered, grand juries live and work in the community, meeting several times a month to hear witnesses and weigh evidence. They are fully aware of the situation in their communities and what’s at stake with their decision.

You can imagine the pressure on the Ferguson grand jury as they are exposed to threats of violence from thugs, as well as pleas for “justice” from more peaceful advocates. And while there may, indeed, be an intimidation factor from those who threaten to riot and loot, you would hope they ignore outside forces and render their decision based on the facts.

So why has it taken so long? CNN’s Steve Almasy explains that it’s a matter of the time the grand jury spends on the case and the fact that the prosecutor has given them all the evidence he has. Normally, a prosecutor will withhold as much ammunition as he can so as not to give the defense a heads up on what he has until he absolutely has to. But in this case, prosecutor Robert McCulloch wanted the grand jury to have everything.

Almasy explains that the grand jury usually only meets once a week, although in the Brown case, “the panel is allowed to meet on days when all 12 jurors can get together. Once agreed upon, the schedule is given to the prosecuting attorney’s office.” So, it’s more often than once a week but less than 5 days a week.

McCulloch told CNN’s Ana Cabrera that it had taken longer than expected to get some of the witnesses in front of the grand jury.

The grand jury meets in secret, so it is impossible to know whether all the evidence has been presented and all the witnesses have testified. One possibility is the grand jury wanted to hear from a witness again.

Another scenario is that the grand jurors took a break before starting their deliberations.

McCulloch has told CNN that if there is no indictment, he will seek to publicly release all evidence in the case.

Paul Fox, St. Louis County’s director of judicial administration, sent a statement to media on Sunday that said that a judge must approve such a request and that the court will have to “analyze the need for maintaining secrecy of the records with the need for public disclosure of the records.”

There are several possible outcomes to the grand jury’s deliberations:

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Al-Shabab, Boko Harum Attacks Kill Nearly 90

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Two horrific terrorist attacks yesterday carried out against civilians by two of the worst terrorist groups in the world.

A group of Somalia-based al-Shabab gunmen stopped a bus full of Kenyans at dawn on their way to Nairobi. The gunmen then began to ask the 60 passengers to recite a verse from the Koran. Those that couldn’t were told to lie on the ground.

A primary school headteacher who was the only survivor of the Kenya bus massacre has said he was saved because his would-be killers became confused as he lay waiting to be murdered.

Non-Muslim Douglas Ochwodho, who was singled out to to be killed, said one gunman shot from the right and one from the left, each killing their victims lying in a line on the ground.

They grew closer and closer to Mr Ochwodho, who was in the middle, then the shooting stopped. Apparently each gunman thought the other shot Mr Ochwodho, who remained perfectly still until the 20 Islamic extremists left the scene.

Twenty-eight passengers were murdered when Somalia’s al-Shabab group attacked a bus in northern Kenya at dawn yesterday and picked out those who could not recite an Islamic creed who they assumed to be non-Muslims.

Nineteen men and nine women were killed.

Those who could not say the Shahada, a tenet of the Muslim faith, were shot at close range, Mr Ochwodho, who spoke from a hospital bed where he was being treated for shock, said.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the killings through its radio station in Somalia, saying it was in retaliation for earlier raids by Kenyan security forces on four coastal mosques.

Kenyan troops are fighting alongside government troops against al-Shabab in Somalia, and the terrorists are murdering civilians in retaliation. Last September, 4 al-Shabab gunmen walked into the upscale Westlake Mall in Nairobi and gunned down 63 men, women, and children. They, too, singled out people who could not recite the Muslim profession of faith, “There is no god but allah and Mohammed is his prophet.”

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, Boko Harum rampaged through a small town killing at least 60 innocents.

An attack by Islamic extremists killed dozens in the northeastern Nigerian village of Doron Baga, a major fishing center on the shores of Lake Chad, witnesses said.

Fisherman Usman Abubakar told the Associated Press that suspected Boko Haram members drove into Doron Baga, in Borno state, “shooting people on sight.”

“I counted 60 bodies with my own eyes,” Abubakar said.

He said he, his wife and three children hid in their home before fleeing to the state capital of Maiduguri about 200 kilometers (124 miles) away.

Abubakar said he is among the many residents who are fleeing Borno and returning to their state of origin, Sokoto in northwestern Nigeria.

Nigerian security official Gideon Jubrin, spokesman for the Borno state police, told AP he has not received any official confirmation of the attack.

Communication in the area are difficult because Boko Haram have destroyed mobile phone masts across the northeastern region, which means attacks often go unreported for days.

Baga was the site of a mass killing in April 2013 where almost 200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and more than 2,000 homes were destroyed in crossfire between the Nigerian troops and Boko Haram.

An attack on Wednesday in Azaya Kura village in Borno left at least 45 people dead when Boko Haram members surged through the village raiding homes and stealing livestock.

Most observers in the region don’t think the Nigerian military can stand up against Boko Harum. Besides, the people fear the military almost as much as they hate Boko Harum. Without the population on their side, Boko Harum will only grow stronger while the Nigerian government fumbles its way to defeat.

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What the President Didn’t Tell You About His Amnesty Plan

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Newt Gingrich, writing at CNN, contrasts the words that President Obama used to describe his deferred deportation plan with what his administration is actually proposing.

The President also said in his speech that his actions would offer relief only to people who met certain criteria he described, including having child dependents in the United States. But the actual policy memo makes clear that “DHS will direct all of its enforcement resources at pursuing” people who are “national security threats, serious criminals, and recent border crossers.”

In other words, there will be one group, estimated at 4 million or so, who are eligible for the new work authorization program. But at the same time, there will be no resources directed at enforcing immigration law against the other 7 million people here illegally as long as they do not fall into a few narrow categories, according to the President’s Office of Legislative Affairs. And indeed, a “senior administration official” told Roll Call that the administration “will order immigration agents to prioritize deportations of criminals and recent arrivals — and let people who are not on that priority list go free.” This is not at all the program the President described in his speech.

As I wrote yesterday, drunk drivers, sex abusers, drug traffickers, and even burglars will not be “prioritized” as far as deportations are concerned. Most local governments don’t turn illegals over to the feds anyway, so not much will change. Still, for the federal government to ignore the immigration laws already on the books by looking the other way and “deferring” deportations for almost all 11 million illegal aliens is a breathtaking expansion of executive power.

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Even With Iran Nuke Deal, the Military Option is Back on the Table for Israel

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

An alarming article in the Jerusalem Post reports that Israel may take military action against Iranian nuclear sites even if a deal being negotiated between Iran and the west is reached.

The Israelis point to several concessions made by the west that does not reassure them of Iran’s intent with its nuclear program.

In fact, Israel sees these concessions as a threat. One official cited a “sunset clause” in proposed comprehensive deal, which guarantees Iran a path into the nuclear club and may corner Israel into war.”

But reflecting on the deal under discussion with The Jerusalem Post on the eve of the deadline, Israel has issued a stark, public warning to its allies with a clear argument: Current proposals guarantee the perpetuation of a crisis, backing Israel into a corner from which military force against Iran provides the only logical exit.

World powers have presented Iran with an accord that would restrict its nuclear program for roughly ten years and cap its ability to produce fissile material for a weapon during that time to a minimum nine-month additional period, from the current three months.

Should Tehran agree, the deal may rely on Russia to convert Iran’s current uranium stockpile into fuel rods for peaceful use. The proposal would also include an inspection regime that would attempt to follow the program’s entire supply chain, from the mining of raw material to the syphoning of that material to various nuclear facilities across Iran.

Israel’s leaders believe the best of a worst-case scenario, should that deal be reached, is for inspections to go perfectly and for Iran to choose to abide by the deal for the entire decade-long period.

But “our intelligence agencies are not perfect,” an Israeli official said. “We did not know for years about Natanz and Qom. And inspection regimes are certainly not perfect. They weren’t in the case in North Korea, and it isn’t the case now – Iran’s been giving the IAEA the run around for years about its past activities.”

“What’s going to happen with that?” the official continued. “Are they going to sweep that under the rug if there’s a deal?”

On Saturday afternoon, reports from Vienna suggested the P5+1 – the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – are willing to stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran.

Speaking to the Post, a senior US official rejected concern over limited surveillance capabilities, during or after a deal.

“If we can conclude a comprehensive agreement, we will have significantly more ability to detect covert facilities – even after its duration is over – than we do today,” the senior US official said. “After the duration of the agreement, the most intrusive inspections will continue: the Additional Protocol – which encompasses very intrusive transparency, and which Iran has already said it will implement – will continue.”

That may be wishful thinking. In fact, the inspection regime falls short of being “intrusive,” as Iran will still be able to deny immediate access to their facilities. In other words, no “snap” inspections. And without full disclosure of Iran’s previous bomb making efforts, the inspectors may not even know where to look for dual-purpose facilities.

Meanwhile, the calculus for and against Israel taking military action to degrade or destroy Iranian nuclear infrastructure hasn’t changed, except it’s probably a more difficult mission than it was 2 years ago. Facilities have been hardened or built underground. Even with an attack lasting several days, there’s no guarantee that Israel can destroy enough of Iran’s nuclear program to make big difference.

But given the threat, Israel may feel itself backed into a corner and would attack anyway. And as the J-Post article makes clear, it may not matter what kind of deal might be reached between Iran and the west.

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Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Drunk Drivers, Your Sex Abusers, Your Drug Traffickers…

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A good, prudent immigration policy would allow people into the country who can contribute something to the culture or the economy. Job skills, talent, brainpower — these are qualities in people that the U.S, should be encouraging to come, or stay.

Some of the people who will qualify under “deferred deportation” have other kinds of talents. Burglars who have demonstrated a proficiency in robbing people are welcome, according to new rules issued by DHS. Also, those excellent illegal-drug salesmen — some of whom are so good they could probably sell crack cocaine to a 10 year old — have talents desired by President Obama.

Sex abusers, drunk drivers — I mean, it’s obvious that President Obama feels we have a shortage of low-life scumbags in America.

Byron York writes of the new rules issued by U.S. immigration authorities:

The new priorities are striking. On the tough side, the president wants U.S. immigration authorities to go after terrorists, felons, and new illegal border crossers. On the not-so-tough side, the administration views convicted drunk drivers, sex abusers, drug dealers, and gun offenders as second-level enforcement priorities. An illegal immigrant could spend up to a year in prison for a violent crime and still not be a top removal priority for the Obama administration.

In the memo, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson says his department must develop “smart enforcement priorities” to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in order to best use his agency’s limited resources. Johnson establishes three enforcement priority levels to guide DHS officers as they decide whether to stop, hold, or prosecute an illegal immigrant.

Priority One is the “highest priority to which enforcement resources should be directed,” the memo says. The category includes “aliens engaged in or suspected of terrorism or espionage, or who otherwise pose a danger to national security.” It also includes “aliens apprehended at the border or ports of entry while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States.” In addition, any illegal immigrant convicted of an offense involving a criminal street gang, or convicted of a felony — provided that immigration status was not an “essential element” of the charge — is targeted. Finally, any illegal immigrant convicted of an aggravated felony is included in Priority One.

The guidelines say Priority One aliens “must be prioritized” for deportation unless they qualify for asylum or unless there are “compelling and exceptional” factors that indicate the alien is not a threat.

Priority Two offenders, whose cases are less urgent than criminals in Priority One, include the following:

aliens convicted of a “significant misdemeanor,” which for these purposes is an offense of domestic violence; sexual abuse or exploitation; burglary; unlawful possession or use of a firearm; drug distribution or trafficking; or driving under the influence; or if not an offense listed above, one for which the individual was sentenced to time in custody of 90 days or more (the sentence must involve time to be served in custody, and does not include a suspended sentence)

DHS further defines a “significant misdemeanor” as an offense for which the maximum term of imprisonment is one year or less, but greater than five days. In addition, the guidelines contain a possible out for illegal immigrants accused of domestic abuse. “Careful consideration should be given to whether the convicted alien was also the victim of domestic violence,” the guidelines say. “If so, this should be a mitigating factor.”

It’s bad enough that an illegal with one conviction on any one of those crimes can stay. But a burglar caught and convicted twice is still eligible to remain in the U.S. under Obama’s new rules.

The president told America during his speech on Thursday night that those convicted of “serious” offenses would be deported. But rape is sometimes reduced to a sexual abuse misdemeanor. Other charges related to burglary, like strong-arm robbery, can be dropped. A drug-dealing gangbanger can be convicted of trafficking if the amount of illegal drugs he’s caught with is less than a felony.

The point being, just because a criminal is convicted of a couple of misdemeanors doesn’t mean he’s not a threat to the community. It’s apparent that President Obama and the rest of America have different ideas on what constitutes a “serious” crime.

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US Desperation Sets in as Iran Nuke Deal Deadline Looms

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Go figure. It’s Iran whose economy has been crippled by sanctions. It’s Iran that is isolated and nearly alone in the world. It’s Iran that’s literally under the gun to make a deal as, theoretically, the deal would virtually guarantee the US — and probably Israel — would forgo an attack.

Then why in the name of all that is good and holy is it the US that’s desperate to make a deal?

Reuters:

World powers are pressing Iran to stop stonewalling a U.N. atomic bomb investigation as part of a wider nuclear accord, but look likely to stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran to avoid killing an historic deal.

Officially, the United States and its Western allies say it is vital that Iran fully cooperate with a U.N. nuclear agency investigation if it wants a diplomatic settlement that would end the sanctions severely hurting its oil-based economy.

The six powers face a delicate balancing act at talks in Vienna, due to end by Monday; Israel and hawkish U.S. lawmakers – wary of any rapprochement with old foe Iran – are likely to pounce on a deal if they believe it is too soft on Tehran.

A senior U.S. official stressed that the powers had not changed their position on Iran’s past activities during this week’s talks: “We’ve always said that any agreement must resolve the issue to our satisfaction. That has not changed.”

Privately, however, some officials acknowledge that Iran may never be prepared to admit to what they believe it was guilty of: covertly working in the past to develop the ability to build a nuclear-armed missile – something it has always denied.

A senior Western official said the six would try to “be creative” in finding a formula to satisfy those who want Iran to come clean about any atomic bomb research and those who say this is simply unrealistic.

What’s the point of inking a nuclear deal with Iran if it doesn’t guarantee their enrichment program won’t be used to build a nuclear weapon? Isn’t that the the major reason for these cockamamie negotiations in the first place?

Sheesh.

The IAEA issued a report in 2011 with intelligence information indicating concerted activities until about a decade ago that could be relevant for developing nuclear bombs. It said some of these might be continuing.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano this week said Iran had again failed to provide the explanations needed for the IAEA inquiry, which has made scant headway in months.

Iran for its part has said these “possible military dimensions” (PMD) are an issue it will not budge on. “PMD is out of the question. It cannot be discussed,” an Iranian official said.

Another Western official said many inside the IAEA and Western governments felt uneasy about compromising on the issue, but added: “I believe the PMD issue is not a deal-breaker, even though it probably should be.”

Just so we have this straight…

Most western governments believe that Iran should come clean about any military dimensions to its nuclear program (that includes work on ballistic missiles). Those same people believe Iran’s failure to be forthcoming should be a deal breaker.

But the desire for a deal — any deal — is so strong, Iran’s secrecy about its nuclear bomb program will be overlooked in order to make history.

If a deal is signed, there will be great fanfare with President Obama perhaps traveling to Tehran to sign the document. We will be told it’s “historic.” We will be told it’s a great step forward. We will praise Iran’s “moderate” new government.

And in a few years when it becomes obvious that Iran has a nuclear weapon, these same people will throw their hands in the air and claim it wasn’t their fault.

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Latest Obamacare ‘Tweak’ a Doozy

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Americans are inveterate tinkerers — a trait commented on by observers from de Tocqueville to Winston Churchill.

That’s why it’s not surprising that the bureaucrats at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would want to keep tweaking Obamacare. Mind you, it’s not so much because they think they can perfect the law. Rather, they keep tweaking the law in order to keep the American people from brandishing pitchforks and coming to Washington to tar and feather them and ride them out of town on a rail.

Self-preservation can be a marvelous motivating factor.

The geniuses who brought us the dysfunctional website healthcare.gov are in a panic because just about every Obamacare policy is going up in price. So rather than having American citizens deal with such unpleasantness, our intrepid bureaucrats have hit upon a brilliant scheme: why not change the auto-renewal rules of Obamacare premiums by automatically shifting a consumer from a policy that went up in price over to a cheaper policy? Of course, the cheaper policy will have fewer benefits and a larger deductible. And some people may actually like the policy they have now.

But what does that matter to the jamokes at HHS? They know what’s best for you. Just ask them.

Peter Suderman writes:

In a 300-page regulatory proposal released late this afternoon, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it is considering changing Obamacare’s auto-renewal rules so that, within the health law’s exchanges, instead of being automatically renewed into your current health plan, you’d be moved into the lowest cost plan from the same service tier.

From the attached fact sheet:

Under current rules, consumers who do not take action during the openenrollment window are re-enrolled in the same plan they were in the previous year, even if that plan experienced significant premium increases. We are considering alternative options for re-enrollment, under which consumers who take no action might be defaulted into a lower cost plan rather than their current plan.

(Fact sheet via Adrianna McIntyre; proposal first noted by Politico.)

States running their own exchanges could start doing this in 2016, and federal exchanges could start in 2017.

It’s not just auto-reenrollment. It’s auto-reassignment, at least for those who pick that option. Basically, if you like your plan, but don’t go out of your way to intentionally re-enroll, the kind and wise folks at HHS or state health exchanges might just pick a new plan—perhaps with different doctors, clinics, cost structures, and benefit options—for you. And if you want to switch back? Good luck once open enrollment is closed. There’s always next year.

A hassle? Maybe. But have faith: They know what’s best.

Presumably the idea came up because, even though by some measures premiums aren’t rising by large amounts this year, premiums for many of the lowest cost and most popular plans from last year are rising quite a bit. And since HHS decided over the summer to institute auto-renewal, and since the majority of Obamacare enrollees are expected to take no action and thus stay in their current plans, the reality is that under the current system a lot of enrollees are likely to see large premium hikes, just because they didn’t shop around for a new plan.

Bless their nanny state hearts. The thoughtfulness of liberals is neverending, isn’t it? As we are constantly reminded by many on the left, Americans are just too stupid to realize what their best interests are, so why not make it easy on us and take decisions on our health insurance out of our hands and place the responsibility with our all-knowing betters in government?

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Two New Black Panther Party Members Arrested in Ferguson Bomb Plot

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

According to a spokesman for St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, the grand jury considering whether to indict officer Darren Wilson on charges relating to the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO, was still meeting as of Friday morning, although McCulloch’s office put the media on notice to expect an announcement in the near future.

And in a sting operation, the FBI has told some media outlets that they have arrested two members of the New Black Panther Party on charges related to a bomb plot connected to the Ferguson protests. Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Davis, recently indicted on charges of trying to purchase handguns under false pretenses, were being charged with federal firearms offenses for trying to buy material for pipe bombs they planned on setting off during protests.

Reuters reports:

Against this backdrop of heightened tensions, according to a law enforcement source, two men described as reputed members of a militant group called the New Black Panther Party, were arrested in the St. Louis area in an FBI sting operation.

As initially reported by CBS News, the men were suspected of acquiring explosives for pipe bombs that they planned to set off during protests in Ferguson, according to the official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the case.

The official said the two men are the same pair named in a newly unsealed federal indictment returned on Nov. 19 charging Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Davis with purchasing two pistols from a firearms dealer under false pretenses.

Both men were arraigned on Friday in federal court, the law enforcement source said.

The FBI and other federal agencies were reported to have stepped up their presence in the St. Louis area in recent days in anticipation of renewed protests after the grand jury’s decision in the Brown case is made known.

An FBI official in St. Louis declined to comment except to say that the two men named in the indictment had been arrested. Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for eastern Missouri were not immediately available for comment.

In 2012, the New Black Panther Party offered a bounty on George Zimmerman, the man acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin.

The New Black Panther Party’s most notorious act was intimidating voters at a precinct in Philadelphia during the 2008 presidential election. For no announced reason, Attorney General Eric Holder dropped those charges in 2009.

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30,000 Lois Lerner Emails that Were Missing Have Been Found

Friday, November 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has informed several committees of Congress that approximately 30,000 emails from Lois Lerner, the former chief of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, that were thought to be lost forever have been found.

The TIGTA said it would take several months to retrieve the emails because they have been stored on “disaster recovery tapes” and separating them is a laborious and time consuming task.

The emails take in the years 2009-11. Some may be duplicates of emails Lerner has already supplied to Congress.

From the Washington Examiner:

Committees in the House and Senate are seeking the emails, which they believe could show Lerner was working in concert with Obama administration officials to target conservative and Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status before the 2012 presidential election.

The missing emails extend from 2009 to 2011, a period when Lerner headed the IRS’s exempt-organizations division. The emails were lost when Lerner’s computer crashed, IRS officials said earlier this year.

In June, IRS Administrator John Koskinen told Congress the emails were probably lost for good because the disaster recovery tape holds onto the data for only six months. He said even if the IRS had sought the emails within the six-month period, it would have been a complicated and difficult process to produce them from the tapes.

The IRS also lost the emails of several other employees who worked under Lerner during that period.

Lerner, who retired from the IRS, has refused to be questioned by Congress.

She provided a statement at a March hearing, but then clammed up, following the advice of her lawyer to avoid self-incrimination.

The House, led by Republicans, voted in May to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress.

Congressional aides said officials from the inspector general’s office said it could take weeks to get the recovered emails off the tape before sending them to lawmakers in Capitol Hill.

In all, investigators from the inspector general’s office combed through 744 disaster recovery tapes. They are not finished looking.

There are 250 million emails ion the tapes that will be reviewed. Officials said it is likely they will find missing emails from other IRS officials who worked under Lerner and who said they suffered computer crashes.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: They will find no smoking gun that definitively ties the White House to the targeting scandal. Those emails — if they ever existed — would have been destroyed long ago. It’s not likely that there is any kind of electronic or paper trail that leads back to the White House. These guys may not be the brightest bulbs in the room, but is there anyone in Washington stupid enough to leave bread crumbs for a prosecutor to follow?

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Shocker! Obamacare’s Numbers Fudged? Say it Ain’t So

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Aside from the million or so insureds who never made a payment on their premium, or dropped their coverage somewhere between the end of open enrollment in March and the end of summer, the press and Obamacare supporters had comfortably settled on the number of 7 million Americans who signed up for Obamacare insurance policies.

In the immortal words of Independence Day’s Secretary of Defense Albert Nimzicki, “That’s not entirely accurate.”

The Obama administration said it erroneously calculated the number of people with health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, incorrectly adding 380,000 dental subscribers to raise the total above 7 million.

The accurate number with full health-care plans is 6.7 million as of Oct. 15, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed today, saying the U.S. won’t include dental plans in future reports.

“The mistake we made is unacceptable,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said on her verified Twitter account. “I will be communicating that clearly throughout the department.”

The error was brought to light by Republican investigators for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, using data they obtained from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“A mistake was made in calculating the number of individuals with effectuated Marketplace enrollments,” said Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. “Individuals who had both Marketplace medical and dental coverage were erroneously counted in our recent announcements,” he said in an e-mail.

The new count puts enrollment short of a 2013 estimate by the Congressional Budget Office, adopted last year as a goal by the Obama administration, that 7 million people would be enrolled this year. Federal officials said in September they had 7.3 million people enrolled in coverage through new government-run insurance exchanges. They didn’t distinguish between medical and dental plans, breaking from previous practice without notice.

he administration had supplied information about dental plans separately in earlier disclosures. In May, the government reported that 8 million were signed up for health plans and 1.1 million were in dental coverage.

Then in September, the numbers became less transparent. The Medicare agency’s administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, released a new enrollment figure, obtained from insurance companies participating in the exchanges: 7.3 million people were “enrolled in the health insurance marketplace coverage,” she said at a hearing by the Republican-led Oversight committee.
Quietly Added

Tavenner didn’t elaborate or break out dental plans. Reporters asked a spokesman for her agency, Aaron Albright, for more detail on the number after the hearing: He said he had no additional information about it.

“After touting 8 million initial sign-ups for medical plans, four months later they engaged in a concerted effort to obscure a heavy drop-out rate of perhaps a million or more enrollees by quietly adding in dental plan sign-ups to exchange numbers,” Republican Darrell Issa of California, chairman of the Oversight committee, said in an e-mail from a spokeswoman.

Not exactly a Friday document dump, but equally dishonest considering that the president will deliver his amnesty speech tonight and the Ferguson grand jury is likely to announce its decision tomorrow. What a surprise, More Obamacare bad news will get buried in the news cycle.

I really wish someone would explain to me why if Obamacare is such a great and good thing, have they done nothing but lie, obscure, and obfuscate the truth about it since day one? They lied about the cost. They lied about the taxes. They lied about the subsidies. They lied about abortion. They lied about being able to keep your plan if you liked it. They lied about being able to keep your doctor. And now it’s confirmed they lied about the numbers.

Then there are the parts of Obamacare that are so bad, the president felt it necessary to delay them until after the mid term elections in order to blunt their political effect. They delayed open enrollment for a month — from October to November, 2014 — just in case they had more website problems. They delayed the cancellation of Obamacare plans that did not meet the law’s requirements. They delayed revealing rate increases until after the election. They delayed the employer mandate. They delayed the small business exchanges. And the delay in finishing the backend of the website may be permanent considering the fact that they have yet to figure out how to make it work.

All told, there were 24 unilateral actions by President Obama to delay implementing the law. There have been so many changes that the Congressional Budget Office has given up trying to figure out how much the law costs.

In China, when bureaucrats and leaders screw up this badly, they are tried and sometimes executed. I’m not saying we should adopt such a draconian policy, but surely there must be some consequences for exhibiting such incompetence.

The tens of billions already spent on this law and the billions spent on dysfunctional state exchanges may represent the largest waste of taxpayer’s money on a single government program in American history.

For a president who wanted to “make history,” he has succeeded in this case beyond his wildest imaginings.

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Amnesty’s Forgotten Victims

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I’m sure many illegal aliens are excited about tomorrow’s announcement by President Obama that 5 million of them will become legal by the stroke of his pen.

But have you given a thought to how many of those border scofflaws stole someone’s Social Security  numbers, or other identity documents in order to work in the United States?

And what of those American citizens whose identities were used fraudulently? In tens of thousands of cases, their lives were turned upside down, their credit ruined, their privacy egregiously violated.

As Michelle Malkin points out at NRO, President Obama’s executive amnesty is a slap in the face to those people:

Center for Immigration Studies analyst Jon Feere reported at the time that ethnic lobbyists and open-borders businesses lobbied the Obama administration hard “to keep American victims of ID theft in the dark while shielding unscrupulous businesses from enforcement.” As an Obama official told the New York Times, DHS employees are “not interested in using this as a way to identify one-off cases where some individual may have violated some federal law in an employment relationship.”

Translation: See no identity theft. Hear no identity theft. Speak no identity theft.

A high-profile immigration attorney crowed: “Good news for deferred-action applicants: If you used a false Social Security card, you need not reveal the number on your deferred-action application forms. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has clarified that when the forms ask for an applicant’s Social Security number, it refers to Social Security numbers issued to the applicant. If you used a friend’s number, a made-up number or a stolen number, you should answer N/A for ‘not applicable’ where it asks for the number.”

Since then, more than 500,000 DACA applications have been approved with abysmal oversight, little public disclosure, and total absolution for identity-rip-off artists. The latest planned administrative amnesty will dwarf that ongoing fiasco.

Victimless crimes? Tell that to those who have been harmed by the estimated 75 percent of working-age illegal aliens who have fraudulently used Social Security cards to obtain employment. Tell it to victims in border states with the highest percentages of illegal aliens, where job-related identity theft is rampant.

Tell it to hardworking Americans like Wisconsinite Robert Guenterberg, whose Social Security number was exploited by illegal aliens for years to buy homes and cars — while the IRS refused to tell the victims about the fraud to protect the thieves’ privacy rights.

Tell it to U.S. Air Force veteran Marcos Miranda, whose name and Social Security card were filched by an illegal alien to work at a pork slaughterhouse. He was even thrown in jail for unpaid traffic tickets racked up by his identity thief. “Even though I am Hispanic, I am against illegal immigration,” Miranda told the Associated Press. “Even though a lot of them come to work, there are always bad apples. (Identity theft) has really made my perspective . . . negative about immigration.”

The Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that prosecutors could not charge illegal aliens who “unknowingly” used someone’s Social Security number to get a job. The ruling robbed prosecutors of a valuable tool in prosecuting illegals.

But recent actions by the Obama administration in dealing with illegals who steal other people’s identities go beyond refusing to prosecute.

Washington Times:

The Obama administration told federal immigration lawyers to release illegal immigrants with “old” drunken-driving convictions and those found guilty of stealing other people’s identities, according to a lawsuit filed by one of the lawyers at the center of the operation.

Patricia M. Vroom, a top attorney for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona, filed a 67-page discrimination complaint that details repeated battles with agency higher-ups who told her to close cases and not deport people whom President Obama deemed low-priority.

Federal officials were particularly dismissive of identity theft convictions from Arizona, arguing that the state’s laws were too strict and stealing an ID to get a job wasn’t a serious enough offense to get kicked out of the country.

“This was a very significant development, as generally, criminal aliens, particularly convicted felons, are, under the [prosecutorial discretion] memos, ‘priority’ cases that should be aggressively pursued,” Ms. Vroom said in her complaint.

But she said her superiors deemed the identity theft felons low-level offenders “since the typical alien defendant convicted under these provisions of Arizona criminal law had simply been using a fake I.D. to get and keep employment.”

No, they were not “simply using a fake ID” to get work. They were using that ID, in many cases, to obtain credit and loans, open bank accounts, run up debt, and generally sully the good names and reputations — not to mention invading the privacy — of decent, hard working, law abiding Americans.

And the victims of ID theft are going to get another kick in the teeth from Obama tomorrow.

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Hitler Finds Out About the Gruber Videos

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You may have seen this at Breitbart over the weekend, but it’s so good I thought I’d post it here.

The film Downfall from which the parody excerpts are lifted is so good it almost made me wish I had taken German rather than French in high school. And this particular take off is hysterical (“I should have given his mother free condoms,” Hitler screams.)

But, as in all parody, there is truth hiding behind the laughter. We laugh because of the contrast between Hitler’s out of control ranting and the overwritten dialog that has nothing to do with what is actually being said. But there is also the notion that Hitler is the personification of evil and his malevolence imparts a dark coloring to the object of the parody

Gruber isn’t a Nazi. But his contemptible efforts to hide, to obfuscate, to obstruct the truth from being known about the most important social program passed by Congress in the last 50 years is a betrayal unworthy of a public servant.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of this video is that the target so richly deserves what he’s getting.

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In Oregon Illegal Immigrant Referendum, a Warning for Obama

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Little noticed after the midterm vote, which saw the GOP take control of the Senate and increase their majority in the House, was a referendum in sky blue Oregon to repeal the law that granted illegal immigrants the right to obtain a driver’s license.

Even though the Democrats increased their majority in the state legislature and a Democratic governor was reelected, the measure for repeal passed by a 2-1 margin.

This is a stark warning to President Obama and the Democrats that if he acts alone to amnesty 5 million illegals, his march to irrelevancy will be complete, and the party he leads could pay an awful price in 2016.

The Associated Press reports:

The state law had seemed to be popular. It easily passed last year with bipartisan support in the Democratic-controlled Legislature and was signed Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, who was re-elected Nov. 4.

Opponents barely gathered enough signatures to put the repeal question on the ballot. Immigrant rights groups outspent their opponents 10-1.

Still, the measure failed in every county but the state’s most liberal one, Multnomah, home to Portland. Even there it trailed significantly behind other Democratic candidates and causes.

“It was really the epitome of a grassroots effort,” said Cynthia Kendoll, one of the activists who led the campaign against licenses. “There’s such a disconnect between what people really want and what’s happening.”

Obama made his postelection pledge on immigration despite the drubbing that Democrats took across the country. He said he had to act because Congress has deadlocked on immigration for years.

A bipartisan Senate bill to provide citizenship to many of the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally died in the Republican-controlled House, and with the GOP now holding a majority in the Senate, many believe it is unlikely any broad immigration measure could make it to Obama before the end of his term.

Allowing immigrants in the U.S. illegally to remain in the country generally polls well. Even 57 percent of the conservative-leaning national electorate that voted Nov. 4 favors legalization, according to exit polling for the Associated Press and other news organizations.

Immigration has been seen as a winning issue for Democrats because Hispanic and Asian populations account for an increasing share of the electorate, especially in presidential years.

Eleven other states have granted driver’s licenses to people in the U.S. illegally, and 17 allow them to pay in-state tuition at public universities.

But Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., which advocates more restrictions on immigration, says voters often are befuddled by complex immigration proposals and polling questions, overstating the actual support for an immigration overhaul.

The Oregon vote, he said, is proof of that.

“Whenever the public gets that sort of clear-cut, black-and-white issue for tougher controls — even in Oregon, when they’re legalizing dope — they support them,” Krikorian said. “It really highlights how this issue is not a Republican-liberal issue like, say, taxes and abortion, but an up-down issue, elites versus the public.”

Krikorian is right. If you look at this most recent Pew Poll on illegal immigrants, you might be surprised to see 71% supporting granting illegal aliens legal status. But the caveat “if certain requirements are met” is the kicker.

This Pew Poll from late last summer approaches the question a little differently:

The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted August 20-24 among 1,501 adults, finds that 33% say the priority should be on better border security and tougher enforcement of immigration laws, while 23% prioritize creating a way for people in the U.S. illegally to become citizens if they meet certain conditions. About four-in-ten (41%) say both should be given equal priority.

These priorities have changed since Feb. 2013, early in Obama’s second term. The share saying that both approaches should be given equal priority has fallen from 47% to 41%. Over the same period, the percentage prioritizing enhanced border security and stronger enforcement of immigration laws has risen eight points, from 25% to 33%. There has been little change in the percentage saying the priority should be creating a path to citizenship for people in the U.S. illegally (25% in Feb. 2013, 23% today).

If you give the voter the choice between legalization or border enforcement, legalization loses. Most of those “certain requirements” that have to be met before legalization occurs have to do with securing the border first. When the voter is confronted with an “either/or” proposition, they choose border enforcement going away.

One poll taken recently shows that 74% of Americans want the president to work with Congress rather than acting alone on immigration. What will be the reaction to the president’s unilateral amnesty plan?  It’s likely that even some members of his own party will scurry for cover while the people punish the Democrats in 2016.

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Turkish President: Muslims Discovered America, Not Columbus

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

From our “Some Muslims Believe the Craziest Things” department comes words of wisdom from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Giving a speech before some Latin American Muslims, Erdogan decided to give a little history lesson. He claims that America was discovered by Muslims in the 12th century — there’s even proof via none other than Christopher Columbus, who supposedly wrote in his journal about a mosque on a hill in Cuba.

AFP reports:

“Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus,” the conservative president said in a televised speech during an Istanbul summit of Muslim leaders from Latin America.

“Muslim sailors arrived in America from 1178. Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan said that Ankara was even prepared to build a mosque at the site mentioned by the Genoese explorer.

“I would like to talk about it to my Cuban brothers. A mosque would go perfectly on the hill today,” the Turkish leader said.

History books say that Columbus set foot on the American continent in 1492 as he was seeking a new maritime route to India.

A tiny minority of Muslim scholars have recently suggested a prior Muslim presence in the Americas, although no pre-Columbian ruin of an Islamic structure has ever been found.

In a controversial article published in 1996, historian Youssef Mroueh refers to a diary entry from Columbus that mentions a mosque in Cuba. But the passage is widely understood to be a metaphorical reference to the shape of the landscape.

We’ve heard Muslims take credit for all sorts of western inventions, including the airplane (invented 1000 years ago), the windmill, and various medical advances, so Erdogan’s fantasy about Muslims discovering America plows familiar ground.

It may be that Muslims are so aggrieved about their lowly status compared to a few hundred years ago when their armies were feared, their civilization was cultivated, and their mathematicians were light years beyond Europe, that they feel they have to define their worth by making stuff up. It’s a massive inferiority complex that also leads to their young men beheading foreigners and flying airplanes into buildings.

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Login Problems Plague Obamacare Website on First Day of Open Enrollment

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Aside from a system-wide problem with customer access at times, the healthcare.gov website functioned relatively smoothly as open enrollment began on Saturday.

For half a billion dollars, you might expect a little more. After all, if Amazon or Expedia experienced problems like this, they’d probably go out of business.

But in the US government, the managers will probably be promoted.

Things were not running as smoothly across the country in state exchanges. The Washington state Obamacare exchange was forced to shut down when it began calculating subsidies incorrectly. They want to open it again today, but aren’t sure the software fix will be ready.

In Louisiana, customers couldn’t log in to their accounts until after one.

Three USA Today
employees tried creating accounts at healthcare.gov with varying degrees of success:

Brokers at the Health Insurance Store of Louisiana in Baton Rouge weren’t able to do that until early afternoon. Owner Will Chapman says none of the 10 agents or their clients could log into accounts until about 1 p.m. CT Saturday.

“We’d go in with an e-mail account, set up an account, verify it and create a password, but when go back to actually log in with that information, it says your password is invalid,” says Chapman.

After a lengthy wait on hold for the call center around midday, Chapman says, they were told the problem was systemwide.

“The vast majority of users are having a smooth experience during the first day of Open Enrollment on HealthCare.gov as they fill out applications, browse and enroll in plans,” HHS spokesman Aaron Albright said in an e-mailed statement. “We expect to experience the normal issues that any other complicated technology project does upon launch and have seen a small number so far.”

Albright said the department “will continue to work every day to make the consumer experience simpler and easier.”

Three USA TODAY staff members created accounts in Virginia on Saturday morning. One of the three was blocked from logging in, just as the agents in Louisiana experienced, After a five-minute wait on hold, a call center employee unlocked the account but warned it couldn’t be logged into for another two hours.

After 2½ hours, attempts to log into the account again failed, so the password was reset again — to no avail.

After a USA TODAY reporter’s third call to the call center after password changes failed to make log in possible, the woman answering the phone said she needed to send the case to “an advanced resolution specialist” who would call back “within five to seven business days.”

In other Obamacare news, one of the HHS’s top technology officers who helped design the flawed website has been subpoenaed to appear before a Senate committee.

Former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park will be questioned over his role in developing healthcare.gov.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) issued the subpoena for the Obama administration’s former top tech advisor, demanding that he testify about his oversight of the ObamaCare website, including its security protocols.

The subpoena comes after Park’s previous refusals to testify and his recent cancellation of a meeting with House lawmakers after it became clear that the briefing would be public, the committee said.

“The Obama administration has failed to provide this committee with information about the security of the ObamaCare website,” Smith said in a statement on Tuesday. “What is the White House trying to hide?”

“The American people deserve to know their personal information on HealthCare.gov is absolutely secure,” he added.

Park was brought in to help repair the website after its notorious launch last year, but has maintained that he did not have detailed knowledge of the site ahead of time.

A staff report issued by the Science Committee on Tuesday, however, asserted that he “communicated regularly” with government officials and contractors involved with the site’s development and co-chaired a steering committee for ObamaCare tech issues.

“Given the emails provided to Congress by [the Department of Health and Human Services], it appears that Mr. Park purposefully and willfully misrepresented his role and responsibilities with the HealthCare.gov website,” the committee claimed in the report.

The subpoena requires Park to appear in an Oversight subcommittee on Nov. 19.

Though the committee claims that Park has refused to appear on five previous occasions, he offered to voluntarily testify just last month.

“[I]f the subcommittee desires additional information, there is no need to resort to subpoenas,” White house counsel Neil Eggleston wrote in the letter, after the committee voted to authorize a subpoena. “Mr. Park will be pleased to testify at a subcommittee hearing in November.”

The subpoena comes weeks after news that a hacker broke into a HealthCare.gov test server in July and inserted software designed to attack other networks. No personal information was stolen and the ObamaCare website did not even seem to be targeted in the attack, officials said after disclosing the attack in September.

Is there anything or anyone associated with Obamacare that’s up front and honest? I’m beginning to feel like Diogenes, wandering around with a lantern looking for an honest man.

I don’t think I’ll find any who had anything to do with Obamacare.

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Putin, Under Fire from Western Leaders, Will Leave G-20 Summit Early

Saturday, November 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Russian President Vladimir Putin got an earful from several western leaders about his Ukraine intervention at the G-20 Summit this weekend and, in a rather petulant move, decided to leave the confab early, skipping the official lunch scheduled for Sunday.

Last month, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott threatened to “shirtfront” Mr. Putin when he saw him. It made Abbott look a little ridiculous when a photo was snapped of he and Putin engrossed in what appeared to be friendly conversation. Abbott says he told Putin that Russia could not “recreate lost glories” of the Tsar or of the old Soviet Union. You can imagine how that went over with Putin.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was even more blunt:

During a tense 50 minute meeting Mr Cameron warned that Russia is risking its relations with the West and must end its support for Russian separatists.

Mr Putin denied that Russian troops have entered Ukraine and claimed that he is prepared to accept a ceasefire and stop the flow of Russian weapons across the border. He also said that he is prepared to recognise Ukraine as a “single political space”.

Mr Cameron is said to be “realistic” about Mr Putin’s comments after he previously broke pledges to end Russian action in Ukraine.

The meeting at the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, follows a tense build up in which Mr Cameron compared Russia to Nazi Germany.

Tensions escalated further when Russia stationed a fleet of warships off the coast of Australia in an apparent show of strength ahead of the summit.

In interviews hours before the meeting, Mr Cameron suggested that he cannot trust Mr Putin and described Russia’s decision to send a fleet of warships to Australia as “international machismo”.

Asked if he trusts Mr Putin, the Prime Minister told ITV News: “I take people as I find them. The sad thing is that to date undertakings given in the Minsk agreement have not been followed but the right thing to do is to continue to engage.

“So far we haven’t seen his actions follow up the statements that he’s given on previous occasions.

“The point is and the reason for meeting is that this issue matters and it’s very important Russia understands what’s at stake and gets a very clear message.

“There’s a real choice here, there’s a different and better way for Russia to behave that could lead to an easing of relations, but at the moment he’s not taking that path.”

What is it with these western leaders who think they can appeal to Putin’s better nature and get him to behave himself? Obama and Kerry are hopeless in this regard, but Cameron isn’t far behind in the wishful thinking brigade. The former KGB agent is wholly uninterested in anything the west has to say about his Ukraine policies and, given the provocative — dare I say “warlike” — military moves off the coast of Australia and over the skies of Europe, it would appear that Mr. Putin doesn’t care how Russia is perceived in the world.

The west is supposed to be considering further sanctions against Russia, but it doesn’t appear likely that they will be able to come to an agreement on how to punish Putin. Considering how ineffective previous sanctions have been, it’s probably just as well.

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Most Obamacare Premiums to Rise

Saturday, November 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

And we were all wondering why this information was deliberately delayed until after the election? Not.

I get enormous satisfaction from the fact that the efforts by President Obama to mask bad news about Obamacare before the election didn’t do any good anyway; the Democrats still took a massive thumping. And those most vulnerable Democrats he was trying to protect — red state Democratic Senators — all went down to defeat.

About 12 hours before the federal Obamacare website opened for business and began to offer insurance policies, the administration released data on premium increases consumers can expect. And as the New York Times reports, most people who purchased insurance through healthcare.gov or the state exchanges are looking at increases of up to 20%.

An analysis of the data by The New York Times suggests that although consumers will often be able to find new health plans with prices comparable to those they now pay, the situation varies greatly from state to state and even among counties in the same state.

“Consumers should shop around,” said Marilyn B. Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the federal insurance exchange serving three dozen states. “With new options available this year, they’re likely to find a better deal.” She asserted that the data showed that “the Affordable Care Act is working.”

But Republicans quickly pounced on the data as evidence of the opposite.

“Last year, many who liked their plan were surprised to learn they couldn’t keep it,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, who is in line to become chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “This year, many who like their plan will likely have to pay more to keep it.”

The new data means that many of the seven million people who have bought insurance through federal and state exchanges will have to change to different health plans if they want to avoid paying more — an inconvenience for consumers just becoming accustomed to their coverage.

[...]

A 40-year-old in Nashville, with the cheapest midlevel, or silver plan, will pay $220 a month next year, compared to $181 a month this year, for the same plan.

The least expensive plan is offered by another insurer, Community Health Alliance, one of the so-called co-op plans created under the federal law. It offers coverage for a monthly premium of $194.

But the lower premium means that consumers will have to pay a much larger annual deductible, $4,000, rather than $2,000. A policyholder who becomes seriously ill or has a costly chronic condition could pay hundreds of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.

We’ve been hearing for a couple of months that Obamacare premiums were going to be on the rise, but what wasn’t known was the extent of the price increases. Of course, finding another plan with comparable costs to your current plan necessarily means seeing your deductible — already higher for most people than under their old plans pre-Obamacare — climb even higher. The goal is to force Americans not to use medical services unless they absolutely have to. Call it “pocketbook rationing” — not going to the doctor or delaying a procedure because your out of pocket expenses are too great.

They have already drastically reduced estimates of the number of Americans who will sign up for Obamacare this year. The CBO estimated 13 million total consumers would be enrolled in Obamacare by the end of 2015. The administration is now saying they expect no more than between 9 million and 9.9 million to be enrolled. That figure is not quite low enough to send Obamacare into a death spiral, but it could very well lead to even higher premiums next year.

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National Cathedral Hosts Friday Muslim Prayers — and a Heckler

Saturday, November 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

For the first time, Washington National Cathedral hosted Friday Muslim prayers where speakers called for religious unity in the face of Muslim extremism.

The cathedral is the seat of the Episcopal Church in the capital and has hosted Jewish and Eastern Orthodox services in the past. I can find no mention of a Roman Catholic mass being celebrated there, although it’s entirely possible.

Many of their services are ecumenical. But you wonder about the irony inherent in holding a Muslim prayer service in a Christian cathedral that, if held in many parts of the Muslim world, would have resulted in riots and bloodshed.

From the Washington Post:

In a corner of Washington National Cathedral, several hundred Muslim worshipers and other invited guests gathered Friday afternoon for a first-ever recitation of weekly Muslim prayers at the iconic Christian sanctuary and to hear leaders of both faiths call for religious unity in the face of extremist violence and hate.

The Arabic call to prayer echoed among the vaulted stone arches and faded away, followed by an impassioned sermon from Ebrahim Rasool, a Muslim scholar who is South Africa’s ambassador to the United States. Rasool called on Muslims, Christians and others to come together and make “common cause” in the fight against extremists who appropriate Islam.

“We come to this cathedral with sensitivity and humility but keenly aware that it is not a time for platitudes, because mischief is threatening the world,” Rasool said. “The challenge for us today is to reconstitute a middle ground of good people . . . whose very existence threatens extremism.”

The event was closed to the public, and there was heavy security, with police checking every name and bag. Organizers from several area Muslim institutions said there had been concerns about security and threats after the event was publicized and that they and cathedral officials wanted to limit it to a small and selected group.

Nevertheless, the carefully scripted ceremony was marred once when one well-dressed, middle-age woman in the audience suddenly rose and began shouting that “America was founded on Christian principles. . . . Leave our church alone!” She was swiftly ushered out by security aides, and the service continued.

Numerous speakers, including cathedral officials and local Muslim leaders, echoed Rasool’s message about the urgent need for religious understanding and collaboration. Most made pointed references to the symbolism of the majestic Christian building, where rugs had been laid for prayer.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the cathedral, spoke of Saint Benedict, who he said believed equally in the importance of prayer and hospitality. Marveling at the sounds of Arabic prayers, which he called “a beautiful sacred language in a beautiful sacred space,” Hall said he hoped the service would serve as the start of more efforts to work together for good.

Hate to break it to the Very Reverend Mr. Hall but Arabic is no more a “sacred language” than English. Even the Arabs don’t describe their language as “sacred,” although classical Arabic is considered the language of the Koran and is thus “sacred” in that sense. Maybe he was just being nice to his Arabic guests.

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Gruber Video #6: ‘Mislabeling’ Cadillac Tax to Deceive the Voter

Saturday, November 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Jonathan Gruber missed his calling. He would have been an outstanding used car salesman.

Jake Tapper of CNN uncovered another video where Gruber celebrates his subterfuge — this time, in hiding whom the so-called “Cadillac Tax” on employee based insurance plans would hit.

“Economists have called for 40 years to get rid of the regressive, inefficient and expensive tax subsidy provided for employer provider health insurance,” Gruber said at the Pioneer Institute for public policy research in Boston. The subsidy is “terrible policy,” Gruber said.

“It turns out politically it’s really hard to get rid of,” Gruber said. “And the only way we could get rid of it was first by mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people when we all know it’s a tax on people who hold those insurance plans.”

It should be noted that advocates of a single-payer system have been wanting to get rid of the tax break for employers because it makes it too easy for companies to offer their workers good insurance policies. By forcing employers and their workers to pay the full price for premiums, many smaller companies will be forced to drop their group plans and throw their employees on to the state exchanges.

Gruber’s perfidy is incredible, as evidenced by his rationale for mislabeling the Cadillac Tax:

(The White House press secretary said at a press briefing in 2010: “I would disagree with your notion that it is a tax on an individual since the proposal is written as a tax on an insurance company that offers a plan.”)

The second way was have the tax kick in “late, starting in 2018. But by starting it late, we were able to tie the cap for Cadillac Tax to CPI, not medical inflation,” Gruber said. CPI is the consumer price index, which is lower than medical inflation.

Gruber explains that by drafting the bill this way, they were able to pass something that would initially only impact some employer plans though it would eventually hit almost every employer plan. And by that time, those who object to the tax will be obligated to figure out how to come up with the money that repealing the tax will take from the treasury, or risk significantly adding to the national debt.

“What that means is the tax that starts out hitting only 8% of the insurance plans essentially amounts over the next 20 years essentially getting rid of the exclusion for employer sponsored plans,” Gruber said. “This was the only political way we were ever going to take on one of the worst public policies in America.”

Unions and employers who object in 2018, he noted, “at that point if they want to get rid of it they’re going to have to fill a trillion dollar hole in the deficit…It’s on the books now.”

(When the Cadillac tax was first rolled out, it was explained by Obamacare backers as a tax that would only impact those with “high end plans” — not all employer sponsored plans. A White House economic adviser in 2009 set “the record straight” by saying “the excise tax levied on insurance companies for high-premium plans, the so-called ‘Cadillac tax,’ will affect only a small portion of the very highest cost health plans — a total of 3% of premiums in 2013.”)

The level of cynicism and arrogance it takes to pull this off is astonishing. You want to reach into the video and wipe that supercilious smirk off his face as he gleefully recounts how he bamboozled Americans.

Republicans should call this jerk to testify and then make him squirm by playing back each and every video.

Watch the video on the next page.

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ICE Agents Taunted by Illegals as Amnesty Nears

Friday, November 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Agents working for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency have already been suffering from low morale. Now they have to contend with illegal aliens taunting them about amnesty.

Jessica Vaughn, Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration, wrote about the tremendous stress ICE agents are under trying to deal with an immigration system that President Obama has deliberately sabotaged:

The president’s gradual, calculated dismantling of our immigration system has caused morale to plummet in the agencies of the Department of Homeland Security. Career immigration officials have courageously objected in public, and sometimes resorted to lawsuits to draw attention to the administration’s subversion of the law. In denial about their principled objections to his scheme, now the president is hoping to stifle their voices by offering them a pay increase as part of this outrageous plan. His assumption that they are motivated by money shows just how little respect he has for the men and women who have devoted their careers to public service in immigration.

Vaughn told the website Secrets about the low morale among ICE agents:

She said that officers are concerned that illegals with criminal records are being released under Obama’s policies, and that some immigrants taunt the officers, believing that the policies protect them.

“Some have told me that illegal alien criminals they have arrested have even taunted them, saying they know the ICE officers can’t do anything to them because of Obama administration policies,” Vaughan told Secrets.

The officers have raised the issues at “town hall” meetings with their superiors.

However, she said, top Homeland officials believe the issue is more about poor pay, not working conditions or the president’s policies. As a result, the White House is considering a pay raise as part of the president’s amnesty plan to some 5 million illegals.

“Clearly the administration is trying to triangulate at best, or more likely thinks that it can just dangle the prospects of a pay raise if they would stop objecting to administration non-enforcement policies,” said Vaughan. “I sincerely doubt anyone will fall for it, but it does reveal what he thinks of them,” she added.

This is not just a matter of “deferred action” on deportations. It is the systematic breakdown of immigration law and procedures. Most of these agents have served proudly, upholding the law while trying to act humanely toward illegal aliens. That’s how they’re trained. But when criminals who’ve committed serious crimes are let loose; when agents don’t even know what the law is supposed to be anymore; when their efforts to keep us safe are stymied by higher ups — it’s a heavy weight to carry when no one is listening to their warnings.

No matter who gets elected as our next president, this is going to be a mess that will take years to clean up.

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How Long Can Elizabeth Warren Resist Calls for Her to Run in 2016?

Friday, November 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Massachusetts liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke to a private conference of Democratic big donors yesterday and, according to this report from Politico, brought down the house.

She should be getting used to it. Everywhere she goes, the Democratic Party’s far-left base is imploring her to run. She speaks their language, thinks like they do, is outraged about the same things as they are.

And she hates conservatives and capitalism as much as any liberal in America.

Warren drew multiple standing ovations during her talk, held in a banquet room at Washington’s Mandarin Oriental hotel during the annual winter meeting of the Democracy Alliance, a club of major liberal donors.

Throughout the day, donors repeatedly broached the question of whether Warren would run to Paul Egerman, a Democracy Alliance board member who was the national finance chairman of her Senate race and introduced Warren for her speech Thursday. He patiently but firmly told each that she would not seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

That didn’t stop a donor from asking Warren herself with the first question during a question-and-answer session following her speech, according to a Democracy Alliance source who was in the room. She also answered definitively in the negative, said the source.

Yet the continued interest in a Warren 2016 campaign from the ranks of the Democracy Alliance could, at the least, hint at trouble for Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic front-runner, when it comes to winning over liberal donors and activists.

The Democracy Alliance has had an outsized influence in Democratic politics. It works to leverage its donors’ massive bank accounts to steer the party to the left on causes dear to liberals — including fighting to reduce economic inequality and the role of money in politics. Warren has emerged as a standard-bearer for those fights, and her address on Thursday dealt with economic inequality.

Another attendee asked Warren after the speech why Senate Democrats didn’t aggressively push the liberal economic policies she champions.

“The fight is to frame the issues for the next few elections,” she said, according to the source in the room. “We have moved the Democrats over the last four years.”

Earlier Thursday, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid tapped Warren for a leadership position that will utilize her appeal by making her an official liaison to the liberal base. Reid is set to talk to donors Friday morning on the sidelines of the Mandarin Oriental conference at a session hosted by a group called iVote, which raises cash to try to elect Democratic secretaries of state. Reid’s office did not respond to a request for comment on his participation in the event.

So what’s a senator to do? Steadier constitutions than hers have been unable to resist the siren song to run for president. The big donors she addressed yesterday told her that she would have all the money she would need to be competitive.

Hillary’s star is descending. Democrats are openly casting about for an alternative following another midterm debacle where even in Arkansas, the Clinton “magic” didn’t work. Some party pros worry that Hillary won’t be able to turn out the base the same way that Obama did. Suddenly, Mrs. Clinton doesn’t look so inevitable anymore. Might there be an opening for someone to run to her left?

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Harry Reid Begs Obama to Delay Immigration Orders Until After Budget Passes

Friday, November 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Majority Leader Harry Reid told President Obama on Thursday that it would be wise to hold off on issuing his executive orders on immigration until after the Continuing Resolution funding the government through the end of the fiscal year was passed.

Reid worries that if Obama acts to amnesty 5 million illegals, Republicans will include an amendment to the CR that prevents the implementation of the plan via withholding funding from various programs.

HuffPo:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday that he has urged President Barack Obama not to take any executive action on immigration until December, amid threats from Republicans that such a move could derail funding for the government.

“The president has said he’s going to do the executive action — the question is when he can do it. It’s up to him,” Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I’d like to get the finances of this country out of the way before he does it.”

Reid added that he has expressed his view to Obama, but ultimately “it’s up to him.”

It’s doubtful that any Republican amendment defunding the president’s executive action on immigration would pass in the Senate. But the House version of the CR would almost certainly contain a ban on funding programs that help implement the executive orders. There’s a very good chance that House Republicans would vote down a Senate version of the bill that did not contain such language, thus shutting down the government if an agreement couldn’t be reached by December 10.

Unity among Republicans appears to be strong. Even John McCain and Lindsey Graham are on board:

“If the president illegally tries to grant amnesty to millions of more people, I believe Congress should use every available tool to stop that amnesty and to defend the rule of law,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told The Huffington Post.

Even Republicans who criticized last year’s government shutdown agreed. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), both vocal critics of the previous shutdown and co-authors of the Senate immigration bill that passed last year, warned of grave consequences of Obama were to act unilaterally.

“Why not give the new Congress six months to see if we can find a way forward?” Graham told HuffPost. “You’ve got a bunch of new people coming in who need to be tested about what they believe regarding immigration. Patience is a virtue in life, it’s a necessity in a democracy. I just think it’s ill-conceived and the public will rebel against it.”

Graham added that he had appealed directly to the White House on the matter.

“I said, ‘Listen, what’s the downside of giving the new Congress a chance? I think most Americans will find this inappropriate and Democrats will pay a price,’” he said. “Most Americans would be for rational comprehensive immigration reform. Very few Americans are for Barack Obama going it alone.”

McCain said Obama’s decision to take executive action “poisons the well in more ways than one.”

“If the president were serious about immigration reform, he’d say, ‘It’s a new Congress, new members, in both House and Senate, and I’ll give them a chance to move forward on immigration reform.’ He’s not going to do that,” McCain said. “So you have to question whether he’s really serious about immigration reform or helping with the Hispanic vote in the 2016 election.”

McCain also rejected the notion that Congress had forced Obama’s hand by failing to act on the issue.

“There may be something happening. You should give it time in order to find that out. What’s the difference between three months?” McCain said, adding that he would “absolutely” vote for a continuing resolution that defunds any executive action Obama takes on immigration.

“If he vetoes, he vetoes,” McCain said. “I believe in the Constitution. He’s the one who’s violating the Constitution.”

It will be very tough to spin a government shutdown as the Republicans’ fault. More than 70% of the country disagrees with the president’s amnesty plan, and would understand the necessity of fighting the president’s illegal orders.

But a delay in announcing amnesty may work in Reid’s favor. Without a hard target, Republicans would be protesting what might happen, not what would already have happened. The president can always say he hasn’t made up his mind yet what he’s going to do. That would be a typical Obama lie, but who’s to say otherwise?

With Obama ready to pull the trigger on executive amnesty, Republicans appear united and prepared to oppose it.

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What Do Conservatives Mean When They Say They Want to ‘Restore America’?

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Peter Beinart writing in The Atlantic wonders about “The Republican Obsession with ‘Restoring’ America.”

In 2007, when he was planning his own presidential bid, Mike Huckabee wrote a book subtitled 12 Steps to Restoring America’s Greatness. (It’s available for one cent on Amazon.) In 2010, Glenn Beck organized a rally on the National Mall entitled “Restoring Honor.” In 2012, Mitt Romney’s supporters established a Super PAC called, paradoxically, “Restore Our Future.” Later that year, the Republican platform promised the “Restoring of the American Dream” and the “Restoration of Constitutional Government.” This June, Ted Cruz pledged to “Restore the Great Confident Roar of America.”

[...]

Specifying exactly when that golden age existed can be perilous. In a 1976 campaign speech entitled—what else—“To Restore America,” Reagan declared, “I would like to be president because I would like to see this country become once again a country where a little 6-year-old girl can grow up knowing the same freedom that I knew when I was 6 years old, growing up in America.” Reagan was 6 years old in 1917, when women and most African Americans could not vote, when socialists and labor organizers were being jailed, if not lynched, for opposing America’s entrance into World War I, and when governors in Reagan’s native Midwest were making teaching German a crime.

Here’s the problem. Unlike Reagan, today’s Republicans are generally shrewd enough to avoid identifying exactly which previous age they wish to restore. But for African Americans, Latinos, women, and gays and lesbians, idealizing any previous age means idealizing one in which they enjoyed fewer rights and opportunities than they do today. Pledging to “restore” America appeals to many older, straight, Anglo, white, and male voters, because it’s a subtle way of saying Republicans will bring back the good old days. The GOP’s problem is that to win back the White House, it must make inroads among Americans who know the good old days weren’t all that good.

Beinart makes a good point, but is totally clueless when it comes to the context of American restoration. And his simple-minded analysis of  why conservatives want to “restore” America is identity politics writ large.

He’s right about the “good old days” not being so good for many. Indeed, there is a small minority of those who call themselves conservative who wish to go back to a time when women were in the kitchen, gays in the closet, and minorities were neither seen nor heard. This kind of cultural revanchism is impossible to achieve, of course. Women, gays, and minorities have made far too much progress in seeking equality of opportunity to put a cork in the bottle now.

Why would anyone think conservatives want to “restore” an America that was failing to grant equal rights to women, gays, and minorities? That’s a political attack, not a rational, serious look at just what conservatives want to restore in America. It’s not so much a time that conservatives want to bring back. It’s more of a state of mind — a way of looking at America that breeds policies conducive to economic growth and greater opportunity, and places a greater value on individual liberty.

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Is ‘Anti-War’ the Same as ‘Anti-Military’?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Weekly Standard’s Ethan Epstein is upset that a power rock trio of Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Zac Brown belted out a rendition of the Credence Clearwater Revival classic anti-war song “Fortunate Son” at a Veterans Day “Concert for Valor.”

“Freak out” would be putting it mildly.

Who would have thought that that Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Zac Brown, accomplished musicians all, would be so, well, tone-deaf? But how else to explain their choice of song—Creedence Clearwater’s famously anti-war anthem “Fortunate Son”—at the ostensibly pro-military “Concert for Valor” this evening on the National Mall?

The song, not to put too fine a point on it, is an anti-war screed, taking shots at “the red white and blue.” It was a particularly terrible choice given that Fortunate Son is, moreover, an anti-draft song, and this concert was largely organized to honor those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

On a musical level, “Fortunate Song” is not a bad song—that’s one hell of a riff. But the “Concert for Valor,” a Veterans Day event sponsored by HBO and Starbucks, in front of the Capitol Building, was not the place for it.

Considering the part that Vietnam veterans played in ending that war, it was not only appropriate but necessary to honor them by playing that song. Forget John Kerry and his “Vietnam Veterans Against the War” group. The vast majority of veterans against the war in Vietnam did not throw their medals away, or make false testimony about the actions of their comrades. Most of them were ordinary grunts who realized as most thinking Americans did by 1970 that the war could not be won in any conventional way and it was time to make peace and bring the boys home.

“Fortunate Son” is more about class than patriotism. It’s a touchstone for the time it was written, and sounds very dated today. But the lyrics speak to a generation that opposed the draft, which they viewed as patently unfair and discriminatory.

The lyrics paint the picture clearly:

Some folks are born, made to wave the flag
Ooo, their red, white and blue
And when the band plays “Hail to the Chief”
Ooo, they point the cannon at you, Lord

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no

Some folks are born, silver spoon in hand
Lord, don’t they help themselves, y’all
But when the taxman comes to the door
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yeah

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, no
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no

Yeah, yeah
Some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
And when you ask ‘em, “How much should we give?”
Ooh, they only answer “More! More! More!”, y’all

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no military son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, one
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no, no, no
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate son, no, no, no

John Fogerty, who wrote the song, was drafted in 1966 and served in the military as an Army reservist. Like almost everyone of that age, he opposed the draft largely because of the deferment system which allowed those who could afford it to go to college and avoid serving. The ranks were filled with the poor (of all races), and other marginal kids who dropped out of high school or couldn’t cut it in college.

It’s different today, of course. Today’s Army is more egalitarian, smarter, and more technically savvy than the Army that fought in Vietnam. Generous benefits, including college tuition and vocational training, that weren’t available to the Vietnam generation are available today. These inducements have forged the greatest army in history, with every race, every class represented.

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The Perfect Liberal Article for Veterans Day

Sunday, November 9th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

David Masciotra, writing in Salon, lays the wood to all of us “childish” Americans who harbor the “childlike” notion that all soldiers are heroes.

Put a man in uniform, preferably a white man, give him a gun, and Americans will worship him. It is a particularly childish trait, of a childlike culture, that insists on anointing all active military members and police officers as “heroes.” The rhetorical sloppiness and intellectual shallowness of affixing such a reverent label to everyone in the military or law enforcement betrays a frightening cultural streak of nationalism, chauvinism, authoritarianism and totalitarianism, but it also makes honest and serious conversations necessary for the maintenance and enhancement of a fragile democracy nearly impossible.

It’s impossible already when Masciotra and his friends reject the premises upon which U.S. foreign policy is based.  Stopping the hero worship of cops and soldiers won’t alter that one iota.

“Rhetorical sloppiness”? How does “anointing” soldiers as heroes constitute rhetoric of any kind and how is it sloppy? Writers who want to sound important and knowledgeable who are unimportant and ignorant employ such ridiculous criticisms in order play to their peanut gallery of equally ignorant lefties. It’s a meaningless statement but it sure sounds good, especially when paired with the pejorative “intellectual shallowness.”

So speaks the author of an upcoming book on that sage of sages, John Cougar Mellencamp.

And what’s this “cultural streak” of “nationalism, chauvinism, authoritarianism and totalitarianism”? Sheesh. All that because many of us admire soldiers and cops? Dial up this fellow’s meds because it’s obvious his paranoia is out of control. It is impossible to see how thinking soldiers and cops are heroes would lead to totalitarianism. Maybe Masciotra is projecting a wee bit much, no? Admiring Che and Mao could easily lead to a totalitarian mindset because, well, they were bloodthirsty totalitarians. Soldiers fighting for the freedom of us or others and cops who are trying to beat back the savages of the street who don’t think twice of murdering anybody (including the police) deserve a little more consideration.

But, wait, it gets better…

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Twenty-Five Years Ago, the Most Dramatic Moment of the 20th Century

Sunday, November 9th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell?

Ask anyone under 30 that question and you may get a blank stare. But for those of us who came of age during the Cold War, the significance of November 9, 1989, cannot be overstated. On that glorious night, ordinary citizens claimed their natural rights to be free and began to demolish the biggest symbol of their oppression.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was the opening of the final act of a drama that began in Poland with the Solidarity Movement early in the decade and ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union a little more than two years later. Poland had freed itself from the Communist yoke earlier in 1989, followed quickly by Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Both of those countries opened their borders with the West. When Hungary opened its borders with Austria, the East German people rushed to go on “holiday,” never to return.

The East German government tried to staunch the flow of people by severely restricting travel to Hungary. This led to the first massive protests in October and the eventual resignation of East Germany’s long-serving Communist dictator, Erich Honecker, on the 19th.

Then, on the evening of November 9, an obscure bureaucrat in the East German government responded to a question at a press conference about the easing of travel restrictions. What happened next — a mix of low comedy and high drama — was chronicled in the book The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall by USC professor Mary Elise Sarotte:

That night at 6, Guenter Schabowski, a member of the East German Politburo who served as its spokesman, was scheduled to hold a news conference. Shortly before it began, he received a piece of paper with an update on the regulations and a suggestion that he mention them publicly. He had not been involved in discussions about the rules and did not have time to read the document carefully before starting.

His hour-long news conference was so tedious that Tom Brokaw, who was there, remembered being “bored.” But in the final minutes, an Italian journalist’s question about travel spurred Schabowski’s memory. He tried to summarize the new regulations but became confused, and his sentences trailed off. “Anyway, today, as far as I know, a decision has been made,” he said. “It is a recommendation of the Politburo that has been taken up, that one should from the draft of a travel law, take out a passage. . .”

Among the long-winded clauses, some snippets leapt out: “exit via border crossings” and “possible for every citizen.”

Suddenly, every journalist in the room had questions. “When does that go into force?” shouted one. “Immediately?” shouted another. Rattled and mumbling to himself, Schabowski flipped through his papers until he uttered the phrase: “Immediately, right away.”

It felt as if “a signal had come from outer space and electrified the room,” Brokaw recalled. Some wire journalists rushed out to file reports, but the questions kept coming, among them: “What will happen to the Berlin Wall now?”

Alarmed about what was unfolding, Schabowski concluded with more muddled responses: “The question of travel, of the permeability therefore of the wall from our side, does not yet answer, exclusively, the question of the meaning, of this, let me say it this way, fortified border.” Furthermore, “the debate over these questions could be positively influenced if the Federal Republic [of West Germany] and if NATO would commit themselves to and carry out disarmament.”

As NATO was unlikely to disarm itself by breakfast, Schabowski clearly did not expect much to happen that night. But it was too late — by 7:03 p.m., the wires were reporting that the Berlin Wall was open.

The news was reported on the nightly news shows in East Berlin. As if by magic, thousands of people streamed into the streets and began to make their way to the wall. West Berliners had also heard the news and they, too, began to mass near the crossings.

Unsure what to do, the border guards, who had received no instructions regarding this turn of events, finally relented to the importuning of the crowd and opened the gates. The shouts of joy echoed in the streets of Berlin drawing more people to the celebration. As if by magic, hundreds of sledgehammers appeared and people on both sides of the wall began to attack the structure with enthusiasm. Some brought ordinary hammers and began to pound away at the hated symbol that had separated the two Germanys for almost 30 years.

This video on the next page captures some of the drama at the gates that night.

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Report: Islamic State Leader ‘Critically Wounded’ in U.S. Air Strike

Sunday, November 9th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Iraqi tribal leaders have told Al-Arabiya TV that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State, was “critically wounded” in a US air strike on a gathering of IS leaders

Several other terrorists were killed and many injured, according to the report:

The leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was “critically wounded” when a U.S.-led air strike targeted the western Iraqi border town of al-Qaim, tribal sources told Al Arabiya News Channel on Saturday.

U.S. Central Command confirmed in a statement that U.S.-led air strikes targeted ISIS leaders near their northern Iraqi hub of Mosul late Friday, without confirming whether Baghdadi was killed, AFP reported.

“This strike demonstrates the pressure we continue to place on the ISIL [ISIS] terrorist network and the group’s increasingly limited freedom to maneuver, communicate and command,” U.S. Central Command said.

Anbar province MP Mohammad al-Karbuli told Al Arabiya News Channel that coalition aircraft had targeted a gathering of ISIS leaders in al-Qaim that led to the killing of tens of people and wounded many more.

Karbuli said chaos ensued the air raid with ISIS members scrambling to transport their wounded to al-Qaim hospital which was overwhelmed with the number of patients.

Reuters news agency quoted two witnesses as saying an air strike targeted a house where senior ISIS officers were meeting, near al-Qaim.

The witnesses said ISIS fighters had cleared a hospital so that their wounded could be treated. ISIS fighters used loudspeakers to urge residents to donate blood, the witnesses said.

It should be noted that Al-Arabiya does not have an unblemished record of accuracy. But the Pentagon confirms the strike, although the New York Times reports there may be some confusion about its location:

An airstrike by a United States-led coalition hit a gathering of leaders of the Islamic State jihadist group in northwestern Iraq on Saturday, and Iraqi officials said they believed that a number of top militants had been killed.

An Iraqi security official and a military commander said that at least one strike had targeted a meeting near the town of Qaim, which is in Anbar Province, across the border from the Syrian town of Bukamal. The area is in the desert heartland of the territory the group has seized for its self-declared caliphate.

Both officials said that the strikes had killed many militants from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, including two of its regional governors. Rumors also swirled that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been either wounded or killed. The officials said they had no confirmed information about Mr. Baghdadi’s presence at the meeting.

A Defense Department official confirmed that coalition aircraft had carried out an air attack “against what was assessed to be a gathering of ISIL leaders,” adding that it had destroyed a convoy of 10 trucks. But the official said the strike had been near Mosul, which is 180 miles from Qaim. The discrepancy in the reported locations could not be immediately explained.

The official also said there had been no confirmation that Mr. Baghdadi was at the meeting.

Our intel people did a great job to get wind of this meeting in time to organize and carry out a devastating strike.

There’s a question as to whether Islamic State can be as effective with someone other than al-Baghdadi at the helm. History suggests there will be trouble:

The wounding and potential loss of Baghdadi may be of more significance for his followers. Baghdadi, as “Caliph Ibrahim,” to maintain his religious foundation, needs to be of a whole body. If he loses a limb in his injuries, his credibility suffers. If he dies, the death would toss the entire concept of the legitimacy of the “Caliphate” on its head. ISIS discourse will likely need to be revised and new leaders will emerge. But clearly, from historical examples, succession in the historical caliphates was often a chaotic and vicious event.

The key question is whether that will be true today. Yet, if a caliph dies, it is up to his adherents to be “free to do as they like.” Baghdadi himself said on the first day of Ramadan “I have been appointed (caliph) over you, even though I am not the best and the most morally excellent among you.” Time will tell.

ISIS’s structure makes it resilient to decapitating strikes. Although there is a formal governmental structure of their “Caliphate,” these fighters can easily translate the injury or loss of their leaders to tactical advantage. Their swarming attacks and capabilities on the battlefield may increase and more innocents will lose their lives.

We’ve learned over the years of fighting terrorists that lopping off the head usually amounts to little more than an inconvenience to the outfit. Other leaders rise to take their place. Although I am not convinced by the Al-Arabiya story of Baghdadi’s death, it appears that we struck a blow that will at least temporarily weaken IS administration.

Its fighters, however, will go on as before.

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Iran Speeds Up Uranium Production, Violating Interim Agreement

Saturday, November 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A confidential report issued to member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency claims that Iran has increased its stockpile of low enriched uranium by 8% in just two months.

Further, it may have violated the interim agreement it signed last year that forbade the use of an advanced centrifuge that processes uranium more quickly than older models.

Times of Israel:

Iran has stepped up efforts to develop a process that could enrich uranium at a much quicker pace, thereby violating the interim nuclear agreement reached with world powers last year, according to the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, or ISIS.

“Iran may have violated [the interim deal] by starting to feed [natural uranium gas] into one of its advanced centrifuges, namely the IR-5 centrifuge,” ISIS wrote in an analysis of the confidential IAEA report issued Friday to member states, according to Reuters. “Under the interim deal, this centrifuge should not have been fed with [gas] as reported in this safeguards report.”

The IR-5 is a new centrifuge that Iran has been seeking to develop to replace the old IR-1 model. Tehran possesses only one such machine so far.

“Because enrichment in these centrifuges is intermittent and not continuous, questions arise whether any of the advanced centrifuges work well,” ISIS said.

Iran has also reportedly sped up its low-grade uranium enrichment over the past two months, growing its stockpile by 8% to 8.4 tons.

The issue of advanced enrichment is sensitive because Iran could potentially produce a nuclear weapon if it processes the material further, a main concern for the West.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the US to call out the Iranians for their violation. The Obama administration is too close to a deal with Iran to worry about whether Iran can be trusted to keep its word.

The IAEA is also complaining that the Iranians have still not been forthcoming on the entirety of their nuclear program, especially as it relates to bomb making activity:

A report by the UN nuclear agency says Iran has failed to address suspicions it may have conducted explosives tests and other activity that could be used to develop a nuclear bomb.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency was issued to IAEA member states in Vienna on November 7.

On a positive note, the report says Tehran has not boosted uranium enrichment and has not installed any significant components at its plutonium-producing reactor in Arak.

The document was issued ahead of a self-imposed November 24 deadline for Iran and six global powers to end a decade-old standoff over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities.

Western powers say no final agreement will be reached until the IAEA issues a ruling saying it is satisfied with its inquiry.

Speeding up enrichment and failing at full disclosure of their nuclear program would ordinarily raise a host of red flags with negotiators. But these talks have never been about preventing Iran from getting the bomb.  The talks have been about coming to an historic agreement to cement President Obama’s legacy. To that end, the negotiators are apparently willing to look the other way and bend over backwards to achieve that goal.

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Landrieu Abandoned While GOP Rolls out the Big Guns for Unity Rally

Saturday, November 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A tale of one election, two parties. The Democrats, reeling from massive losses at every level of government, are approaching the Louisiana run-off election on December 6 as a lost cause. They’ve pulled party money from the contest and pretty much left Senator Mary Landrieu, one of the party’s most loyal soldiers, on her own.

Their pathetic excuse, via Politico:

“Mary Landrieu is a proven runoff winner, and we support her 100 percent,” said DSCC spokesman Justin Barasky. “We are going to make ongoing determinations on how best to invest in the race. We made the initial reservation when there were concerns that the rates would skyrocket, but they have stabilized, giving us more flexibility to make week-to-week decisions.”

They support her “100%” but won’t give her any money? You go, girl — we’re behind you all the way!

Contrast that response to the GOP’s plans:

Louisiana Republican Rob Maness, the tea party upstart who finished third in this week’s Louisiana Senate primary, is getting behind GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy ahead of his December runoff with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will headline a unity rally — during which Maness will endorse Cassidy — on Monday afternoon at Huey’s Bar in Baton Rouge. Also attending will be Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. David Vitter and state Rep. Paul Hollis, who briefly threw his hat into the U.S. Senate race before dropping out.

Maness earned 14 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s jungle primary. Since no candidate achieved a majority of the vote, the top two finishers face off on Dec. 6. Cassidy, who was supported by 41 percent of voters, is now the heavy favorite against Landrieu, who pulled just 42 percent of the vote.

The endorsement follows a Friday dinner at Ye Olde College Inn in New Orleans with Cassidy, his wife Laura, Maness and his wife Candy.

The RNC is going to pour $2.3 million into the race. Also,

Republicans still have $7.2 million in broadcast reservations for the next four weeks in the Bayou State. Cassidy has reserved $1.3 million; Ending Spending and its Super PAC, $1.6 million; the National Rifle Association, $1.1 million; and Freedom Partners, $822,000.

The only Democratic outside group with broadcast reservations for the runoff right now is the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which reserved just $101,000 for the final two weeks of the runoff.

Maybe they can auction off kittens and puppies to raise some money for Landrieu.

Landrieu only polled 42% on election night and I don’t think there are going to be too many Maness supporters who are going to vote for her. Depending on what is going to happen in Alaska, where Democratic Senator Mark Begich trails Republican Daniel Sullivan by 8,000 votes with about 50,000 votes left to count, the GOP could add two more senators to their caucus by Christmas.

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Bin Laden ‘Died Like a Pussy’ Says SEAL Who Claims Fatal Shot

Saturday, November 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The unseemly row among our special operators precipitated by former SEAL Team Six member Robert O’Neil’s claims that he fired the fatal shot that killed Osama Bin Laden continued to play out in the press as other SEALs disputed his claims and criticized him for going public.

The Daily Beast is reporting that other special operators who took part in the raid say that O’Neil is “misstating key facts” and “wrongly taking credit” for killing Bin Laden.

Sources who know and worked with O’Neill, who was first identified by the special operations blog SOFREP, said his version of events showed cracks almost from the night of the raid itself. One former special operations official said that O’Neill didn’t identify himself as the main shooter in the “hot wash” debriefing that operators conducted immediately after the raid at an air base in Afghanistan. But upon his return stateside, O’Neill identified himself as the trigger-man to members of the public while drinking in some favorite SEAL bars in Virginia Beach, VA. (This account was independently verified by a second source.) O’Neill’s behavior prompted his superiors to counsel him that the operation was classified, the former official said.

This much seems beyond dispute. O’Neill was one of three men who fired at the fugitive terrorist in the moments before he died. The two others SEALs were Bissonnette and a third shooter whom multiple sources referred to as the “point man,” because he was standing at the front of the team of SEALs as they climbed a staircase and approached bin Laden’s bedroom on the upper floor of his safe house.

The lure of celebrity and book advances is apparently too strong to overcome for some. Leaders of the Naval Special Warfare Command released a letter asking their men to remember who they are and what they’re about:

“We will not abide willful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety and financial gain, which only diminishes otherwise honorable service, courage and sacrifice,” said the letter signed by Rear Adm. Brian Losey and Force Master Chief Michael Magaraci on Oct. 31.

Analysts and former Navy SEALs say some are seduced by the celebrity status that has been conferred on them in recent years. The SEALs have been the subject of Hollywood films, video games and books.

A group of SEALs was recently disciplined for consulting on the computer game Medal of Honor: Warfighter.

Hollywood has produced a string of movies portraying SEALs in a heroic light, including Zero Dark Thirty, which chronicled the bin Laden mission, and Captain Phillips, which portrayed their role in killing pirates and rescuing a ship captain.

Their celebrity status has overshadowed other special operations forces within the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force, Couch said. It wasn’t always the case. During Vietnam, few people had heard of the Navy SEALs. It was the Green Berets who captured the public’s imagination, helped by John Wayne’s starring role in the 1968 movie about the Army special forces.

Today’s tsunami of coverage on SEALs presents a far greater temptation to cash out or otherwise capitalize on the public interest.

The Pentagon said they are expected to resist the urge. Revelations from the special operations forces risks exposing classified information, given much of what they do is secret, said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.

“There is an expectation inside that community, a code, that they ascribe to that they will not seek recognition for what they do, they will not seek financial gain from what they do,” Kirby said Friday.

In an unpublished audio tape of interviews conducted between O’Neil and freelance writer Alex Quade, O’Neill gave a colorful description of how Bin Laden died and why he decided to go public:

Osama bin Laden “died like a pussy” who “knew we were there to kill him,” says ex-Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill, who claims to have fired the lethal shots.

“You can quote me on this bull***t,” O’Neill said in previously-unreleased audio that aired on CNN Friday evening. The tape was recorded by freelance journalist Alex Quade.

O’Neill, who will give a tell-all interview to Fox News next week, claimed to have used details of the terrorist mastermind’s death to provide comfort to 9/11 families: “I tell them, ‘Alright, Osama bin Laden died like a pussy. That’s all I’m telling you. Just so you know. He died afraid. And he knew that we were there to kill him. And that’s closure.’”

“Regardless of the negativity that comes with it,” O’Neill added, “I don’t give a f**k. We got him.”

A decade ago I wrote a post on my blog paying homage to the SEALs following what is believed to be the worst day in their history: the loss of 11 SEALs on a mission in Afghanistan (another 8 “Nightstalker” members were also killed). At that time, few details of the operation were available. Nevertheless, I was awestruck by the courage and sacrifice displayed by the SEALs — something I learned was commonplace in the special operations community.

I also admired the fact that they eschewed public acclaim, even though many of their operations have been memorialized on TV and in films. It should be noted that most SEALs maintain their silence and anonymity. But those few who don’t — who seek the exposure and Klieg lights of celebrity — bring shame on their comrades and the entire special operations community.

O’Neil may be a charlatan. But beyond that, he is a cynic. He is motivated by some very unSEAL-like attributes — greed and glory. My hero worship of SEALs was probably misplaced. But it’s still a downer to realize that for all their gifts, they’re human after all.

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North Korea Releases Two Americans

Saturday, November 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller, two Americans held for an extended period in North Korean prisons, have been released.

The announcement came from the office of the Director of National Intelligence. DNI James Clapper apparently carried out the negotiations in secret. It isn’t known who he negotiated with or whether there was a Quid Pro Quo of some kind that facilitated their release.

Reuters:

Bae and Miller were being accompanied home by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, his office said. Their release comes less than three weeks after another American was freed by Pyongyang.

Bae, a missionary, was arrested in North Korea in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for crimes against the state. Miller, who reportedly was tried on an espionage charge, had been in custody since April this year and sentenced to six years of hard labor.

The United States had frequently called for their release for humanitarian reasons, especially since Bae was said to have health problems.

“We are grateful to Director of National Intelligence Clapper, who engaged on behalf of the United States in discussions with DPRK authorities about the release of two citizens,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement after the men were freed.

“We also want to thank our international partners, especially our Protecting Power, the government of Sweden, for their tireless efforts to help secure the freedom of Mr. Bae and Mr. Miller.”

Sweden serves as a diplomatic intermediary for the United States in North Korea, as Washington has no diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.

The U.S. government gave no other details yet of how the release came about, and Clapper’s role was unexpected.

In late October North Korea freed Jeffrey Fowle, 56, a street repair worker from Miamisburg, Ohio, who had been arrested in May for leaving a Bible in a sailor’s club in the North Korean city of Chongjin, where he was traveling as a tourist.

In September, the authoritarian North Korean government allowed Bae, Miller and Fowle to be interviewed by CNN and the Associated Press. The men said they were being treated humanely and appealed to the U.S. government to push for their release.

These releases may be a sign of Kim’s desperation. It’s no secret that North Korea can’t feed itself and that conditions for everyone except the army have been deteriorating. The economy is thought to be in shambles and no one knows for sure just how secure Kim Jong-Un is in his position.

Is this truly a kind of olive branch to the US? Prudence and caution demands that we proceed slowly. Kim, himself, may be unsure about how far he can go, given the factionalized nature of the North Korean leadership.

If this is a genuine effort at some kind of rapprochement by Kim, the US should take it seriously and work for the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear program. That will be the test of just how serious this overture is.

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Study: 50% of Today’s Jobs Won’t Exist in 10 Years

Friday, November 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I usually look in askance at futuristic predictions mostly because the older I get, the more I realize how utterly impossible it is to see what is to come. The forces of change are both fickle and unknowable, and can only be seen in hindsight. We can’t even predict the weather more than a few days out, and like the weather, there are uncountable variables that go into creating the future, making seeing it more akin to a crap shoot than a scientific endeavor.

No flying cars, no living on the moon, no Back to the Future-like Hoverboards — all predicted when I was a kid. The track record of futurists leaves much to be desired.

“Fast Forward 2030: The Future of Work and the Workplace” is a report by realty consulting firm CBRE and China-based Genesis, a property developer. It envisions the workplace a decade from now that is a lot different than the one today.

Some key findings:

1. Artificial intelligence will transform businesses and the work that people do

  • Process work, customer work and vast swathes of middle management will simply disappear:50% of occupations today will no longer exist in 2025
  • New jobs will require creative intelligence, social and emotional intelligence and the ability to leverage artificial intelligence. Those jobs will be immensely more fulfilling than today’s jobs
  • Workspaces with row of desks as we know them today will be completely redundant.Not because they are not fit for purpose, but simply because that purpose no longer exists

2. For employees, purpose is more important than financial success

  • There is a significant and global trend amongst all people, but particularly the youth, towards happiness, purpose and meaning being as or more important than financial success
  • Corporations will not only need to be lean and agile they must be authentic to attract talent: authentic in their values and in making a real contribution to the social good
  • As the nature of work changes we expect to see more social entrepreneurship

3. Emergence of online trading for real estate

  • By 2030 the majority of real estate transactions may be made online, and the majority of transactions will be made by the users of the space using real time marketplaces (similar to Uber) that help the find the best and most effective place to work
  • Real estate traditionally changes slowly but these new emerging aggregators could revolutionize the market, allowing tenants and many types of building owners in cities to contribute wasted and unused space back into an eco-system of available space

4. Landlords to focus more on delivering services

  • Buildings will be much healthier environments, and landlords will need to create partnerships with providers who can help create services and experiences in addition to basic lease tenancies
  • As landlords start delivering more complete solutions they will rate their building’s value not by the cash flow of rent but in the cash flow from the services.

Sounds fascinating, but strangely out of kilter. Like this:

Young people interviewed for the report clearly indicated that the workplaces of 2030 will contrast starkly to the workplaces of today and will offer a wide variety of quiet retreat and collaborative settings, each ideal for a specific kind of job or task or designed to suit a specific personal work style. In particular, young interviewees suggested that workplaces of the future will need to support worker health and wellbeing—as did all industry experts and business leaders interviewed for the study. The budding industry of wellness in buildings will grow rapidly in the coming decade.

Sounds like paradise — if I were someone in their 20′s and had a completely unsophisticated view of business. It’s like Occupy Wall Street meets Dr. Phil. No matter how “authentic” a business may be, they still have to make money to survive. The future worker who is not interested in financial success won’t be working very long.

If anything, the competition for these kinds of jobs will be even more intense than such competition today. Are we to believe that employees will be in a position to demand more emotionally satisfying jobs at companies who put “social good” over profit? That will be a tough sell.

It very well may be that robots and artificial intelligence devices will revolutionize the workplace.  And it could be true that 50% of all jobs today will be gone by 2025.

But it is also likely that millions of jobs will be created in industries that don’t even exist yet, or are flying below the radar.  The only thing rock solid certain about the future is that it will surprise us. And studies like this one will be forgotten long before they’re proved wrong.

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