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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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Why Is the IRS Abolishing the Mandatory Expiration Date for Illegals’ Tax ID Number?

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Daily Caller is reporting that the IRS is abolishing the mandatory expiration date for illegal aliens’ Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Previously, the number had to be renewed every 5 years and the illegal alien had to file a tax return in at least one of those years.

The rule was changed in 2013 because of widespread fraud and abuse. Now the IRS has changed it back to where it used to be?

The agency claims it needs “time to adjust and allow the IRS to reprogram its systems” and will begin to cancel ITIN’s again in 2016.

Somehow, I get the feeling that that deadline is going to magically slip.

The ITIN program is primarily used by undocumented workers to follow the law and file income taxes in the United States. Reports came out during the IRS scandal linking ITIN fraud to billions in lost taxpayer dollars. The IRS was forced to reform the ITIN program at the start of 2013 – but this new regulation undoes that reform.

“The IRS will not deactivate an ITIN that has been used on at least one tax return in the past five years,” the IRS said in an explainer of the new policy. “To give all interested parties time to adjust and allow the IRS to reprogram its systems, the IRS will not begin deactivating ITINs until 2016…The new, more uniform policy applies to any ITIN, regardless of when it was issued.”

“Developed in consultation with taxpayers, their representatives and other stakeholders, the new policy replaces the existing one that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2013,” the IRS stated. “Under the old policy, announced in November 2012, ITINs issued after Jan. 1, 2013 would have automatically expired after five years, even if used properly and regularly by taxpayers.”

Republican Texas Rep. Sam Johnson grilled the acting commissioner of the IRS on ITIN fraud at a hearing as recent as June 27, 2013. (RELATED: How To Destroy A Hard Drive: IRS Edition)

“Last summer the IG issued a damning report in which it found that IRS management ‘discouraged’ IRS workers from ‘detecting fraudulent [ITIN] applications.’ The IG’s report led me to call on then-Commissioner Shulman to resign,” Johnson said to then-acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel.

“On the screen, I’ve got figure 6 from the 2012 IG report showing most frequently used addresses for ITIN tax refunds. As you can see, nearly 24,000 tax refunds totaling $46.4 million were issued to the same address in Atlanta,” Johnson said. “Bottom-line these ITINs are costing taxpayers dearly because they can be used to fraudulently get tax refunds…Look at figure 3 on the screen. Over 1,000 ITINs were assigned to individuals using the same address in Atlanta. You agree that there’s still a problem?”

“Also the IG found that IRS workers handling ITIN applications ‘remain concerned’ that management will basically pressure them to rubberstamp applications instead of ensuring that ‘only qualified individuals receive an ITIN,’” Johnson pointed out.

Absolutely remarkable. The IRS apparently doesn’t mind paying out fraudulent refunds to illegal aliens, and balks at using one of the tools the agency needs to prevent that fraud.

The concept of an ITIN isn’t a bad one. Getting illegals to pay their share of taxes is fine — especially since the government shows no interest in going after them. If they’re going to be here, they may as well contribute.

But somebody has to figure out a way to identify the frauds. Is the IRS saying their computers don’t red flag a return that features an address shared by 1000 other people? My old Tandy 1000 could probably have done that.

Is this another example of the IRS tailoring it’s policies to benefit favored constituencies? It sure looks that way, although you could probably never prove it. It’s a reminder that the entire executive branch of the government has been enlisted in President Obama’s quest to change America.

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Ambassador Caroline Kennedy Attends Hiroshima Memorial Service

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

America’s ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, attended the annual memorial service, remembering that day 69 years ago when the US dropped an atomic bomb on the city.

It’s unusual for the American ambassador to attend the memorial. Kennedy’s appearance marks only the 4th time a US ambassador has taken part.

Wall Street Journal:

Ms. Kennedy did not give a speech or lay a wreath at the ceremony, according to the city of Hiroshima. “This is a day for somber reflection and a renewed commitment to building a more peaceful world,” the ambassador said in a statement released by the U.S. Embassy.

As the only country to have suffered atomic bomb attacks, Japan “has the obligation to realize a world without nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in his speech during the ceremony in Hiroshima. Mr. Abe also pledged that Japan will continue to ban production, possession or permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons in the country.

Although Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui did not touch on Mr. Abe’s efforts to revise Japan’s constitution, he kept the government in check by mentioning in his speech that the country has enjoyed 69 years of peace thanks to the document’s “sublime pacifism.”

Following the ceremony, representatives of atomic bombing victims met with Mr. Abe and requested that his cabinet withdraw its decision to pursue the right to collective self-defense.

The prime minister replied that the government’s intention is to provide peace and protect the lives of the Japanese public. He explained that the change is not meant to enable Japan to participate in war.

Click here to view a related photo gallery

The ceremony, attended by approximately 45,000 people, began at 8 a.m. An additional 5,507 people were added to the registers of names of fallen atomic bomb victims, bringing the total number to 292,325.

Those present at the ceremony held a minute of silence at 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb was dropped on the city. The attack caused the deaths of approximately 140,000 people in Hiroshima by the end of 1945. Another 70,000 people died in Nagasaki three days later due to the second U.S. atomic bombing on Japan.

Ms. Kennedy is also expected to attend the ceremony of the atomic bombings in Nagasaki on Aug. 9.

Abe’s decision to revise the Japanese constitution isn’t as controversial as it would have been a few years ago. Many Japanese realize that their nation cannot put total reliance on America for its defense anymore. The point was driven home by China’s recent aggressiveness in the South China Sea and America’s tepid response.

The Hiroshima ceremony is non-political,  but Kennedy’s presence has made waves both here and in Japan. Many Japanese believe it inappropriate that a representative from the country that inflicted mass destruction on their homeland should attend the memorial. Some Americans believe that a high ranking US official attending the ceremony is tantamount to endorsing the Japanese view that dropping the bombs were unnecessary.

Perhaps it’s time to move on for both countries. Japanese vets regularly attend the Pearl Harbor memorial service every December 7, as our vets return the gesture on August 6 in Hiroshima. If the war’s fighting men can reconcile over the two great horrors of that war, perhaps both countries can as well.

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Snowden Redux

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

There’s a new leaker in town, says the federal government, and he’s handing over more sensitive national security documents to selected press outlets.

Specifically, whoever is doing the leaking has taken the secret documents to Glenn Greenwald — the same writer who aided Edward Snowden in his efforts to expose NSA snooping.

CNN reports:

The federal government has concluded there’s a new leaker exposing national security documents in the aftermath of surveillance disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, U.S. officials tell CNN.

Proof of the newest leak comes from national security documents that formed the basis of a news story published Tuesday by the Intercept, the news site launched by Glenn Greenwald, who also published Snowden’s leaks.

NSA leaker Edward Snowden asks to extend Russia asylum

The Intercept article focuses on the growth in U.S. government databases of known or suspected terrorist names during the Obama administration.

The article cites documents prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center dated August 2013, which is after Snowden flew to Russia to avoid U.S. criminal charges.

Greenwald has suggested there was another leaker. In July, he said on Twitter “it seems clear at this point” that there was another. Government officials have been investigating to find out who.

In a February interview with CNN’s Reliable Sources, Greenwald said: “I definitely think it’s fair to say that there are people who have been inspired by Edward Snowden’s courage and by the great good and virtue that it has achieved.”

He added, “I have no doubt there will be other sources inside the government who see extreme wrongdoing who are inspired by Edward Snowden.”

There’s a fascinating twist to this story.

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GOP Congressman Accuses Democrats of Waging a ‘War on Whites’

Monday, August 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

As expected, such a pithy observation has elicited howls of outrage from the left. The comment was made by Alabama Republican Congressman Mo Brooks, who used the phrase in a purely political context — that the GOP’s immigration stance wouldn’t hurt the party, while the Democrats’ push for immigration reform was politically stupid.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) doesn’t think that the hardline stance Republicans have taken on immigration could hurt the party’s standing with Hispanic voters. Instead, he thinks Democrats are hurting their prospects with white voters.

“This is a part of the war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party. And the way in which they’re launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else,” he said during an interview Monday with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. “It’s part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, greed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things. Well that’s not true.”

Brooks was responding to comments made by National Journal’s Ron Fournier, who told Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday that “the fastest growing voting bloc in this country thinks the Republican Party hates them. This party, your party, cannot be the party of the future beyond November if you’re seen as the party of white people.”

Brooks responded by saying that all demographic groups in America support securing the nation’s border and a wide range of Americans would be affected by an influx of undocumented immigration.

“It doesn’t make any difference if you’re a white American, a black American, a Hispanic American, an Asian American or if you’re a woman or a man. Every single demographic group is hurt by falling wages and lost jobs,” he said.

“Democrats, they have to demagogue on this and try and turn it into a racial issue, which is an emotional issue, rather than a thoughtful issue,” he added. “If it becomes a thoughtful issue, then we win and we win big. And they lose and they lose big.”

Ingraham didn’t seem to be on board with Brooks’ “war on whites” remark, telling him it was “a little out there.”

I’m not sure the comment is “out there” at all. The exaggeration comes when trying to describe the Democrats’ identity politics: slice and dice the electorate into nice, neat little boxes and target them with ads and talking points demonizing Republicans for each group. Blacks are told the GOP wants to return to the days of Jim Crow. Hispanics, that Republicans want to deport them even if they’re legal. Single women, that the GOP wants to take away their birth control pills and make life miserable for them. Even if those specific charges aren’t used by Democrats, they are broadly hinted at.

And Republicans play right into the stereotypes. Rep. Brooks is mostly correct in his analysis of the immigration issue, although Hispanics support the DREAMers and an end to deportation that would break up families among other parts of the immigration reform legislation. But he exaggerates when he says Democrats claim all whites hate everyone else. And the administration’s border and immigration strategy constitutes a war on anyone who values the rule of law and the belief in our sovereignty. In that respect, race, creed, or sex doesn’t matter. Otherwise, the record is clear that President Obama has won two straight elections using a particularly vulgar form of identity politics that includes turning the middle class against those Americans who are successful by portraying the rich as greedy plutocrats who don’t deserve what they’ve achieved.

The irony is that Brooks will be vilified for racially dividing America when it’s the Democrats whose deliberate political strategy of cleaving the electorate by skin color has done more to damage and divide America than anything this back bench Republican could ever do.

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Government Report: At least 71 Border Jumpers from Ebola-Stricken Countries

Monday, August 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

And those are the ones we’ve caught. If one were to speculate on how many from countries dealing with the ebola crisis were able to successfully elude the Border Patrol, the number would be two or three times that, or up to more than 200.

The chance that any of these border jumpers who managed to make it into the interior of the US are afflicted with ebola is not zero. And when you’re dealing with a disease that claims an 80% mortality rate, nothing less than zero is acceptable.

The number of illegals from ebola-afflicted countries comes from a secret report obtained by Breitbart from the Customs and Border Protection agency.

The report reveals the apprehension numbers ranging from 2010 through July 2014. It shows that most of the human smuggling from Syria and Albania into the U.S. comes through Central America. The report also indicates the routes individuals from North Africa and the Middle East take into the European Union, either to illegally migrate there or as a possible stop in their journey to the United States. The data are broken down further into the specific U.S. border sectors where the apprehensions and contact occurred.

Among the significant revelations are that individuals from nations currently suffering from the world’s largest Ebola outbreak have been caught attempting to sneak across the porous U.S. border into the interior of the United States. At least 71 individuals from the three nations affected by the current Ebola outbreak have either turned themselves in or been caught attempting to illegally enter the U.S. by U.S. authorities between January 2014 and July 2014.

As of July 20, 2014, 1,443 individuals from China were caught sneaking across the porous U.S. border this year alone, with another 1,803 individuals either turning themselves in to U.S. authorities at official ports of entry, or being caught attempting to illegally enter at the ports of entry. This comes amid a massive crackdown by Chinese authorities of Islamic terrorists in the Communist nation.

Twenty-eight individuals from Pakistan were caught attempting to sneak into the U.S. this year alone, with another 211 individuals either turning themselves in or being caught at official ports of entry.

Thirteen Egyptians were caught trying to sneak into the U.S. this year alone, with another 168 either turning themselves in or being caught at official ports of entry.

As the Breitbart article points out, most of the world appears to be taking advantage of our porous borders.

Bridget Johnson’s Tatler post on CDC director Thomas Friedan’s comment — “I do not think it’s in the cards that we would have widespread Ebola in this country” — is reassuring only if you take into account that only those who enter the country legally from afflicted nations would put us at risk.

In fact, sick illegals crossing the border would be far more dangerous than someone showing up at an airport with the virus. The number of potential victims would be far greater and it would be harder to keep the virus from spreading given the distances traveled by the illegal.

All it takes is one or two sick people to successfully cross the border to set off a panic.

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Holder: ‘Proud to Be an Activist’

Monday, August 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A shocking admission — and job description — from the attorney general that sent a chill down my spine when I first read it.

Holder was interviewed by Juan Williams for The Hill and had this to say about how he views himself and his job:

Holder remains indifferent to conservative protests that he is an ‘activist’ looking for trouble by digging into what he calls “policies [with] disproportionate impact on communities of color.”

“If you want to call me an activist attorney general, I will proudly accept that label,” he said. “Any attorney general who is not an activist is not doing his or her job. The responsibility of the attorney general is to change things [and] bring us closer to the ideals expressed in our founding documents.”

Later, he defiantly added that critics who say his department includes an “activist civil rights division and this is an activist attorney general — I’d say I agree with you 1000 percent and [I am] proud of it.”

Holder famously stirred white conservative anger when he said America is a “nation of cowards,” for its reluctance to engage in serious conversations about racial disparities. In a recent speech at historically black Morgan State University, he reiterated that position.

Disparate racial outcomes “are not only shameful and unacceptable – they impede our ability to see that justice is done,” Holder said. “And they perpetuate cycles of poverty, crime and incarceration that trap individuals, destroy communities and decimate minority neighborhoods.”

Holder’s bitter divide with conservatives about racial issues has its roots in the city in which we conducted our interview. In the 2008 election, the presence of two members of the New Black Panther Party at a polling station in Philadelphia led Republican prosecutors to bring charges of voter intimidation.

House Republicans claimed Holder’s Justice Department treated the case lightly and used a double standard, going easy on blacks when whites charged with the same crime would have faced harsh prosecution.

This is wrong on so many levels as to be beyond belief. The job of an attorney general is not to be an activist, but to be the chief law enforcement officer of the U.S. Putting an activist in that job is like throwing a match into a gasoline dump. The possibility of abuses of power is astounding and this is exactly what we’ve seen in Holder’s Justice Department over the years.

Further, it is not the “responsibility of the attorney general… to change things [and] bring us closer to the ideals expressed in our founding documents.” Being ignorant of one’s constitutional responsibilities is one thing. Making up an alternate job description is quite another. The AG does not pass legislation, nor does he decide what is constitutional and what isn’t. Holder is confusing himself with both Congress and the Supreme Court.

Finally, basing public policy on “outcomes” of any kind — disparate or not — violates the spirit of the Constitution and sound public policy. Racism there still is in America — few would deny that. But to base policy decisions on outcomes that may be due to factors other than racisim — cultural differences, geographical issues — is wrongheaded and imprudent.

Holder’s words remind us: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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Was a UN School in Gaza Really Bombed? (Update: No, It Wasn’t)

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The UN is going bonkers because they say another one of their schools in Gaza was  shelled. Ten people were killed and dozens injured, but read this account carefully from The Guardian:

A deadly attack on a school in the city of Rafah in the south of Gaza has been denounced as a “moral outrage” and “criminal act” by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.

At least 10 people were killed and dozens more wounded after a projectile struck a street outside the school gates on Sunday morning.

The school was sheltering more than 3,000 people displaced by fighting in the area. It has been the scene of heavy bombardment by the Israeli military and fierce clashes following the suspected capture by Hamas fighters of an Israeli soldier, later declared killed in action.

In a statement, Ban called on those responsible for the “gross violation of international humanitarian law” to be held accountable. He said the “Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites.”

At the time of the strike – about 10.50am local time – dozens of children and adults were clustered around the gates buying biscuits and sweets from stalls set up by locals.

The missile struck the ground eight to 10 metres from the open gates. Witnesses at the scene less than an hour after the explosion claimed it had been fired from one of the many unmanned Israeli drones in the air above Rafah.

United Nations officials in Gaza described a “shelling incident” or an air strike.

The attack was not on the school. The bomb hit the street outside the gates of the school and killed and injured people standing at the gate — not in the school itself which was being used as a shelter.

In fact, look at the background of this Guardian video and note that the school appears to be untouched by the explosion:


No, I am not trying minimize the deaths of civilians. But if you’re going to charge Israel with a war crime, don’t you think it would behoove those doing the charging that they get the facts right?

General Secretary Moon could have at least waited for an explanation from the IDF:

The Israeli army said it had targeted three members of Islamic Jihad on a motorbike near the school – contradicting witnesses who said they saw no vehicles – but was investigating the effects of the attack.

To my untrained ear, it sounds like a pinpoint attack. It was a tragedy that people were at the gate buying sweets, but unless the IDF had real time intelligence indicating there were civilians present, why should they expect people to be outside of the shelter?

I think the UN and the press should stop calling this an “attack” on a school and accurately describe it as a strike near a school. Unless there was damage to the school itself or casualties inside the building, it is inaccurate to portray the strike in that way.

UPDATE

The Telegraph reports:

The school had been providing shelter to more than 3,000 people – the same number that had been seeking refuge at a girl’s school in Jabaliya last Wednesday when it came under attack from a hail of Israeli shells.

In contrast to that strike, which wrecked a classroom full of sleeping woman and children, the physical destruction this time appeared minimal: just a small but deep hole in the road where the missile had landed.

As I suspected, the school was untouched.

Does it really matter? I suppose if you want to charge Israel with a war crime for bombing a street, they can try that. It probably works for those already predisposed to hate Israel.

But for the few objective observers out there, it is wholly unacceptable to continue the fiction that a school was bombed when no such event occurred.

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Hamas Posts Pics of Dead IDF Soldiers on Twitter

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Thank goodness the pictures of dead IDF soldiers posted by Hamas to their Twitter account aren’t of bloody and mangled bodies. They are pictures of how parents and loved ones would like to remember them in life — which makes this Hamas PR campaign even more barbaric and revolting.

As you might expect, the comments are a treat:

 

 

Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit reminds us that Nancy Pelosi referred to Hamas last week as a “humanitarian organization.”

Yeah…real humanitarians that Hamas.

 

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Spiegel: Kerry Calls Intercepted by Israelis During ME Peace Talks

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A report from Spiegel Online says that calls made by US Secretary of State John Kerry last year during the Middle East peace talks were intercepted by Israeli intelligence and at least one other intelligence service. The calls were not made on encrypted equipment, but rather ordinary phones using regular satellite communications.

SPIEGEL has learned from reliable sources that Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on US Secretary of State John Kerry during Middle East peace negotiations. In addition to the Israelis, at least one other intelligence service also listened in as Kerry mediated last year between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states, several intelligence service sources told SPIEGEL. Revelations of the eavesdropping could further damage already tense relations between the US government and Israel.

During the peak stage of peace talks last year, Kerry spoke regularly with high-ranking negotiating partners in the Middle East. At the time, some of these calls were not made on encrypted equipment, but instead on normal telephones, with the conversations transmitted by satellite. Intelligence agencies intercepted some of those calls. The government in Jerusalem then used the information obtained in international negotiations aiming to reach a diplomatic solution in the Middle East.

In the current Gaza conflict, the Israelis have massively criticized Kerry, with a few ministers indirectly calling on him to withdraw from peace talks. Both the US State Department and the Israeli authorities declined to comment.

Only one week ago, Kerry flew to Israel to mediate between the conflict parties, but the Israelis brusquely rejected a draft proposal for a cease-fire. The plan reportedly didn’t include any language demanding that Hamas abandon its rocket arsenal and destroy its tunnel system. Last year, Kerry undertook intensive diplomatic efforts to seek a solution in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but they ultimately failed. Since those talks, relations between Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been tense.

Anything noteworthy said by Kerry over a non-encrypted device would represent negligence on his part. That’s why I just can’t imagine those intercepts containing anything of real value. Perhaps the calls contained hints of Kerry’s state of mind, and maybe even his characterizations of some of the principles involved. But anything concrete, like revealing negotiating positions or fall back positions probably didn’t happen.

Still, the idea of an ally listening in to conversations by a high ranking American official is unsettling, if not surprising. The outrage over American spying on Germany, for instance, is a lot of hot air. To think that a foreign intelligence service, friend or foe, would forgo the opportunity to listen in to unencrypted phone conversations of a national leader is hard to imagine. Can you imagine a SIGINT agency of a foreign government saying “We can’t eavesdrop on these conversations from our ally because it would be unethical”?

Lord Palmerston famously said, “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” That may be taking realpolitik to its extreme, but its a valid concept up to a point. There’s a lot of information floating around out there and intel agencies wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t try to grab it.

As far as we know, Israel did not try to crack any of the encrypted calls Kerry made during his diplomacy. And it’s an open question what advantage, if any, Israel got by listening in to Kerry’s cellphone calls. The US government should complain about the breach but any protests should be pro forma.

It’s hard to see how this is a big deal, despite Spiegel’s efforts to make a splash.

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Missing IDF Officer Now Confirmed Dead

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was presumed to have been captured by Hamas on Friday, was declared dead by the IDF early Sunday morning.

Goldin’s unit was investigating a Hamas tunnel on Friday when terrorists emerged and engaged the IDF troops in a fierce firefight. It is unclear whether Goldin was killed by the Hamas suicide bomber whose body was found near where Goldin was last seen, or by an Israeli strike.

A special panel headed by Chief Military Rabbi Brig. Gen. Rafi Peretz announced Goldin’s death, saying the conclusion was reached “based on forensic evidence from the scene of the attack.”

Haaretz:

Two other Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack. The incident occurred during a breach of the humanitarian ceasefire declared a few hours earlier between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza.

On Friday morning, soldiers from the Givati Brigade’s special forces company advanced toward a tunnel opening near the outskirts of Rafah, 2.5 kilometers from Israeli territory. The tunnel was buttressed by reinforced concrete on both sides; defense officials said it had been dug into Israel with the intent of carrying out a terror attack.

Some members of the company, including the commander, ‪Maj. Benaya Sarel, his radioman Staff Sgt. Liel Gidoni and squad leader Goldin approached the structure housing the tunnel opening. As the rest of the soldiers went around the other side of an adjacent building, combatants opened fire on Sarel, Gidoni and Goldin.

The other soldiers reported that this was “heavy fire.” A few minutes later, additional forces arrived and discovered that Sarel and Gidoni had been killed, and that next to their bodies was the body of a militant who had presumably detonated an explosive belt.

Later, the soldiers realized that squad leader Goldin was missing and the deputy company commander decided to advance toward the building and enter the tunnel. The tunnel included corridors, one of them leading to a mosque to the east. Another shaft was found leading to a Hamas bunker.

While there is sorrow over the death of the young IDF reservist, many Israelis are relieved that Hamas has been denied a valuable bargaining chip. You may recall the incident involving another young reservist, Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in 2006 and was held for five excruciating years. Finally, in 2011, Israel struck a deal — Shalit for 1027 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails. Many of those released had participated in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.

The war against Hamas continues with Israel refusing to talk a cease-fire until it’s good and ready. That may not be for a while as the IDF pummels Hamas positions in Gaza. They have redeployed some forces on the border, but there appears to be no let-up in Israel’s attacks.

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McConnell, Grimes Trade Barbs at Kentucky Picnic

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The 134th annual Fancy Farm Picnic was held in Kentucky yesterday, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes squared off to deliver insults and one liners to a lively crowd of partisans.

The picnic is a real piece of Americana, as candidates from up and down the ballot show up and entertain the crowd with zingers and pithy comments about the opposition.

More like a roast than a political rally, Fancy Farms is closely watched as a bellwether of support in the big races. The crowd can become unruly at times, as they hurl insults right back at the candidates. McConnell appeared to take it all in stride but Grimes looked a little rattled by the heckling.

CNN:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his opponent, Democrat Alison Grimes, appeared in western Kentucky’s Fancy Farm Picnic, where they each criticized the experience level of the other candidate.

“Thirty-five is my age – that’s also Senator McConnell’s approval rating,” Grimes quipped.

Polling from earlier this year indicated McConnell’s approval rating was in the low 30s.

And Grimes gave McConnell grief for serving in Washington for so long, saying he’d forgotten about the people of Kentucky.

“After three decades in Washington, you’ve just given up. You don’t care about us any more. Thanks to you, D.C. stands for ‘Doesn’t Care,” Grimes said.

But McConnell had something to say about how important his experience is while highlighting Grimes’ inexperience, drawing parallels between Grimes, who’s two years in as Kentucky’s secretary of state, and the relative inexperience of President Barack Obama before taking office.

“He was only two years into his first big job when he started campaigning for the next one. Sound familiar?” McConnell said.

This is the 134th year of the event held in Fancy Farm. It’s a unique event, bringing together candidates from both parties to the same venue. Grimes and McConnell were heckled throughout their speeches, but it seemed McConnell had more, or at least louder, supporters in house.

Thousands of people attended this year’s event in western Kentucky, where in addition to the candidates, visitors also were able to enjoy a barbecue.

The speech of the day had to go to Senator Rand Paul, who showed up to support McConnell by penning a bit of doggerel that skewered Grimes for her Hollywood fundraising trips:

“There once was a woman from Kentucky, who thought in politics she’d be lucky. So she flew to LA for a Hollywood bash. She came home in a flash, with buckets of cash,” Paul said.

Here’s the speech in its entirety. Watch Grimes’s reaction to Paul’s poem. Is this woman ready for prime time?

The war on coal was much in evidence, as was McConnell’s and Paul’s joint effort to tie Grimes firmly to the side of Barack Obama. The president is extremely unpopular in Kentucky and Grimes has been trying desperately to run away from him the entire campaign. McConnell has created some pretty good ads that point up the fact that Grimes’ first vote will be to make Harry Reid majority leader. Reid’s comments on coal — “Coal makes people sick” have not sat well with most Kentuckians.

McConnell is still vulnerable, but he looks to be in better shape than he was a couple of months ago. Grimes appears to be a candidate searching for an effective line of attack. Every time she points out that McConnell has been in Washington 30 years, she highlights her own inexperience. In short, Grimes has yet to show why people should abandon McConnell and vote for her.

And she’s running out of time to make her case.

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Report: IDF to Complete Destruction of Tunnels by Sunday

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that the IDF believes it has nearly accomplished its mission of destroying the tunnel system it took Hamas 5 years to build and will begin withdrawing perhaps as soon as Sunday.

The IDF has destroyed Hamas’s flagship terrorism project; its network of cross-border tunnels that snuck under the border into Israel. The military also began to pull its forces out of the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening.

Hamas has spent five years preparing this strategic threat; the IDF wrecked 31 tunnels in two weeks. By Sunday, all of the tunnels the IDF knew about, or discovered during the offensive, will be destroyed. A few tunnels that Israel doesn’t know about may remain intact.

Many of the underground passages were designed to send heavily armed murder squads into Israeli villages for killing sprees, and attack army positions from behind. They were filled with weapons, explosives, and equipment, enabling terrorists dressed in civilian clothing to disappear into a shaft in Gaza, and emerge in Israel, disguised as IDF soldiers and fully equipped to carry out a mass casualty attack. The IDF has discovered motorcycles in some of the tunnels, which were earmarked by Hamas for rapid raids into Israel and subsequent retreats back into Gaza.

Currently, inside the Strip, the army has gained good control of the areas it is maneuvering in. Despite very difficult fighting that has raged on the ground, which included heavy RPG, anti-tank, and automatic fire by Hamas cells, and despite the painful price Israel has paid thus far, the army is very close to achieving this key goal of its offensive.

In the big majority of cases where the IDF clashed with Hamas, the battle ended with the terrorists being killed, wounded, or with their surrender.

No one in the army expected the fighting to be easy, or one-way. And no one expected all of the battles to end without painful losses on the Israeli side, when tens of thousands of soldiers clashed with Hamas’s battalions of guerrillas.

Similarly, the intelligence available to the ground forces has been superb, but it is unrealistic to expect a 100% success rate. Planned ambushes, such as the one carried out by Hamas in Rafah on Friday, which led to the kidnapping of an officer, were part of the known threats facing the army in Gaza. Not all threats can be dealt with successfully on the battlefield. Such is the nature of war.

The Egyptians claim to have destroyed almost 1400 tunnels used to smuggle weapons and explosives into Gaza.

It’s going to be very hard for Hamas to rebuild Gaza. The Israelis estimate that more than 800,000 tons of concrete was used to construct those tunnels, and the supply will probably be severely restricted. What could Hamas have done with all that material besides build tunnels used to murder Israeli citizens?

Erecting Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, required 110,000 tons of concrete. Hamas, then, could’ve treated itself to seven such monstrosities and still had a few tens of thousands of tons to spare. If it wanted to build kindergartens equipped with bomb shelters, like Israel has built for the besieged citizens of Sderot, for example—after all, noted military strategists like Jon Stewart have spent last week proclaiming that Gaza’s citizens had nowhere to hide from Israel’s artillery—Hamas could have used its leftovers to whip up about two that were each as big as Giants Stadium. And that’s just 18 tunnels. Egypt, on its end, recently claimed to have destroyed an additional 1,370. That’s a lot of concrete.

All that building material could have gone to constructing a nation. Instead, Hamas chose to use it for nefarious purposes.

Hamas took the billions in aid dollars it received and built tunnels to attack Israel. Will the US and other western countries who bankrolled these tunnels learn their lesson and target the aid more carefully?

Don’t bet on it.

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Urban Nightmare: Toledo Residents Told Not to Drink the Water

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The 400,000 residents of Wood and Lucas County, Ohio — including the state’s 4th largest city Toledo — are without drinking water with no guess as to when it will be safe to drink.

Algae blooms in Lake Erie that produce toxic bacteria are responsible for the crisis. Governor Kasich has declared a state of emergency and water supplies are pouring in from all over the state.

The blooms have become an annual event along Lake Erie’s shores as runoff from agricultural and industrial sources cause the algae to experience runaway growth. The algae releases toxins that, if sucked into water treatment plants, make the water undrinkable.

USA Today:

News of the contaminated water touched off a shopping frenzy at area stores for bottled water and bags of ice. Shelves were emptied of bottles and other water supplies, as residents prepared for the worst.

“First and foremost, residents must remain calm,” Toledo Mayor Michael Collins said at a morning press conference.

Toledo officials issued the warning early Saturday after tests at the city’s Collins Park Water Treatment Plant showed two sample readings for microcystin above the standard for consumption. The plant provides treatment services to an area of approximately 400,000 people across 100 square miles, according to The Toledo Blade.

Officials said the water is not for drinking or cooking but healthy adults could still use the water for bathing. They warned children not to bathe or swim in it, as they might drink the water accidentally. Residents were warned not to boil the water because it will only increase the toxin’s concentration. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and upset stomach.

In a press release, the city of Toledo said the toxins likely came from harmful algal blooms in nearby Lake Erie.

“These organisms are capable of producing a number of toxins that may pose a risk to human and animal health,” the release said.

Area zoos and restaurants closed, and the University of Toledo announced it will be closed Saturday and all non-health-care functions canceled. Toledo Lucas-County Public Libraries also announced closings.

“We’re testing the water. We’ll have updated test results later this afternoon,” Lisa Ward, Collin’s spokesperson, told the Toledo Free Press. “We are currently working to restore water supplies and working on a different water distribution.”

Meanwhile, other municipalities were making their own arrangements. Luna Pier, Mich., officials were making plans to funnel water from Monroe Township, according to the Free Press. Fire trucks will pick up the water and residents will be able to fill water bottles after noon Saturday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted something like this would happen weeks ago:

The reemergence of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie is an ecological and economic setback for communities along the coast,” said U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, from Ohio’s 9th congressional district. Kaptur said NOAA’s forecast model is one of several emerging tools aimed at trying to “restore balance to Lake Erie’s ecosystem.”

The blooms form during the late summer and early fall, and were particularly aggressive from the 1960s to the 1980s, according to NOAA. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports banning phosphorus in laundry soap in 1988 helped put the brakes on the toxins — for a few years.

But phosphorus from farm fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants continues to accumulate along Ohio’s shores, and the blooms have become more frequent and troublesome in the shallow Lake Erie in the past decade. The blooms have been blamed for contributing to oxygen-depleted dead zones in the lake where fish can’t survive and forcing cities to spend more money to treat drinking water.

Rick Stumpf, a researcher with NOAA, said the algae bloom in 2013 was worse than expected because of heavy July rain.

“If we have an exceptionally wet July, we may revise the forecast,” Stumpf told The Blade. “But it won’t be lower than it is now.”

The lake was also warm by June 2013, contributing to the outbreak, the researcher said. The lake is believed to be about as warm as it was last summer, said Tom Bridgeman, an algae researcher at the University of Toledo’s Lake Erie Center.

Lake Erie is a lot cleaner than it used it be — one of the true success stories brought to us by the Clean Water Act.  But contaminated runoff close to the shores of all the Great Lakes threatens not only the water supplies of communities, but the economies of the small towns and hamlets that depend heavily on tourism and sport fishing.

In the last decade or so, the government has been working with farmers and industry to reduce runoff into streams and rivers that flow into the Great Lakes while also trying to reduce pesticide and fertilizer contamination. It will take years for these policies to bear fruit, which means there will probably be more nightmares like the one in Ohio in the future.

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Will Russia Invade Ukraine this Weekend?

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Some very ominous signs are being reported by The Daily Beast’s James Miller of Russian military moves on the border with Ukraine. Where Vladimir Putin had actually pulled back at least some of his forces from the border last month, Miller reports that Russian armor has been geolocated within 2,000 meters of the border, with “columns of tanks” moving toward a key border crossing.

Helicopters holding ground fire exercises, BUK anti-aircraft systems moving toward the border — all these signs point to…what?

Miller is managing editor of The Interpreter, a site that translates Russian news and blogs, so I don’t know his qualifications to comment on a military buildup like this. But you didn’t have to attend the Army War College to put two and two together and realize that the Russian military certainly has all it needs positioned very close to the border to carry out an invasion of Ukraine.

Right now Russia is moving troops, armor, and advanced antiaircraft missiles toward the border with Ukraine. In the last 48 hours, dozens of videos have been uploaded to social-media sites that show Russian armor very close to the border, many of them confirmed to be within mere kilometers of Ukraine.

On Thursday, my team at The Interpreterdefinitively geolocated Russian armor only 2,000 meters (and closing) from the border and a Buk, the same type of missile that likely took down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, only a few hours from being within range of Ukraine’s air force. Columns of tanks, marked with the same painted numbers and flat, pale-green paint we’ve seen in Ukraine since (at least) June 20th, were spotted moving en masse toward a key border crossing. Some Ukrainian journalists are reporting that at least some of this armor has already crossed the border.

Russia’s helicopters held ground-fire exercises Friday on the border between Russia’s Rostov region and Ukraine’s Donetsk region. The head of Russia’s airborne units, which played a critical role in the conquering of Crimea, has pledged to expand operations beyond the boundaries of Russia (tanks marked with the insignia of Russian Airborne forces were captured by Ukrainian troops just yesterday). The Ukrainian government now says that its military has detected even more advanced antiaircraft batteries lined up on its border.

There is now significant evidence that Russia is openly supporting the separatists militarily and many experts now believe that Russia could invade and beat back the Ukrainian anti-terror operation.

An open war between Ukraine and Russia may have already begun. In the last 24 hours, there are reports of cross-border shelling in new locations and 17 new Grad rocket batteries digging in on the Russian side of the border, but within range of the Ukrainian military’s front lines. This is even more concerning when it is put into context. In the last two days, two different Ukrainian military convoys have been destroyed by Grad rockets south of the MH17 crash site, in Shakhtyorsk and near Torez. Russian paratroopers have even taken pictures with the bodies of the Ukrainian soldiers and have posted them to social networks (this isn’t the only time Russian soldiers have posted pictures from inside Ukraine, which has caused the Russian government to discuss banning their soldiers from posting to social media).

More saber rattling from Putin? The Russian president should realize by now that the most recent bout of sanctions against Moscow is probably the worst that western Europe can impose without damaging their own economies.  An invasion would bring other costs, but how much worse can it get for Russia? No one is going to war to save the Kiev government, the US is a non-factor, and is it really a deterrent to war that FIFA  would pull the 2018  World Cup soccer tournament from Russia?

Miller does not make the most convincing argument that war is imminent. Indeed, the article may be little more than anti-Russian propaganda. Still, other news outlets have reported on Russian troop movements and the Pentagon is worried about the shelling from Russia into the Ukraine. The social media videos and photos are real enough. The bottom line: Speculation about a Russian invasion is justified and more than propaganda.

But if this is just one more gambit in a long line of psychological ploys by Putin to rattle Kiev — and Washington — he’s making a damn fine show of it.

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Mystery Solved: Why Federal Workers are Such Prolific Porn Surfers

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Apparently, some of the most prolific porn viewers at work are federal employees. And the reason won’t surprise you. Washington Times:

For one Federal Communications Commission worker, his porn habit at work was easy to explain: Things were slow, he told investigators, so he perused it “out of boredom” — for up to eight hours each week.

Lack of work has emerged time and again in federal investigations, and it’s not just porn, nor is it confined to the FCC. Across government, employees caught wasting time at work say they simply didn’t have enough work to do, according to investigation records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“He stated he is aware it is against government rules and regulations, but he often does not have enough work to do and has free time,” investigators wrote of another federal employee, this one at the Treasury Department, who viewed more than 13,000 pornographic images in a six-week span.

Investigations at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Commerce Department and the General Services Administration have turned up similar cases, though memos show the employees rarely face criminal prosecution for time and attendance fraud.

A spokesman for the FCC declined to comment on what, if any, action the agency took after the FCC’s inspector general singled out the eight-hour-a-week porn peeper. FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield said only that the agency follows Office of Personnel Management guidelines on disciplinary matters and officials could not comment on specific cases.

In another recent case, a GSA employee who spent about two hours a day on a computer looking at pornography and dating sites “sometimes became bored during these long hours at the computer and would often use the computer for personal use to pass the time,” according to a case report by the GSA inspector general last year.

In a more recent and far more costly example, U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board paralegals received salaries and bonuses for years even though they spent much of their time watching television, shopping online, exercising and wasting time on their tablet computers, according to an investigation released this week by the Commerce Department’s inspector general.

Investigators estimate that more than $4 million was spent paying employees for time they weren’t working.

These bureaucrats obviously don’t know the first thing about office etiquette. If you’ve worked in an office for any length of time, you learn all the tricks about how to look busy while doing nothing. Paper shuffling is always an option, as is filing and refiling, pretending to read voluminous reports, and classic time wasting strategies such as meeting with co-workers, and appearing to read trade publications while actually perusing the latest spy thriller.

The point being, porn surfing is about the last time consuming strategy you should use. Plus, it’s far too easy to detect. With the technology available today, every keystroke can be recovered and examined without much difficulty. So unless you want the whole world to know you enjoy porn scenarios involving whipped cream and hot chocolate, lay off the smut.

There are about 2.7 million federal workers. It seems trite to say it, but that’s too many people with the opportunity to avoid working. And given the draconian rules that make it impossible to fire a federal worker unless they’ve committed a triple homicide, taxpayers are stuck paying the salaries — and apparently the bonuses — of these slackers.

Sure, there are many hardworking federal workers and God bless them. But until they begin to rat out their sex-addled  co-workers, the image of the lazy bureaucrat will remain.

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Chamber of Commerce May Back Landreiu for Senate in Louisiana

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In recent election cycles, the US Chamber of Commerce has backed Republicans almost exclusively. In 2012, that proved to be a disastrous strategy as 13 of the 15 Republican Senate candidates they supported lost, and they won only 4 of 22 House races.

Now, according to Joe Nocera of the New York Times, the Chamber’s National Political Director Rob Engstrom has suggested that the organization support incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu in her race against GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy.

For the Chamber, finding pro-business Democrats to back is a tough job. But Landrieu has a better pro-business voting record than Senator Ted Cruz, according to the Wall Street Journal. And Nocera points out that as the GOP becomes more populist, it’s support for government programs like the Export-Import bank and immigration reform has died off.

What brings this to mind is the continuing fight over the Export-Import Bank. It is the classic kind of issue that used to unite the Republican Party and the Chamber of Commerce, pre-Tea Party: backing a government agency that supports trade by helping to finance deals that involve American exports. That is also the kind of issue that is anathema to Tea Party ideologues, who view it as corporate welfare. The chamber has vowed a “full-court press” to save the Ex-Im Bank, but so far at least, the House is indifferent to its entreaties.

And it’s not just the Ex-Im Bank. As Edward Luce noted this week in The Financial Times, this Congress won’t countenance any of the things that business — and the chamber — care about. Immigration reform is dead. Congress won’t raise the gas tax to fund the Highway Trust Fund. Revamping the corporate tax rate can’t even get a hearing. And on, and on.

It is possible that the chamber didn’t quite realize what it was getting when it helped elect those Tea Party freshmen in 2010 — few people did until they began to flex their muscles. But it is equally possible that it didn’t care. (“The chamber is not an arm of either party and is not ‘aligned’ with either party,” a spokesman told me in an email.)

In the 16 years he has run the Chamber of Commerce, Donohue has turned it into a potent force, in no small part by making it more partisan. But by being so blindly pro-Republican, the chamber “unleashed a Frankenstein that has spun out of control,” said Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, which monitors the Chamber of Commerce. That became most clear during the debt ceiling and deficit fights of the last few years — when the Tea Party Republicans seemed so determined to shrink government that they were even willing to default on the government’s debt. The chamber reacted in horror.

A Chamber spokesman denies that any decision has been made on who to support for the Senate in Louisiana. But the organization’s determination to support Republicans in primaries who reflect the Chamber’s point of view and oppose Tea Party candidates is a clear signal that they are more open to backing candidates who share their philosophy regardless of party affiliation.

In the old days when there were actually a lot of Democrats who had strong, pro-business credentials, the Chamber routinely supported both sides, although their preference was always for moderate Republicans. If the Chamber is not only going to back more moderate Republicans, but return to supporting pro-business Democrats, it would be a troubling development for the Republican party. This is especially true in Louisiana where defeating Landreiu is of paramount importance if Republicans want to win back the Senate.

Money spent backing Democrats also means less money for the GOP. That’s the last thing that Republicans need during these last crucial weeks before the election.

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WR Mead at His Best: ‘Smart Diplomacy’ Becoming a Punchline

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Walter Russel Mead writing in The American Interest:

The reckless and thoughtless Libya intervention just keeps looking worse. But don’t read the critics to see how horrible things are: as the government announces that the U.S. has officially evacuated its embassy in Tripoli this morning, the latest State Department travel advisory for the country says it all.

The advisory reads like a nightmare-vacation brochure:

Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country and attacks by armed groups can occur in many different areas; hotels frequented by westerners have been caught in the crossfire.  Armed clashes have occurred in the areas near Tripoli International Airport, Airport Road, and Swani Road.  Checkpoints controlled by militias are common outside of Tripoli, and at times inside the capital.  Closures or threats of closures of international airports occur regularly, whether for maintenance, labor, or security-related incidents.  Along with airports, seaports and roads can close with little or no warning.  U.S. citizens should closely monitor news and check with airlines to try to travel out of Libya as quickly and safely as possible.

Don’t drink the water and if you go out after dark, make sure you wear your bullet-proof vest.

But Mead is angriest because he feels the lessons of Iraq were ignored by the administration when they blundered into the Libyan war.

If Obama were a Republican, the press and the weekly news shows would be ringing with hyperbolic, apocalyptic denunciations of the clueless incumbent who had failed to learn the most basic lessons of Iraq. Indeed, the MSM right now would be howling that Obama was stupider than Bush. Bush, our Journolist friends would now be saying ad nauseam, at least had the excuse that he didn’t know what happens when you overthrow a paranoid, genocidal, economically incompetent Arab tyrant in an artificial post-colonial state. But Obama did—or, the press would nastily say, he would have done if he’d been doing his job instead of hitting the golf course or yakking it up with his glitzy pals at late night bull sessions. The ad hominem attacks would never stop, and all the tangled threads of incompetence and failure would be endlessly and expertly picked at in long New Yorker articles, NYT thumbsuckers, and chin-strokings on all the Sabbath gasbag shows.

Why, the ever-admirable tribunes of a free and unbiased press would be asking non-stop, didn’t this poor excuse for a President learn from what happened in Iraq?  When you upend an insane and murderous dictator who has crushed his people for decades under an incompetent and quirky regime, you’d better realize that there is no effective state or civil society under the hard shell of dictatorial rule. Remove the dictator and you get chaos and anarchy. Wasn’t this President paying attention during the last ten years?

It’s not that Obama wasn’t paying attention, it’s that he believed himself to be smarter than everyone else and that such a fate could not befall him or his policies. Everybody warned the president that post-Qaddafi Libya was going to be a mess, a quagmire, a bloody clash of tribes, factions, and religions. But he dismissed the criticism, even from members of his own party.

Well, here we are, says Mead.

The news is so bad, and the President’s foreign policy is collapsing on so many fronts, that it is impossible to keep the story off the front pages. “Smart diplomacy” has become a punch line, and the dream Team Obama had of making Democrats the go-to national security party is as dead as the passenger pigeon. But what the press can do for the White House it still, with some honorable exceptions, labors to accomplish: it will, when it must, report the dots. But it will try not to connect them, and it will do what it can to let all the people involved in the Libya debacle move on to the next and higher stage of their careers.

Exactly. Have you seen any efforts in the press to connect the dots of Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Iran, and the border fiasco? The common thread is Obama’s policies leading to war and chaos. Such breathtaking incompetence, naivete, and arrogance have frightened our friends and emboldened our enemies. Not since the clueless reign of Jimmy Carter has American foreign policy been in such utter disarray.

Israel has taken the measure of this president and is ignoring his calls for a ceasefire in order to do what it thinks necessary for its security. Vladimir Putin has also sized up this president and realized that he can do just about anything — including helping to shoot down a passenger plane — with little fear of reprisal. Hundreds of thousands of people in Central America have judged President Obama to be an easy mark and are either here or on their way here.

At least Bush’s unforced errors were mostly confined to Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s incompetence spans the globe and the failure of his policies has the potential of igniting larger conflicts.

When you view the world through an extreme ideological prism, you see what your ideology tells you is real. The worldview expressed by President Obama was laughed out of America in 1972 when George McGovern told America to “come home.” It was apparently buried in 1984 when Walter Mondale lost 49 states.

But here it is, alive and well in 2014. When you believe your country is at fault for most of the world’s ills; when you think you can charm your enemies into being friends; when you think allies don’t matter; when you believe your own sycophantic press clippings regarding your ability to “lead from behind” — well, the resulting chaos and bloodshed let loose when America takes a back seat in world affairs is entirely predictable.

With American credibility in the toilet, you have to wonder if a total meltdown is avoidable.

 

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Israeli Government Source: Kerry ‘Completely Capitulated’ to Hamas

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A very harsh assessment comes from an Israeli government source on the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to broker a ceasefire late last week.

The Times of Israel is reporting that a government official told Israeli Channel 2 that Kerry “dug a tunnel under the Egyptian ceasefire proposal” which was accepted by Israel on Friday, and gave the Israeli government a text that accepted most of the demands made by Hamas.

To the “horror” of the Israeli ministers, the Kerry proposal accepted Hamas’s demands for the opening of border crossings into Gaza — where Israel and Egypt fear the import of weaponry; the construction of a seaport; and the creation of a post-conflict funding channel for Hamas from Qatar and other countries, according to the sources. The proposal, meanwhile, did not even provide for Israel to continue demolishing the Hamas network of “terror tunnels” dug under the Israeli border.

Rather than provoke an open diplomatic confrontation with the United States, the report said, the appalled ministers chose not to issue an official statement rejecting the Kerry terms. Instead, word of the decision was allowed to leak out.

The cabinet was meeting again on Saturday night to discuss all aspects of the 19-day conflict with Hamas. Ongoing efforts were being made to reformulate the ceasefire terms, Israeli sources said.

Channel 2′s diplomatic reporter Udi Segal said “voices” from the cabinet had described Kerry as “negligent,” “lacking the ability to understand” the issues, and “incapable of handling the most basic matters.”

Yep. That’s our Johnny. No one has ever accused Kerry of being the brightest bulb in the room, and this pretty much confirms everyone’s previous opinion of him.

The Channel 2 report said that some of those involved in the contacts with Kerry had suggested that “perhaps there was some kind of misunderstanding” or that Kerry “was only presenting a draft” of the offer, but the secretary himself gave no indication that this was the case when he expressed his disappointment that no ceasefire had been agreed during a press conference in Cairo on Friday night.

In fact, it makes you wonder which side Kerry is on.

Noting that the US secretary chose to hold Saturday’s talks without representatives of Israel, the Palestinian Authority or Egypt, Erdan said this showed “we’re a long way from a political solution.”

Privately, Israeli leaders have signaled deep dismay that Kerry engaged in talks in Paris with representatives of Turkey, whose leadership is openly hostile to Israel, and Qatar, whose leadership is seen by Israel to be representing Hamas’s interests, and not to include Israel, the PA or Egypt.

Israeli government sources also privately contradicted Kerry’s assertion Friday that his ceasefire proposal was “built on” an Egyptian proposal from last Tuesday, which Israel accepted and Hamas rejected. Far from resembling the Egyptian proposal, which urges an immediate ceasefire followed by negotiation, the Kerry proposal leans heavily toward Hamas, the sources said, in tying Hamas preconditions to a cessation of hostilities.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan said recently, “Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.” Nice company you’re keeping there, Mr. Secretary.

Maybe it’s for the better that we have Kerry bumbling and fumbling around in the Middle East. His incompetence gives Israel a perfect excuse to continue their attack on Hamas. Imagine a competent secretary of state. If history is a guide, we would have had a ceasefire by now. Kerry is the only U.S. secretary of state in 20 years unable to negotiate an end to hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians.

That’s the kind of accomplishment we’ve come to expect from him.

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100 Days Out, GOP Hopes for Senate Takeover Still High

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

With exactly 100 days to go before the November 4 mid term elections, Republicans still see a path to a Senate majority, but Democrats are holding out hope that some of their vulnerable incumbents can squeak through to victory.

The good news is that, in 3 red state open Senate races currently held by Democrats, GOP candidates maintain solid leads on their opponents. West Virginia, Montana, and South Dakota all appear ready to fall to the Republicans.

But in 4 other races that feature vulnerable Democratic incumbents who were thought to be ripe targets for the Republicans, Democrats are running better than expected.

The Hill:

Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) seem to have the edge in their races, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is hanging tough, and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) isn’t dead yet.

Hagan’s approval ratings are low, but state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) is even less popular, and public and private polls both show her ahead.

Tillis has been trapped in an extended legislative session as unpopular GOP lawmakers war over the state budget, and Hagan has a four-to-one cash advantage.

“Tillis has to put this legislative fight behind him. He’s got to move on. He’s struggled,” admitted one national GOP strategist.

Begich also appears to be in good shape in a tough state. His attacks on GOP primary front-runner Dan Sullivan have taken a toll and could hurt him in his August primary, too.

“Begich is running the best race of any Democrat right now,” said another national Republican consultant. “In Alaska it’s tough to see the path to victory until this primary plays itself out.”

Pryor has stayed alive because of Cotton’s unbending conservatism, most notably his vote against the Farm Bill. Both parties say they have a small advantage in the race and each have polls to back those claims.

Democrats admit Landrieu is their most vulnerable incumbent. It will be hard for her to reach the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a December runoff with two GOP candidates on the ballot. If that scenario plays out, Republicans believe Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) holds the edge in a runoff, especially if Senate control remains undecided after November.

Landrieu has been in this position before. She narrowly won run off elections in 1996 and 2002. Of the four vulnerable Dems, she probably has the best chance to sneak through.

All four are extremely well funded and outside money is pouring into their coffers. Republican candidates are trying to catch up, and between now and Labor Day should give a good showing of themselves in raising cash.

But circumstances have arisen in Iowa and Colorado that have cheered Republicans and placed those two races that were previously thought to lean Democratic into the toss-up column:

While Republicans have failed to knock out the incumbents some predicted would be underwater by this point in the election cycle, Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D-Iowa) missteps have given Democrats severe heartburn in that open seat race, and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is also running strong against Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.).

“We really have already expanded the field…. A year ago we weren’t even talking about those races. We were talking about having to win three of four open seats,” Carl Forti, the political director of the GOP super-PAC American Crossroads, told The Hill.

Braley damaged himself with comments that as a trial lawyer he’s more qualified than popular Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school,” to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) has run a strong race so far, and Democrats admit Braley’s lackluster campaign is cause for alarm.

“Braley has shot himself in the foot again and again. We have a lot of work to do. Iowa is a lot closer than we want it to be,” said one national Democrat.

Gardner’s entrance into the race earlier this year put Colorado on the Senate map. Democrats think Udall’s attacks on social issues have paid dividends, though Udall has squirmed on some controversial environmental issues. Recent public surveys show a dead-even race, but private polling from both sides show the incumbent up slightly.

Other potential GOP targets in Michigan and New Hampshire appear to be slipping away. In Michigan, Rep. Gary Peters has opened a significant lead over Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land in a race to succeed retiring Democrat Carl Levn, while in New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown’s campaign against Senator Jeanne Shaheen has failed to generate much momentum.

Democratic hopes rest on the open Georgia race where charity exec Michelle Nunn, daughter of legendary Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, has raised a lot of money and received good reviews for her efforts. But she’s running an uphill campaign against GOP nominee David Perdue. There has been talk about “changing demographics” in Georgia which Democrats believe give Nunn a shot at victory. But Georgia is still a very conservative state and Republicans have a clear advantage. Perdue would probably have to commit some horrible gaffe for Nunn to win.

Political prognosticator Charlie Cook still gives the Republicans a 50-50 shot at winning the Senate. Now, 100 days out, the sprint to the finish is underway and Republicans consider themselves in very good shape.

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The Gray Lady Joins Stoner Nation

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The New York Times has given the pot-legalization movement a huge boost by coming out in an editorial today advocating for the repeal of federal marijuana laws.

We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.

There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.

We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these.

But that would leave their citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.

The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the “Reefer Madness” images of murder, rape and suicide.

There are legitimate concerns about marijuana on the development of adolescent brains. For that reason, we advocate the prohibition of sales to people under 21.

There has been far less research on the effects of pot on the body and brain than there has been on alcohol and tobacco. The evidence, for instance, that pot smoking can lead to an decrease in the production of serotonin – a brain chemical associated with mood and depression — is pretty well established. There is impact on memory, mostly long-term memory, as well as lingering effects on the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

The problem with the idea of “moderate use” is that the government defines “moderate” as smoking pot 3 to 8 times a month. It’s pretty obvious no one on the Times editorial board is smoking weed these days. Most pot smokers I’ve ever known — myself included — got high 3 or 4 times a week.

Then there’s the Colorado experiment with the jury still out regarding legalized pot’s effect on society. Taken together, the Times, in my opinion, is jumping the gun on national legalization, or decriminalization. What’s the rush? Let’s see how things work out in Colorado before we start debating the future of marijuana in America.

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Hamas Rejects Truce Extension: Fires Rockets into Israel

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Perhaps it’s just as well that Hamas rejected Israel’s suggested four-hour extension of the Gaza truce. It isn’t so much that the world will blame Hamas for the resumption of hostilities — no chance of that. It’s that Israel has unfinished business in Gaza: those insidious tunnels and Hamas’s cache of arms and missiles must be destroyed.

Hamas rejected the offer to extend the truce at least four hours and possibly longer, and fired missiles into Isreal.

USA Today reports:

The cease-fire rejection came after the Israeli Cabinet agreed to extend the 12-hour truce until midnight Saturday, and Yuval Steinitz, an Israeli Cabinet minister, said a further extension would be considered.

Earlier Saturday, the Israeli military had warned that it “shall respond if terrorists choose to exploit” the lull to attack Israeli troops “or fire at Israeli civilians.” It also said that operations to locate and neutralize tunnels would continue.

Meanwhile, at least 100 bodies were recovered Saturday, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said, as Palestinians used the cease-fire to move medical supplies and tend to the dead and injured in the Gaza Strip.

As the initial lull in hostilities began at 8 a.m. Saturday, Gazans poured onto the streets to find food supplies, look for missing family members or return to homes they left for shelters. The nearly three weeks of fighting has left swaths of rubble, destroyed roads and damaged power infrastructure in residential neighborhoods across the strip.

More than 1,000 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed since the conflict began on July 8. Another 6,000 have been wounded. In Israel, 43 have died, including 40 soldiers, two civilians and a Thai worker.

Imad Nasrallah, 38, said he and others have made it a point not to forget the living.

“With my brothers and neighbors, we volunteer and go help others, in case their homes were targeted,” Nasrallah said. “We transfer the wounded to hospitals or go carry the martyrs and bury them.”

Saturday’s temporary truce was the second and the longest since the conflict began on July 8. A humanitarian cease-fire on July 17 was quickly overlooked as rocket fire resumed as soon as the set five hours expired.

In Paris on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with European foreign ministers to find ways to build off Saturday’s lull.

It was not to be. Kerry is being ignored by the Israelis as the government seems utterly determined to carry on its military mission until Hamas is neutralized. They have gone to war with the terrorists three times in the last five years. Israel’s citizens are under constant threat from thousands of missiles launched from Gaza every year, and Hamas has used its network of tunnels to carry out attacks on civilians.

Israel will de-militarize Gaza one way or another. And all the efforts by western powers to get them to dial it back will go for naught.

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Has Obama Already ‘Checked Out’ of the Presidency?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The fact that people are seriously discussing the idea that the president of the United States has given up and is pining for retirement is unprecedented in my lifetime. I’m sure the during their last few months in office, most presidents begin mailing it in. But we are two and a half years from the end of the Obama presidency and the world order is collapsing while our borders are disintegrating. Without a strong hand at the helm of the ship of state, the aimless drift of American leadership is causing events to spiral out of control.

Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller penned a column for the Telegraph this weekend that states “Barack Obama has already checked out of his job.” But Lewis isn’t the only commentator who has wondered out loud about the president’s commitment to his job. Peggy Noonan wrote in her Wall Street Journal column earlier this month that Obama appears “above it all” and that his fancy dinners with celebrities and intellectuals as well as his endless rounds of golf present a frightening picture of a president detached from reality and “waiting for history to recognize his greatness.”

Jazz Shaw at Hot Air agrees with that assessment. Shaw points to Obama’s vision that he naively believed would be shared by everyone — “that everyone would, sooner or later, recognize the brilliance of his vision and the structural soundness of his solutions to the planet’s ills and things would truly change.” When they didn’t, Obama walked away.

Lewis, in his Telegraph column, lays out the evidence for Obama’s tanking it:

The fact that the press would find relevance in speculating on Obama’s post-White House residence – and identify California as the kind of scene the future ex-president would want to hang out in when he leaves office – is perhaps telling.

And, indeed, this comes on the heels of multiple reports from outlets such as The New York Times and Politico, detailing how Obama has increasingly been spending his time at trendy restaurants and fancy, late-night dinner parties with celebrities and various intellectuals.

Rubbing elbows with the rich and elite is fine enough. Unfortunately, the work suffers. The degree to which he is now phoning it in – sleepwalking perfunctorily through his second term – is astonishing.

And based on his recent handling of situations much more serious than a possible post-presidential move to sunny California, it seems as if “No Drama Obama” is no longer even worried about keeping up appearances; he doesn’t care enough to fake it.

Consider this: In recent days, a) Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down, apparently by Russian separatists in Ukraine, b) In the Gaza strip, the numbers killed continued to mount as Israelis and Palestinians exchange rocket fire, c) a huge influx of children fleeing Central American poverty and gang warfare swamped America’s southern border, creating a humanitarian crisis. And, oh yeah, d) Christians living in Mosul were given the choice to either convert to Islam or flee the area they have inhabited for nearly two thousand years.

You know what else has happened during this time? a) Obama played many rounds of golf, b) he attended numerous fund-raisers, c) he dined on barbecue in Texas and burgers in Delaware, and d) he almost appeared on the comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night television show in Hollywood.

I say “almost” because the White House finally relented. “We ultimately elected not to have the president do that interview over the course of this trip,” the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, conceded. “And that is at least in part related to the challenges of doing a comedy show in the midst of some of these other more serious matters that the president’s dealing with in the international scene.”

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Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton Doesn’t Think Congress has a Right to Know What the White House is Doing

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You’ve got to give credit to Washington, D.C.’s non voting delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton for her novel interpretation of the Constitution and legislative tradition.

Becoming exasperated with Republicans on the House Oversight Committee who kept insisting that a White House aide cannot ignore a subpoena to testify, Norton scolded Chairman Darrell Issa, telling him “You don’t have a right to know everything in a separation-of-powers government, my friend.”

Washington Examiner:

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting congressional delegate for the District of Columbia, angrily sputtered during a congressional hearing Friday that the White House should not be held up to scrutiny, saying that there was no right to know what it was doing behind closed doors.

“You don’t have a right to know everything in a separation-of-powers government, my friend. That is the difference between a parliamentary government and a separation-of-powers government,” Norton said during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

It was, to put mildly, a significant departure from the more traditional liberal stance that openness and transparency are must to prevent abuses of power by government officials. Instead the leading advocate for statehood for the District of Columbia literally argued that even the congressional committee charged with oversight shouldn’t be asking questions in the first place.

She made the comments while protesting the committee’s Republican majority for voting to ignore a claim by the White House that David Simas, director of it’s Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, was immune to a congressional subpoena to testify. Republicans believe the office is being used a political campaign operation, a violation of federal election law.

Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., noted he was not alleging any wrongdoing by Simas, but there was a history of violations involving that particular office in prior administrations that justified requesting his testimony.

Under President Obama, the White House has asserted sweeping executive powers, including the right to ignore pretty much all congressional inquiries. The administration has regularly ignored subpoenas from congressional committees.

Holmes was clearly down with that. She called Issa’s subpoena a “showcase fishing expedition.” She went on to argue that the Constitution’s separation of powers specifically gives the people who work directly under the chief executive immunity from subpoenas. “The president’s immediate advisor is not an agency and this is not a matter of policy,” she said, before going to further clarify that we “don’t have a right to know” everything that the administration does.

The Legal Information Institute makes Holmes-Norton look like the idiot she is:

The Court has long since accorded its agreement with Congress that the investigatory power is so essential to the legislative function as to be implied from the general vesting of legislative power in Congress. “We are of the opinion,” wrote Justice Van Devanter, for a unanimous Court, “that the power of inquiry—with process to enforce it—is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function. . . . A legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change; and where the legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information— which not infrequently is true—recourse must be had to others who possess it. Experience has taught that mere requests for such information often are unavailing, and also that information which is volunteered is not always accurate or complete; so some means of compulsion are essential to obtain what is needed. All this was true before and when the Constitution was framed and adopted. In that period the power of inquiry—with enforcing process—was regarded and employed as a necessary and appropriate attribute of the power to legislate— indeed, was treated as inhering in it. Thus there is ample warrant for thinking, as we do, that the constitutional provisions which commit the legislative function to the two houses are intended to include this attribute to the end that the function may be effectively exercised.”163

You can’t get any clearer than that. Both conservative and liberal justices have recognized the right of Congress to investigate just about anything it wants — including, especially, the executive branch. In 1927, the court “ratified in sweeping terms, the power of Congress to inquire into the administration of an executive department and to sift charges of malfeasance in such administration.”

There are limits on congressional investigative powers, especially regarding private citizens. But demanding testimony from the White House aide running the Office of Political Strategy because Congress believes “the office is being used a political campaign operation, a violation of federal election law,” is the very definition of “malfeasance” and therefore, well within the purview of the Committee’s investigative mandate.

Since contempt citations apparently mean even less than subpoenas to this administration, it’s hard to see how the Oversight Committee can compel anyone’s testimony who works at the White House. It’s just more evidence, if any more were needed, that this president regularly thumbs his nose at the law and tries to stonewall congress when the seek to expose his administration’s wrongdoing.

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Up to 5 Million Illegals to be Granted ‘Temporary Legal Status’

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

President Obama is preparing executive orders that would grant up to 5 million illegal aliens temporary legal status, giving them the ability to work in the US.

Time Magazine is reporting that, although Obamaa is keeping his options open, it is likely he will grant relief from deportation and the temporary work authorizations to millions of illegal immigrants. Some experts believe Obama possesses this authority, although Republicans in Congress will almost certainly dispute that.

Exactly what Obama plans to do is a closely held secret. But following the meeting with the activists, Obama declared his intention to use his executive authority to reform parts of a broken immigration system that has cleaved families and hobbled the economy. After being informed by Speaker John Boehner that the Republican-controlled House would not vote on a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration law this year, the President announced in a fiery speech that he was preparing “to do what Congress refuses to do, and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.”

Obama has been cautious about preempting Congress. But its failure to act has changed his thinking. The recent meeting “was really the first time we had heard from the administration that they are looking at” expanding a program to provide temporary relief from deportations and work authorization for undocumented immigrants, says Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

The White House won’t comment on how many undocumented immigrants could be affected. “I don’t want to put a number on it,” says a senior White House official, who says Obama’s timeline to act before the mid-term elections remains in place.

Obama has a broad menu of options at his disposal, but there are two major sets of changes he can order. The first is to provide affirmative relief from deportation to one or more groups of people. Under this mechanism, individuals identified as “low-priority” threats can come forward to seek temporary protection from deportation and work authorization. In 2012, the administration created a program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that allowed eligible young unauthorized immigrants to apply for a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit.

The most aggressive option in this category would be expanding deferred action to anyone who could have gained legal status under the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate in June 2013. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, the Senate bill would have covered up to 8 million undocumented immigrants. It is unlikely that Obama goes that far. But even more modest steps could provide relief to a population numbering in the seven figures. “You can get to big numbers very quickly,” says Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

“Obama has been cautious about preempting Congress.” Uh-huh. He was cautious 41 times when he unilaterally altered Obamacare. He was cautious when he unilaterally changed the law to allow hundreds of thousands of DREAMers legal status. He was cautious when he unilaterally halted most deportations. He was cautious when he ordered the Justice Department not to enforce DOMA. He was cautious when he made illegal recess appointments to the NLRB.

I don’t think Time has the same definition of “cautious” as you and I do.

Rep. Gutierrez believes that the number will be about 5 million. It will almost certainly include agricultural workers to make the Chamber of Commerce happy. Others on the list to be amnestied include family members of DREAMers already made legal by Obama’s other executive order.

Does anyone believe that this “temporary legal status” will actually be temporary?

No comment yet from the 1.5 million people waiting in other countries who are seeking to come to the US legally.

 

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Sen. Walsh on Plagiarism Charge: No Excuses, But My Excuse is PTSD

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Montana Senator John Walsh’s campaign was already in trouble when the New York Times broke the story of his massive plagiarizing for his master’s thesis at the Army War College.

His disingenuous “explanation” should seal his doom.

Walsh, appointed to fill the remaining term of Max Baucus and now running for a full term, is a former adjutant general of the Montana National Guard. He was a battalion commander in the Iraq War — the only senator who served in that conflict.

But the plagiarism charge — and Walsh’s effort to minimize it — reveals a soldier who lacks the integrity to admit his mistakes honestly and forthrightly.

Walsh dismissed the notion that the plagiarism allegations will affect his candidacy.

Associated Press reports:

“I don’t really see it as having a negative impact on the campaign,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Montanans are really pleased with what I am accomplishing back here (in Washington).”

Walsh has a short window in which to figure out whether the allegations could be too toxic for him to win the Nov. 4 election. A candidate has until Aug. 11 to withdraw from this year’s contest, and the state party has until Aug. 20 to name a replacement candidate, Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said Thursday.

If Walsh decides to drop out after the ballots are certified on Aug. 21, a new candidate can’t be appointed, and Walsh’s name will stay on the ballot, she said.

Walsh said that when he wrote the thesis, he had post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in Iraq, was on medication and was dealing with the stress of a fellow veteran’s recent suicide.

“I don’t want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor,” the senator said. “My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment.”

He said he didn’t plagiarize but that his thesis contained “a few citations that were unintentionally left out.”

A “few citations”? AP supplies details of Walsh’s dishonesty:

Walsh submitted his thesis, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” nearly two years after he returned from Iraq and about a year before he became Montana’s adjutant general overseeing the state’s National Guard and Department of Military Affairs.

The first page borrows heavily from a 2003 Foreign Affairs piece written by Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a 2009 book by Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer, “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.”

Sharansky is a former Soviet dissident and chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Dermer is the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

All six of the recommendations that Walsh listed at the end of his paper are taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie paper written by Carothers and three other scholars at the institute.

One section is nearly identical to about 600 words from a 1998 paper by Sean Lynn-Jones, a scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a research institute at Harvard.

We should sympathize and support Senator Walsh in his battle against PTSD, but how is it remotely connected to deliberately using the work from others and claiming it as your own? It is certainly far more than leaving out a few “citations.”

Previously, his military record was questioned when it was revealed that he received a letter of reprimand from the Army as the result of an inspector general’s report that accused him of improper conduct. The AP reports:

Walsh’s military record was first questioned in January when records revealed the Army reprimanded him in 2010 for pressuring Guardsmen to join a private association for which he was seeking a leadership role.

Walsh was adjutant general at the time and wanted to become vice chairman of the National Guard Association of the United States. In the reprimand, Army Vice Chief of Staff Peter Chiarelli said he questioned Walsh’s ability to lead.

Most analysts had already place Montana in the GOP column. But a recent poll suggests the race is tightening:

Human Events and Gravis Marketing polled the US Senate race in Montana first. Gravis found a tightening race between Senator John Walsh and Representative Steve Daines. Representative Daines lead Senator Walsh 45%-41% with the Libertarian candidate Roger Roots taking 6% of the vote. Daines’ lead might increase as time goes on because third-party candidates have been known to have their percentages fizzle closer to Election Day. “An incumbent such as Senator Walsh might be getting worried,” Gravis Marketing head Doug Kaplan said, “An incumbent that has percentages in the low 40’s at this time of the year might have a hard time getting re-elected.”

The Daines campaign had no comment on the charges. No doubt they are allowing their opponent to destroy himself without any help from them. For, indeed, if the Army War College finds substance in these charges, it will destroy a major selling point for Walsh’s campaign: his honorable service as National Guard commander.

Politicians like Joe Biden have survived plagiarism charges before. In and of itself, plagiarism is probably not a deal killer with the Montana electorate. But the dual blows to Walsh’s military record are probably enough to either cause him to withdraw from the race, or lose handily in November.

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Breaking: Federal Court Rules Obamacare Insurance Subsidies Invalid

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

This case was going to the Supreme Court anyway, but for the notoriously liberal  U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to rule the subsidies invalid may sound the deathknell of an important part of Obamacare.

Jonathan Adler:

This morning the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit released its much awaited opinion in Halbig v. Burwell.  In a 2-1 opinion, the Court held that the Internal Revenue Service regulation authorizing tax credits in federal exchanges was invalid.  Judge Griffith, writing for the court, concluded, “the ACA unambiguously restricts the section 36B subsidy to insurance purchased on Exchanges ‘established by the State.”  In other words, the court reaffirmed the principle that the law is what Congress enacts — the text of the statute itself — and not the unexpressed intentions or hopes of legislators or a bill’s proponents.  Judge Randolph joined Judge Griffith’s opinion and wrote a concurrence.  Judge Edwards dissented.  The opinions are available here.

Background on the case can be found here.

Developing…

UPDATE

CNBC lays out some of the consequences of the ruling:

A judicial panel in a 2-1 ruling said such subsidies can be granted only to those people who bought insurance in an Obamacare exchange run by an individual state or the District of Columbia — not on the federally run exchange HealthCare.gov.

“Section 36B plainly makes subsidies available in the Exchanges established by states,” wrote Senior Circuit Judge Raymond Randolph in his majority opinion, where he was joined by Judge Thomas Griffith. “We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance. At least until states that wish to can set up their own Exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly.”

In his dissent, Judge Harry Edwards, who called the case a “not-so-veiled attempt to gut” Obamacare, wrote that the judgment of the majority “portends disastrous consequences.”

Indeed, the decision threatens to unleash a cascade of effects that could seriously compromise Obamacare’s goals of compelling people to get health insurance, and helping them afford it.

More: 

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

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Joyous, Adorable Reunions Between Returning Soldiers and their Dogs

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

To end your weekend on a real upper, Daily Caller has assembled 15 of the most adorable and emotional videos you’ll ever see; soldiers returning from deployment reunited with their dogs.

There is a question among scientists about whether dogs miss their human companions more after a long period of time as opposed to a few hours. Those of us who have had dogs for many years know the answer to that. We don’t need a scientist to tell us the absolute joy a dog shows when a friend returns after a long absence. It’s magic.

This is my favorite among the 15 entries. I love how the dog is trying so hard to speak. Enjoy.

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Kerry Heard on Hot Mic: ‘It’s a Hell of a Pinpoint Operation’

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Secretary of State John Kerry is apparently displeased with Israel for the way they are defending themselves from Hamas rocket attacks.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday — one of five talk shows on which Kerry made an appearance — the secretary of state was caught on an open mic talking to an aide about Israel’s efforts so far:

“It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said to an aide on the phone, with some measure of frustration.

His comments seemed to be criticizing the Israeli government’s assurances about the limited scope of its attack and ground invasion of Gaza.

Kerry, speaking by phone to one of his top aides, then added: “We’ve got to get over there. Thank you John. I think John, we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around.”

Kerry was confronted on air by host Chris Wallace, who asked if Kerry was implying that the Israeli government had gone too far in its Gaza operations.

“While you were on camera and while you were on microphone, you just talked to one of your top aides about the situation in Israel and the fact that 14 Israelis have apparently been shot and killed in an operation,” Wallace said.

Kerry stood by his comments, while defending Israel’s right to defend itself.

“It’s tough to have these kind of operations. I reacted, obviously, in a way that anybody does with respect to young children and civilians,” Kerry said,

“War is tough. I’ve said that publicly and I’ve said it again. We defend Israeli’s right to do what it is doing,” Kerry said.

“We support Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets that are continuing to come in. Hamas has started its process of rocketing after Israel was trying to find the people who killed three young [people] — one American kid, three young Israelis,” Kerry said.

If Israel was not engaged in a “pinpoint operation,” the casualties might be 10 times higher. If Israel was not engaged in a “pinpoint operation,” they wouldn’t have called every resident of that neighborhood two days ago telling them to leave. (What other nation in the history of warfare tells their enemy they are coming in order to minimize civilian casualties?)

Kerry is a putz. He gives Israel no credit for their efforts to avoid civilian casualties while failing to note that Hamas is using civilians as human shields. The more dead babies the better for Hamas. They’ve been playing this game a long time.

Kerry was probably reacting to the news that 70 Palestinians had been killed in Israel’s offensive today. He might have mentioned that 13 Israeli soldiers also lost their lives. He might also have said that it is unknown how many of the 70 dead Palestinians were shooting at Israeli soldiers.

In short, blaming Israel for the tactics of Hamas is irrational, illogical, and indicative of an anti-Israeli bias.

 Related: 

State Department Official Tweets #UnitedforGaza

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45 Years On and the Moon Landing Still Inspires Awe

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Ten thousand years from now, historians — if historians there be — will not have much to say about the 20th century. It will be seen as an obscure epoch where nothing very interesting happened — at least compared to our making First Contact with aliens, or the singularity coming about, or perhaps a cure for the common cold.

Except the landing on the moon, of course.

The wars, the political upheavals, the giant personalities may be worth a footnote or two in some grad student’s thesis. But the achievement of sending men to the moon and returning them safely to earth will never be forgotten as long as humans inhabit the planet. Our very first attempt to take a tentative step beyond the earth is easily the most significant development in human history to date both for what the event represented as far as what our species was capable, and how humans define themselves.

Petty politics, courage, brilliant thinking, striving to satisfy an insatiable curiosity, an ability to work together to achieve a common goal — all of this and more went into the machines we hurled toward the moon in July of 1969.

We had never conceived or built anything like them before or since. Consider:

* The Saturn V rocket that carried the crew into orbit was as tall as a 36 story building and weighed 6.5 million pounds. It was the largest machine ever built by man then, and remains so today.

* At takeoff, the Saturn V generated 7.6 million pounds of thrust. The Shuttle generated 5.4 million pounds of thrust.

* Up to 500,000 workers laid a hand on at least one of the Apollo’s systems — Saturn V, command module, and the Lunar module. By comparison, the Panama Canal employed about 70,000 workers.

* The Lunar Module was the first spacecraft designed to fly only in space. To save weight, there were parts of the outer skin that were less than 2 inches thick.

* More than 20,000 people at NASA, private companies, and other government agencies acted as support staff for the flight of Apollo 11.

This was a dangerous mission but, from the astronauts point of view, the risk was acceptable. It might be a much different story in today’s risk-averse NASA, but by necessity, so many of the systems employed on the flight could not be realistically tested, that some critical components like the LM ascent engine, would see their first real test on the moon’s surface.

The descent to the surface is the most dramatic part of the mission. This video synched up capcom communications with film taken from Apollo 11 cameras:

A little known and remembered fact from those tense July days; the Soviet Union had launched a sample return mission to the moon — Luna 15 — that was scheduled to beat Apollo 11 back to earth by a few hours and present the world with the first moonrocks. Unfortunately for the Soviets, the craft crashed on the surface and they failed to upstage Apollo 11.

So was it a waste of money? If you were to separate the larger space program from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo moon programs, you could make a very good argument that manned space flight was unnecessary. While satellites have changed the world, the manned program has had very little impact beyond national bragging rights. It may be that we must learn to live and work in space, but if NASA had done it right, manned space flight would have been developed by private industry.

The trip to the moon cost $125 billion in today’s dollars. We sent a 36 story building toward the moon and what we got back could fit in the living room of most American homes. Moon rocks are nice, and the knowledge gained from sending men to the moon is valuable, but what kind of return did we get on that stupendous investment?

These are all good questions, but despite the political nature of the effort, I still think it was worth it in a metaphysical way. Can you place a value on validating our national identity? On ultimately showing that capitalism is superior to communism? On defining our character as a people?

I understand and appreciate the arguments against the Apollo program. But what Apollo 11 ultimately accomplished was to achieve the landing of humans on the moon at exactly the first moment in history when it was possible to do so.

That’s an achievement that will stand the test of time for all time.

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Obama Aides Knew Crisis Was Building at Border a Year Ago

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Washington Post is reporting that the Obama administration was fully aware of the spike in illegal alien children crossing the border almost a year ago and failed to do anything to prepare for it.

In fact, despite a report from the Department of Homeland Security that said the crush at the border was going to get much worse, federal officials viewed the crisis as a “local problem” according to WaPo.

Governor Rick Perry sent a letter to the president in 2012, also warning of the brewing crisis. Perry’s letter and the DHS report were ignored until the crisis became unmanageable.

The researchers’ observations were among the warning signs conveyed to the Obama administration over the past two years as a surge of Central American minors has crossed into south Texas illegally. More than 57,000 have entered the United States this year, swamping federal resources and catching the government unprepared.

The administration did too little to heed those warnings, according to interviews with former government officials, outside experts and immigrant advocates, leading to an inadequate response that contributed to this summer’s escalating crisis.

Federal officials viewed the situation as a “local problem,” said Victor Manjarrez Jr., a former Border Patrol station chief who led the UTEP study. The research, conducted last year, was funded by the Department of Homeland Security and published in March. A broader crisis was “not on anyone’s radar,” Manjarrez added, even though “it was pretty clear this number of kids was going to be the new baseline.”

So what was the problem? If you listen closely to what this bureaucrat is saying, since the real-time information didn’t fit in with their graphs and chart projections, they didn’t believe what they were seeing:

“What happened this year was . . . off-the-charts different,” Muñoz said. “It was not the same pattern. We assumed a significant increase, but this was not the same kind of trend line.

“This trend was more like a hockey stick, going up and up and up,” Muñoz added. “Nobody could have predicted the scale of the increase we saw this year. The minute we saw it, we responded in an aggressive way.”

But top officials at the White House and the State Department had been warned repeatedly of the potential for a further explosion in the number of migrant children since the crisis began escalating two years ago, according to former federal officials and others familiar with internal discussions. The White House was directly involved in efforts in early 2012 to care for the children when it helped negotiate a temporary shelter at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

“There were warning signs, operational folks raising red flags to high levels in terms of this being a potential issue,” said one former senior federal law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about internal operations.

The former official said the agencies primarily in charge of border security, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were “ringing alarm bells” within the administration.

Meanwhile, top officials focused much of their attention on political battles, such as Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and the push to win congressional support for a broad immigration overhaul, that would have been made more difficult with the addition of a high-profile border crisis.

“I don’t think they ignored this on purpose, but they didn’t know what to do,” said Michelle Brané, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, which published a 2012 report highlighting the influx of minors. “For whatever reason, there was hesi­ta­tion to address the root causes. I think the administration was dealing with it at a minimal scale, putting a Band-Aid on something they should have been thinking about holistically.”

In fact, they did their best to hide the surge from Congress and the American people while the president pushed an immigration reform bill that would have done absolutely nothing to stem the flow of illegals crossing the border. There’s a good chance it would have made the situation worse.

Incompetence and a lack of transparency have been the hallmarks of this administration since they took office. It’s no wonder we’ve got an unmanageable crisis when our national leaders prefer to look away and hope for the best rather than deal with the problem.

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Anti-Illegal Immigrant Protests Sweep the Nation

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A coalition of anti-illegal immigration groups are staging protests this weekend around the country in what’s being touted as “the largest coordinated protest against all forms of amnesty, comprehensive immigration reform, and the government’s failure to enforce immigration laws and secure our borders.”

According to the group’s website, hundreds of protests will take place on Friday and Saturday. There were apparently sporadic clashes between pro and anti-illegal immigrant forces at some of the rallies, but overall, words rather than blows appeared to be exchanged.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, writes in the Washington Times that a tipping point against illegal immigration may have arrived:

The response of the administration and its supporters to the breakdown of the border in South Texas seems to have finally gotten a large share of the public to see what’s happening. Even the White House’s use of illegal-alien children as human shields for its anti-sovereignty policies has not managed to allay the increasing sense of alarm across the country.

Only a few peeps of concern have emanated from Democrats in Congress, most of whom are applauding the border breakdown. Republicans haven’t been much better. Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain have taken the opportunity to repeat their support for amnesty and dramatic increases in immigration. Others at least are concerned, but have been distracted by the trivial issue of a 2008 anti-trafficking law, which does not even apply here.

In the absence of political leadership, the public is jumping out of the pot on its own. A new Gallup poll shows that immigration now tops the list of most important issues facing the country, higher than dissatisfaction with government, the economy, jobs or health care.

That concern is being expressed by ordinary citizens in their communities. Residents of Murrieta, Calif., were the first to act, blocking buses to prevent the relocation of illegal immigrants from the Texas border. Virtually the entire town of Lawrenceville, Va., came to a community meeting on relocating illegal-immigrant juveniles there, causing the federal government to back off. Similar resistance has happened in Vassar, Mich.; Oracle, Ariz.; Greece, N.Y.; Escondido, Calif.; and elsewhere.

The story isn’t over in those communities, where illegal immigrants have already been relocated. Come September, thousands of illegal-alien “minors” (many of them adults lying about their age) will be entering unprepared public schools, creating a new wave of outrage.

Perhaps one particular decision by the White House highlights how concerned the administration is about public reaction: As of now, not a single illegal-alien detainee seems to have been sent to Louisiana or Arkansas, the states bordering Texas that are closest to the site of the border deluge. This is no accident. Those two states have Democratic senators up for re-election who are vulnerable enough to lose, but who might still be able to prevail. The White House appears to have decided not to send any illegals there to avoid the potential for political damage.

The real tipping point comes in November. If the public stays outraged enough about the border situation, they should take it out on both Republicans and Democrats who don’t believe in our sovereignty and turn them out of office.  Putting enough anti-illegal immigrant lawmakers in office is the only way to flip the playing field and get serious about border control.

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Paris in Flames as Pro-Palestinian Rioters Clash with Police

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Despite a first-of-its-kind-in-Europe ban on demonstrations in Paris, pro-Palestinian protestors gathered to demonstrate against Israel on Saturday. When police tried to break up the protest, rioters threw rocks and other debris while chanting “Israel, assassin.”

Protests in Paris were banned following the demonstration last weekend that ended up threatening two synagogues.

The government of President Hollande has come under fire for the ban, as far-left groups accused Hollande of favoring Israel while far-right groups criticized him for policies they say encourage lawlessness among immigrants.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The clashes underscore a dilemma facing France’s Socialist government. President François Hollande has faced searing criticism in France—home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority—for what pro-Palestinian groups say is his failure to take a stand against Israel’s incursions in the Gaza strip.

At the same time, Mr. Hollande is under pressure from even broader swaths of the French public, which blames minorities and immigrants for a perceived rise in violent crime and delinquency. The far-right National Front is garnering support by accusing Mr. Hollande’s ranks of being soft on crime and illegal immigration.

Saturday’s clashes occurred at the tail end of a large rally that had been called by several French political organizations, including the far-left New Anticapitalist Party, despite a French government ban.

The rally had been banned on Friday after government officials expressed concern that it could turn violent. Last Sunday, a similar rally in Paris sought to steer the march toward two synagogues and clashed with riot police, and eight arrests.

Earlier Saturday, French President François Hollande justified the decision to ban the rally at a news conference, saying groups have other ways to express themselves. “Those who want at any cost to protest will be held accountable,” he told TV cameras.

Nevertheless, French TV showed a large number of protesters showing up at 3 p.m., chanting and waving Palestinian flags under raised metro tracks. French television estimated between several hundred and several thousand people attended the rally at its peak, but the police official said the police didn’t immediately have any estimate.

The tension between the Muslim and Jewish populations in France has been building for years, which has led to many violent attacks. Reuters reports that “more Jews left France for Israel than at any other time since the Jewish state was created in 1948, with many citing rising anti-Semitism as a factor.”

Saturday’s demonstrations are not going to improve the situation.

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Pro-Russian Separatists Destroying Evidence of Plane Shootdown

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

As now seems likely, Moscow-backed separatists launched the missile that shot down a Malaysia airlines passenger plane flying near the Russian border.

Within minutes of the shootdown, rebels were on social media gloating about shooting down a Ukrainian cargo plane. But that posting, along with other damning evidence on Facebook and other sites, have been scrubbed by the rebels as they seek to cover up their involvement in the attack.

On Friday, the separatists blocked international monitors from the crash site, threatening members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and even firing shots to force them back. On Saturday, AP is reporting that the monitors got limited access, but that security was very tight.

Bociurkiw said the 24-member monitoring delegation was given some access Saturday to the crash site but their movements were being limited by the rebels. The site sprawls across sunflower and wheat fields between two villages in eastern Ukraine, encompassing eight square miles (20 square kilometers).

“We have to be very careful with our movements because of all the security,” Bociurkiw said. “We are unarmed civilians, so we are not in a position to argue with people with heavy arms.”

At issue for the monitors was the attempt by separatists, with the possible assistance of Russians, to remove evidence from the crash site:

The government in Kiev said militiamen have removed 38 bodies from the crash site and have taken them to the rebel-held city of Donetsk. It said the bodies were transported with the assistance of specialists with distinct Russian accents.

The rebels are also “seeking large transports to carry away plane fragments to Russia,” the Ukrainian government said in a statement.

In Donetsk, separatist leader Alexander Borodai denied that any bodies had been transferred or that the rebels had in any way interfered with the work of observers. He said he encouraged the international community to help with the cleanup before the bodies decay further.

As emergency workers loaded about 80 bodies of plane victims into bags Saturday, Bociurkiw stressed that his team was not at the site to conduct a full-scale investigation.

“We are looking at security on the perimeter of the crash site, looking at the status in the condition of the bodies, the status in the condition of the debris, and also personal belongings,” he said.

One passenger’s body was seen still strapped into an airline seat, with bare toes peeking out under long jeans. Another body was flung face-up into a field of blue flowers.

Ukraine also urged Moscow to insist that the pro-Russia rebels grant international experts the ability to conduct a thorough, impartial investigation into the downing of the plane – echoing a demand that President Barack Obama issued a day earlier from Washington.

“The integrity of the site has been compromised, and there are indications that vital evidence has not been preserved in place,” Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

He called for immediate access for Malaysia’s team at the site to retrieve human remains.

The Guardian is reporting that there has been other efforts to destroy or remove evidence from the site:

There is also confusion over the black boxes and other devices apparently salvaged from the plane. A rebel military commander initially said he was considering what to do with them, while another rebel leader, Aleksandr Borodai, contradicting his colleague, said the rebels had no black boxes or any other devices.

The Ukrainian interior ministry added to fears of a cover-up when it released video purportedly taken by police showing a truck carrying a Buk missile launcher with one of its four missiles apparently missing, rolling towards the Russian border at dawn . The video could not be independently verified.

Other material on rebel social media sites was being deleted, including pictures showing the alleged capture of Buk missile vehicles by rebels from a Ukrainian air base last month.

Perhaps the most troublesome question that needs to be answered is did Russian technicians assist the rebels in launching the missile?

Defence analysts with Russian expertise shared Power’s scepticism that Russia-backed rebel groups would have had the expertise to fire the missile and suggested it was more likely to have been Russian ground troops who specialise in air defence, seconded to help the rebels.

At the Pentagon, officials said a motive for the operation had yet to be determined, as had the chain of command. One said it would be “surprising to us” if pro-Russia separatists were able to operate the Buk missile battery without Russian technical support. The Ukrainian military confirmed it has Buk batteries but said it had none in the area the missile was fired.

It would seem unlikely that militiamen would be capable of handling a sophisticated surface to air missile system by themselves. If it’s true that Russian technicians aided the separatists, then Russia bears equal responsibility for this war crime — something that would ratchet up the tension between Moscow and the US and could lead to crippling sanctions against Russia.

Is Putin able to control the separatists? He is still supplying them with arms, but it’s unclear how many local commanders are actually taking orders from Moscow. Whatever influence he possesses, he better use it now. If the shootdown did anything to the war, it placed the west even more firmly on Ukraine’s side and isolated Russia even more than they were. The prospect that the next round of sanctions may hit the already weakened Russian economy should galvanize Putin into forcing the rebels to the negotiating table.

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Forget About Sending Them Back: 65% of Illegal Kids Already Have Asylum

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

It’s funny how we have to find this stuff out from Congress and not the administration.

A House Judiciary Committee report states that 65% of illegal alien children who have entered the U.S. this year have already been given asylum — without appearing before a judge. Once granted asylum, the border jumper is eligible for all welfare programs — including Obamacare.

Now, before you burst a blood vessel, you can relax. According to the Department of Homeland Security, 70% of asylum cases contain “proven or possible fraud.”

What a trusting government we have! Don’t you wish the IRS worked that way?

Byron York:

Now, new numbers released by the House Judiciary Committee show the “vast majority” of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum are granted it before even appearing before a judge. “Information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that shows 65 percent of unaccompanied alien minors’ asylum applications have been immediately approved by asylum officers in Fiscal Year 2014,” says a Judiciary Committee statement. “And this is just the first bite of the apple. Many more cases can be approved later. Where an asylum officer does not approve the application, it is then referred to an immigration judge where the applicant can try again. If that fails, they can continue to appeal their case.”
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The Judiciary Committee says asylum approval rates have “increased dramatically” under the Obama administration. Overall, according to the committee statement, “Approval rates by asylum officers have increased from 28 percent in 2007 to 46 percent in 2013 and approval rates by immigration judges in affirmative cases have increased from 51 percent in 2007 to 74 percent in 2013.” And that does not count appeals.

“Once individuals are granted asylum,” the report notes, “they have access to all major federal welfare programs.”

Complicating matters, according to the committee, is the rate of fraud in asylum cases. The committee says “an internal Department of Homeland Security report” has shown that “at least 70 percent of asylum cases contain proven or possible fraud.”

“President Obama’s refusal to crack down on rampant asylum fraud is one of the many reasons we are witnessing a surge of Central Americans seeking to enter the U.S. illegally at the border,” said the Judiciary Committee chairman, Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, in a statement. “New data showing that the vast majority of Central Americans’ asylum claims are immediately approved will only worsen the situation along our southern border by encouraging more to come and take advantage of the situation.”

Gee. Ya think? I guess the “my dog ate my proof that I deserve asylum” excuse is working pretty well.

I am perplexed. Why not just announce to the entire world that you can come to America and be granted asylum if you’re from anywhere there is violence, drugs, gangs, or bad weather? Why talk tough about sending these kids home and then turn around and grant them what amounts to blanket asylum?

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Pope Francis Scores US for ‘Racist’ and ‘Xenophobic’ Approach to Illegal Aliens

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The head of state of the most closed country in the world is lecturing the US about open borders.

Pope Francis jumped into the US border crisis saying the illegal alien children flooding across our borders should be “welcomed and protected.”

Read carefully what Francis is saying. The Argentine Pontiff is blaming the US for a situation that it didn’t create while smearing the American people who want the exact same thing that the city state of Vatican City enjoys; control over its borders.

Washington Post:

“Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often, die tragically,” the pope said in a message sent to a global conference in Mexico.

“Many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.”

The Argentine pontiff said a different approach is needed to tackling what he called a “humanitarian emergency” as growing numbers of unaccompanied children are migrating to the U.S. from Central America and Mexico.

“I would also like to draw attention to the tens of thousands of children who migrate alone, unaccompanied, to escape poverty and violence,” the pope said.

“They are increasing day by day. This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.”

Perhaps his Holiness would list the rights of these kids that were being violated instead of reading talking points from the agenda of the anti-American third world. And they are not “obliged” to separate from their families. It is a deliberate strategy of the illegal aliens to send their children across the border alone so that the US is forced to take them, and later, “reunite” the families who are then settled in secret somewhere in the US.

And the Pope would do well to get specific about what “racist and xenophobic attitudes” are being exhibited. Simply put, there is no more xenophobic nation in the world than Vatican City. And the Pontiff should know that just because American citizens are crying out for their government to exercise its sovereign right to say who can come into our country and who can’t, that doesn’t mean that the United States is in any way “xenophobic. Xenophobic countries do not welcome more than 1 million legal immigrants every year, far more than any other country in the world.

There is no such thing as an illegal immigrant in Vatican City. You can’t even enter most of the city without a pass. Legal residency is reserved for less than 500 people. There’s no way to enter illegally because every vehicle is thoroughly searched.

Talk about violation of rights — in Vatican City, it is against the law to show your bare shoulders or bare knees. Your movements are restricted, your right to privacy ignored, and the application of their laws is arbitrary.

But this hasn’t prevented the Pope from lecturing the rest of us about “migrants”:

In his latest message, Francis said the fear and indifference of what he termed the “throwaway culture” should be replaced with a commitment to building a more just and fraternal world.

“These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin,” the pope said.

“This challenge demands the attention of the entire international community so that new forms of legal and secure migration may be adopted.”

The pope’s letter was sent to the Mexico-Holy See Colloquium on Migration and Development and presented by the papal nuncio to Mexico, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, also attended the conference.

He can start us all off by reforming Vatican City. Then, perhaps, he can speak on an equal plane with the US who is trying its best to, if not “welcome” the illegal alien children who have shown up on our border, then treat them as humanely as is possible given the enormity of the challenges.

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