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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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US-Sudan Negotiating Over Fate of Mariam Ibrahim

Saturday, June 28th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Sudanese government is meeting with US officials in order to negotiate a way for Mariam Ibrahim to leave the country.

Ibrahim was at the center of an international controversy when a Sudanese court condemned her to death for converting to Christianity, and declared her an adulteress for marrying a Christian man.

Ibrahim was given a reprieve from the death penalty when a court overturned her conviction. But she was arrested again at the Khartoum airport and charged with carrying false documents.

Reuters:

Her lawyer Mohaned Mostafa said Ibrahim, her husband and two children have all been staying at the U.S. embassy in Khartoum since her release, which was granted on the condition that Ibrahim remains in Sudan.

“There are talks going on currently between Sudanese and American officials to try to find a way for Mariam and her family to leave the country,” a source close to the case said asking not to be named as he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Ibrahim was detained on Tuesday for trying to use documents issued by the embassy of South Sudan to fly out of Khartoum with her American-South Sudanese husband and their two children.

Despite lifting her death sentence after huge international pressure, Sudan still does not acknowledge Ibrahim’s new identity as a Christian South Sudanese because it does not recognize her marriage. Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men under the Islamic laws that Sudan applies.

“The talks now are aiming to get her out of Sudan on a Sudanese passport,” the source said.

South Sudan, which has a majority Christian population, became independent from the mostly Muslim north after a referendum in 2011 that ended years of civil war.

Ibrahim’s case has been closely monitored by Washington and London, which last month summoned the Sudanese charge d’affaires to protest against Ibrahim’s initial death sentence and urged Sudan to uphold its international obligations on freedom of religion and belief.

A U.S. spokeswoman said on Thursday before Ibrahim’s release that Ibrahim had all the documents she needed to travel to the United States.

Ibrahim’s saga might have ended very differently if Christians throughout the west hadn’t put enormous pressure on their governments to do something about her plight. Leaders like President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of Great Britain were reluctant to get mixed up in a matter that, to Muslims, is mostly cut and dried. Only an outcry of protests from Christians forced their leaders to move.

One thing to consider is how the Sudanese government viewed the case.

“The punishment has little to do with religion and serves as a political distraction. This is a ploy by the Sudanese regime to appear as ‘defenders of Islam’ to mitigate their corruption”.

And, of course, Ibrahim’s situation served as a warning to other South Sudanese Christians, as well as Muslims in Sudan. An effective tactic to see a young woman forced to give birth in chains, and knowing she is to die when the child reaches two years of age.

Hopefully, Mrs. Ibrahim and her family won’t have to wait too long to escape Sudan for the freedom of America.

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The Insane Clown Car Posse Assassination Conspiracy that Ignited World War I

Saturday, June 28th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You just can’t make this stuff up, they say, and when it comes to the conspiracy to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand on his visit to Sarajevo 100 years ago today, no imagination in Hollywood would be capable of drawing it up.

Not surprisingly, some details of the plot and the assassination are in dispute. Were the conspirators really part of the shadowy Serbian intelligence agency known as The Black Hand? Or were they local recruits that allowed the Black Hand some plausible deniability? There are also minor discrepancies in how the plot unfolded.

But most agree on the broad outline of the conspiracy — which makes the fact that they actually pulled it off all the more remarkable.

The archduke announced the trip ahead of time and helpfully published a map of the motorcade that would take the royal party to a ceremony at city hall. He rode in an open car with this loving wife Sophie and basked in the cheers from the large crowd along the way.

There were 7 assassins in all. Boys and young men burning with nationalistic fervor who saw knocking off the heir to the Hapsburg throne as a signal for a general revolt. While long on patriotism, they were short on training, planning, execution, and courage. Looking at them from the distance of 100 years, it seems remarkable that this inept, awkward, not-very-bright group of teenagers could pull off the assassination of the young century and throw the world into chaos.

The fact that they did is an example of serendipity and coincidence that boggles the mind today.

There was minimal security — not even 100 police along the motorcade route. But even that paltry number was enough to deter at least 4 of the would-be assassins who chickened out without firing a shot.

One assassin was foiled by a jammed pistol. Another tossed a crude homemade bomb at the archduke’s car that Ferdinand fended off, which caused the device to land in back of the car on the street, injuring several bystanders when it exploded.

The bomb thrower, Nedeljko Cabrinovic, began to run toward the river, swallowing poison before he jumped in trying to drown himself. Unfortunately for him, the water was only inches deep and the poison only made him sick. He was hustled off to jail while the motorcade continued.

Here’s where serendipity makes an appearance:

The furious archduke arrived at City Hall, where the mayor of Sarajevo delivered some totally inappropriate remarks that were written before the assassination attempt.

The archduke snapped, “What kind of welcome is this? I’m being met by bombs!” Then he wiped the blood off his prepared speech and addressed the crowd.

Afterward, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne got back into his motorcade with his wife, Sophie. They had decided to visit the hospital to see the people who were wounded in the bomb attack.

But no one told the driver.

At that fateful intersection, the car was supposed to go straight — but it turned right. A general in the motorcade shouted, “You’re going the wrong way!”

And the driver stopped the car … right in front of assassin number seven.

Assassin number seven was 19 year old Gavrilo Princip. He was crestfallen that he and his comrades had failed in their attempts to kill Ferdinand and decided to visit a local deli to drown his sorrows in a bottle of beer and a sandwich.

The driver’s wrong turn changed the course of history. At that exact moment, Princip was emerging from the deli and not 4 feet away was Ferdinand’s car – conveniently stopped and with no bodyguards in evidence. Princip leaped upon the running board and pumped two shots into the car, hitting both Ferdinand and Sophie. They would die within minutes.

A conspiracy planned and executed by incompetent amateurs ended up completing the task of assassinating Archduke Ferdinand by simple dumb luck and remarkable coincidence.

Thirty seconds either way and Princip would have missed his opportunity. If the mayor had taken 30 seconds longer in his remarks, Princip would have been denied. If the driver had gone the right way, Ferdinand would have probably lived to ascend to the Hapsburg throne. You can point to a dozen scenarios where a few seconds would have made the difference and Princip would have missed his rendezvous with destiny.

But it wasn’t to be.

They unveiled a statue to Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo yesterday. Honoring a terrorist says more about Bosnian Serbs today than it does about what the nation was like in 1914. One man’s terrorist may be another’s freedom fighter, but even if you believe that, it takes a certain amount of obtuseness to celebrate an act that led to the death of 40 million people.

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Did the US Really Arm and Train the ISIS Terrorists?

Monday, June 23rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I’ve seen this meme in emails and websites of the conspiratorial internet – that the US army trained and equipped ISIS rebels at a training camp in Jordan.

The story got a boost when World Net Daily ran an article by Aaron Klein that repeated the claim, saying the information was confirmed by “informed Jordanian officials.”

The officials said dozens of ISIS members were trained at the time as part of covert aid to the insurgents targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The officials said the training was not meant to be used for any future campaign in Iraq.

The Jordanian officials said all ISIS members who received U.S. training to fight in Syria were first vetted for any links to extremist groups like al-Qaida.

In February 2012, WND was first to report the U.S., Turkey and Jordan were running a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region.

That report has since been corroborated by numerous other media accounts

If we vetted ISIS members, we did a very poor job. ISIS is the reincarnation of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, so in order to believe the US trained them, you have to believe that we ignored their ties to a violent extremist group.

Are there US-run training camps in Jordan for Syrian rebels? Yes, we’ve been training members of the Free Syrian army for years there. But other than these anonymous “Jordanian officials,” who else has said we trained ISIS members?

Why, Rand Paul has said it:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday that the Sunni militants taking over Iraq have quickly gained power because the United States has armed their group in Syria.

“I think we have to understand first how we got here,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We have been arming [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] ISIS in Syria.”

ISIS, an al Qaeda offshoot, has been collaborating with the Syrian rebels whom the Obama administration has been arming in their efforts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Paul explained.

The administration has reportedly assisted the moderate opposition in Syria, but details about the dissemination of those resources are unclear.

“That is the real contradiction to this whole policy,” Paul said. “If we were to get rid of Assad,” it would become a “jihadist wonderland in Syria.”

Asked what he would do as president on Iraq, Paul deflected and did not give a straight answer. Instead, he pointed to the Reagan doctrine, and said Congress must ultimately determine the U.S. plan after engaging in a “full-throated debate.”

“The president doesn’t have unilateral authority to begin war,” said Paul, who couldn’t say whether he would support U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

He said he’s not ruling U.S. assistance out, but said first Shiites must show they will fight for their country.

Paul downplayed the idea that ISIS is an immediate threat to the U.S., but said it could be “at some point.”

“I don’t think ISIS in in the middle of the battle right now thinking ‘hmm, I think we’re going to send inter-continental ballistic missiles to America,’” Paul said.

Alex Jones of InfoWars says he got the information through his “military sources.”

Aside from that WND article, I can find no original source that confirms the “ISIS trained by US” story. If Paul is repeating conspiracies he read in WND and on InfoWars he should know better.

It’s possible that some fighters trained by the US in Jordan ended up joining ISIS, but that’s not the same as the US knowingly arming and training a terrorist group, which is implied in the WND article and that Senator Paul states as fact.

Most ISIS members were probably trained in the Gulf where Qatar and Saudi Arabia sponsor many jihad groups fighting in Syria. Both of those countries are far less discriminating about who gets sophisticated weaponry than the US. As for where ISIS got the weapons it’s using now, when the Iraqi army ran away from defending Mosul, hundreds of tons of US-made arms fell into their hands. It’s also suspected that the Saudis have been bankrolling the purchase of advanced weapons for many extremist groups in Syria on the open market.

ISIS didn’t need the US to train their members. The idea that we knowingly armed and trained an ultra-violent, pitiless terrorist group that is so barbaric that even al-Qaeda’s parent group in Pakistan has disavowed them, needs a lot more proof than any offered up so far by WND or Alex Jones.

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AP: Illegal Alien Children Can Stay in US for Years

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

An investigation by the Associated Press into the situation on the border with tens of thousands of unaccompanied children flowing into the US finds that US immigration law has tied the hands of the government in trying to deport the minors and that they could conceivably stay in the US for years.

Welcome children! Sit right down and make yourselves at home.

Thousands of immigrant children fleeing poverty and violence in Central America to cross alone into the United States can live in American cities, attend public schools and possibly work here for years without consequences.

The chief reasons are an overburdened, deeply flawed system of immigration courts and a 2002 law intended to protect children’s welfare, an Associated Press investigation finds.

Driving the dramatic increases in these immigrants is the recognition throughout Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that children who make the dangerous trip can effectively remain in the U.S. for years before facing even a moderate risk of deportation.

The Obama administration estimates it will catch 90,000 children trying to illegally cross the Mexican border without their parents by the end of the current budget year in September. Last year, the government returned fewer than 2,000 children to their native countries.

The administration has asked Congress for $2 billion to spend on the issue.

“They almost never go home,” said Gary Mead, who until last year was director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office responsible for finding and removing immigrants living in the country. “It’s not a process that ultimately ends in easy resolutions or clear-cut resolutions.”

The situation is widely perceived as becoming a humanitarian crisis at the border. The system is now so overwhelmed that children are being housed in Border Patrol facilities ill-equipped to handle them.

The government has asked the military to open temporary shelters in Texas, Oklahoma and California.

U.S. officials, including the Homeland Security secretary, the White House domestic policy council director and the Customs and Border Protection commissioner have described immigrant families’ concerns about education, jobs and personal safety as driving the rise in border crossings.

Only recently have officials acknowledged that perceptions that these children may be allowed to stay or that Congress soon may relax U.S. immigration laws — which is highly unlikely — may also be responsible.

Meanwhile, in a total PR move, the administration is promising a “surge” at the border:

The White House said it would send more judges and staffers to reduce the backlog of immigration cases but did not provide specific numbers about the amount of additional workers.

“We are surging government enforcement resources to increase our capacity to detain individuals and adults who bring their children with them and to handle immigration court hearings in cases where hearings are necessary – as quickly and efficiently as possible while also protecting those who are seeking asylum,” the White House said. “That will allow [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to return unlawful migrants from Central America to their home countries more quickly.”

Earlier Friday, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called on Obama to deploy the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border, but administration officials threw cold water on that suggestion.

“The policies of your administration have directly resulted in the belief by these immigrants that once they reach U.S. soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely,” Boehner wrote in a letter to Obama.

Obama previously deferred deportations of Dream-Act eligible illegal immigrants, but the White House says that children now crossing the border illegally are not eligible for that program.

We are surging judges and lawyers at the border! What’s next, accountants? Even with the increase in judges, they will hardly be able to keep ahead of the tidal wave. The administration is expecting double the number of kids crossing the border next year — 120,000. By the time the judges are finished hearing those cases of people already here, some of those kids will be collecting Social Security — illegally.

So how does this legal process work — besides very badly?

Like Antunez and thousands of others, most spend about one month in the custody of the Office of Refugee and Resettlement under the Health and Human Services Department, before they are reunited with parents or other relatives in the United States. There is no requirement that their parents or those other relatives were legally allowed into the United States.

Why isn’t there a requirement that their parents or relatives be here legally? What genius thought that one up?

When you have an immigration policy that encourages lawbreaking, this is what you end up with. The immigration reform package that everyone wants the Republicans to vote for will make matters even worse. The world is breaking down our door to get in and God knows who is coming with these desperate, poor people; terrorists, drug dealers, criminals in all shapes, sizes, and ages.

We are a sovereign country and are well within our rights to close our border to anyone who refuses to obey even the weak and ineffective laws already on the books. It is a fundamental right among nations to enforce our own laws even if the rest of the world doesn’t like them.The president — never letting a good crisis go to waste — is using this terrible situation on the border to try and advance immigration reform. It’s a despicable tactic and instead of trying to promote his agenda and putting on phony “surges” at the border, he should act like a president and take control of the situation.

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IRS Canceled E-Mail Storage Firm Contract Just Weeks After Lerner Computer Crash

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The rabbit hole keeps getting deeper and deeper.

We read earlier in the week that the IRS employed an email storage firm to backup communications at the agency.

The Daily Caller is reporting that the IRS canceled its contract with Sonasoft, an email archiving company, just weeks after it was learned that Lois Lerner’s hard drive had crashed and months before the six other employees targeted in the congressional investigation had their computers crash as well.

The IRS signed a contract with Sonasoft, an email-archiving company based in San Jose, California, each year from 2005 to 2010. The company, which partners with Microsoft and counts The New York Times among its clients, claims in its company slogans that it provides “Email Archiving Done Right” and “Point-Click Recovery.” Sonasoft in 2009 tweeted, “If the IRS uses Sonasoft products to backup their servers why wouldn’t you choose them to protect your severs?”

Sonasoft was providing “automatic data processing” services for the IRS throughout the January 2009 to April 2011 period in which Lerner sent her missing emails.

But Sonasoft’s six-year business relationship with the IRS came to an abrupt end at the close of fiscal year 2011, as congressional investigators began looking into the IRS conservative targeting scandal and IRS employees’ computers started crashing left and right.

Sonasoft’s fiscal year 2011 contract with the IRS ended on August 31, 2011. Eight days later, the IRS officially closed out its relationship with Sonasoft in accordance with the federal government’s contract close-out guidelines, which require agencies to fully audit their contracts and to get back any money that wasn’t used by the contractor. Curiously, the IRS de-allocated 36 cents when it closed out its contract with Sonasoft on September 8, 2011.

Lois Lerner’s computer allegedly crashed in June 2011, just ten days after House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp first wrote a letter asking if the IRS was engaging in targeting of nonprofit groups. Two months later, Sonasoft’s contract ended and the IRS gave its email-archiving contractor the boot.

IRS official and frequent White House visitor Nikole Flax allegedly suffered her own computer crash in December 2011, three months after the IRS ended its relationship with Sonasoft.

The obvious question: Is there a link between the cancelling of Sonasoft’s contract and the possible desire of IRS officials to cover up its targeting program?

There are a lot more questions than dots to connect. Was the cancelling of the contract a budget measure, or something more sinister? What happened to the emails Sonosoft archived? Who signed off on the cancellation order?

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GAO: $14 Billion in Improper Medicaid Billing

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A shocking new report from the Government Accountability Office has found that Medicaid wrongly paid out more than $14 billion to managed care organizations (MCO’s) — partners with states in providing health care services to clients.

The improper payments included “services that were not necessary, never performed or weren’t eligible for coverage,” according to this story in the Washington Examiner:

MCOs, which allow Medicaid beneficiaries to get their care though state-run programs are rapidly increasing in popularity through the expansion of Medicaid. The amount of annual improper payments could increase because of Obamacare, GAO found.
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The “size and diversity” of the MCOs have put both state and federal governments at odds on how to oversee the payments, the report said.

Specifically, the wrong payments made were for treatments or services not covered, not necessary, or billed for but never provided, GAO found.

States that expand Medicaid programs under Obamacare will receive a 100 percent reimbursement from the federal government for MCOs for the next two years, the report said.

Given that state and federal governments have recovered “only a small portion” of the wrongly paid money, unless they ramp up their oversight of MCOs, even more Medicare dollars will be “vulnerable to improper payments,” GAO said.

States were also under-reporting to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid how much money they recovered when they realized they’d made these undeserved payments, GAO revealed.

In 2013 alone, Medicaid covered almost 72 million Americans. The program costs American taxpayers more than $430 billion annually.

No one knows how much total waste, fraud, and abuse is in the Medicaid program. If this independent audit of the Illinois Medicaid program is any indication, the US taxpayer is in a world of hurt.

In January, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, or HFS, began a new project verifying eligibility for Illinois’ 2.7 million Medicaid enrollees. For years, state workers had failed to take adequate steps to ensure the people receiving Medicaid benefits were actually eligible for the program. As an Auditor General report noted, state workers failed to verify basic eligibility criteria, such as income, residency and citizenship status. Worse yet, some of the annual eligibility checks had been delayed for more than five years.

So state lawmakers pushed HFS to hire an independent vendor who specializes in this kind of work to review Medicaid eligibility. Since January, the independent vendor has reviewed nearly 419,000 case files of individuals currently enrolled in Medicaid. Of those, the vendor identified more than 210,000 that were ineligible for benefits, which amounts to more than 50 percent of all cases reviewed so far. Another 47,000 cases reviewed so far this year were eligible for some benefits, but enrolled in the wrong program. For example, some individuals enrolled in Medicaid may only qualify for programs with greater cost-sharing. Overall, the review has yielded an eligibility error rate of more than 61 percent.

When HFS receives a recommendation from Maximus to cancel benefits for a particular case, the state gives the enrollee an additional 20 days to submit documentation showing they are still eligible for benefits. The state then removes individuals from the program after verifying that they are no longer eligible.

Unfortunately, the American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees has initiated a legal challenge which may slow or halt this progress. AFSCME wants the state to terminate its contract with the expert vendor reviewing eligibility and instead hire new dues-paying state workers to do the job. Never mind the fact that state workers’ failure to do the job adequately prompted the state to hire an independent vendor in the first place. With another 347,000 cases currently pending review, and thousands more on the way, this challenge becomes all the more worrisome.

Illinois may not be typical, but some states are surely as bad as Illinois in managing the program. The problem is immense and may approach $100 billion in waste and fraud, according to this JAMA study from 2012 (abstract only):

The need is urgent to bring US health care costs into a sustainable range for both public and private payers. Commonly, programs to contain costs use cuts, such as reductions in payment levels, benefit structures, and eligibility. A less harmful strategy would reduce waste, not value-added care. The opportunity is immense. In just 6 categories of waste—overtreatment, failures of care coordination, failures in execution of care processes, administrative complexity, pricing failures, and fraud and abuse—the sum of the lowest available estimates exceeds 20% of total health care expenditures. The actual total may be far greater. The savings potentially achievable from systematic, comprehensive, and cooperative pursuit of even a fractional reduction in waste are far higher than from more direct and blunter cuts in care and coverage. The potential economic dislocations, however, are severe and require mitigation through careful transition strategies.

The study included both Medicare and Medicaid expenditures.

Not all of that is fraud. What the Illinois auditor found was that the problem was mostly bureaucratic incompetence and laziness. “Annual” reviews of eligibility would be given every 5 years. Placing recipients in the wrong program, giving them too much in benefits. The auditor found more than $12 million in benefits was dispersed to dead people. With 2.7 million Illinois residents receiving Medicaid benefits, those mistakes start to add up quickly.

The problems with Medicaid and MCO’s must be addressed now. There are 7 million new Medicaid clients as a result of Obamacare’s expansion of the program. One can imagine the utter waste of taxpayer money involved in vastly expanding what amounts to a broken program.

That $14 billion in improper Medicaid payments is just the tip of the iceberg. More must be done to combat the problems in Medicare and Medicaid fraud before both programs bankrupt us.

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Townfolk Say ‘No’ to HHS Dumping Illegal Minors at Local College

Saturday, June 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The good citizens of Lawrenceville, Virginia woke up one morning last week to discover that, without consulting them, a local college, now defunct, had signed a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to house 500 illegal alien teenagers on campus.

The mandarins at HHS didn’t deem it necessary to discuss the matter with the local town council or the people. They probably knew what the answer would be beforehand. On Friday evening, a town meeting was called and more than 1,000 angry residents showed up to show their displeasure at the decision.

After the meeting, HHS decided discretion was the better part of valor and retreated.

Washington Times:

“We have heard the concerns of many of the residents and leaders of Lawrenceville about the proposal to temporarily care for unaccompanied children at the now-closed Saint Paul’s College,” said Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Mark A. Weber. “We have taken this proposal off the table and will move on quickly to identify other sites to temporarily house these vulnerable children.”

The announcement followed a heated community meeting at a high school in Lawrenceville, a hardscrabble town about 70 miles south of Richmond. More than a thousand residents attended to voice opposition to the plan and denounce the Obama administration officials for trying to force the project upon their impoverished community.

We talk slow around here and with a twang. But we say what we mean,” Aaron Smith, a sergeant in the National Guard and former Marine, told administration officials at the meeting. “Let me talk straight into your eyes: We don’t want you here.”

The residents expressed concerns about security, disease, the town’s overburdened emergency services and tax dollars going to unaccompanied alien children — or UACs — instead of local families living in poverty.

The uproar in Lawrenceville encapsulated the national debate ragging over illegal immigration and the crisis spreading form America’s southern border.

After learning that the administration had nixed the Lawrenceville project, Mr. Smith applauded the HHS officials for keeping their promise that they would listen to the community.

“I’m actually for one time happy with my federal government for doing what they told us they would do,” he told The Washington Times by phone. “That’s all our community wanted.

“Rep. Robert Hurt, whose district includes Lawrenceville and pressed the Obama administration to listen to residents’ concerns, said that he was “thankful that HHS has made the right decision.”

“However, it must be said that the manner in which HHS attempted to impose its plan on our community without any meaningful input is a painful reminder of just how disconnected Washington has become from the people it is supposed to represent — a Washington that always seems to be wiser and know better than its local elected leaders and its citizens,” said Mr. Hurt, a Republican.

Who thinks up these idiotic schemes? Five hundred teenagers dumped on a small town? What kind of trouble do you think those kids could get into? I’m sure the townspeople are breathing a big sigh of relief.

Ultimately, the administration wants somebody else to pay for their mistakes. Texas and Arizona are already paying a steep price for the administration’s blundering on immigration reform. Apparently, no thought was given to how the desperately poor people south of the border would take the news that they were welcome to come across as long as their kids were here, or that their children would be reunited with them even if they weren’t here legally.

The people of Lawrenceville didn’t want to pay for someone else’s errors. Good on them.

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Iran Bans Women from Watching World Cup in Public

Saturday, June 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Iran’s national soccer team lost to world power Argentina 1-0 today, as superstar Lionel Messi scored in stoppage time to break the hearts of the thousands of Iranian fans in the stands and millions at home.

Iran has one of the largest contingents of fans in Brazil for the tournament, and judging by how the ladies are dressed, one might understand — from the Iranian authorities point of view — why they don’t want the sexes mixing in public. Images of the hijab-less Iranian women went viral and authorities were none too pleased, despite going so far as sending a minder to make sure the tourists to Brazil acted in an Islamic fashion:

Although Iranian women were warned to not dress “immodestly” when they appear in public in Brazil, scores of football fans took to the streets to attend the match between Iran and Nigeria, which ended in a 0-0 draw.

According to Al-Arabiya news, conservative officials in Iran told citizens traveling to Brazil to avoid any actions which may be deemed “incompatible” with the Islamic Republic’s values. Furthermore, those who traveled had to sign an agreement stating they would agree to adhere to these values while abroad.

A committee also reportedly sent an official to oversee Iranian tourists’ behavior.

Despite the Islamic regime’s hardline stance on the matter, pictures posted on twitter and Facebook show Iranian fans enjoying the World Cup celebrations in the same way as those from other countries.

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While the game was broadcast on television, the authorities forbade cafes, cinemas, and other public places from airing the game. The reason? The mixing of sexes is “unislamic.”

Yet, this does not stop football-loving Iranians from wanting to watch their team. Many universities and schools even rescheduled exams so that students could cheer on Team Melli.

This makes the police restrictions, communicated directly to restaurant and cinema owners, all the more confusing.

“We told our members not to turn on their TVs when World Cup matches are being broadcast or to make sure TVs are set to a different channel,” said Eskandar Azmodeh, the head of Tehran’s Union of Cafe Owners.

“It is possible that owners could lose their licences if any problems arise in their cafes while showing the games.”

Iranian state media reported that police text messages to restaurant owners said they had to close by midnight as usual.

Cinemas were told they would not be allowed to screen matches to mixed-gender audiences.

Police would have let them hold separate screenings for men and women but “due to the security issue we have given up showing the 2014 games”, said the head of the Iranian Cinema Owners Association, Mohammad Ghasem Ashrafi.

Watching football in cinemas became popular during the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

“They make everything about boys and girls,” said Parvin, 56, a retired chemistry teacher. “I used to go to the cinema four years ago to watch the World Cup with my daughter and son. I saw so many other parents there too.”

The new restrictions mean most Iranians will have to watch the World Cup, shown free on state TV, at home. Viewing the matches outdoors in public parks was also popular, but this now appears to be out of favour as authorities have not set up any facilities for it this time.

Iran is one of the most literate countries in the world, and the people there are not stupid. Authorities may seek to keep the outside world from intruding on their little Islamic paradise, but it can’t be done. Iranian women watching their sisters behave so freely in Brazil must be wondering why things have to be so different at home.

As the Soviet Union discovered when they initiated the reform program known as perestroika, you can’t give people a little bit of freedom and expect them to be satisfied. The 2009 protests showed there is a deep unhappiness among Iranians of all political persuasions. President Hassan Rouhani was elected partially as a response to that unrest, but even if he was for basic reforms — a dubious proposition given his standing in the Iranian theocracy  — his hands would be tied by the old guard of mullahs who run Iran like a 8th century caliphate. There can be no reform because Islam is perfect and nothing needs to change.

One wonders if those exuberant women in Brazil with painted faces and “unislamic” demonstrations of joy will suffer the consequences of disobeying the authorities when they get home. You also have to wonder if there will ever come a day when such demonstrations won’t be out of the ordinary.

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Biden Fails to Move Central American Leaders on Border Crisis

Saturday, June 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Obama administration sent Vice President Joe Biden to Guatemala City to talk with Central American leaders about the crisis of unaccompanied children who are flooding across the US border from Mexico.

Instead of pledging support to rein in the exodus of children from their countries, Biden got something of a lecture about “migrant rights” and schemes to keep the illegals from returning to their home countries.

Even members of the Hispanic Caucus were frustrated with the Central American leaders, getting an earful about how we should be reuniting the illegal children with their illegal parents — in the United States.

While there is no doubt that statements from the White House about ICE going easy on illegal children are largely responsible for the tidal wave of minors coming across the border — 60,000 this year and more than 120,000 expected next year — the inaction, if not active encouragement, from Central American governments is also to blame. Now that the situation has become an humanitarian crisis that continues to grow, the region’s leaders have demonstrated a total cluelessness about the American government’s position and insist on telling the US to take care of the problem inside its own borders.

Reuters:

Senator Robert Menendez and Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez said U.S. lawmakers in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday held a “very testy meeting” with diplomats from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

“I proposed to the Vice President the possibility of considering temporary work programs, which would allow (Guatemalans) to go for a time and return,” Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said on Friday after meeting Biden, along with other Central American leaders, in Guatemala City.

U.S. data show that between October and May more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly Central Americans, crossed into the United States, nearly double the number in the prior year.

“As long as (U.S.) immigration reform is not approved, the exodus of children to the United States will continue,” Jorge Ramon Hernandez, the senior representative of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, said at the talks.

A partisan divide in the United States has stymied Obama’s efforts to reform immigration laws.

Insisting the immigrant children should be returned to their parents, Biden also said “immigration reform has not died”.

El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren said this week he would press Biden for a reform to help reunite existing family members in the United States with more recent arrivals.

After Friday’s talks, Sanchez said he intended to keep working for the rights of the affected children.

“Each and every one of our countries has an obligation to guarantee the rights of children and adolescents,” he said.

What “rights” is he talking about? No doubt they consider reuniting families in the United States who are here illegally a “right” of the border jumpers.

For the administration to say that the recent arrivals will be sent home, they are going to need a lot of cooperation from Central American countries to achieve it. Judging from the attitude of Central American leaders at the meetings in Guatemala City, that cooperation does not appear to be imminent.

Indeed, it looks as if Central American countries will fight to keep the children in the US — a prospect that has Congress up in arms over the cost of caring and eventually repatriating the children.

Politico reports:

“This is a problem of immense enormity and terrible hurt,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers on Wednesday evening as his panel took the first steps toward approving a $39.2 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security. And the Kentucky Republican chastised the White House for showing “no leadership at all” in its budget for the coming year.

Indeed, President Barack Obama surprised many by asking for no increase in UAC funding in his March plan for new 2015 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Frustrated Democrats accuse the White House of lowballing the costs to make room for the president’s initiatives under the strict spending caps negotiated last December for 2015.

Having been caught short last winter, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) demanded a white paper from the administration on the crisis and forced an April 22 meeting of top staff from the White House budget office and four major line departments: State, Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.

It was then that the administration acknowledged that the flow of migrant children could double again next year to 127,000 and the costs for HHS may approach $2 billion — twice the $868 million in the president’s UAC request.

No budget amendment has yet followed.

“A $1.1 billion gap that needs to be addressed based on the tremendous humanitarian need,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) at a May Senate hearing — weeks after the April meeting. In the same forum, Mikulski, a former social worker, didn’t hide her exasperation with HHS witnesses.

“We don’t want to warehouse them. We try to put them in foster care,” she said of the children. “Our failure to appropriate could exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. I need numbers.”

“Tell me what you need, and don’t stick us with the bill at the end. I feel you are not telling me what you need. I really don’t feel that HHS is telling me what you need.”

Even liberal Mikulski is disgusted with White House tactics. They hid the growing crisis from Congress for as long as they could, have shown no leadership in telling Congress how much they need to deal with the problem, and then ended up lowballing the costs anyway to game the budget process in order to allow other Obama pet projects to get funded.

Mikulski’s idea to provide foster care for the children is ludicrous. We don’t have the funding or willing foster parents to take care of American children. And now she wants to dump 60,000 kids on an already broken system? Spoken like a true social worker.

The problem isn’t “poverty and violence” in Central America. I’m sure it’s horrible, but there has been violence and poverty in those countries for a long time. There’s no getting around the fact that the administration has encouraged this invasion by hinting that children would be allowed to stay if they came here. Even if they didn’t specifically say that, authorities in Central America strongly hinted at it themselves.

There’s plenty of blame to spread around for the situation on our borders, and not much in the way of accepting responsibility to solve the crisis.

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Was Dinesh D’Souza’s Book Banned from the New York Times Bestseller List?

Saturday, June 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Washington Examiner is charging the New York Times with an insidious form of censorship.

According to this article, Dinesh D’Souza’s new book — America: Imagine a World Without Her has been banished from the Times bestseller list despite the fact it would rank #8 in sales.

The way the Times calculates sales and assigns rankings for new books is a closely guarded secret. But the facts strongly suggest an element of bias in the Times‘ refusal to include D’Souza’s book on its influential non-fiction bestseller list.

The Washington Examiner reports:

His new book, on sale for three weeks, isn’t just absent from the top 10 lists already set for the next two Sundays, but totally missing from the list of the nation’s top 25 nonfiction hardcovers despite having sales higher than 13 on the latest Times chart.

According to sales reports provided to Secrets, D’Souza’s new book America: Imagine a World Without Her, sold 4,915 in the first week and 5,592 in the second week. Had it been included on the upcoming June 22 Times hardcover nonfiction list, it would have ranked No. 8, and then No. 11 on the June 29 list that puts Clinton’s sales at 85,721. The lists are widely circulated in the publishing industry before they go public.

The Times is somewhat mysterious in how it calculates its list, but it includes several books selling well under 3,000 copies in a week. A spokeswoman said, “We let the rankings speak for themselves and are confident they are accurate.”

America is expected to explode when the accompanying movie debuts next month. In America, D’Sousa slams Obama’s agenda and targets Clinton too — maybe one reason the Times hasn’t recognized it.

“They are part of the propaganda arm of the Obama administration,” D’Souza told Secrets from Philadelphia, where his book and movie bus tour had stopped before traveling to Washington on Friday. His Obama’s America was a Times No. 1 best-seller.

“It’s their newspaper, and they have a right to rig their list anyway they want, but if they are doing it, people should know,” he said.

D’Souza, who last month pleaded guilty to one criminal count of making illegal contributions in the names of others, said the list is important to boosting sales. “It matters to be on it,” he said.

But to ignore his latest best seller, he said, “the Times is falling short of its journalistic and editorial responsibilities in a much a bigger way than keeping me off the list.”

The fact that D’Souza has already had a #1 bestseller on the list also suggests bias is at work. It’s not like D’Souza is some rookie author being published by an obscure house. Regnery Publishing regularly has top-selling titles and D’Souza has been a successful author for a couple of decades.

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Democratic Donor Bans Free Beacon from Clinton Papers

Thursday, June 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

As the liberal media mounts major assaults on the record and character of potential Republican presidential candidates, Democrats are circling the wagons in order to protect Hillary Clinton — and stifling free inquiry in the process.

The Washington Free Beacon has combed through the archives of President Clinton’s papers at the University of Arkansas and come up with several scoops in the last few months that have reflected badly on the former secretary of state.

On Tuesday, the dean of the library — a contributor to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign — informed the conservative publication that they were barred from further study of the Clinton papers because they failed to fill out a form.

Library dean Carolyn Henderson Allen informed editor-in-chief Matthew Continetti in a June 17 letter that the library had “officially suspended” the Free Beacon‘s research privileges.

The Free Beacon published the Hillary Papers, drawn from the archive of the late Clinton confidante Diane Blair, in February. Those papers are also housed in the special collections at the University of Arkansas.

“I am writing you to direct you and the Washington Beacon Press to cease and desist your ongoing violation of the intellectual property rights of the University of Arkansas with regard to your unauthorized publication of audio recordings obtained from the Roy Reed Collection,” wrote Allen.

According to Allen, who contributed $500 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2007, the Free Beacon violated library rules by failing to submit a form requesting permission to publish the materials.

Allen called on the news outlet to “immediately remove the audio recordings of the Roy Reed Collection from your website” and “immediately return all audio recordings obtained from the Roy Reed Collection previously provided to you.”

The Clinton donor also expressed deep disappointment with the Free Beacon.

“I am very disappointed in your willful failure to comply with the policies of Special Collections,” she wrote.

“The University of Arkansas takes great pride in making materials, such as the Roy Reed Collection, available to researchers from around the world. The University, however, does not tolerate the blatant and willful disregard of its intellectual property rights and policies.”

Allen said the university would consider lifting the suspension if the Free Beacon complied with all its demands to remove the materials from its website.

The tapes in question include an interview that dealt with Clinton’s defense of a child rapist in the 1970′s. She laughed about the way she got him off with time served.

Mark Hemingway at the Weekly Standard reminds us of Stanley Kurtz’s quest to go through the papers and records of Barack Obama at the University of Chicago. He links to a Kurtz post at NRO explaining his difficulties:

This much we know from the public record, but a large cache of documents housed in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), is likely to flesh out the story. That document cache contains the internal files of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The records in question are extensive, consisting of 132 boxes, containing 947 file folders, a total of about 70 linear feet of material. Not only would these files illuminate the working relationship between Obama and Bill Ayers, they would also provide significant insight into a web of ties linking Obama to various radical organizations, including Obama-approved foundation gifts to political allies. Obama’s leadership style and abilities are also sure to be illuminated by the documents in question.

Unfortunately, I don’t yet have access to the documents. The Special Collections section of the Richard J. Daley Library agreed to let me read them, but just before I boarded my flight to Chicago, the top library officials mysteriously intervened to bar access

Meanwhile, Scott Walker is only the latest potential GOP presidential candidate to become a target of vicious hit pieces by liberal media. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and Rick Perry have all found themselves with a bulls eye on their chest, with precious little done to prevent the onslaught.

No doubt Hillary’s team are frantically going through those papers as this is being written, hoping to scrub anything that could be used against her, as Obama’s handlers have already done.

Anything revealing in those two collections will be gone by the time 2016 ends.

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Oh, My. Did Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer Really Say That?

Thursday, June 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Aaron Blake’s headline for his Washington Post column on remarks made by former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer sums it up nicely: “The Brian Schweitzer presidential speculation was fun while it lasted.”

Those Democrats looking for an alternative to Hillary Clinton are going to have to turn over a few more rocks and rotten logs; Schweitzer’s national ambitions disappeared as quickly as you could say “men in the South, they are a little effeminate.”

Schweitzer got a golden opportunity to show off for major media when the prestigious National Journal sat down with him to write a lengthy profile.

What came out of the former governor’s mouth is simply beyond belief:

In the piece, Schweitzer shared his perceptions on Cantor’s sexuality while discussing the Virginia Republican’s shocking loss last week against an unknown primary candidate.

“If you were just a regular person, you turned on the TV, and you saw Eric Cantor talking, I would say—and I’m fine with gay people, that’s all right—but my gaydar is 60-70 percent,” Schweitzer said in the interview.

“Don’t hold this against me, but I’m going to blurt it out. How do I say this … men in the South, they are a little effeminate,” he said. “They just have effeminate mannerisms.”

Cantor, who represents central Virginia and is outgoing House Majority Leader, has been married to his wife for 25 years and has three children.

[...]

Also in the interview, Schweitzer compares fellow Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic senator from California who chairs the Intelligence Committee, to a prostitute.

“She was the woman who was standing under the streetlight with her dress pulled all the way up over her knees,” he said about Feinstein’s position on intelligence gathering. “And now she says, ‘I’m a nun,’ when it comes to this spying. I mean, maybe that’s the wrong metaphor — but she was all in!”

Democratic strategist Ben LaBolt, who was also President Barack Obama’s national press secretary for his 2012 re-election campaign, said Schweitzer’s comments will have consequences, “largely disqualifying” him from presidential run.

“This time the loose cannon was aimed back at the ship,” he said.

Schweitzer always reminded me of a Prairie Populist — indeed, the liberal American Prospect website identified him as such in a profile during his first term as governor. A liberal on economic issues, a conservative on some social issues, his personal style mixes bombast with western grit and country charm which proved enormously attractive to Montana voters. Some “Third Way” Democrats — those few who are left — eyed Schweitzer as a possible alternative to the polarizing Hillary Clinton.

But it was always a pipe dream. If Hillary Clinton weren’t a woman, she would be dismissed outright by the far left in her own party. Schweitzer is far to the right of Clinton and would be relentlessly attacked for many of his positions.

Since it is the radicals who are in charge of the Democrats at the moment, Schweitzer would have been out before he got in — even if he had never made those idiotic statements to the National Journal. The fact is, Hillary Clinton gives them the best chance to remain in power and they will swallow hard and support her, hoping to radicalize her agenda once she’s safely in the White House.

Schweitzer was fond of making the analogy, “If he stays longer than 24 hours in Washington, D.C., he takes a bath in tomato juice when he gets home — the classic home remedy for the stench of skunk spray.”

Who’s the stinky one now, gov?

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‘Saudi Dakota’ Tops One Million Barrels a Day in Oil Production

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

It is the most remarkable economic story of our time and it comes in the midst of the Obama economy’s miserable performance.

The United States of America leads the world again in petroleum production, which includes crude oil, natural gas, and other liquids. We’re number 3 in crude oil production behind Russia and Saudi Arabia and the Financial Times notes that we will eventually surpass both countries and become the leading producer of crude oil in the world.

Four decades of declining oil production has been reversed in just the last 5 years.

Petroleum production, including crude oil and related liquids, known as condensate, and natural gas liquids (NGLs) such as ethane, was 11.27m barrels per day in April, almost equalling the peak of 11.3m b/d reached as an average for 1970. Recent growth rates suggest that it has now exceeded that figure.

The composition of US production today is not the same as in the early 1970s, in that it has a higher proportion of NGLs, which have a lower energy content and value than crude oil. Crude production of 8.3m b/d in April was still well short of its record high of 10m b/d in November 1970.

Even so, the rebound in US output has refuted claims that it was in irreversible long-term decline. Forecasts from the US Energy Information Administration suggest that crude production will also come close to its 1970 peak in the next few years.

The US is already the world’s largest producer of oil and gas, taken together, and is one of the top three in terms of oil alone, alongside Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The US boom is in sharp contrast to oil production elsewhere in the world, which is constrained by decline in mature areas such as the North Sea and political and security issues in countries such as Iraq and Syria. UK oil production has continued a steep decline in recent years, falling by more than two-thirds from its high point of just under 3m b/d in 1999.

New technologies like fracking and the high cost of oil have allowed us to get at reserves previously unavailable. And leading the way is the American entrepreneur:

The US oil industry has been transformed by the innovations of smaller independent companies that pioneered the development of shale oil in the Bakken formation of North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in south Texas.

Advances in the techniques of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have made it possible to extract previously inaccessible resources, and high oil prices made it commercially attractive.

One expert believes the US could hit 20 million bpd by 2020.

The growth in production in North Dakota has been phenomenal. The US Geological Survey keeps raising the estimate of proven, retrievable reserves in the Bakken Formation. It currently stands at about 8 billion bbl but with the technology to extract it improving by leaps and bounds, no one can guess how much of the estimated 80 billion bbl in the 220,000 square mile expanse of the Formation will actually be recovered.

In April, North Dakota surpassed the milestone of averaging 1 million bpd. The state has seen its oil production increase twelve-fold over the last decade from only 83,233 bpd in April 2004 to 1,001,149 bpd in April this year.

AEI:

1) In April, the state’s average daily oil production increased by 26.1% compared to a year earlier, which was the largest year-over-year gain in three months. Remarkably, in only the last 30 months, oil production in North Dakota has almost doubled from 510,534 bpd in November of 2011 to more than one million bpd in April.

2) For the fifth month since last summer North Dakota produced more than 12% of all US oil in April. In November 2009, North Dakota’s oil production represented only 4.5% of total US crude output. Due to the phenomenal growth of oil output in the shale-rich Bakken fields, North Dakota’s share of US crude production has gradually increased, and is now consistently above 12%.

3) In dollar terms, the oil produced in North Dakota in April had a daily market value of more than $102 million at the average oil price of $102.07 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil during the month. For the entire month of April, that would put the market value of North Dakota oil at more than $3 billion, setting a new all-time record for the dollar value of the state’s monthly oil output.

4) The Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota produced more than 937,000 bpd in April for the first time ever (see brown line in chart), and a new all-time monthly output record of 937,263 bpd was established, which also represented a new record-high 93.6% of the state’s monthly oil production. In contrast, the Bakken region produced less than 9% of the state’s oil output at the beginning of 2007, before breakthrough drilling techniques (hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling) were able to tap into a bonanza of unconventional oil in the shale-rich areas of western North Dakota. At the current pace, production in the Bakken oil field is on track to surpass the million bpd milestone by July or August of this year and join an elite group of only ten super-giant oil fields worldwide that have ever produced at the million barrel level at their peak daily production.

It should go without saying that the government is not picking winners and losers in the Bakken oil fields. No wildcatter is getting a subsidy from the energy department. They do receive the normal tax deductions on equipment and expenses — but the government isn’t deciding who gets them.

You will note that the president has been mum about this miracle. He would look awfully silly if he bragged and took credit for the increase in oil production when he is making war on a by-product of petroleum — carbon dioxide.

But Republicans should be touting this achievement to the skies. Innovation, daring, risk taking, and success via hard work is not dead in America, as much as the liberals have tried to kill it. And North Dakota is reaping the benefits:

The shale boom continues to make the Peace Garden State America’s most economically successful state – with growth in employment and personal income that lead the nation, the lowest state jobless rate in the country at 2.6% in April (and the lowest monthly jobless rate in North Dakota history), an enviable and whopping state budget surplus approaching $2 billion, the highest state GDP growth in 2013 of 9.7%, strong housing and construction markets (almost 9,000 permits were issued last year which is an all-time record and more than 3 times the permits issued four years ago in 2009), thousands of landowners who have become millionaires from oil and gas royalties (estimated oil royalty payments of more than $20 million every day in April, at 20% of the approximately $102 million in market value calculated above; and an estimated additional $700,000 in payments every day for natural gas royalties), and jobless rates in 17 of the state’s 53 counties at 2.5% or lower in August (with Williams County at only 0.90%, the lowest county jobless rate in America).

There are some naysayers who believe that the boom can’t last, that fracking is doomed, that the fields will age quickly, or that there just isn’t the amount of reserves that some geologists are claiming. We’ll see. Meanwhile, in dismal economic times, North Dakota’s success story points the way to a brighter energy future.

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Where in the World Are the Taliban 5?

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You will recall in the Bergdahl swap, we gave the Taliban 5 of their commanders back for the return of the Wandering American, Bowe Bergdahl. You might also remember the White House assuring us that the Qatar security services would keep close tabs on the 5 Taliban terrorists since they were not allowed to leave that country for a year.

Josh Rogin, foreign correspondent for the Daily Beast, was in Doha, Qatar for another one of those endless conferences on Muslim relations with the west and decided to “justify taking four days to schmooze in the Gulf by bringing home a big catch; I would find the Taliban Five or their luxury Doha compound and pose some questions to them, whether they were happy to see me or not.”

Rogin was the reporter who caught Secretary of State John Kerry’s off the cuff remarks about Israel turning into an “apartheid state” by infiltrating a meeting of the Trilateral Commission. The retiring sort he is not. So, with his trusty notebook and pen, Rogin set off to find the Taliban 5. After following several false leads, he engaged a taxi driver and the hunt was on:

After lightly interrogating a couple of the delivery boys at Afghan Brothers, we realized we had hit a dead end. None of the restaurant staff we met were Afghan and none had remembered selling food to any Afghans in the area, much less the five Afghans we were hunting.

We drove around the neighborhood searching for signs of a compound like no other. A robust police presence or elaborate surveillance cameras, for example, might signal the place where five high level Taliban officials were holed up. While we were cruising al-Muaither, we planned out what to ask the Taliban Five, if we found them, considering it would likely be a very short ambush style interview.

“Do you support Hillary Clinton for President,” was one idea tossed around. If they said yes, that would be big news.

“What word makes you laugh?” we thought might be a way to humanize these often-demonized figures.

After about an hour of peering into random compounds, we owned up to the futility of that tactic, but we had one more trick up our sleeve. We directed our driver to take us to the official Taliban representative office, the very same one that opened briefly in June 2013 in advance of what were to be direct U.S.-Taliban talks, but closed the same day after Hamid Karzai threw a tantrum over the embassy like sign on the front, which read “The Islamic State of Afghanistan.”

The Taliban representative office (pictured above) was not hard to find at all; it’s located in a plush residential neighborhood only 300 feet from the U.S. ambassador’s residence. The building looked like it was kept up and in use but there were no Taliban visible from the outside, only a Qatari policeman in a pillbox out front.

I got out of the car, started to approach the door, and the policeman began shouting in a language I assume was Arabic. As he was beckoning me to come over to him, I noticed my driver was slowly but surely pulling away without me, as he did not wish a confrontation with the government security services. The policeman, now yelling and shaking his fist, started to exit his pillbox and walk toward me. I snapped some photos, got into the rolling car, and we sped away.

Better luck next time, Josh. Meanwhile, where are the terrorists?

We failed to find our targets but we succeeded in having an adventure in Doha. The bottom line is that the Taliban Five aren’t likely to be found until or unless they want to be found. The U.S. is going to have to accept the fact that they simply aren’t under our supervision anymore. That’s the deal we made and they are holding us to it.

Bottom line: We don’t even know if they’re still in Qatar and it is unknown whether the Qataris know where they are.

We can assume our technical ability to follow them is pretty good. But our SIGINT people would have to be tasked with the job. Does the Obama administration want to know where they are?

Where in the world are the Taliban 5?

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What Do You Suppose ISIS is Going to Do with that $450 Million They Stole?

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

They’re the richest terrorists in the world by far and they’ve got $450 million burning a hole in their pocket, aching to spend it on terrorist activities.

You would hope they’d spend it on Girls Gone Wild videos like Osama. Maybe they’d pay for those 72 virgins while they were still on earth.

No such luck for us. With that kind of money they could recruit an army of suicide bombers, build several of the best equipped terrorist training camps in the world, and still have plenty left over to buy weapons and explosives to kill Americans by the hundreds.

There’s 450 million reasons to prevent the ascendancy of ISIS at all costs. Tony Blair explains:

The starting point is to identify the nature of the battle. It is against Islamist extremism. That is the fight. People shy away from the starkness of that statement. But it is because we are constantly looking for ways of avoiding facing up to this issue, that we can’t make progress in the battle.

Of course in every case, there are reasons of history and tribe and territory which add layers of complexity. Of course, too, as I said at the outset, bad governance has played a baleful role in exacerbating the challenges. But all those problems become infinitely tougher to resolve, when religious extremism overlays everything. Then unity in a nation is impossible. Stability is impossible. Therefore progress is impossible. Government ceases to build for the future and manages each day as it can. Division tears apart cohesion. Hatred replaces hope.

We have to unite with those in the Muslim world, who agree with this analysis to fight the extremism. Parts of the Western media are missing a critical new element in the Middle East today. There are people – many of them – in the region who now understand this is the battle and are prepared to wage it. We have to stand with them.

Repressive systems of Government have played their part in the breeding of the extremism. A return to the past for the Middle East is neither right nor feasible. On the contrary there has to be change and there will be. However, we have to have a more graduated approach, which tries to help change happen without the chaos.

We were naïve about the Arab uprisings which began in 2011. Evolution is preferable to revolution. I said this at the time, precisely because of what we learnt from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sometimes evolution is not possible. But where we can, we should be helping countries make steady progress towards change. We should be actively trying to encourage and help the reform process and using the full weight of the international community to do so.

Where there has been revolution, we have to be clear we will not support systems or Governments based on sectarian religious politics.

At bottom, it matters because the terrorists are animated by as deadly an ideology as the world has seen. It is the combination of the supernatural with the Nazi notion of cultural superiority that makes radical Islam such a threat. Four hundred and fifty million dollars buys a lot of belief. Every success proves that Allah is on their side and what they’re doing pleases him. This is a powerful tonic for the ignorant, superstitious tribesmen from which ISIS draws its recruits.

The Maliki government may yet recover and push back the terrorists. But they already control thousands of square miles of territory in Syria and Iraq. It will take a full scale war to destroy them — a war that, realistically, only the west can fight. Since no one wants to take the terrorists on with ground troops, it will be up to drones with the occasional air strike that will constitute our counterterrorism efforts. We’ve seen how well that’s worked out in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

That $450 million (plus an unknown amount of gold bullion) is probably already circulating in the international financial markets. It’s invested in government bonds, real estate, perhaps even mortgage securities. The financial sophistication of today’s terrorists is astonishing as they are expert at hiding their funding networks from the prying eyes of government.

Return on investment is not as important as what the terrorists are going to spend that loot on.

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From Ghoulies, Ghosties, Long-Legged Beasties, and Romney Presidential Campaigns, Good Lord Deliver Us

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The title of this post is a slightly altered Scottish prayer, employed by frazzled parents no doubt, seeking to scare their children into good behavior.

This one is to be employed by Republicans with more than two brain cells working who fear another Romney presidential campaign.

Mitt Romney as Republican elder statesman, I don’t mind. The silver hair, square jaw, dignified bearing — perfectly cast as an old, wise man of the GOP. But Mitt Romney running for president a third time? The gag reflex is immediately activated and I frantically look around for a handy paper bag.

No way. There’s just no way, right?

Mitt Romney’s ideas summit here was intended to be a passing of the torch to the Republican Party’s would-be saviors, with five potential 2016 presidential candidates jetting in to schmooze with many of the GOP’s biggest donors and present their agendas for the country’s future.

Instead, the scene at a luxury resort in the Rocky Mountains quickly became a Romney revival. Minutes after the 2012 Republican presidential nominee welcomed his 300 guests, Joe Scarborough, the MSNBC host and former GOP congressman, urged them to begin a “Draft Romney” movement in 2016.

“This is the only person that can fill the stage,” Scarborough said at the opening-night private dinner, according to attendees.

The Republican elite rose early Friday morning to go skeet shooting with possible 2016 hopeful Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.). Then, over breakfast, they questioned Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), another potential candidate, about how he thinks he could defeat the expected Democratic front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Yet in hallway chats and over cocktails, they’ve been abuzz about recruiting someone else — Romney — into his third presidential race.

“Everybody realizes we’re devoid of leadership in D.C.,” said Harold Hamm, a billionaire energy investor who was one of Romney’s biggest fundraisers in 2012. “Everybody would encourage him to consider it again.”

Former Utah governor Michael Leavitt, a Romney confidant, told reporters, “I’d be for it, but it’s not my decision.” And George P. Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, said of Romney in his talk here, “I wish we could call him Mr. President.”

Don’t get me wrong. Mitt Romney is a very nice fellow. If I were to go into business, he’d be my first choice as partner. Honest, trustworthy, plus he knows how to make money.

But voters have spoken twice about their feelings toward Romney and frankly, it’s not flattering. Republican voters preferred John McCain to him while America preferred Barack Obama. I leave it to the reader’s perspicacity to describe the comparative weaknesses of both those candidates, which doesn’t reflect well on Mr. Romney’s electability, or even likability, as a GOP standard bearer.

So why the piqued interest among Republican whales?

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Dems Tweet ‘Happy Flag Day’: But Which Flag are they Honoring?

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I guess to some Democrats, a flag is a flag no matter what country it represents.

Except that yesterday was Flag Day and you’re supposed to fly the, um, American flag — usually. For most us.

Then why did the Democratic Party send out a tweet wishing us all a “Happy Flag Day” with a picture of a cute little kid wrapped in flag of unknown origin (my guess is Puerto Rico)?

The tweet has been up nearly 24 hours so we must assume either the Democrats are too afraid to take it down or were actually trying to make some obscure point about Flag Day being about all flags, not just the American flag. Some of the tweets in response to the picture are priceless:

 

 

 

Perhaps you recall that pic from an Obama campaign office in Texas that showed a Cuban flag with a likeness of Che on it:

2-01

What is it about the flag that vexes Democrats so? I suppose their idea of patriotism is different than conservatives, but when you can’t be bothered to get it right — or not care if you’re wrong — on Flag Day of all days, what else are people supposed to think except many Democrats have no respect for the symbols that the rest of us honor and cherish?

This is beyond embarrassment. When the “Official Twitter Account” of the Democratic Party refuses to take down the offensive tweet and apologize for disrespecting the flag so, questions about arrogance and out of touch elitism must be asked.

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In Iraq, Truth Not the Coin of the Realm

Saturday, June 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

We’ve got a new Baghdad Bob and his name is Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta.

General Atta addressed the media on Saturday and was channeling Kevin Bacon from Animal House when he urged everyone to remain calm, everything was under control.

Iraq’s military claimed Saturday that it had regained key northern territories from extremist Sunni Muslim militants and asserted it remained strong and capable against the radicals who have suddenly destabilized the country, a military spokesman said.

Most of Salaheddin province has beenreturned to the control of Iraqi military, and security forces also took back territory on the edges of Nineveh province, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta said.

But his account conflicted with security officials in Baghdad and Samarra who told CNN that 60% to 70% of Salaheddin province remains in control of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the extreme Sunni group. It also controls an oil refinery in Baiji, officials said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush into the Persian Gulf from the North Arabian Sea.

The order gives U.S. President Barack Obama “additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement Saturday.

As world concern grows about whether the extremists will march through the northern provinces to take over Baghdad, Atta asserted Saturday that Iraqi troops along with volunteer fighters now control several towns north of the capital: Ishaqi, Balad and al Dulwayiha.

“We emphasize that the circulation and incitement of rumors should be prohibited. This is the means which terrorists use to weaken the morale of soldiers and civilians,” said Atta, who also accused the media of false reporting.

Atta said the capital was safe Saturday.

“The security situation in Baghdad is completely stable.” Atta said. “The situation in Samarra is completely stable, and the troops are prepared for any terrorist plans.”

But conflicting reports emerged Saturday concerning security in the town of al-Dhuluiya, in Salaheddin province, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of the Iraqi capital.

Government officials and state TV said Saturday that Iraqi security forces had taken control of the town, but security officials in nearby Samarra and witnesses there told CNN that the town is still under ISIS control.

Samarra is significant to Iraq’s Shiites for its al-Askari shrine, and the Sunnis of ISIS have threatened to destroy any shrine they deem un-Islamic.

You can hardly blame them for lying. In addition to an army ready to flee when pressed, tens of thousands of new, green, raw recruits who appear to be long on enthusiasm and patriotic fervor but a little short in the training department, have entered the ranks. Basically, they are targets for ISIS guns and will no doubt die heroically.

But these ISIS fighters have been blooded against the Syrian army and Hezbollah for the last two years and aren’t intimidated even if they’re severely outnumbered as they were in Mosul. While it is difficult to get confirmation about what progress either side is making, the terrorists aren’t going in front of the media bragging about how well they’re doing.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the UAE where he lives with his family, Baghdad Bob is no doubt allowing himself a smile if he hears General Atta making a fool of himself before the world press.

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Rand Paul on Iraq: ‘Would Not Rule Out Air Strikes’

Saturday, June 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Rand Paul is in Iowa this weekend to speak at the Republican State Convention. Also making an appearance were former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

Paul told the 1400 delegates that the GOP needs to nominate a different kind of Republican in order to win in 2016:

“You guys have a strong force here but frankly the president won Iowa twice so we can’t do the same old same old,” the Kentucky senator told the Iowa Republican state convention here. “The definition of insanity is thinking the same thing will get you different results.”

Paul said he wants Republicans “to be the dominant party again,” and noted that he’s been spending time in African-American areas and on college campuses trying to broaden the base. He said talking about the drug war and his emphasis on privacy resonates.

The likely 2016 candidate spent most of his 20-minute speech throwing red meat to the about 1,300 delegates at Hy-Vee Hall.

“There are people who say we need to be more moderate,” he said. “I couldn’t disagree more.”

“I think the core of our message: we can be even more bold,” he added. “When Ronald Reagan won a landslide, he ran unabashedly … that’s what we need … It isn’t about being tepid.”

In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Paul nixed the idea of sending ground troops to Iraq but said he wouldn’t rule out airstrikes to assist the Iraqi government in fighting off the terrorists moving toward Baghdad:

Q. What do you think about the prospect of American ground troops invading Iraq again?

A. I think it’s a mistake to put ground troops into Iraq and the main reason is that people need to reason that the people that are taking over large swaths of Iraq are now allied with the people who we were helping in Syria. So in one war, the Syrian war, we’re supporting Sunnis as well as Sunni radicals that are trying to overthrow Shiites. In Iraq, we’re now supporting the Shiites against the same Sunnis that really are fighting on both sides of the border. ISIS is a group that’s been involved in both countries. I think when we go to war, we should go to war as a last resort. We go to war when it’s clear-cut enough that you’re going to tell my son or your son that they know exactly what it is that we’re fighting for. I think it’s confusing to our GIs to ask them to be killing people in one country that they’re aiding in another country.

Q. Can you see a time when you would think it was a good idea for air strikes or to send in ground troops?

A. Yeah, I’m mostly talking about ground troops. I think that we have aided the Iraqi government for a long time, I’m not opposed to continuing to help them with arms. I would not rule out air strikes. But I would say, after 10 years, it is appalling that they are stripping their uniforms off and running. And it concerns me that we would have to do their fighting for them because they won’t fight for their own country, their own cities. I am thinking that it is time that they step up.

Paul thinks Hillary Clinton is going to have a tough time with the foreign policy issue, given her handling of Benghazi especially:

You know, I think what you’ll find is that Hillary Clinton’s going to have a lot of questions to answer. Not only about this but, her recent comments that the Taliban is not a danger to Americans, her handling of Benghazi or lack thereof, her telling me in committee that she didn’t read any of the cable from the ambassador requesting more security. She has a lot of things that are really significant obstacles for her to really convince people that she can be commander in chief. … There’s going to be a litany of foreign policy failures that she’s going to have to overcome. I think the biggest thing for someone who wants to be commander in chief is that the American public needs to believe that you’ll defend the country, you’ll defend the troops, and you’ll send reinforcements.”

Paul has his own problems with mainstream Republicans about his foreign policy ideas, but appears to be making an effort to clarify his non-interventionist stance. Air strikes can by no means be considered “non-interventionist” so the fact that he would consider them in this situation suggests he’s trying to mollify those in the party worried that he may be too much of an isolationist.

Paul has high favorables in Iowa, but it is perhaps indicative of the ideological tenor of the state that the two candidates that Iowa Republicans believe would do best against the Democrats in 2016 are New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

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2013 Treasury IG Report May Hint What Was in Destroyed Lerner Emails

Saturday, June 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A cottage industry grew up following the revelation that Rosemary Woods, Richard Nixon’s secretary, performed feats of contortionism worthy of Barnum and Bailey in order to “accidentally” erase 18 1/2 minutes of a June 20, 1972, tape that most experts agree contained a conversation between the president and Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman discussing Watergate.

Here is Woods demonstrating her act:

1-7

Perhaps some day we’ll have a similar photo of how Lois Lerner “accidentally” crashed her computer to erase nearly two years of emails.

To this day, we don’t know what those missing 18 1/2 minutes contained. Oliver Stone in Nixon used the tape gap to try to link him to the JFK assassination. Many Watergate experts think since other meetings Nixon had during the day referred to the FBI, that Nixon may have told Haldeman specifically to tell the FBI to back off and halt the investigation so that it led only to the original conspirators.

Will the missing Lerner emails suffer a similar fate?

Alan Joel at Tax Politix ferreted out an interesting tidbit of information. He recalled the Treasury Department Inspector General report from last year; and, sure enough, the IG used numerous email sources to develop a timeline of IRS targeting activity.

The period of missing emails from Lerner is January 2009 to April 2011. Here’s the IG timeline covering that time period (“Appendix VII, Comprehensive Timeline of Events”).

Some of the events in the missing email time period are quite significant. Senator Durbin’s letter asking the IRS to investigate Crossroads GPS and other groups was written in October 2010. The actual targeting of conservative groups began in March of 2010. Lerner’s own involvement in the targeting begins shortly after the missing period (June 2011), which makes you wonder what she might have known prior to that time.

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Honduran President: Illegal Kids Have a ‘Complete Right’ to be With Their Illegal Parents

Saturday, June 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Thank you, President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras, for reforming our immigration laws all by yourself. But we can take it from here.

Hernandez  believes that the US should treat the tidal wave of illegal children from his country who are crossing the border into the US “with the utmost care from the humanitarian perspective,” but don’t bother sending them back here because they have a “complete right” to find their illegal alien parents.

We’d be happy to treat the children in a sensitive and humane way. How much is Honduras planning to pay for their care and upkeep?

Just kidding, of course. We should probably just deduct a suitable amount from any aid we give them and apply it toward caring for the children. And the idea we would treat those children in any other way but humanely is an insult to the American people and government.

But “humane” treatment does not include facilitating their law breaking. And if their parents come to claim them, all the better. Then the reunited family can all be returned to Honduras, where I’m sure President Hernandez  will welcome them with open arms.

Frankly, I don’t understand this, except in the context that the illegal kids are better off making a 2,000 mile journey by themselves through cartel country, and bandit country, while dodging the Mexican authorities, and then crossing the border where they are just as apt to die in the desert as they are to be reunited with their illegal parents.

A real humanitarian, that guy Hernandez.

Fusion reports:

The unprecedented rise in Honduran children fleeing to the U.S. is due to misinformation about American immigration laws and drug violence, the president of Honduras told Fusion on Friday.

“They might think they can gain legal status through this,” said President Juan Orlando Hernandez. “But on the other hand, this is a kind of displacement, because of the cartel wars and the Maras [gangs] in Central America.”

Speaking after an event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., Hernandez implored the American government to do more to combat drug trafficking in Honduras, saying that “for us, it’s an issue of life and death.”

The number of young migrants crossing into the U.S. illegally has risen exponentially in recent years. In particular, more children are crossing without a parent or guardian.

President Obama has called the influx of children an “urgent humanitarian situation” and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been tasked with coordinating federal efforts to house and care for minors in federal custody.

Still, the administration has stressed that children who enter the country illegally will be subject to immigration law and, potentially, deportation.

Mark Greenberg, the acting assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS), which eventually takes custody of children apprehended at the border, explained the process at a press briefing on Thursday.

“Our duty is to get the child to a sponsor,” he said. “While they are with the sponsor, they are still fully subject to removal proceedings. And the sponsors have an obligation to cooperate with getting children to the proceedings, to cooperate in the removal process and to report to DHS and to the Justice Department if there’s a change in address.”

The administration has been unclear about what happens when undocumented parents living in the U.S. attempt to claim children who have been apprehended by federal authorities.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Thursday that HHS is, “required under the law to act pursuant to the best interest of the child.”

Well, that seals it. Those kids and their parents are here to stay. Just when has this administration ever done what was “required under the law” as it pertains to immigration? And surely in this case, that requirement will be to reunite the kids with their parents while looking the other way at their legal status.

I am all for doing whatever is possible to treat these children with compassion and humanity. But allowing them to stay here will only open the floodgates wider. If we return these tens of thousands of kids to where they came from, word is bound to get around to even the most backward hovel in Central America that the “misinformation” about kids getting to stay in America legally will be debunked.

And the president of Honduras can take responsibility for repatriating his own citizens who were “misinformed” in the first place.

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‘We Told Ya So,’ on Iraq Says GOP

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Easy political pickings for Republicans on the Iraq fiasco as several GOP lawmakers are criticizing the Obama administration for cutting and running.

Politico reports:

Sen. John McCain said Thursday that President Barack Obama’s entire national security team should resign over the resurgence of Islamic militants in Iraq.

“Everybody in his national security team, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ought to be replaced,” the Arizona Republican told reporters ahead of a classified Senate Armed Services Committee briefing on the deteriorating situation in Iraq. “It’s a colossal failure of American security policy.”

The Sunni militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, vowed Thursday to march into Baghdad after overrunning Iraq’s government forces in Tikrit and Mosul.

(Also on POLITICO: Officials to brief Senate panel on Iraq)

The offensive is sparking a wave of Republican criticism over Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2011 — and concerns that the U.S. gains in the Iraq war were about to completely evaporate.

Less than three years after the end of the U.S. war in Iraq, the Obama administration and members of Congress are now mulling whether the U.S. has to re-engage militarily in order to save the gains made during the eight-year war that saw more than 4,000 U.S. troops killed.

“There is no scenario where we can stop the bleeding in Iraq without American air power,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “It is my worst fear come true. If the president is willing to adjust his policies, I’m willing to help him.”

Inside the secure briefing room in the Capitol’s basement, lawmakers were reported to be shocked by administration briefers who said that up to four entire divisions of the Iraqi military folded in an instant — allowing insurgent troops to pour into the city of Mosul and other cities near the border with Turkey.

Who lost Iraq — if, indeed, it is lost? The war was largely won when George Bush left office. The problem then and now was the political situation. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s has spent the last decade systematically trying to exclude Sunnis and Kurds from the best jobs in civilian government and the military. The police are corrupt. Bureaucrats glory in raking in the baksheesh. The interior ministry is a nest of Iranian spies and sympathizers.

if you think the US government is dysfunctional, the Iraqi parliament makes us look like the soul of comity. In 2011, the Maliki government tried to arrest the Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, on charges of murder and terrorism. Hashimi fled and eventually made his way to Turkey where he has found asylum. The Iraqi Shias tried him in abstentia anyway and found him guilty.

In parliament, gridlock would be an improvement. Nothing ever gets done and the whole bunch of them take a 6 week vacation during the summer because of the heat.

You would think that a national crisis like the one occurring now would motivate them to do something. The vote scheduled for yesterday to grant the request by Prime Minister Maliki to give him emergency powers had to be delayed because not enough lawmakers bothered to show up to make a quorum.

President Obama can be criticized for cutting off negotiations for a new status of forces agreement prematurely. But Maliki and the Iraqi parliament stubbornly refused to change their position on giving immunity to US soldiers from Iraqi prosecution, forcing Obama’s hand. Either way, there would only have been 10,000 US soldiers in Iraq training the army and police even if a new status of forces agreement had been achieved. Would they have made a difference?

“It’s a desperate situation. It’s moving quickly. It appears to me that the chickens are coming home to roost for our policy of not leaving anybody there to be a stabilizing force,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership.

He said senators were informed of the instant “collapse of four of the 17 divisions without any apparent effort to push back.”

“Some Iraqi troops have gone to work with their uniforms on with civilian clothes under their uniforms,” Blunt said. “That’s a bad sign.”

I understand the political necessity of criticizing the president for what’s happening in Iraq. But if you’re going to blame someone for the debacle, blame Maliki. Obama didn’t freeze out Sunnis and Kurds from power and wealth for a decade. He’s not responsible for the rampant corruption that has sapped the will of civilians and soldiers to resist the Islamist onslaught. You might make the case that continued training by Americans would have improved the discipline of the army. But it wouldn’t have improved morale that was at rock bottom due to favoritism and corruption.

What Obama should be criticized is the delay in any assistance we eventually send to Iraq. Maliki has been begging for air strikes since at least March and the administration has turned a deaf ear. Now, with a serious crisis for the Iraqi government, the president will probably act.

But that crisis may not have gotten as serious as it is if we had helped months ago.

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Republicans Know What They’re Against. But What Are They For?

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Let’s face it. It’s tough being in the minority. Any ideas they have for improving the lives of Americans, or improving the performance of government, or improving the economy are ignored by the majority. “I won,” President Obama told Republicans a few days after he took office as they sought to have some input into the developing stimulus package.

And that’s the way it’s been since then. During the debate over Obamacare, the president and Democrats continuously told the lie that his plan had to be passed because the Republicans had no ideas of their own. Not only were there a dozen substitute health insurance reform bills offered by various Republicans, there was the only real attempt at bipartisan reform in the Wyden-Bennett Act. From there, GOP complaints about elements in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill were brushed aside as were Republican ideas on taxes, the budget, and the deficit.

In short, any attempt at implementing Republican ideas has been thoroughly and completely scuttled by the Democrats. They might have argued that these are bad ideas, or that we disagree with these ideas, but that wasn’t the way it went. Instead, Democrats substituted childish name-calling and bomb-throwing, accusing Republicans of being “terrorists, or “extremists,” or just plain evil. Rarely, if ever, was there a debate on the merits of GOP proposals. In fact, Democrats refused to debate anything at all.

Given these circumstances, is it a surprise that Republicans find themselves opposing just about everything President Obama and the Democrats put forward? You can hardly expect Republicans to abandon their principles and vote for noxious legislation like Obamacare, financial regulatory reform, and immigration reform. The guts of all those bills are antithetical to conservatives, and the GOP could no more support those bills than liberals could have supported a totally free market approach to health insurance reform.

But lost in the genuine and principled — for the most part — opposition to President Obama’s policies is the notion that by proving to the voter what they are against, what they are for gets lost in the shuffle.

Tied up in the policy of the matter are the political calculations that go into winning an election. Karen Tumulty at the Washington Post summarizes the GOP’s dilemma:

A quiet argument is boiling within the party over whether it should offer voters an agenda that shows what Republicans would accomplish if they are returned to power or whether it should simply ride an anti-Democratic tide into the November election.

Some, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), worry that proposing a set of detailed policy alternatives is taking an unnecessary risk when so much else is going the right way for Republicans. Putting forward an agenda can inflame differences within the party and give opponents targets to shoot.

That in part was what sank Cantor, who was faulted by the tea party as too accommodating.

The Virginia Republican drew especially intense fire for advocating a GOP version of the Dream Act, which would enable some illegal immigrants who entered the country as children to qualify for in-state college tuition rates.

Standing in opposition may be a good electoral strategy at a moment when the president and his party are politically weak, and when most of the key battles on the political map are being fought in conservative territory.

There also is the reality that President Obama will remain in the White House for the next two years, using his veto power to make sure that Republicans cannot keep whatever promises they make.

But a no-on-everything stance provides little to begin laying a premise for the presidential election of 2016.

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Why Did the IRS Give the FBI 1.1 Million Pages of Taxpayer Info from Non-Profits?

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

And why did they wait a year after Congress requested the information to tell them about it?

Sounds “smidgeony” to me, Mr. President.

Politico reports:

The IRS acknowledged that some non-public taxpayer information was shared in the documents but said a tiny fraction of the data at issue was “inadvertently” shared.

Shucks, why didn’t you tell us it was “inadvertent”? So, what tiny fraction of the data was shared?

During the course of its probe into the IRS tea party targeting scandal, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said it learned the tax agency sent 1.1 million pages of tax return data about 501(c)(4) organizations to the FBI just before the 2010 midterms, Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wrote in a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

The IRS responded that it identified issues with 33 tax returns out of more than 12,000 that included confidential taxpayer information. The majority of those groups “do not appear to have any connection to political activity,” the IRS said.

The two Republicans said they are “extremely troubled by this new information, and by the fact that the IRS has withheld it from the Committee for over a year,” noting that despite two subpoenas the IRS has not “produced material relating to these 21 disks and all associated information.”

Such (c)4 groups, also known as social welfare organizations, are organized under a section of the tax law that lets them engage in a limited amount of political activity

I’m still not feeling it. The IRS says it sent 33 tax returns out of 12,000 inadvertently to the FBI. All Tea Party groups or not? Right before the 2010 mid terms?

Are there any dots to connect?

The information was transmitted in advance of former IRS official Lois Lerner’s meeting the same month with Justice Department officials about the possibility of using campaign-finance laws to prosecute certain nonprofit groups. E-mails between Lerner and Richard Pilger, the director of the Justice Department’s election-crimes branch, obtained through a subpoena to Attorney General Eric Holder, show Lerner asking about the format in which the FBI preferred the data to be sent.

“This revelation that the IRS sent 1.1 million pages of nonprofit tax-return data — including confidential taxpayer information — to the FBI confirms suspicions that the IRS worked with the Justice Department to facilitate the potential investigation of nonprofit groups engaged in lawful political speech.”

The IRS says that the disks “involve publicly available material that is easily and routinely accessible.” Except when it isn’t and the disks “can sometimes inadvertently include material that should have been redacted.”

The juxtaposition of “routinely accessible” and “inadvertently” does not fill me with confidence.

Chairman Issa wants some answers:

In the context of its tea party targeting scandal investigation, the lawmakers wrote that the agency sending this data to the FBI “shows that the IRS took affirmative steps to provide sensitive evidentiary material to law-enforcement officials about the political speech of nonprofits.”

“At the very least, this information suggests that the IRS considered the political speech activities of nonprofits to be worthy of investigation by federal law-enforcement officials,” they wrote in the letter.

The IRS still hasn’t answered the $64,000 question: Why give the FBI any information on the political activity of any group? What business is it of theirs?

Any aspect of this scandal involving Lois Lerner needs to be thoroughly examined.

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Here’s the Latest Decree from Our Sovereign Lord

Sunday, June 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

While the rest of us are arguing about Sgt. Bergdahl, President Obama is sneaking through another presidential decree.

This one has to do with student loan forgiveness — a nice little gift to a constituency that the president wants to turn out on election day next November.

Businessweek reports:

U.S. President Barack Obama will move tomorrow to ease monthly payments for people with student loans, according to a White House official.

Obama, in executive action coordinated with a legislative push by Senate Democrats, will direct the Department of Education to expand the number of people who can take advantage of a law capping payments on federal direct loans to no more than 10 percent of their monthly incomes.

“I’ve heard from too many young people who are frustrated that they’ve done everything they were supposed to do — and now they’re paying the price,” Obama said yesterday in his weekly address.

What price are they paying? The price of of being dumb enough to take on enormous amounts of debt before they even have a job? Or are they paying a price for majoring in bowling management or puppetry and thinking they will get a job that will allow them to pay off that debt?

The action marks the latest effort by Obama’s administration to advance policies by executive action after being stymied on Capitol Hill. With the help of several cabinet heads, the president has spent much of this year initiating modest changes in programs that may provide a boost to Democrats in advance of the midterm elections.

Obama’s action tomorrow will expand a 2010 law that tied payments to income, according to the White House official, who said an additional 5 million people who took out loans before October 2007 or haven’t borrowed since 2011 will be eligible.

The proposal aligns with a bill from Senate Democrats that would allow individuals to refinance their student loan debt at current rates. Democrats have argued that the $1.2 trillion worth of outstanding student-loan debt retards economic growth as young college graduates are forced to postpone home buying or other purchases.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and sponsor of the bill, called student-loan debt levels “truly an emergency circumstance.”

Republicans have opposed the proposal, which would be paid for through tax increases on wealthy individuals, and are likely to block its passage.

“This bill doesn’t make college more affordable, reduce the amount of money students will have to borrow, or do anything about the lack of jobs grads face in the Obama economy,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement.

In a preview of the political message Democrats will advance this week, Obama said in his weekly address that lawmakers will have to choose whether to “protect you from crushing debt, or protect tax breaks for millionaires.”

The president and the Democrats are acting as if college kids who took out huge loans are victims. No doubt millennials love to hear that. Anything is better than admitting to yourself that you’re an idiot to get yourself into a situation where you can’t pay back what you owe.

The way to protect yourself from crushing debt is not to take on more debt than you can reasonably expect to pay back. This is what the grown-ups do — or some of us, anyway. How many student loan scofflaws actually had a good notion of what their salary would be the first few years after they graduated before they took out a loan? Apparently, not enough.

Certainly the lack of good-paying jobs is part of the problem. But it would help matters greatly if more students who wanted to go to college figured out a way to pay for it without taking on massive amounts of debt. Is there a law that says you have to start college at age 18? Why not work for three or four years, start a little later, and take on less debt? This was not an uncommon option before government got into the student loan business.

Anything is better than the system we have now.

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US Government Reaping What it Sowed as Illegal Kids Flood Across the Border

Sunday, June 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

It’s no secret that the administration of President Barack Obama has encouraged cities and states not to pick up illegal aliens. They even took the state of Arizona to court to prevent them from doing what the federal government refuses to do.

If it’s no secret to us, it’s entirely reasonable to assume it’s no secret to the millions in Mexico and Central America who would like nothing better than to come north and illegally cross the border in order to pay a visit to the folks — also illegal.

As I write this, there is a humanitarian crisis on our border that is making us look like a banana republic. Tens of thousands of children — a literal Children’s Crusade — have flooded across our borders in the last few months. The government expects 60,000 illegal kids this year and double that next year. We are told most are between the ages of 15 and 17 with teenage girls bringing their illegitimate kids with them.

The government can’t take care of them all. There literally is no place to put them, so they are shipping hundreds of them by the day to Arizona and dumping them in warehouses and, in some cases, on the street.

New York Times:

Since Memorial Day, federal immigration officials have flown hundreds of women and children to Tucson, where they were given medical and other tests. They were then sent by bus to Phoenix and left at the Greyhound station to find their relatives around the nation. They were told to report to an immigration center within 15 days of reaching their destination, officials said.

Immigration advocates have criticized the federal government for stranding the women and children in extreme heat with no money or food. Volunteers have stepped in to help them reach their families.

Those they don’t drop off at the bus station and wave goodbye to, they are taking to a warehouse in Nogales where there is little food, not enough mattresses, no medicine, and not much hope:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security started flying immigrants in the country illegally to Arizona from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas last month after the number of immigrants — including more than 48,000 children traveling on their own — overwhelmed the Border Patrol there.

Immigrant families were flown from Texas, released in Arizona, and told to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office near where they were traveling within 15 days. ICE has said the immigrants were mostly families from Central America fleeing extreme poverty and violence.

The Homeland Security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no authorization to discuss the matter publicly, said the holding center opened for unaccompanied migrant children because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had nowhere to turn.

At the holding center, vendors are being contracted to provide nutritional meals, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, meanwhile, will provide counseling services and recreational activities.

The Homeland Security official said the number of children at the warehouse was expected to double to around 1,400. The warehouse has a capacity of about 1,500.

The Arizona Daily Star reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/UlC3VD ) that Jimena Díaz, consul general of Guatemala in Phoenix, visited the center Friday and said there were about 250 children from Guatemala, with the rest coming from El Salvador and Honduras.

Diaz told the newspaper that the children are being kept in separate groups, divided by age and gender. Most of them are between 15 and 17, Diaz said, with a few much younger than that. Teenage mothers with their children are also being detained separately, he said.

So why do they come?

Complicating matters further, many of the migrants coming to Texas are comparatively hard to deport. They are from Central America and are coming as families. Various studies conclude that crime, gangs, and poverty are driving people from countries south of the border. Those who make it to US soil agree, and add another reason: back home they’ve heard the United States may be lenient with illegal border-crossers who travel with children.

Add to that, I’m sure a lot of these people are excited about the new immigration law that will be passed later this summer. Getting legal status for being in America a few months — as long as your parents have been here a while — is another one of those “unanticipated consequences” of immigration reform.

Does this sound like a national emergency to you?

On Monday, Mr. Obama described the influx as an “urgent humanitarian situation” that called for a swift response. Federal agencies are moving to provide temporary housing and other services.

These factors create problems for ICE, says spokeswoman Lori Haley.

“These families have minor children with them, and ICE has only one family detention center in Pennsylvania but otherwise we don’t have detention facilities that can accommodate children,” she adds.

Texas, caught unprepared by the shift, has not been able to cope.

“Because of the recent surge of Central Americans, unaccompanied juveniles, and family groups in south Texas, the border patrol is running out of processing space,” says Mr. Adame.

That’s where Arizona comes in. As the focal point for illegal immigration during recent years “the government expended a lot of resources to this area to include detention facilities or processing facilities,” adds Adame.

After creating biographical files on the migrants and setting them up for deportation hearings, the border patrol in Tucson turns people over to ICE, which drops them off at the bus stations

I hate to be a scold, but this is crazy. We are being overrun and Obama is doing nothing. It’s an intolerable situation, dangerous to human life, contemptuous of the law, and ultimately a farce. Please raise your hand if you think more than a baker’s dozen of these illegals told to report to an ICE facility in 15 days is going to be there? Uh-huh.

An extreme crisis calls for extreme measures. Do we just stand by as 120,00 children cross our border illegally in the next year — in addition to the hundreds of thousands of others? Or do we call out the military to protect the border and thus, the sovereignty of the United States?

I have as much compassion for my fellow human being as the next person, but I’m not crazy. This is a crisis created by an administration that has let it be known far and wide that they will not enforce the law of the land. It’s a field they have sown for 5 years and they’re now reaping the bitter harvest.

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Kerry Defends Bergdahl Swap: Dismisses Released Prisoners’ Threats

Sunday, June 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A pathetic interview given by our secretary of state on CNN this morning full of smug comments about the terrorists the administration released, and a whiny defense of the swap against critics.

Businessweek:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said threats by the five freed Taliban prisoners swapped for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to return to war and kill Americans are “a lot of baloney.”

Defending the swap that secured the release of the last American prisoner of war in Afghanistan, Kerry said the movements of the five Taliban prisoners released to Qatar will be closely monitored.

“No one should doubt the capacity of America to protect Americans,” Kerry said from France in a taped interview for CNN’s “State of the Union” program today.

Bergdahl, held captive for almost five years, was released May 31 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held by the U.S. at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. The deal requires the five men remain in Qatar for at least a year.

“They’re not the only ones keeping an eye on them,” Kerry said of the Qataris, while declining to elaborate.

“We have proven what we are capable of doing with al-Qaeda,” he said.

The threats by the Taliban prisoners to resume fighting in Afghanistan and kill Americans amount to propaganda, Kerry said. “They’ll say whatever they want to stir the waters,” he said.

With the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan coming to an end and most troops to be withdrawn by the end of 2016, opportunities for Taliban to kidnap Americans will dwindle, Kerry said.

Whether or not Bergdahl deserted his post in eastern Afghanistan, as some of his former fellow soldiers claim, “it would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind,” Kerry said.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and former Vietnam prisoner of war, criticized the deal on the same program.

The five Taliban prisoners “were evaluated and judged as too great a risk to release,” McCain said.

Does he really believe all this?  “No one should doubt the capacity of America to protect Americans.” Ambassador Stevens was unavailable for comment.  “They’re not the only ones keeping an eye on them.” The perpetrators of the Benghazi attack on our diplomats are available for comment except we don’t know where they are.

As far as Bergdhal himself is concerned, Secretary Kerry can’t quite finesse the obvious and ends up contradicting himself:

Labott interviewed Kerry on Sunday from a ritzy French chateau, with soft piano music ringing gently in the background. She asked the secretary whether he agreed with National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s contention last week that Army Sgt. and likely deserter Bowe Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction.”

“There’s plenty of time for people to sort through what happened, what didn’t happen,” Kerry said. “I don’t know all the facts.”

“Sounds like you’re not sure he served with honor and distinction,” Labott mused.

“No, no no, that’s what I’m saying. That’s not what I’m saying, Elise,” Kerry pushed back, calling it “offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what.”

“No, no no, that’s what I’m saying. That’s not what I’m saying…”

Yikes.

The bottom line: John Kerry is not a very bright fellow.

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Wife of Soldier Wounded While Looking for Bergdahl Asks ‘Which Guy Is the Hero’?

Sunday, June 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The wife of a soldier who was wounded and paralyzed while on a mission to find Bowe Bergdahl is asking, in a Facebook post, “Which guy is the hero”?

Shannon Allen, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen, wrote “Meet my husband, injuries directly brought to you by the actions of this traitor. He can’t give an account of what went down, because he can no longer speak. Now, which guy is a ‘hero’ again?!? Sick.”

2-00

The Daily Mail reports:

Mark Allen, who is from Loganville, Georgia, was injured when a sniper bullet pierced the armor in his helmet in Kabul, Afghanistan. The bullet entered through his frontal lobe, rendering him paralyzed.

The injury occurred only one month after he arrived to Afghanistan.

Shannon Allen’s comments add to the growing surge of public outcry over the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s capture by Taliban forces, as well as his release.

Five Taliban fighters were let out of detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Bergdahl’s freedom last week.

According to critics, Bergdahl deserted his post at a U.S. Army base in the Paktika province of Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. Soliders that served at the same time and were deployed to search for him accuse him of deserting the U.S. Military that night.

‘We all served together and we were all in it together over there and he broke that bond by leaving us,’ Army Sgt. Josh Korder said on the Today Show on June 3.

The outcry is also gathering online. The Facebook group ‘Bowe Bergdahl is a Traitor’ currently has over 69,000 likes. The banner on the top of the page shows the pictures of six soliders who died while searching for Bergdahl.

The Facebook page posted Shannon Allen’s message, which received nearly 60,000 likes and more than 5,000 comments.

Bergdahl’s family gets an invite to the White House to appear at a Rose Garden press avail with the president. What did Mrs. Allen and the other family members of those who fell looking for Bergdahl get?

They are non-people. They have been disappeared because their presence is inconvenient and unwanted. They don’t play into the narrative the White House would like the American people to believe: Sgt. Bergdahl served with honor and distinction; he’s a confused victim of circumstance who was near death when President Obama swooped in and rescued him. The price was high, but hey! We don’t leave anyone behind so shut up and sit down.

Meanwhile, the families quietly grieve over their loss — a loss not incurred as a result of combat that advanced America’s war effort, but in an attempt to bring one wayward soldier home who may have deserted his post and thrown in with the enemy.

The juxtaposition of Bergdahl and those who fell looking for him is painful. It reminds us that life isn’t fair, the good die young, and any other timeworn cliche that actually makes sense. Bergdahl for Allen? Bergdahl for any of the other soldiers who fell? The scales don’t balance and we are angry.

While the White House works at damage control, trotting out spokesmen who lay it on thicker and thicker as the days pass, they make herculean efforts to avoid any discussion of Bergdahl’s worthiness to be exchanged for five terrorists. We must wait to hear his story, we’re told — despite his comrades going on national TV and swearing that he is a deserter. They, too, have become non-people and subjects of a smear campaign by Obama sycophants. They’re “psychopaths” or were put up to it by Republicans.

They risked their lives to try to find their former comrade and this is the thanks they get?

Mrs. Allen’s plea to remember who the heroes are will fall on deaf ears at the White House. The administration has played the torture card, as a “senior US official” told several news organizations that doctors treating him say he was beaten and tortured by his captors:

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was physically abused during his five years in Taliban captivity and is suffering from psychological trauma, a senior U.S. official told CNN on Friday.

The information bolstered the White House argument that President Barack Obama needed to move quickly to secure Bergdahl’s release in a May 31 exchange for five Taliban figures held at Guantanamo Bay.

According to the official, who spoke on condition of not being identified, Bergdahl tried to escape at one point but got caught, and his captors then confined him in small enclosure described as a cage or box.

At an American military hospital in Germany where he was taken after his handover near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, doctors said Friday he remained in stable condition and continued to improve, but wasn’t ready to travel back to the United States.

Note that there is no timeline leaked with this information. Was Bergdahl tortured before or after he played soccer with his captors, converted to Islam, became a “warrior for Islam,” and participated in target practice with his jailers? In the summer of 2010, he managed to escape for five days, according to the Eclipse Group reports. Was it after that futile break for freedom that the mistreatment began?

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Dems Glum About Economy Despite Upbeat Jobs Report

Saturday, June 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

With the uproar over the Bergdahl swap, you may have missed Friday’s job report for May.

You didn’t miss much:

Jobs numbers released by The Bureau of Labor Statistics Friday morning were better than what economists were predicting, leading the markets to pick up steam in early trading.

Non-farm payrolls added 217,000 jobs in May, slightly above the 215,000 that economists were expecting. The unemployment rate, which is drawn from a different survey of households, remained unchanged at 6.3% and is 0.1% better than the 6.4% consensus.

The labor force participation rate also remained unchanged from the 62.8% rate reported for April, the lowest rate in decades. The BLS said Friday that the participation rate has shown no clear trend since this past October but is down by 0.6% over the year.

April’s employment numbers were revised down to 282,000 jobs added from 288,000. March payroll figures were not revised, remaining at 203,000 non-farm jobs added. Total employment gains those months were therefore 6,000 lower than the BLS — a division of the Department of Labor – previously reported. Job growth averaged 197,000 in the prior 12 months.

Ron Sanchez, executive vice president and chief investment officer at Fiduciary Trust (a Franklin Templeton company) said in a phone interview Friday that while not as robust as many economists would like to see, the results are positive because of the stability and consistency they show in the labor market.

That labor force participation rate is the lowest in 36 years and hasn’t budged in three months. Despite the net gain in jobs, it appears that the number of long-term unemployed and discouraged workers remains unchanged.

Democrats, who, let’s face it, need some cheering up these days, are taking no pleasure in the jobs report. That’s because about half the country still thinks we’re in a recession. Even though the economy continues to grow — glacially, and fitfully — huge swaths of the country are not seeing any noticeable improvement.

What does that mean for Democrat prospects in the midterms?

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Awkward! Obama and Putin Meet Face to Face

Saturday, June 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Have you ever showed up at a party and discovered, to your horror, that your ex-girlfriend was invited too?

No, not the girlfriend you parted on good terms with. This is the girlfriend from hell that threw your stuff on the front lawn after she accused you of cheating for the 5th time — even though you didn’t.

Neither of you acknowledge the other’s presence as you dance around the room, keeping your distance, each one ignoring the other.

If this has ever happened to you, then you get an idea of what President Obama and President Putin were feeling at the D-Day commemoration yesterday.

The Hill:

Whether Obama and Putin would speak was the source of speculation throughout the president’s weeklong trip to Europe. On Thursday night, French President Francois Hollande scheduled two separate dinners with each leader avoiding an uncomfortable overlap.

Earlier Thursday, it appeared as if Putin and Obama were intentionally avoiding one another during a photo session with all dignitaries attending the event.

While Obama jovially greeted other leaders — planting a kiss on both cheeks of German Chancellor Angela Merkel — he and Putin kept their distance.

At one point when the leaders were walking from the photo session toward the building where they would dine, Obama was right behind Putin, but appeared to go out of his way not to acknowledge his presence.

Yikes! Almost as bad as a jilted lover.

Finally, after the lunch attended by world leaders, the two sat down in a quiet corner and discussed Ukraine:

The highly anticipated face-to-face conversation was the first time the two spoke in person since Russia’s incursion into Ukraine earlier this year, which brought U.S condemnation.

Earlier Putin and Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko were spotted speaking to one another, although the discussion occurred out of earshot of reporters.

Obama and Putin chatted for between 10 and 15 minutes at a lunch for world leaders, according to deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

“It was an informal conversation — not a formal bilateral meeting,” Rhodes said, downplaying the brief interaction.

The Kremlin said Putin discussed ways to end the violence in Ukraine in his conversations with both Obama and Poroshenko.

“Putin and Obama spoke for the need to end violence and fighting as quickly as possible,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told USA Today.

With Poroshenko, Putin discussed the contours of a ceasefire agreement and other steps that could deescalate the crisis, French officials told the Telegraph.

“They were able to begin a dialogue on possible de-escalation measures including Moscow recognizing Poroshenko’s election,” an aide to French president Francois Hollande told the paper, adding that Putin would plan to dispatch an ambassador to Kiev.

“The practicalities of a ceasefire will also be discussed in the coming days.”

It appears that the current phase of Putin’s Ukraine gambit may be coming to an end. A deal between Putin and Poroshenko where the Russian president agrees to call off his pro-Russian militias and Poroshenko pulls back the Ukrainian army, with talks on the country’s sovereignty issues to be conducted by representatives of the separatists and Kiev government may be in the offing.

A halt in hostilities in Eastern Ukraine will give Putin time to digest the Crimea, fully integrating the region into Russia. After that, with the world’s attention elsewhere, the Russian president can do whatever he wants to continue to destabilize the region.

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Hillary Says Bergdahl Actions ‘Irrelevant’

Saturday, June 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Hillary Clinton doesn’t think it’s relevant if Bowe Bergdahl deserted or collaborated with the enemy.

The supposed next president of the United States thinks what matters is that he was an American soldier and President Obama had to bring him home.

Politico reports:

“It doesn’t matter,” Clinton said in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that aired Friday. “We bring our people home.”

The former secretary of state’s argument echoes that of President Barack Obama, who has come under fire for the prisoner swap that led to Bergdahl’s freedom amid questions about whether he may have abandoned his post and deserted or defected. The military is investigating.

Clinton’s comments come as the former secretary of state begins to make the rounds ahead of the release of her latest memoir, “Hard Choices,” on Tuesday.

“I think this was a very hard choice, which is why I think my book is aptly named,” Clinton said, referring to the Bergdahl deal. “If you look at what the factors were going into the decision, of course there are competing interests and values. And one of our values is we bring everybody home off the battlefield the best we can. It doesn’t matter how they ended up in a prisoner of war situation.”

The Daily Beast reported this week that when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she was skeptical of the possible deal with the Taliban and was pressing for strict conditions in any agreement.

Accepting Clinton’s premise that we “bring our people home,” does that mean we should give anything to get him back? Is there no proportionality involved? Five for one is not the issue. The issue is five extremely dangerous terrorists exchanged for one sorry excuse for a soldier who, at one point, may not have wanted to come home at all.

In making a deal, the best situation is if both sides profit. This deal may be the most one-sided transaction the U.S. has ever concluded.

Does Hillary Clinton really believe that desertion and collaboration are irrelevant? Suppose she was negotiating to buy a car. If the engine smokes, the radiator leaks, and the brakes don’t work, this is also irrelevant to the deal because the car just got a new paint job and it looks pretty.

We paid Cadillac prices for a stinking, oil-burning East German Trabant.

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Was a Ransom Paid to Get Bergdahl Back?

Saturday, June 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I find the notion of ransom entirely plausible. It’s also plausible that the administration would fight tooth and nail to keep that part of the deal secret.

Can you imagine the “optics” of paying terrorists cash so they can go out and buy weapons and explosives to kill Americans?

The theory, as reported in the Free Beacon, is that the Haqqani Network who was holding Bergdahl are more like a mafia family than terrorists. They would be far more interested in cash than Taliban commanders being held at Gitmo.

The Taliban acted as a go-between, using their influence to help free Bergdahl. But might the pot have been sweetened with a million dollars or so?

The official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, speculated that a cash ransom was paid to the Haqqani Network to get the group to free the prisoner.

The Obama administration reportedly considered offering cash for his release as late as December 2013. The State Department has repeatedly refused to say whether the deal that released Bergdahl involved any cash payment.

The ransom plan was reportedly abandoned, but the intelligence official insisted that there is reason to believe that cash changed hands as part of the deal.

“The Haqqanis could give a rat’s ass about prisoners,” the official said, referring to the Haqqani Network, a designated terrorist group in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the five Guantanamo Bay prisoners who were freed in exchange for Bergdahl’s release.

“The people that are holding Bergdahl want[ed] cash and someone paid it to them,” he said.

The theory relies in large measure on a distinction that has been lost in much of the press coverage of the Bergdahl deal. A number of news reports on the circumstances surrounding the prisoner exchange have used “Haqqani” and “Taliban” interchangeably.

Experts say that obscures very real differences between the two groups that are key to understanding the deal that freed Bergdahl.

The Taliban is an ideologically committed group, they say, while the Haqqani Network is better understood as a tribal crime syndicate using unrest in the region not to advance an Islamist agenda but to further own financial and political interests.

“When Westerners talk [about the] Taliban, we tend to use it as a generic term,” said American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Rubin, a former Middle East advisor to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “Afghans are more likely to talk about the Haqqani Network versus the Quetta Shura [also known as the Afghan Taliban] versus the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.”

Four of the five prisoners released from Guantanamo were top Taliban commanders. One western diplomat said their release was “like moving the whole Quetta Shura to Qatar.”

If we did pay a ransom for Bergdahl to Haqqani, what sorts of stuff would they buy with it? On the next page is a partial list via Wikipedia of terrorist attacks thought to have been carried out by Haqqani:

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D-Day Ceremony Includes ‘Interpretive Dance’ of the Battle

Friday, June 6th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The commemoration of the D-Day invasion 70 years ago. World leaders describe the heroics of their soldiers in glowing terms. Solemnity reigns. The crowd, subdued.

And then, the highlight of the ceremony. On Sword Beach, several dozen young men and women march onto a stage that appears to be a representation of the European continent. They march and move in lockstep. It is an interpretive dance supposedly telling the story of World War II. Nazi conquest, the landings in Sicily, D-Day, and final victory.

It is the weirdest, most incongruous, most disrespectful performance one can imagine.

AP describes it:

The dance performance took place across a giant map of Europe. Near its start, dancers in black Gestapo-like uniforms sought to subdue others in overalls. Dancers in olive drab represented the landing on Normandy’s beach, moving in slow motion as many fell to the ground only to rise again to the strains of a lone bagpiper. On giant screens behind them, scenes from the war unfolded, from an execution to D-Day to footage of surrendering Germans. Soviet, British and U.S. soldiers were shown celebrating and unfurling their respective flags.

One piece of footage showed Queen Elizabeth II as a wartime driver and mechanic with the women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. She was one of the few visiting heads of state to have lived and served in the war.

If the moment may have proved awkward for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the dance and film images also captured the post-war European reconstruction and the new alliances that emerged in its aftermath.

The ceremony ended with daytime fireworks of colorful flames and smoke and a missing man flyover emitting trails of red, white and blue smoke — the tri-colors of the U.S., French, Russian and British flags.

At its conclusion, a live camera caught President Barack Obama complimenting French President Francois Hollande: “It was a wonderful, wonderful event.”

Speaking of President Obama, watch the video of the dance below. At about 2:45 in, there’s a shot of the president sitting impassively in his chair – chewing gum?

Queen Elizabeth looks befuddled. Other world leaders look bored. The “dance” gets more and more bizarre, with some young men doing what appears to be “The Robot” dance.

Sorry, but I can’t help but think of that brilliant Monty Python skit with the Batley Townswomans Guild recreating the Battle of Pearl Harbor:

Canning: (voice over) Miss Rita Fairbanks – you organized this reconstruction of the Battle of Pearl Harbour – why?

Rita: (Eric Idle) Well we’ve always been extremely interested in modern drama … we were of course the first Townswomen’s Guild to perform ‘Camp On Blood Island’, and last year we did our extremely popular re-enactment of ‘Nazi War Atrocities’. So this year we thought we would like to do something in a lighter vein…

Canning: So you chose the Battle of Pearl Harbour?

Rita: Yes, that’s right, we did.

Canning: Well I can see you’re all ready to go. So I’ll just wish you good luck in your latest venture.

Rita: Thank you very much, young man.

(She retreats, and joins the other ladies who meanwhile separate into two opposing sides facing each other.)

Canning: (reverential voice over) Ladies and gentlemen, the World of History is proud to present the premiere of the Batley Townswomen’s Guild’s re-enactment of ‘The Battle of Pearl Harbour’.

I don’t know about you but I liked the ladies’ re-enactment better than the wacky dancers shaming themselves and disrespecting the dead on hallowed ground.

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Obama vs. Reagan at Normandy

Friday, June 6th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Just for fun…

President Obama’s supporters claim their man is a great speechmaker. That may be a matter of opinion, but there are a lot of political experts on both sides who think a lot of the president’s oratorical abilities.

Rhetorically, his speeches are very good — well crafted with nice phrasing and organization. It may be that we’ve grown tired of his speechifying over the years, but his set-piece addresses lately have not achieved the level that some of his speeches from his first campaign, and first couple of years in office, reached.

Case in point; the president’s address at Normandy today commemorating the 70th anniversary of the landings.

The speech reads well, but was delivered in a subdued, almost listless manner. C-Span coverage: (speech begins at 51 minutes into the video):

ABC News with some exerpts:

“These men waged war so that we might know peace. They sacrificed so that we might be free. They fought in hopes of a day when we’d no longer need to fight. We are grateful to them,” President Obama said to sustained applause at the Normandy American Cemetery.

“It was here, on these shores, that the tide was turned in that common struggle for freedom,” Obama said. “What more powerful manifestation of America’s commitment to human freedom than the sight of wave after wave of young men boarding those boats to liberate people they’d never met?”

With World War II veterans seated behind him, the president described the tense scenes of the day when over 150,000 allied troops invaded the shores of Normandy 70 years ago.

“If prayer were made of sound, the skies over England that night would have deafened the world,” the president said. “Captains paced their decks. Pilots tapped their gauges. Commanders pored over maps, fully aware that for all the months of meticulous planning, everything could go wrong: the winds, the tides, the element of surprise – and above all, the audacious bet that what waited on the other side of the Channel would compel men not to shrink away, but to charge ahead.”

“Fresh-faced GIs rubbed trinkets, kissed pictures of sweethearts, checked and re-checked their equipment. ‘God,’ asked one, ‘Give me guts.’ And in the pre-dawn hours, planes rumbled down runways; gliders and paratroopers slipped through the sky; giant screws began to turn on an armada that looked like more ships than sea. And more than 150,000 souls set off towards this tiny sliver of sand upon which hung more than the fate of a war, but the course of human history,” he said.

Obama supporters are so enamored of their hero’s speaking ability, they proudly compare him to Ronald Reagan.

Really? Let’s take a look at that comparison on the next page.

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Secret Reports Say Bergdahl Converted to Islam and Declared Jihad

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Fox News is reporting that a company that contracted with the Army to deliver intelligence monitored POW Bowe Bergdahl from the early days of his captivity until 2012.

During that time, the contractor — an outfit known as the Eclipse Group — says that after resisting for a while, Bergdahl eventually converted to Islam and declared himself “a warrior for God.”

The reports indicate that Bergdahl’s relations with his Haqqani captors morphed over time, from periods of hostility, where he was treated very much like a hostage, to periods where, as one source told Fox News, “he became much more of an accepted fellow” than is popularly understood. He even reportedly was allowed to carry a gun at times.

The documents show that Bergdahl at one point escaped his captors for five days and was kept, upon his re-capture, in a metal cage, like an animal. In addition, the reports detail discussions of prisoner swaps and other attempts at a negotiated resolution to the case that appear to have commenced as early as the fall of 2009.

The reports are rich in on-the-ground detail — including the names and locations of the Haqqani commanders who ran the 200-man rotation used to guard the Idaho native — and present the most detailed view yet of what Bergdahl’s life over the past five years has been like. These real-time dispatches were generated by the Eclipse Group, a shadowy private firm of former intelligence officers and operatives that has subcontracted with the Defense Department and prominent corporations to deliver granular intelligence on terrorist activities and other security-related topics, often from challenging environments in far-flung corners of the globe.

The group is run by Duane R. (“Dewey”) Clarridge, a former senior operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1980s best known for having been indicted for lying to Congress about his role in the tangled set of events that became known as the Iran-Contra scandal. He was pardoned by the first President Bush in December 1992 while on trial. A New York Times profile of Clarridge published in January 2011 disclosed the contractual relationship Eclipse had with the Pentagon, through subcontractors, and reported further that Clarridge’s activities had included efforts to help find Bergdahl.

Clarridge told Fox News his group enjoyed a subcontract from U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, from November 2009 through May 31, 2010, and that after the contract was terminated, he invested some $50,000 of his own money to maintain the network of informants that had yielded such detailed accounts of Bergdahl’s status.

Allahpundit asks: if this is true, where’s the propaganda video from the Taliban?

Obvious question: How can you prove that a “conversion” like this is sincere and not given under extreme duress? Remember, one of Fox News’s own employees was taken prisoner by jihadis a few years ago and fake-converted to Islam to save his own life. Sounds like Bergdahl resisted at first, even to the point of trying to escape (a claim corroborated by the Daily Beast), and then was gradually broken as his captivity endured. Rosen himself raises the possibility of “Stockholm Syndrome” in the story.

Gen. James Mattis, the former head of CENTCOM, says he may have received “bits and pieces” of Eclipse’s intelligence over the years but not any of their situation reports. He said he never saw any evidence that Bergdahl was a collaborator, though. Quote: “We had tactical units that were involved in the fight. We had SIGINT. Any collaborators who were on the other side and who came over to our side. We kept an eye on this. … There was never any evidence of collaboration.” Among the missing evidence is the propaganda video the Taliban normally could have and would have forced Bergdahl to make if it had an American soldier in its midst willing to declare jihad. Emphasis on “normally,” though: In Bergdahl’s case, since they were looking to swap him for Taliban prisoners from the very beginning, they may have decided to pass on the conversion video for fear that the U.S. wouldn’t make a deal for him once it went live.

Allah speculates that the reason there is no video is that the Taliban may have believed advertising Bergdahl’s conversion would have lowered his stock considerably and they wouldn’t have been able to get the deal they eventually got. It raises an intriguing question: at what point might the Taliban release a video trumpeting Bergdahl’s conversion?

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