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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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Obama to Skip Red States in Fall Campaign

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbents running in red states are breathing a sigh of relief. White House aides are telling Politico that the president’s fall schedule of campaign stops will stick with blue states and avoid places where he is not popular.

The move isn’t exactly unprecedented. What makes this strategy unusual is that the Democrats are fighting to keep control of the Senate and Obama’s presence might ordinarily excite the base and open the spigot of campaign contributions. In this, a turn out election, a presidential visit close to election day could make a difference in a tight race.

But the president is so unpopular in so many states that whatever gains would be made by his appearance would be offset by giving the GOP candidate a potent weapon to hammer the incumbent with.

The White House is putting the finishing touches on a post-Labor Day schedule that will send the president to states where he’s still popular, such as: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California, Obama officials and Democratic operatives said this week.

But in the red states that will determine control of the Senate, Obama will remain scarce. That means no personal campaign visits to states like Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana and North Carolina. He may do some targeted outreach through robocalls, digital ads and conference calls, but the campaign plan is clear: Stay away from candidates he’s already hurting.

Obama’s no-fly zone for certain Senate campaigns reflects the deep concern among Democrats about his drag on the national ticket. Obama can’t seem to get his poll numbers out of the low 40s, he’s struggled through an endless stream of foreign policy crises, and he’s the last person that many candidates want to be forced to defend on the campaign trail.

Six years ago, Obama’s massive campaign organization helped to sweep several Senate Democrats, now the most endangered, into office with his appeal to unite political factions.

Now, he’s an attack line.

Across the country, from Alaska and Colorado, to Louisiana and North Carolina, Republicans are citing how often the Democratic incumbent sided with the White House on votes in Congress. It’s a tactic Democrats used to great effect in 2006 when they wrestled back control of the Senate by linking every incumbent to President George W. Bush, who was even more unpopular than Obama.

“He’s going to be an anchor on each one of these Democrats all the way through,” said Guy Harrison, a media consultant for the Republican Senate nominees in Arkansas, Colorado and North Carolina. “They’re trying to grasp every life preserver they can, but the anchor of Obama is still going to pull them down.”

White House officials argue that Obama never would have been deployed to assist red state Democrats, even at the height of his popularity. The better, more effective use of his time is to assist in states with key House races, such as Illinois, Pennsylvania and California, a senior administration official said. Obama still retains strong support in the Democratic base, and he can motivate African-Americans and Latinos like few others can.

Obama helping with House races? There might be 15-20 competitive seats in the entire country.  And are they serious when they say they wouldn’t have sent him to red states if his approval was in the 60′s?  Who are they trying to fool?

A pig in a prom dress is still a porker. There are a lot of Democrats who probably wish the president would hide in the White House basement until November. Unless a Democratic House member is going to get 70% of the vote, Obama is going to be the kiss of death for any Democratic politician foolish enough to appear with him.

 

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Putin Calls for Talks to Establish a Southeast Ukraine ‘State’

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

After having gobbled up and digested Crimea, Vladimir Putin appears ready for the next course; the establishment of a separate state in southeast Ukraine.

The fiction that such a state would be independent of Moscow’s control fools no one. But appearances must be kept up to satisfy a western public that has no stomach for a military confrontation with Russia. Ergo, watch Putin as he pulls a client state out of his hat. Nothin’ up his sleeve. Presto!

Reuters:

Talks should be held immediately “and not just on technical issues but on the political organization of society and statehood in southeastern Ukraine”, Putin said in an interview with Channel 1 state television, his hair tousled by wind on the shore of a lake.

Moscow, for its part, he said, could not stand aside while people were being shot “almost at point blank”.

Putin’s use of the word “statehood” was interpreted in Western media as implying backing for the rebel demand of independence, something Moscow has so far stopped short of publicly endorsing.

However, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was no new endorsement from Moscow for rebel independence. Asked if “New Russia”, a term pro-Moscow rebels use for their territory, should still be part of Ukraine, Peskov said: “Of course.”

“Only Ukraine can reach an agreement with New Russia, taking into account the interests of New Russia, and this is the only way to reach a political settlement.”

Rebels have rallied behind the term “New Russia” since Putin first used it in a public appearance in April. Putin called it a tsarist-era term for land that now forms southern and eastern Ukraine. Ukrainians consider the term deeply offensive and say it reveals Moscow’s imperial designs on their territory.

Moscow has long called for Kiev to hold direct political talks with the rebels. Kiev says it is willing to have talks on more rights for the south and east, but will not talk directly to armed fighters it describes as “international terrorists” and Russian puppets that can only be reined in by Moscow.

The deputy leader of the rebel Donetsk People’s Republic, Andrei Purgin, said he was due to participate in talks in the Belarus capital Minsk on Monday. Past talks by a “contact group” involving Moscow, Kiev and the rebels have covered technical issues such as access to the crash site of a Malaysian airliner shot down in July, but not political questions.

This is a bad dream. I know it’s sort of useless to contemplate a counterfactual scenario, but if any other president of the post war era was sitting in the Oval Office now, would any Russian leader dare be this brazen? Putin has taken the mettle of his rival in Washington — and the capitals of old Europe — and has determined he can do just about anything he wishes.

He has completely flummoxed NATO, outmaneuvered Kiev, and made the US look weak and inconsequential. He is doing it by employing tactics of 19th century imperialists and by being on the “wrong side of history” — exactly what John Kerry believes is ineffective.

The only side history cares about is the winning one. And unless Barack Obama can figure out a way to confront Putin without starting World War III, the Russian president is likely to get exactly what he wants, either by imposing his will militarily or bullying Kiev into giving him southeast Ukraine.

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The Fall of Atlantic City

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In the next two weeks, 3 of Atlantic City’s premier casinos will close with the loss of nearly 8,000 jobs — a quarter of the city’s entire casino workforce.

The loss of The Revel, The Showboat, and Trump Towers Casinos follows the closing of The Atlantic Club earlier this year. That makes 4 of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos going out of business in less than a year.

The Christian Science Monitor explains what happened:

New casinos popping up in an already saturated Northeastern U.S. gambling market aren’t expanding the overall pie but are slicing it into ever-smaller pieces. Fewer casinos could mean better financial performance for the survivors.

Resorts Casino Hotel, which was on the verge of closing a few years ago, completed a remarkable turnaround in the second quarter of this year, swinging from a $1.3 million loss last year to a $1.9 million profit this year.

“I truly believe that eight remaining casinos can all do very well when the gambling market is right-sized,” said Resorts president Mark Giannantonio.

That may be true, but it is little comfort to workers who are losing their jobs. By the time Trump Plaza shuts down in two weeks, nearly 8,000 jobs — or a quarter of Atlantic City’s casino workforce — will be unemployed. A mass unemployment filing due to begin Wednesday is so large it has been booked into the city’s convention center.

When casino gambling was approved by New Jersey voters in 1976, it was billed as a way to revitalize Atlantic City and provide stable, lasting jobs. The first casino, Resorts, opened in 1978, kicking off three decades of soaring revenue and employment.

But the Great Recession hit just as new casinos were popping up in neighboring Pennsylvania and New York, cutting deeply into Atlantic City’s customer base.

“There was a promise when casinos came in here that these would be good, viable jobs, something you could raise your family on and have a decent life with,” said Paul Smith, a cook at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. “I feel so bad for all these people losing their jobs. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

It’s not just Atlantic City casinos that are taking a hit. Nevada casinos have lost money for 5 straight years as states across the US approve various kinds of gambling venues. Slot parlors, off track betting, video poker houses, and online gambling give players plenty of options to gamble besides casinos. Indian nations are long time players in the gaming industry and many are also reporting declining revenue.

States see gambling as a mostly painless way to part their citizens from their hard earned cash. But the social costs of gambling addiction are an expensive consequence of legalizing casino gaming. And if you look at gambling as something of a tax, it is a regressive revenue raiser. The poor are far more likely to become compulsive gamblers, and lose a larger percentage of their income than the middle or upper classes.

But few states are even contemplating giving it up. There’s a ballot measure in Massachusetts this November that would repeal the 2011 law that legalized casino gaming before a single casino opens.

New York Times:

With the casino industry showing signs of retrenchment, voters in Massachusetts may do something that voters nowhere else have done, at least in the last century: slam on the brakes on casino gambling.

Massachusetts was one of the last states to climb aboard the casino craze, approving legislation in 2011 to allow three casinos and a slots parlor. Now it may be the first to reverse itself, with voters deciding in November whether to repeal the law before a single casino has been built.

The stage is set for a multimillion-dollar campaign pitting the casino industry and its allies in organized labor against a coalition of grass-roots activists, religious leaders and mom-and-pop businesses. The two sides have already squared off in several town-by-town referendums across much of Massachusetts over the last year, fighting each other to a near draw. Now they are laying the groundwork for an all-out, statewide donnybrook that will burst into public view in September in television ads and on doorsteps as both sides try to secure support, house by house.

Atlantic City’s problems are twofold: a) Two dozen casinos have opened in the densely populated northeast in the last few years; and b) the recession has made all but the wealthiest customers cut back on their casino visits.

Philly.com:

“This is a massive economic body blow to Atlantic City on par with the hit to the national economy during the Great Recession,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester.

Beyond the thousands of job losses, which will spread into related industries and the general economy, Atlantic City will soon be left with four empty buildings (including the shuttered Atlantic Club) that have no clear future.

“What we’ve got in Atlantic City is unprecedented. It hasn’t happened before in this type of context, where they are going to shutter them up and literally can’t give them away for pennies on the dollar, like Revel,” said Alan Silver, a former casino-industry executive who teaches at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

Silver and other casino-industry experts said there was little precedent for reusing casinos for anything other than hotels.

David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, could point to only one former casino in the United States – the Golden Phoenix in Reno – which was turned into condominiums.

In addition to condominiums and time-shares, experts are quick to mention boutique hotels, which have become increasingly popular in Las Vegas and other cities.

“It’s nice to do all these things, but you’ve got to have supply and demand and you’ve got to have the various attractions there to get people to come to Atlantic City,” Silver said.

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, who has adopted a salesman-in-chief attitude since taking office in January, spoke optimistically last week of openings expected next year, including a Bass Pro Shops location and Harrah’s Conference Center, that could create 1,300 jobs in the city.

Guardian expressed confidence Friday that Revel would be resurrected as a casino under a new name, projecting that it would sell for $25 million to $50 million. That would also reduce the job losses.

“At $50 million, it’s certainly a bargain-basement price for a brand-new facility. It’s finding the right buyer, meaning having the financial wherewithal, and then that buyer finding the right brand to come in and run it,” he said.

Fitch Ratings estimated Friday that $280 million of the $457 million gamblers lost during the last 12 months at the casinos that are closing would be captured by the survivors. That will help boost profits, and perhaps add some jobs at those properties.

The hope that the casinos would revitalize Atlantic City as a playground was always misplaced. While the hotel towers gleamed in the sunlight, much of the rest of the city remained a grimy, crime-ridden mess. The fact is, there are only so many dollars available for casinos to take. And with so many options available to the gambling consumer, Atlantic City no longer holds the attention — or loyalty — of tri-state residents.

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U.S. Air Strikes Help Break Siege of Amirli

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Iraqi army units, supported by Shiite militiamen, broke the six-week Islamic State siege of the town of Amirli on Sunday with the help of U.S. airstrikes.

The town is home to 20,000 ethnic Turkmen who IS had targeted for destruction. Cut off from food, medicine, water, and ammunition, the townspeople fought off Islamic State forces who had surrounded the town in July.

USA Today:

Iraqi forces entered the town Sunday, Army spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said, adding the military suffered “some casualties.” He said fighting was still ongoing in surrounding villages.

“We thank God for this victory over terrorists,” Nihad al-Bayati, who had taken up arms with fellow residents to defend the town, told The Associated Press by phone from the outskirts of Amirli. “The people of Amirli are very happy to see that their ordeal is over and that the terrorists are being defeated by Iraqi forces. It is a great day in our life.”

The community, located about 105 miles north of Baghdad, initially came under siege in June, but 15,000 Shiite Turkmen were able to hold off militants, who eventually surrounded the village in mid-July.

“Today is a day of victory for Iraq and the resilient people of Amirli,” retired Gen. Khaled al-Amerli, an Amerli resident and member of its self-defense force, told CNN.

Turkmen lawmaker Fawzi Akram al-Tarzi said the military was disturbing aid to residents of Amirli, which is home to the Turkmen, an ethnic minority.

The news comes after U.S. warplanes conducted a fresh round of airstrikes and emergency aid drops in Amirli, the Pentagon announced late Saturday night. The operation was similar to the one mounted at Mount Sinjar, not far away in northern Iraq, to help save Yazidis, a religious minority that militants had also besieged.

“These military operations were conducted under authorization from the commander-in-chief to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and to prevent an (IS) attack on the civilians of Amirli,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement. “The operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli.”

It’s becoming clear that no matter if it’s the Peshmerga or Iraqi troops, U.S. air power closely coordinated with ground assaults is an irresistible force. Our air force is making the Iraqi army look competent.

But the Amirli operation brings into focus something that should be on the minds of both military and civilian leaders in Washington.

We can’t save everybody.

We could save everybody if we radically expanded the mission. But we’re not going to do that. The humanitarian crisis that’s sweeping across the Levant is the worst in a century. There are more than 3 million external refugees in Syria with another 3 million internally displaced. There are a million more people on the move in Iraq. The world hasn’t even begun to address the basic needs of these people and we are likely to see a catastrophe if the nations don’t get their act together and supply the refugees with food, clean water, medicine, and decent shelter.

The Yazidi and Amirli operations were carried out because they had become hot stories in the news — humanitarian crises which the U.S. felt compelled to respond to. The Mosul Dam was retaken for the same reason, although the thought of IS blowing it up and killing half a million people was also considered.

But there have to be dozens of towns and villages that are suffering a similar fate as Amirli, and the sad truth is, unless we want to jump back into Iraq with both feet, those unfortunate people will be left to their own devices.

No doubt we will be hearing of another tragedy in the making in the next few days. And once again, U.S. fighter jets will plow the way clear for Iraqi forces to relieve the crisis. But unless an overall strategy emerges to roll back IS forces in Iraq and Syria, this piecemeal approach — which looks good in the media — will only serve to delay the time of reckoning when the Iraqi army must take control of the destiny of their country and confront Islamic State forces wherever they are.

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Notorious Anti-Semitic British MP Attacked on London Street

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I know we should be empathetic about British MP George Galloway being assaulted on a London street.

But I hope you’ll forgive me if I reserve my sympathy for those who deserve it — like Israeli civilians who live under constant threat of attack from Hamas rockets and terrorists.

Galloway is a nauseating anti-Semite who once told Saddam Hussein during a speech he gave in Iraq, “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.” He blamed British policy for the 7/7 terrorist attack that killed 52 Britons. He said a suicide attack on then Prime Minister Tony Blair without any other casualties would be “morally justified.” He says that gays and lesbians are not at risk for execution in Iran, “only rapists.” Several more knowledgeable commentators sharply corrected him.

More recently, he walked out of a debate over Israeli policy sponsored by Oxford University because his debate opponent was an Israeli citizen. His explanation:“I don’t recognize Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis.” Even the BDS committee he represents condemned his action.

Yes, we should condemn the attack and the attacker. No matter how vile this man is, no one in a decent society deserves to be beaten up for their political views.

Nor is it proper to say that Galloway brought the attack on himself, even though he declared the North England city he represents an “Israeli-free zone.”

A man has been charged with a religiously-motivated “assault by beating” on British MP George Galloway, police said on Saturday.

Galloway, who recently declared the northern English city he represents an “Israel-free zone”, was attacked on a west London street on Friday night.

Police said Neil Masterson, 39, had been charged with “assault by beating which is religiously aggravated” and would appear in court on Monday.

“It is thought that the attack is connected to Mr Galloway’s support for the Palestinian cause,” his Respect Party said in a statement.

The outspoken Scot, dubbed “Gorgeous George” by the British media, recently made headlines when he declared Bradford to be an Israel-free zone and urged people to reject all Israeli goods, services and tourists.

A Respect spokesman said the incident appeared to be connected with Israel because the attacker had been shouting something about the Holocaust.

Some western  supporters of Hamas and the Palestinians may be sincere when they claim to be anti-Zionists or anti-Israel rather than anti-Semitic. Given Galloway’s appalling record and statements, I don’t see how you can make that claim about him.

Case in point: his statement about making Bradford an “Israeli-free” zone:

We have declared Bradford an Israel-free zone. We don’t want any Israeli goods, we don’t want any Israeli services, we don’t want any Israeli academics coming to the university or the college, we don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford.

His words call to mind the spirit of Nuremberg and the decrees against Jews in Nazi Germany.

Galloway has been released from the hospital, and we should wish him a speedy recovery. We should then destroy him the democratic way: find a good candidate to run against him and bash his brains in at the polls. He’s a disgrace to Great Britain and to decent people everywhere.

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Florida Reports Huge Drop in Obamacare Enrollment

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You will note that after the White House announcement — and victory dance — regarding the 8 million people who signed up for insurance on the Obamacare exchanges, we haven’t heard much from the administration to update us on enrollment numbers.

Could it be that consumers are dropping their Obamacare insurance policies like they had the plague?

Daily Caller:

Florida’s Obamacare enrollment is now over 220,000 lower than the Obama administration’s most recent tally, according to a report from the state insurance department.

The Obama administration hasn’t released updated Obamacare enrollment statistics since May, when the Department of Health and Human Services put the number of Florida sign-ups at 983,775 — but the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation says that now, just 762,723 Floridians have health insurance through the exchange.

The state insurance department issued a report this week including updated exchange enrollment, based on rate filings from state health insurers. By June 2014, the number of Obamacare enrollees in Florida was almost a quarter lower than the Obama administration’s sign-up numbers just one month before.

Insurance department spokesman Harvey Bennett told the South Florida Business Journal that the enrollment numbers are lower than the Obama administrations because some sign-ups never paid their first premiums and others may have dropped out afterwards. A portion of the federal tally could also have been duplicate enrollments, Bennett said.

The 220,000-plus drop in one state is one of the first updates on Obamacare statistics and could have serious national implications. The Obama administration trumpeted an Obamacare victory with 8 million sign-ups, but if other states are undergoing similar enrollment drops the real number of Americans who have bought coverage could be much lower.

Not surprisingly, Republicans are intensely curious about those updated numbers. Where are they? Just this week, two GOP Senators asked HHS Secretary Marilyn Tavenner to release updated enrollee numbers, including those who have cancelled.

That should make for interesting reading.

What we do know is that Aetna, the nation’s third largest insurance company, reported a drop of more than 220,000 insureds — from 720,000 to less than 600,000 according to IDB:

That would leave Aetna’s paid enrollment down as much as 30% from that May sign-up tally.

“I think we will see some attrition … We’re already seeing it. And we expect that to continue through the end of the year,” CEO Mark Bertolini said in a July 29 conference call.

It’s not clear how representative Aetna’s experience is of broader exchange trends, or whether its projection may be too conservative. (If it were representative, a similar 30% decline would drop ObamaCare enrollment to 6 million or less.)

Still, as one of ObamaCare’s largest players, participating in exchanges in 16 states plus D.C., Aetna’s experience provides a pretty good window into what is happening across the country, and there are other indications that enrollment has turned down.

Attrition is to be expected in any normal year, but 30%? That sounds excessive, which could mean other factors are the cause. How many people cancelled their insurance because they didn’t realize what they were buying? Perhaps many consumers found better deals off the exchanges. Whatever the reason, Obamacare is not out of the woods yet, and gloating liberals should keep in mind that much of Obamacare hasn’t even been implemented yet — the result of unilateral, and possibly illegal delays made by the president.

How many workers will have their hours cut to part-time so employers don’t have to pay for their health insurance? How many workers will have their insurance eliminated? How many will be forced to pay more where the employer shares the costs of premiums?

We won’t have any of these questions answered until next year when the employer mandate begins to go into effect. Sooner than that, we will discover how much current Obamacare premiums are going to rise. Indications are that some states will hold the line on increases, but others will see their insurance costs skyrocket.

All of this will happen after the election — just as President Obama planned it. Already, it appears that Obamacare as a campaign issue has lost some of its bite. But because of the delays and other issues — experts are predicting chaos at tax time next year — Obamacare promises to remain near the top as matters of concern to the voter.

 

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Why War in Europe is Not an Hysterical Idea

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Russian troops are advancing in eastern Ukraine. Threats have been made against Baltic countries. Putin seems to be reassembling the old Soviet Union in slow motion. And, as Anne Applebaum reports in the Washington Post, a new country is being openly discussed — and created — in Russia. The new nation, known as Novorossiya, is the “scariest dog whistle of the Ukraine crisis” according to Max Fisher of Vox:

The word literally means “new Russia” — it was an old, imperial-era term for southern Ukraine, when it was part of the Russian Empire, and is now a term used by Russia ultra-nationalists who want to re-conquer the area.

Putin has used the word twice during the crisis. First, he used it in April, about a month after Russia had invaded and annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, subtly suggesting that the annexation was justified because Crimea was in Novorossiya and thus inherently part of Russia.

He used it again on Thursday, in an official presidential statement addressed to the eastern Ukrainian rebels that have seized parts of the country — and whom he addressed as “the militia of Novorossiya.”

Along with other “dog whistles,” Applebaum wonders if there is a real possibility of a general war in Eastern Europe:

Russian soldiers will have to create this state — how many of them depends upon how hard Ukraine fights, and who helps them — but eventually Russia will need more than soldiers to hold this territory. Novorossiya will not be stable as long as it is inhabited by Ukrainians who want it to stay Ukrainian. There is a familiar solution to this, too. A few days ago, Alexander Dugin, an extreme nationalist whose views have helped shape those of the Russian president, issued an extraordinary statement. “Ukraine must be cleansed of idiots,” he wrote — and then called for the “genocide” of the “race of bastards.”

But Novorossiya will also be hard to sustain if it has opponents in the West. Possible solutions to that problem are also under discussion. Not long ago, Vladimir Zhirinovsky — the Russian member of parliament and court jester who sometimes says things that those in power cannot — argued on television that Russia should use nuclear weapons to bomb Poland and the Baltic countries — “dwarf states,” he called them — and show the West who really holds power in Europe: “Nothing threatens America, it’s far away. But Eastern European countries will place themselves under the threat of total annihilation,” he declared. Vladimir Putin indulges these comments: Zhirinovsky’s statements are not official policy, the Russian president says, but he always “gets the party going.”

A far more serious person, the dissident Russian analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, has recently published an article arguing, along lines that echo Zhirinovsky’s threats, that Putin really is weighing the possibility of limited nuclear strikes — perhaps against one of the Baltic capitals, perhaps a Polish city — to prove that NATO is a hollow, meaningless entity that won’t dare strike back for fear of a greater catastrophe. Indeed, in military exercises in 2009 and 2013, the Russian army openly “practiced” a nuclear attack on Warsaw.

Would NATO risk a general nuclear war if Putin was crazy enough to nuke Warsaw? Of course not.  If NATO countries are not going to exert themselves by fighting for Ukraine — through which travels much of their natural gas supply –they are less likely to go to war to save Poland, or any Baltic country. Putin has read the strategic situation correctly, if, indeed, Piontkovsky has read him correctly.

Or has he?

The use of a nuclear weapon would change the game dramatically. It might not precipitate a nuclear exchange, but it would certainly necessitate a rush of men and material to eastern Europe by the US and NATO. Red lines would be drawn and the region would become a tinderbox. Unless Putin has gone totally insane, it’s hard to see him wishing for this situation — especially since he could probably achieve the same ends by being patient and moving slowly enough that he doesn’t provoke the west into responding, as he is doing in Ukraine.

I agree with Applebaum that war in eastern Europe is not an impossibility. But it is also still extremely unlikely. Only blunders comparable to those made 100 years ago in Europe could lead to war.

The fact that it’s happened before should remain uppermost in the minds of American and European policy makers as events continue to unfold in “Novorossiya.”

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Obama: Social Media’s Fault Americans Think the World Is ‘Falling Apart’

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Silly Americans. Listen to your president.

Russia invading Ukraine? Barbarity arising in the Levant? More slaughter in South Sudan? Iran on the verge of possessing the ultimate deterrent to making fun of the prophet? Our southern border a sieve? Boko Haram? Civil War in the Congo? China threatening war with its neighbors?

Things are not as bad as all that, says our semi-retired president.

The Hill reports:

President Obama on Friday said social media and the nightly news are partly to blame for the sense that “the world is falling apart.”

“I can see why a lot of folks are troubled,” Obama told a group of donors gathered at a Democratic National Committee barbecue in Purchase, N.Y.

But the president said that current foreign policy crises across the world are not comparable to the challenges the U.S. faced during the Cold War.

Acknowledging “the barbarity” of Islamist militants and Russia “reasserting the notion that might means right,” Obama, though, dismissed the notion that he was facing unprecedented challenges.

“The world’s always been messy … we’re just noticing now in part because of social media,” he said, according to a White House pool report.

Hear that, you twitterers? You’ve already ruined our president’s vacation. Now you want to go and scare people half to death by reporting on events around the world? Shame on you!

If you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart,” said Obama.

The president acknowledged that conflicts in the Middle East posed difficulties, “but it’s been challenging for quite a while,” he said.

“We will get through these challenging times just like we have in the past,” Obama added.

The president, looking to strike a reassuring tone, argued that American military superiority has never been greater and that the U.S. still held advantages over potential international rivals like China.

Obama appears to be channeling another Pollyanna — Kevin Bacon from Animal House

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Does Islamic State Now Have an Air Force?

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A bloody assault by Islamic State forces captured the Syrian government air base in Tabqa, today, acquiring “several warplane squadrons, helicopters, tanks, artillery, and ammunition bunkers.” An aviation “squadron,” according to Wkipedia, is “a unit of aircraft that consists of three or four flights with a total of 12 to 24 aircraft, depending on the type of aircraft and the air force, naval or army air service.”

Again, according to Wikipedia, the Taqba air base possessed 12 squadrons of the aging MIG-21 — both combat fighters and trainers. The base also housed about 20 Mi-8 helicopters, probably a mix of transport and gunship models.

So Islamic State possesses several dozen aging, but effective MIG-21 fighters, several helicopter gunships armed with anti-tank weapons, as well as an unknown number of tanks and a lot of ammunition.

Certainly no match for American jets.  The biggest question is, do they have the pilots to fly the machines?

Christian Science Monitor describes the battle:

The jihadis launched their long-anticipated offensive last week to seize the sprawling Tabqa facility, located some 45 kilometers (25 miles) from the extremists’ stronghold in the city of Raqqa along the Euphrates River.

After several failed efforts to breach the walls in recent days, Islamic State fighters managed to punch through and storm the air base Sunday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Government warplanes carried out waves of airstrikes to try to beat back the attack, but those ultimately proved unable to stem the assault.

“Some of the Syrian regime troops pulled out, and now the Islamic State is in full control of Tabqa,” said Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman. “This makes Raqqa province the first to fully fall out of government hands.”

Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, also said the extremist group was in control of Tabqa.

The SANA state news agency confirmed that the government had lost the air base, saying troops “are successfully reassembling after evacuating the airport.” It said that the military was still “striking terrorist groups, inflicting heavy losses on them.”

The government had made significant investments in both weapons and manpower to try to hold onto Tabqa, making its fall a both a symbolic and a strategic blow.

Islamic State fighters had been closing in on the base for weeks. When the fight finally came, it was bloody.

The Observatory said that at least 100 Islamic State fighters were killed and another 300 wounded in the fighting, numbers that exclude casualties from the final assault. Abdurrahman said dozens of government troops also were killed Sunday alone.

Tabqa is the latest in a string of bases to fall to the Islamic State group as it strengthens its hold over a vast swath of territory in northern and eastern Syria. Last month, the extremists overran the sprawling Division 17 military base in Raqqa, killing at least 85 soldiers. Two weeks later, they seized the nearby Brigade 93 base after days of heavy fighting.

The group’s trademark brutality was on full display after those victories. They killed army commanders and pro-government militiamen, decapitating them before putting their bodies and heads on display. The Observatory reported similar acts following the fall of Tabqa Sunday.

Since the Syrian military is going to try and take the base back, they probably haven’t destroyed many of the armaments left behind. But the capture of the base is really bad news. IS has proved itself to be resourceful. If they don’t have men who can fly the jets, they can hire people who can train them. The same goes for the helicopters.

If Islamic State now possesses an air force, it could tip the balance their way in Syria and Iraq. The nightmare just got a little blacker.

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Report: Brit Intelligence ID’s Foley Beheader

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The New York Post reports that British intelligence has identified the jihadist who beheaded American journalist James Foley.

British rapper Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, AKA “L Jinny,” is the prime suspect in the murder of Foley, according to sources in MI15. Bary’s father, Adel Abdul Bary, the terrorist charged with participating in the bombings of embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in August 1998, is awaiting trial in New York after an 8 month extradition battle with the US.

Bary joins a list of three other Brits who were identified as possible leaders of the jihadist group nicknamed by former hostages as “the Beatles.”

That list includes the brother of a British doctor once charged with kidnapping two Western war correspondents and a former gang member who converted to Islam before traveling to Syria to wage jihad.

It is now being estimated that up to 20 British extremists a month are heading to Syria and Iraq to take up arms with the ISIS, according to The Sunday Times.

“It is horrifying to think that the perpetrator of this heinous act could have been brought up in Britain,” British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond wrote in the Sunday Times.

In addition, Hammond referred to the actions of “John the Beatle” as “an utter betrayal” of everything the British stand for, The Sunday Times reported.

He added that Foley’s death would serve as a “reminder to us all that Islamic extremism in Iraq and Syria is not only causing huge suffering in those countries but is also a barbaric ideology threatening us at home.”

The “root causes” of Bary’s radicalism aren’t poverty and hopelessness. He grew up in a $3 million home in London, and had the best of everything growing up. His rap career never amounted to much but those who know him say he became radicalized when he began attending one of the many radical mosques in Britain. He is disciple of extremist preacher Anjem Choudary, who has expressed a desire to go to Syria and join Islamic State.

Bary has already been photographed holding one severed head. The Daily Mail ran a profile of the budding jihadist last December:

Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 23, is the latest in a growing stream of young men to join militant groups in the war-torn Middle Eastern country.

He walked out of his family’s £1million home several months ago telling them he was ‘leaving everything for the sake of Allah’.

Friends said Bary – an aspiring rapper on the ‘grime’ music scene – grew increasingly radical and violent after mixing with thugs linked to hate preacher Anjem Choudary.

He has posted a series of photographs online, including shots of him masked and posing with guns under the title ‘soldier of Allah’.

In other messages he called on Allah to ‘grant us martyrdom’, and praised Osama Bin Laden. Bary, whose music has featured on Radio 1, is one of six children of Adel Abdul Bary, 53.

Bary probably won’t be able to come back to Britain. But his friends and other British, French, German and other European terrorists will. You can see why these governments are so worried. Potentially, dozens of trained terrorists dedicated to killing as many civilians as possible will be able to blend in with the population. Intelligence will no doubt identify many of them. But there going to be many who slip through and arrive home unnoticed, only to be heard from when they strike.

 

 

 

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Ferguson is Calm, But What if There’s No Indictment?

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The grand jury considering whether to charge Officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown case is coming under pressure from politicians and residents of Ferguson, Missouri to do the “right” thing and indict the policeman for murder.

Otherwise…? The unspoken threat that violence would erupt if no indictment is returned isn’t very subtle.

Associated Press:

Conditions calmed this week in Ferguson after nights of sometimes violent unrest stemming from the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer. But a delicate and crucial question lingers: What happens if the grand jury now considering the case doesn’t return a charge against the officer?

The fear among some local residents and officials trying to maintain peace in Ferguson is that failure to charge the officer could stoke new anger among a community profoundly mistrustful of the legal system. Many say they just hope the grand jury’s decision, whatever it is, has irrefutable facts to back it up.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill told The Associated Press she’s pushing for federal and local investigations to be completed around the same time so that all evidence in the case can be made public — a step many consider important should prosecutors decide not to charge the officer. Her office said Friday that the Department of Justice hasn’t given a timeline for the federal investigation, which centers on whether a civil rights violation occurred when officer Darren Wilson fatally shot the unarmed Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

McCaskill, a former prosecutor in Missouri, said she’s hopeful the physical evidence in the case — including blood spatter patterns, clothing and shell casings — will provide “incontrovertible facts” about what happened during the shooting. She said whatever local prosecutors decide, it will be important to explain the decision by providing that physical evidence, and that won’t be possible if the federal investigation is ongoing.

McCaskill said she urged Attorney General Eric Holder during a meeting earlier this week to speed up what is typically a lengthier federal process.

“What we want to avoid is a decision being made without all the information being available to the public also,” McCaskill said, adding that not being able to do so could “create more stress and certainly much more fear that we would be back to worrying about people being able to protest safely.”

It is not likely that the facts will be “incontrovertible.” They rarely are. It is reasonable to assume that some of the evidence will be ambiguous. Some of it may even be contradictory. Judging by the wild disparity in eye witness reports we’ve seen already, it is doubtful that a clear picture of guilt or innocence will be forthcoming.

And what’s the point of conducting a “secret” grand jury proceeding if you’re going to make their deliberations public? It’s another layer of intimidation that is being brought to bear on the grand jurors to do what the mob wants and indict Officer Wilson.

Residents of Ferguson made it clear what the grand jury must do:

“This officer has to be indicted. I’d hate to see what happens if he isn’t. The rioting, the looting, man …,” said resident Larry Loveless, 29, as he stopped at the memorial for Brown where he was killed.

The racial make up of the grand jury is another potential flash point. There are only 3 blacks on the 12-person panel, allowing a decision not to prosecute Wilson to play directly into the racialist’s hands.

The streets of Ferguson may be calm, but the pressure being placed on the grand jury to give into the mob will be hard to resist.

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In Iraq, Turkmen Targeted for Slaughter by Islamic State

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Another ethnic minority is on the verge of being slaughtered by forces of Islamic State. And the UN is asking the international community for help.

The town of Amerli has been besieged for 70 days by IS forces. The 20,000 residents are of the Shiite Turkmen minority and are without power, food, or medicine. The UN’s Special Representative to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, is asking the international community to intervene, “to prevent a human rights tragedy.”

Fox News:

BBC reports the victims are part of the Turkmen ethnic group, who comprise roughly 4 percent of Iraq’s population. But as Shia, they are considered apostates by the jihadist group.

“After the attack of Mosul, all the Shia Turkmen villages around Amerli were captured by Islamic State,” resident Ali Albayati said. “They killed the people and displayed their bodies outside the village.”

Albayati said the town has been trying to fend off the militants for 70 days and are now left without electricity and drinking water. And unlike recent U.S. intervention to save members of the Yazidi religious trapped who were trapped on Mount Sinjar in northwestern Iraq, there are currently no plans for a rescue operation.

“The situation of the people in Amerli is desperate and demands immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of its citizens,” UN Iraq envoy Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.

“I urge the Iraqi government to do all it can to relieve the siege and to ensure that the residents receive lifesaving humanitarian assistance or are evacuated in a dignified manner,” he said.

Most of the town’s residents work as farmers, but male workers have been neglecting crops to fight the militants, BBC reports. As a result, the only food supplies arriving in town come via Iraqi Army helicopters.

“It is a humanitarian disaster,” Albayati said. “Twenty-thousand people in Amerli are fighting off death. There are children who are only eating once every three days. I can’t describe the situation. I just don’t know what to say.”

Prime minister designate Haidar al-Abadi promised aid for the town on Saturday, calling for provision of “all times of military and logistical support for Amerli,” AFP reported.

Iraq’s most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayotollah Ali al-Sistani, also called for efforts to free the village and “save its people from the dangers of terrorists.”

There are no Americans to protect in Amerli, so if the president decides to intervene there, he will have expanded the parameters of our involvement once again. Talk about mission creep — that would be it.

It’s clear that the Iraqi government cannot protect its own people from the bloodlust of IS. And when the UN rep calls on the “international community” to intervene, he’s not talking about France, or Russia. He’s talking about America.

So, do we accept the challenge and expand the war in order to protect Iraqi religious and ethnic minorities? Or do we decline to intervene and watch as thousands are massacred or starve to death in Amerli?

There is something to the argument that we can’t protect everyone — that limiting the mission as the president has done is the smart move. In Iraq on Friday, gunmen burst into a mosque and opened fire with automatic weapons, killing 70 Sunnis. Are we expected to prevent those kinds of massacres as well?

Iraq is de-evolving. It’s the right move not to get trapped by its death throes. But confronting Islamic State and destroying them is a separate issue from saving Iraqi civilians because their own government can’t act. Somebody, somewhere is going to have to put boots on the ground and do the dirty work of grinding IS forces to dust, and destroying the administrative infrastructure they’ve already set up. Killing an entire nation state is going to take time, and will be an extremely bloody affair.

The alternative is to “contain” IS — a dangerous and completely unsatisfactory course of action. But given the reluctance of leaders in both American political parties to intervene by using ground troops, and the even greater reluctance of Europe to offer more than token assistance in any effort to destroy IS, it may be the only course open to us.

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‘Jihadi-Cool’ in Great Britain

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

British Muslims are blaming a subculture of “jihadi-cool’ for seducing many of their young men into joining the Islamic State camp. The issue arose when James Foley’s executioner surprised the world by speaking in the clipped accent of a Londoner.

Everything trendy starts in London and eventually crosses the ocean, so the chances are pretty good we’re going to see it here. But how can terrorism be “cool”?

Washington Times:

An adviser to the Muslim Council of Britain said Thursday that a “jihadi-cool” subculture is inspiring young British men to join the Islamic State group in its quest to create an Islamic caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.

Iqbal Sacranie told BBC radio that the “jihadi-cool” subculture “is the real challenge,” Retuters reported Thursday. “This is a problem that affects all of us, and it will only be dealt with more effectively if all of us are working together on this.”

The United Kingdom has roughly 2.7 million Muslims, and the Muslim Council of Britain that Mr. Sacranie advises has over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organizations, mosques, charities and schools at its disposal to help handle Muslim affairs in the United Kingdom.

During his interview with BBC radio, the adviser went on to say that the majority of Muslims in the community believed that what the Islamic State group preaches is “totally alien to Islam.” He also asserted that families were reporting to the authorities when they discovered their sons had traveled to the Middle East to fight, Reuters reported.

Ghaffar Hussain, managing director of the counter-extremism Quilliam Foundation, talked to Reuters about the United Kingdom’s predicament, saying that it was only a matter of time before men who fought in Iraq and Syria started planning attacks for Europe.

“It is disturbing that people born and raised in Britain and who have gone to the same schools as us could have been essentially indoctrinated to the extent where they can justify raping women and chopping heads off,” he said, BBC reported. The Quilliam Foundation bills itself as “the world’s first counter-extremism think tank.”

Alienated youth will seek out cliques and groups that make them feel powerful. Islamic State appears unstoppable at the moment and that’s got to be attractive to lost boys.

It is believed that there are several dozen American citizens attached to Islamic State forces. Like Great Britain, authorities here are worried that radicalized Americans will arrive home and wreak havoc with terrorist attacks. While law enforcement has been very good at breaking up potential terrorist attacks — except for those of the “lone wolf” variety — the terrorists only have to be successful once to cause a lot of damage.

That’s why it’s better to kill them over there.

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Obama’s Newest, Bestest, Buddy: Bashar Assad

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Not really, of course. But, as the Obama administration contemplates conducting air strikes on Islamic State positions in Syria, you might recall what several leading Democrats have said about the dictator that has hekped kill 191,000 of his own people.

In a recent column, the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens recounted some of the paeans to Assad: In a March 2011 interview, Hillary Clinton implied that Assad was a “reformer.” In 2007, Nancy Pelosi, over strong objections from the State Department, visited Syria, and said, “The road to Damascus is a road to peace.” Senator John Kerry predicted that “Syria will change as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States.”

Several other prominent Democrats made fools of themselves when visiting Syria, falling all over themselves to praise Assad. Nancy Pelosi actually thought Assad was a key to peace in the region. He is — but not quite the way that Nancy was thinking. Assad’s idea of peace would require the mapmakers of the world to make a slight change on the world’s charts; remove the State of Israel.

So perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that President Obama wants to go after IS in Syria, thus benefiting a man who gassed his own people.

New York Times:

The Obama administration is debating a more robust intervention in Syria, including possible American airstrikes, in a significant escalation of its weeks-long military assault on the Islamic extremist group that has destabilized neighboring Iraq and killed an American journalist, officials said Friday.

While President Obama has long resisted being drawn into Syria’s bloody civil war, officials said recent advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria had made clear that it represents a threat to the interests of the United States and its allies. The beheading of James Foley, the American journalist, has contributed to what officials called a “new context” for a challenge that has long divided the president’s team.

Officials said the options include speeding up and intensifying limited American efforts to train and arm moderate Syrian rebel forces that have been fighting both ISIS as well as the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Another option would be to bolster other partners on the ground to take on ISIS, including the Syrian Kurds.

But American officials said they would also take a look at airstrikes by fighter jets and bombers as well as potentially sending Special Operations forces into Syria, like those who tried to rescue Mr. Foley and other hostages on a mission in July. One possibility officials have discussed for Iraq that could be translated to Syria would be a series of unmanned drone strikes targeting ISIS leaders, much like those conducted in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.

Whether Mr. Obama would actually authorize a new strategy remained unclear and aides said he has not yet been presented with recommendations. The president has long expressed skepticism that more assertive action by the United States, including arming Syrian rebels as urged in 2011 by Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state, would change the course of the civil war there. But he sent out a top adviser on Friday to publicly hint at the possibility a day after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said ISIS could not be defeated without going after it in Syria.

Wait a minute, Mr. President. Aren’t you forgetting something? No, not your golf clubs. I’m talking about deferring to Congress to authorize the expanded military action.

As a former constitutional law professor, you probably remember that it’s Congress that declares war in this country. I know such details aggravate you, and I know how much Congress irritates you. But really, Mr. President. Couldn’t we just this once do things by the book — or rather our founding document — and not wing it like you always do?

Saying we’re not assisting Assad by bombing IS in Syria is like saying you didn’t cheat on your wife because the woman you had sex with didn’t mean anything to you. It may be true but it’s not the point. I’m sure the Syrian rebels will appreciate our splitting hairs on this one.

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White House Issues New Contraceptive ‘Fix’ for Religious Companies

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The thrust of these “workarounds” and “fixes” is that the administration is trying to give devout people an “out” on contraception coverage, ostensibly to assuage their consciences.

Isn’t that insulting? You would think that objections to paying for contraception for employees is a black and white issue — either you do (no matter who pays for it), and violate your beliefs or you don’t and keep faith with God.

But these guys don’t get it. Is it because many on the left are used to compromising with their own moral precepts — that they can rationalize away moral dilemmas by finding their own “out” to satisfy their consciences?

MSNBC:

The Obama administration has issued a new set of rules to provide contraceptive access to women whose employers object to their insurance plans covering birth control, which is required under the Affordable Care Act.

The new policies are intended to fill gaps left by two Supreme Court moves: The landmark Hobby Lobby decision saying contraceptive coverage violated the religious liberty of a for-profit corporation, and a preliminary order in Wheaton College v. Burwell. With today’s regulations, employees of for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby will be able to access an “accommodation” where the insurer directly provides the cost-free coverage with no financial involvement by the employer. That accommodation was originally limited to religiously-affiliated nonprofits like Little Sisters of the Poor; houses of worship are fully exempt.

For nonprofits like Wheaton College that object to even that accommodation – which involves them signing a form to their insurer – the Obama administration has created a new accommodation to the accommodation. (Yes, it gets complicated.)

“The rules, which are in response to recent court decisions, balance our commitment to helping ensure women have continued access to coverage for preventive services important to their health, with the Administration’s goal of respecting religious beliefs,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said.

For the non-profits that object to the form – arguing that signing it triggers the very birth control coverage they oppose – the new rule allows those employers to write to HHS directly, instead of filling out the form. The Supreme Court first suggested the letter-writing option, and so far the litigants have accepted it. But there was some dispute among legal scholars before about whether the letter would result in actual coverage for the women who worked at those companies. The new rule clarifies that it does.

HHS is also seeking comment on exactly how to structure its accommodation for for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby, which is only one of 193 corporations that have sued for an exemption from covering contraception.

The more the administration tries to satisfy those who don’t want to compromise their religious beliefs, the more they appear out of touch with the main issue; religious freedom. While we should “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” when such collisions take place between the state and religion, it would seem logical that the 1st Amendment trumps any effort to force people to violate their beliefs.

It’s a self-evident position for the Godly. And since the exemption touches only a tiny number of all insureds, you would hope the administration would stop fighting and start accommodating.

As long as Hobby Lobby and others continue to win in court, the administration is tilting at windmills trying find a “solution” for the insoluble.

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Iraq’s Sunni Bloc Walks Out of Talks Following Mosque Massacre

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Sunni bloc in Iraq joined talks to form a new government last week following the selection of Shiite Prime Minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi. There was hope that a more inclusive government would emerge, taking away one of Islamic State’s primary recruiting tools; Shiite oppression of Sunnis.

It is not to be. Yesterday, Shiite gunmen burst into a crowded mosque north of Baghdad and slaughtered at least 73 worshipers, and wounded dozens more.

There were reports that authorities prevented help from reaching the stricken mosque. This prompted the Sunni bloc to walk out of talks to form a new government.

Bloomberg:

Basem al-Samarraei, deputy governor of Diyala province, said the mosque attack in the village of Bani Wais that killed at least 73 people was carried out by members of a Shiite militia after a gathering of Shiites was targeted by roadside bombs.

The casualties at the mosque included the local imam, women and children who were killed as they tried to save relatives from the gunfire, eyewitness Mahmoud al-Shimmary said in a telephone interview.

Hours later, Sunni politicians withdrew from the talks with Shiite Prime Minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi, lawmaker Talal al-Zuba’ay said by phone, in a major blow to reconciliation efforts. He said security forces had barred rescue teams attempting to reach the mosque.

“These Shiite militias are massing across the country and killing people based on their identity,” Zuba’ay said. “What is happening will create a volcano that once it explodes, no one will be able to stop.”

The offensive by Islamist State, a former offshoot of al-Qaeda, combined with political instability in Baghdad, has heightened concerns that Iraq may descend into the sectarian warfare that flared after the removal of autocrat Saddam Hussein after the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Today’s strike took place after three roadside bombs targeted a Shiite political gathering 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the Musab bin Omair mosque, killing four bodyguards of local official Sadiq al-Zargoushi, Deputy Governor Samarraei said. Shiite militias then attacked the mosque, with four gunmen opening fire, he said.

The mosque, about 120 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, is in an area under government control but close to territory held by Islamic State, the Associated Press reported.

Whether this was an emotional response to the attack on Sunni politicians or a planned attack carried out to stir the religious pot is unknown. The Iraqi government has responded by ordering an investigation:

The speaker of Iraq’s parliament says an investigation is under way into an attack on a Sunni Muslim mosque that killed scores of people and escalated sectarian violence.

Salim al-Jabouri told reporters Saturday in Baghdad an investigative team has been given two days to find out who is responsible for what he called “the vicious crime and massacre.”

Friday’s attacks on a Sunni mosque northeast of Baghdad appeared to undermine the Shi’ite-led central government’s effort to bridge Iraq’s sectarian divides and forge a united front against Islamic State militants. At least 60 people were killed as they attended weekly prayers.

Witnesses and Sunni religious officials blamed members of a hardline Shi’ite militia for the attack, but some government military commanders said they suspect Islamic State militants were responsible for the carnage.

I doubt that any “official” Iraq investigation will satisfy the Sunnis. Mistrust runs too deep. But Sunnis have a stake in a united Iraq and their self-preservation may eventually overcome their anger at the massacre, bringing them back to the table. They don’t want to live under the heel of IS terror any more than other Iraqis. But time is working against the politicians in Baghdad and the longer they delay in creating a new government, the more the threat from IS grows.

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Why the ‘War on Journalists’ in Ferguson?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Two more journalists were arrested last night in Ferguson and briefly detained before being released. Three others were detained without being arrested. Media organizations have expressed growing alarm at the detentions, pointing out that the police are interfering with the ability of reporters to do their job.

Politico:

In response to the arrest of two journalists last week, 48 media organizations sent a letter to law enforcement authorities expressing “deep concern over the unwarranted detention” of the reporters and “other reports of police intimidation and harassment of journalists in Ferguson.” Last week, the ACLU obtained a court agreement, signed by the city, St. Louis County and the Missouri Highway Patrol chief, stating that ‘the media and members of the public have a right to record public events without abridgment unless it obstructs the activity or threatens the safety of others, or physically interferes with the ability of law enforcement officers to perform their duties.”

Pancho Bernasconi, the vice president of news for Getty Images, similarly condemned Olson’s detention on Monday: “We at Getty Images stand firmly behind our colleague Scott Olson and the right to report from Ferguson,” Bernasconi said in a statement. Olson was released after a few hours.

Meanwhile, all three cable networks ditched their regular programming for breaking news from Ferguson late into the night on Monday and early Tuesday morning. MSNBC hosts Chris Hayes and Craig Melvin had rocks thrown at them while reporting on air, and CNN’s Don Lemon was pushed back by police while reporting from the front lines of the protests.

Despite appearances that the police are trying to smother the story by targeting reporters, the reality is far more prosaic:

In a news conference late Monday night, Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said authorities would continue to arrest journalists due to the chaotic nature of the protests.

“I’m going to tell you in the midst of chaos, when officers are running around, we’re not sure who’s a journalist and who’s not,” Johnson said, according to an audio recording. “Yes, if I see somebody with a $50,000 camera on their shoulder, I’m pretty sure. But some journalists are walking around, and all you have is a cellphone because you’re from a small media outlet. Some of you may just have a camera around your neck.”

“So yes, we may take some of you into custody,” he continued. “But when we do take you into custody, and we have found out you’re a journalist, we’ve taken the proper action. But in the midst of it, we cannot — in the midst of it, in the midst of chaos, and trying to move people on, we have to be safe. … And we are providing protection for journalists. We had, we had a journalist who was trapped in the midst of that gunfire, in the midst of that chaos. And we’re providing protection for them. We took journalists back to their trucks.”

Reporters are trying to cover a riot where there are no battle lines. By definition, it’s a melee — a free for all, with people running around coming in contact with the police who, themselves, have lost formation. There’s gunfire, tear gas, sound canon — total chaos.

It is unrealistic for reporters to think that police approach anyone not wearing blue during a riot with anything but suspicion. This is especially true when they are under gun fire, and Molotov Cocktails and rocks are being thrown at them. It appears that many of the detentions have occurred when reporters either got in the way or were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

On the other hand, there have been some questionable actions by police directed at reporters, like the incident mentioned above at the McDonald’s last week where two reporters were roughed up and dragged off to jail.

I’m not sure what it is that reporters want. Do they want the police to protect them when they wander into a free fire zone? The police have a lot more important things to deal with than act as bodyguards for reporters. Do reporters think they should have free rein to run around a riot ignorantly, putting themselves and the police who try to assist them in danger?  The desire to cover the story under such trying circumstances is admirable, but it’s clear that there are many reporters in the streets who haven’t a clue what they’re doing.

That ignorance is going to get one of them killed unless they’re more careful.

 

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AG Holder Orders Second Autopsy in Brown Murder Case

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In a highly unusual move, Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a federal medical examiner to perform a second autopsy on Michael Brown, the unarmed man who was shot by police officer Darren Wilson.

The media reports I’ve read about this announcement have been strikingly incurious about the obvious — something  Jazz Shaw points out:

Their own spokesperson is using the phrase “extraordinary circumstances” here, so that seems to be an acknowledgement that the normal protocols are in flux. I’m not suggesting that this is illegal – unless somebody can cite a specific instance to make that case – but what is there about the death of Michael Brown that makes this a federal case? If you sweep aside the wall to wall media coverage and celebrities flocking to Ferguson, this is a case of one person who was shot during a confrontation with a local police officer, allegedly on the heels of a low dollar value robbery at a convenience store. Nobody crossed state lines that I’m aware of. And when you look at it in that perspective, there are many such cases around the country every year. (Many more than we would like to see, it should go without saying.)

No federal crime has been committed so how can there be a federal investigation? There’s no way the feds would step on St. Louis County’s toes and file federal civil rights violations against Officer Wilson. They would allow the murder investigation and prosecution to go forward before stepping in.

This is a blatantly political move by Obama/Holder, capitalizing on a racially explosive situation to score points with the black community — a constituency they believe is vital to Democrats if they are to hold the Senate.

Here’s part of DoJ’s statement announcing the additional autopsy:

“Due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family, Attorney General Holder has instructed Justice Department officials to arrange for an additional autopsy to be performed by a federal medical examiner. This independent examination will take place as soon as possible,” the statement said.

The first autopsy was conducted by the state of Missouri and the justice department release said it would take that investigation into account.

“Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation,” the release said.

I’m sure we all sympathize with the Brown family in wishing for an impartial and disinterested look at the evidence. But just because they ask for federal assistance, does that mean they get it? If other families in similar circumstances asked, would Holder comply?

That’s why the Justice Department involvement smacks of partisan politics to me. In this, the most politicized DoJ since Nixon, we’ve come to expect this kind of cynical manipulation of the law for political purposes.

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Gross Media Irresponsibility in Showing House of Accused Officer

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

This is really, really, stupid. And a shocking disregard for someone’s safety.

Jim Hoft is reporting that several news media outlets are brazenly broadcasting in front of the house of accused Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

CNN broadcast a report Friday that showed the house, including the street number, of the Ferguson police officer who police say shot Mike Brown. The officer has been in hiding due to death threats since the shooting last Saturday. His name, Darren Wilson, was just released Friday morning.

Another news outlet apologized for broadcasting video of Wilson’s home while others have virtually drawn a map to Wilson’s house for those bent on vengeance.

Yahoo News named the community Wilson where Wilson resides and published a photograph of the officer.

The UK Daily Mail also named the community, posted photos of the officer and gave a description of the house.

USA Today also named the community and reported a local police presence.

The Washington Post named the street where Wilson lives.

In the video report, CNN reporter Ed Lavandera is seen walking in the street where Wilson lives. The CNN video shows a wide view of Wilson’s house and then pans around the street to show its relative position in the neighborhood. While Lavandera does not name the street, he gives its approximate location.

Every news report says neighbors told them Wilson has not been home for several days.

A version of the video being aired by CNN affiliate Newschannel 13 in Orlando, Florida (and likely other affiliates around the country including the St. Louis market) shows a brief close-up of the house number by the front door such that someone could freeze and enlarge the image to get the address.

The version of the report available online at CNN has that footage edited and replaced with a close-up of a front window of Wilson’s house.

What are these people thinking? If you saw that raucous press conference given by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon yesterday, and heard the tenor of the black community in Ferguson, you know what residents are screaming about when they chant for “justice.”

And yet, the media, with sublime idiocy, makes it fairly easy for someone familiar with the town of Ferguson to find Officer Wilson’s residence.

While it’s true that Wilson was not at home at the time, eventually he is going to be back. Residents of Ferguson have demonstrated over the last few nights that some of them may be crazy enough to practice a little vigilantism, and deal out their own version of “justice” for Michael Brown.

More: AG Holder Orders Second Autopsy in Brown Murder Case

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Marine Denied Entry into Six Flags Because of ‘Offensive’ T-Shirt

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You’ve got to hand it to the anti-gun nuts in this country. Despite their minority status, they are winning.

The latest example of that is this Fox News story of a Marine who thought he’d spend a relaxing day at Six Flags in New Jersey with his family. Upon his arrival at the gate, he was told he could not enter the park.

The problem? He was wearing an “offensive” T-shirt. Here’s a pic of the illegal piece of clothing:

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Apparently, the image of a gun proved too much for Six Flags to endure. They can’t go around allowing their patrons to see a picture of a gun. Who knows? It may give impressionable children the idea that guns are OK, instead of evil fire sticks that turn people into homicidal maniacs.

The account is hard to believe:

A marine was denied entrance to a New Jersey amusement park last weekend – all because of his T-shirt.

Mario Alejandro planned a trip to the amusement park with his wife and children, but was turned away at the security gate because of his shirt.

The shirt says, “Keep calm and return fire,” and has an image of a red, white and blue M-16. Alejandro is a marine, and was part of the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“When we got through the metal detector, the guy stopped me. You can’t come in with that shirt,” said Alejandro. “I started laughing. ‘You are joking, right?’ He said, ‘no, that shirt is offensive.’”

Alejandro, a marine who was part of the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, said the shirt was a Father’s Day gift, purchased from a non-profit group that supports the Marines. He said he refused to take it off on principle.

The amusement park would not budge on its policy and although Alejandro’s family went in, Mario chose not to.

In a statement, Six Flags said it does not “allow guests to wear t-shirts with images of assault rifles in our parks.”

“We apologize for any inconvenience we caused this guest, however we stand by our policy, which does not permit clothing with vulgar, offensive or violent language or images. our goal is to maintain a fun, safe and family-friendly environment,” it said.

Six Flags has every right to deny entry to anyone they wish. Now, if it were me, I would ban people wearing T-shirts with the image of broccoli on it. I think broccoli is offensive. Its taste, smell, texture — ick. Then again, I wouldn’t impose my personal feeling of what is “offensive” on everybody else. That’s sorta how it works in America — at least the America I remember. Now? Who knows?

Yep — it’s that silly. Is the gun shown firing? No. In fact, it isn’t even a realistic picture of a gun. The idea that a picture of anything is “offensive” is bat guano crazy — which is a pretty good description of the owners of Six Flags

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Iraq Appears to be Getting Its Act Together

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The ousting of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears to have energized the Iraqi government and finally forced the factions to face reality and unite.

A joint Kurdish, Iraqi army, and US operation to retake the Mosul Dam from Islamic State is the most visible manifestation of this newfound drive for more unity. And there is news that Sunni tribesmen have pledged to support the new government of Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi, and say they will join the fight against Islamic State.

I suspect the Sunnis will have very little patience with the new government, but recognize the threat to them from Islamic State is as grave as the danger the terrorists pose to Bagdhdad.

Reuters:

Tribal leaders and clerics from Iraq’s Sunni heartland offered their conditional backing on Friday for a new government that hopes to contain sectarian bloodshed and an offensive by Islamic State militants that threatens to tear the country apart.

One of the most influential tribal leaders said he was willing to work with Shi’ite prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi provided a new administration respected the rights of the Sunni Muslim minority that dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Ali Hatem Suleiman left open a possibility that Sunnis would take up arms against the Islamic State fighters in the same way as he and others joined U.S. and Shi’ite-led government forces to thwart an al Qaeda insurgency in Iraq between 2006 and 2009.

Yet amid the signs that political accords were possible in the fractious nation, some 80 members of Iraq’s Yazidi minority were “massacred” by Islamic State insurgents, a Yazidi lawmaker and two Kurdish officials said on Friday.

Abadi faces the daunting task of pacifying Iraq and particularly the vast desert province of Anbar. It forms much of the border with Syria, where the Islamist fighters also control swathes of territory.

Sunni alienation under outgoing Shi’ite premier Nuri al-Maliki goaded some in Anbar to join an Islamic State revolt that is now drawing the United States and European allies back into varying degrees of military involvement in Iraq to contain what they see as a militant threat that goes well beyond its borders.

The United Nations Security Council blacklisted the Islamic State spokesman and five other militants on Friday and threatened sanctions against those backing the insurgents, giving U.N. experts 90 days to report on who those people are.

While Abadi continues to bring the fractious Baghdad politicians together and form a government, the joint mission to retake Mosul Dam is in full swing. In what are described as “massive” air strikes, US planes attacked dozens of Islamic State positions near the dam.

Washington Post:

“The attack has started from the eastern side of the dam,” said Mahmood Haji, an official with the Kurdish ministry of interior, who said that the nearby villages of Telskuf and Batnaya were back under Kurdish control. He said Kurdish forces, known as pesh merga, and Iraqi counterterrorism forces, had reached the “borders” of the dam, but roadside bombs planted by the militants were slowing their progress. Brig. Gen. Azad Jalil, a pesh merga commander based near Mosul, confirmed that the ground offensive had begun. Mobile phone networks in the area were down.

Kurdish forces have gone on the offensive since U.S. airstrikes began in the area on Aug. 8, following a major rout of their forces, including at the dam. However, they have still struggled to maintain control of the more than 600-mile-long border they share with the extremists, with Islamic State seizing Jalula from Kurdish forces last week.

U.S. jets and drones carried out a total of nine airstrikes near the dam and the Kurdish city of Irbil on Saturday night, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. The strikes destroyed or damaged four armored personnel carriers, seven armed vehicles, two Humvees and an armored vehicle, it said.

Al-Abadi has his work cut out for him, but with Sunnis and Kurds offering their support, there’s a real chance he will succeed in setting up a unity government that can face the challenges posed by Islamic State.

As for America, make no mistake; we are back in another Iraq War. We may debate whether this action was inevitable or not. But President Obama appears to have ordered an escalation of our involvement, as the Navy and Air Force carry out nearly 100 missions a day. Special Operators are almost certainly on the ground already, lasing targets and offering counsel to the Peshmerga.

The big question mark is what will the Islamic State do if they’re about to lose the dam? Will their nihilistic, bloodthirsty mindset unleash a humanitarian and economic catastrophe with the destruction of the dam? Are they that crazy?

Yes, they are. But the destruction of the dam would also mean the destruction of much of the territory they already control. Whether their bloodlust is more powerful than their self-interest will be revealed soon.

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Iraqi Vets Unload on Obama

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Daily Signal asked several Iraq War vets their feelings about what’s going on in that country recently. Needless to say, most of them were not very happy with President Obama’s policies — past and present.

Chief Warrant Officer Amber Barno served two tours in Iraq:

I think Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq was completely botched. He left behind a weak government and an Iraqi military that was unable to defend itself. Obama’s decision to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq almost instantaneously with no sort of residual force to help them defend their own nation has consequences. There are real-world consequences to messing up the withdrawal as we’re now seeing with the [terrorist group] Islamic State, with their ability to have such significant advances into Iraq.

[...]

It is disappointing. Thousands of American soldiers who served in Iraq made life-altering sacrifices. Some came home with physical or invisible wounds that they still have to deal with. It’s disheartening, and now we’re having to deal with the consequences of an early, too soon, withdrawal. The withdrawal was not managed properly.

The president was more concerned with a rapid withdrawal than ensuring all we fought for in Iraq was preserved. To see that and almost a decade of work, lives, and sacrifices put into Iraq be swept away in a few months of ISIS coming in and grasping control, it is extremely frustrating to watch that.

Sergeant Dennis Joslyn served two tours:

When ISIS first rolled in, the United States should have taken action, and it would have ended the uprising. Now, thanks to Washington’s inability to act, that time has passed. Airstrikes can aid, drops are too little too late.

I am not advocating redeploying American soldiers. I think this is a problem that should be handled by the Arab League as we have no [Status of Forces Agreement] with Iraq at this time. It is my belief that had the president ordered these air missions sooner, none of this would have happened.

Sergeant Ryan served one tour in the army and 3 as a civilian:

I think we left too early and for political reasons. I support the airstrikes. I don’t want to go back, but if the [Islamic State] isn’t eliminated, they’ll eventually come to the U.S.

ISIS is a real threat. I put most of the blame on the Iraqi government and its corruption and tribally/ethnically/religiously fractured society for the current mess. But blame doesn’t get anything done. ISIS has the money, manpower and resources to attack the U.S. and are making their intentions known.

If we don’t handle it now, I think we’ll regret it later. Leaving a stabilization force like we did in Germany, Japan and Korea would have helped, but the withdrawal was politically motivated and political decisions in wartime don’t always work out so well.

You’ve probably read reactions of other Iraq War veterans who are remarkably uniform in their criticism of the president and belief that only a comprehensive policy will stabilize the situation.

Some, like Special Operations Master Sergeant Jason Beardsley, express frustration with the administration for a preventable situation:

It’s frustrating to watch because we had the mechanisms in place to prevent that. And, of course, the withdrawal just allowed for that [power] vacuum to overwhelm those mechanisms. This is a tough thing to watch, and it is frustrating for service members to process that. We’ve spent multiple deployments facing some of the same threats on the ground, and now we see those threats strategically expanding because we just left the area.

While a a majority of civilians — and, admittedly, many soldiers who served in Iraq — believe the effort we made was in vain, there are many like the veterans above who disagree and want to see the US make a bigger effort to retrieve the situation.

For their sake, and all those who served, let’s hope we do.

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Axelrod Calls Perry Indictment ‘Sketchy’

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I think anyone in America with an ounce of political acumen knows that the indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry was motivated by politics. This is especially true when you consider the source of the indictment: the office of the Travis County district attorney whose Public Integrity Unit was the target of Perry’s veto.

You would hope — but not really expect — that even Democrats would recognize the injustice being perpetrated. That’s why when President Obama’s former chief political advisor, David Axelrod, tweets that the indictment appears to him to be “sketchy,” it is a pleasant surprise.

Fox News:

Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry after being indicted this weekend got support Saturday from one of the country’s most powerful Democrats– former President Obama political adviser David Axelrod– who tweeted that the charge seems “sketchy.”

Perry, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate with potential 2016 aspirations, was indicted Friday for allegedly abusing his veto power during a dispute with a public-corruption prosecutor over her drunken driving arrest.

The indictment claims Perry broke the law when he threatened to veto $7.5 million over two years for the public integrity unit run by the office of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, after she pleaded guilty to drunken driving in April 2013 and refused to resign.

“Unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than his stated reason, Perry indictment seems pretty sketchy,” Axelrod tweeted.

Alexrod joined Texas’ junior Sen. Ted Cruz on Saturday in giving his support to Perry, while other high-profile lawmakers have largely remained silent on the politically-charge issue.

The outspoken first-term senator defended his fellow Republican’s integrity. He also called the indictment “highly-questionable” and argued that the Travis County District Attorney’s Office that indicted Perry has a “sad history” of engaging in politically-motivated prosecutions.

“Rick Perry is a friend, he’s a man of integrity,” said Cruz, who also appears to have 2016 White House aspirations. “I am proud to stand with Rick Perry. The Texas Constitution gives the governor the power to veto legislation. And a criminal indictment predicated on the exercise of his constitutional authority is, on its face, highly suspect.”

Perry vetoed the money after Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused to resign.

With the video of Lehmberg’s drunken misbehavior and disrespecting of police during her drunk driving arrest in mind, here’s what some Texas Democrats are saying when they call on Perry to resign:

The Texas Democratic Party has already called on Perry to resign, calling the situation “unbecoming” of a Texas governor.

“Governor Rick Perry has brought dishonor to his office, his family and the state of Texas. Texans deserve to have leaders that stand up for what is right and work to help families across Texas,” party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.

How “becoming” was Lehmberg’s behavior during her arrest? Did she bring “honor” to her office by trying to bully the police? Did she stand up for “what is right” when she had to be restrained during her rant-filled booking where she threatened police officers?

Congratulations, Texas Democrats. You are defending a falling-down drunk who disgraced herself, her office, and the state of Texas during an arrest that may have saved her own life as well as others. How, in good conscience, could any governor of either party  not try and force her to do the right thing and resign? How could anyone take the office of Public Integrity Unit in the state seriously when it was headed up by such a creature as Rosemary Lehmberg?

The questions answer themselves.

Any other Democrats out there willing to show a little courage and stand up to the bullying of  your fellow Democrats in Travis County?

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Tensions Mount as Russian Aid Convoy Remains Stuck at Border

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Bryan Preston reported yesterday on the claim by the Ukraine government that it had destroyed part of an Russian armored column that had crossed the border. The White House says it cannot confirm the incident occurred, but NATO says it has proof of the Russian incursion and subsequent artillery barrage by Ukraine.

Skirmishing between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists continued near the border today, but it doesn’t appear to be a widening of the conflict. Instead, a tense situation continued at the border post where more than 260 Russian military trucks (painted white with all insignia removed) filled with humanitarian aid awaits the outcome of talks in Berlin between the two country’s foreign ministers.

Voice of America:

Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists skirmished near the Russian border Saturday but there was no sign of the conflict widening a day after Kyiv said it partially destroyed an armored column that had crossed the border from Russia.

The report of the attack on the column Friday triggered a sell-off in the U.S. dollar and on European stocks, with markets fearful it could change the Ukraine conflict into an open confrontation between Moscow and Western-backed Kyiv.

But Moscow made no threat of retaliation, instead saying it was a “fantasy” that its armored vehicles entered Ukraine. In Washington the White House said it could not confirm that Russian vehicles had been attacked on Ukrainian soil.

Meanwhile, hundreds of trucks in a Russian aid convoy remained idled near the Ukrainian border, The Associated Press reported, as complicated procedures drag on for allowing them into eastern Ukraine to help civilians suffering amid fighting.

On the ground Saturday, the conflict returned to the pattern it has been following for several weeks. Kyiv said military equipment was entering from Russia, and the rebels said they had attacked Ukrainian troops.

A Reuters reporter in Donetsk, one of two rebel strongholds in the east, said the sound of explosions was audible in the city center.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto was to arrive in Kyiv later Saturday for talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, aimed at finding a negotiated solution. Niinisto met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday and afterwards spoke of the possibility of a truce, although it was not immediately clear how that would happen.

Ukraine is adamant that no Russian vehicles or people will be allowed to cross the border. The Red Cross has offered to transport the aid in their own vehicles, but Putin is stalling. A meeting between the two sides in Berlin today probably won’t move the needle on the conflict very much.

Bloomberg:

Ukraine’s Pavlo Klimkin and Russia’s Sergei Lavrov will hold talks with their German and French counterparts to ease the standoff. The former Soviet neighbors are also trading accusations over a stalled humanitarian convoy from Moscow amid fighting in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Any breakthrough on the humanitarian convoy of about 275 trucks, now waiting about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the border in the Rostov region, might help ease tension over the separatist conflict, which Ukraine says is being fueled by Russia. Talks between the two sides and the international Red Cross, which has been asked to oversee the delivery, will continue today, spokeswoman Galina Balzamova said by phone.

“A quick resolution of the crisis remains unlikely,” Otilia Dhand, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London, who specializes in eastern Europe, said by e-mail. “The new round of talks in Berlin might at best bring a slight detente and potentially avert a further escalation over the next days.”

[...]

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it’s deploying additional staff to Russia and Ukraine in preparation for aid delivery. Both sides asked the Geneva-based organization to assist.

“We still need assurances from all parties to the conflict staff will be allowed to perform tasks safely, with due respect for humanitarian principles,” Laurent Corbaz, the Red Cross’s head of operations for Europe, said in an e-mailed statement. “Given complex logistics, security challenges involved, this aid operation will take some time, we call on authorities of both countries to do all they can to resolve outstanding issues quickly.”

An aid shipment sent by the Ukrainian government was handed to the Red Cross, said Iryna Herashchenko, Poroshenko’s envoy to eastern Ukraine.

Those trucks can’t sit on the side of the road forever. Putin is unlikely to force a crossing, although there are many in NATO who believe the trucks are a ruse anyway — a pretext for Putin to invade. A denial of entry by Ukraine would give Putin all the excuse he needs to go in.

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Obama Bestirs Himself: US-UK Plan Rescue of Yazidis

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Bryan Preston reported earlier today on the 130 US military personnel who have been dispatched to Erbil. Their mission, according to the Obama administration, is to come up with military options to get 30,000 Yazidis off of Mount Sinjar to safety.

The logistics of such an operation would be a nightmare. The Yazidis are spread out over 35 miles on the crest of Mount Sinjar. Any kind of an airlift would have to be accomplished with helicopters — the largest of which could only carry a couple of dozen refugees at a time. The Marines have about 4 V-22 V/STOL Ospreys in Erbil itself, which might also take part in an airlift.  But the Ospreys can only carry about 25 passengers. We would almost certainly need the assistance of other nations with V/STOL aircraft and heavy-lift helicopters to get the refugees off the mountain quickly.

Another option is creating a “humanitarian corridor” to take the refugees to safety. The Yazidis would be guided to embarkation areas where they would be transported off the mountain via buses and autos.

But many of the children and oldsters are very weak from hunger and disease. Helping them walk miles across the barren expanse of Mount Sinjar to reach an embarkation point would be a huge operation itself.

The New York Times speculates on how the rescue might play out:

No matter how it is done, getting tens of thousands of Yazidis off Mount Sinjar would be a complicated and dangerous endeavor, Pentagon officials said.

The most direct route off the mountain would be to head south into greater Iraq, but that would take the refugees and any troops protecting them through ISIS territory, increasing the potential for combat and casualties. Passing through the ISIS-held area, one senior military official warned, would also allow the militants to blend into the refugee population, making it more difficult to target them for American airstrikes.

The far more viable option, administration officials and humanitarian experts said, would be to establish a corridor northwest through Syria, following the paths established by the few refugees who have escaped. The refugees would then cross back over the border into Kurdistan.

The route through Syria would require Kurdish pesh merga fighters to make up the bulk of the troop escort, but a second military official said that American Special Operations forces and perhaps even Marines would have to reinforce that effort.

“We would have to thicken our advisory presence in a significant way,” said Hardin Lang, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress and a former senior adviser to the United Nations special representative to Iraq. But American troops would be unlikely to go into Syria, making that route more complicated.

Another major drawback to the corridor idea is that it would take too long to implement. The Yazidis are hanging on by their fingernails at this point, and the humanitarian aide that’s flowing now is only a stop-gap solution.

Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK has suggested the Great Britain would take part in a rescue operation. Cameron was facing fierce criticism for not doing enough to support the US in its effort to save the refugees. He actually cut short his vacation to come back to deal with the crisis, saying, “I can confirm that detailed plans are now being put in place and are under way and that Britain will play a role in delivering them.”

The Washington Post explains why some US troops would be needed in an evacuation:

Evacuating civilians from the mountainside would likely require at least some U.S. troops on the ground, however. A security perimeter for the aircraft to land would be required, and troops would likely be needed at a nearby airfield, perhaps in Irbil, to coordinate the multiple trips it would take. Additional attack helicopters like the AH-1W Super Cobra also would likely escort the Osprey, which can carry about 24 passengers.

Time Magazine points out some of the drawbacks to a land operation:

Without U.S. boots on the ground, that means any land-rescue effort would probably require at least some non-U.S. military ground forces to keep the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) away from the rescue operation while it takes place. U.S. airstrikes in recent days have kept ISIS forces at bay, but a massive rescue operation is likely to require ground forces.

But allies won’t go where the U.S. fears to tread, which means only local troops—the Iraqi army or the Kurdish Peshmerga forces—will be available. The Iraqi army collapsed when ISIS stormed Mosul in June, and there is little evidence it has improved since. The Peshmerga are a more likely candidate, but their small arms can’t defeat the U.S.-supplied armor and artillery that ISIS units captured from Iraqi forces in recent months.

Plus, mounting a land-rescue operation may take more time than the stranded Yazidi have. They are being kept alive by airdrops of food and water by the U.S. and other nations. Continuing reports and video footage of dying civilians are likely to compel the Obama Administration to seek a faster rescue option, which would be by air. The U.S. would seek help from other nations in carrying out the risky endeavor.

Once again, such an operation would require allied ground forces to ensure the security of pickup zones, and to help suppress ISIS’s limited, but lethal, anti-aircraft capability.

The Islamic State may decide that they can inflict a blow to US prestige by mounting a major attack against any forces we send to Mount Sinjar. Killing a bunch of Americans and other westerners would be a big propaganda victory for them. Air power would be crucial in protecting our troops and the transports that are carrying refugees off the mountain.

While President Obama has finally bestirred himself to act, there is a danger that he will split the difference and fail to fully support the mission. That, and his historic penchant for taking forever to make a decision does not bode well for the operation. If he is going to act, he must do it decisively and commit himself to the success of the mission, regardless of the political consequences.

I am not confident he is capable of doing that.

 

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Hillary Clinton Blames President Obama for Rise of ISIS

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

How desperate is Hillary Clinton to separate herself from her former boss?

Clinton told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic that it’s President Obama’s fault that ISIS arose in Syria. She also belittled his oft-quoted foreign policy philosophy, “Don’t do stupid stuff.”

The Hill reports:

Key foreign policy decisions under President Obama have allowed Islamic terrorists to gain a better footing in the Middle East, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week.

Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential contender, told The Atlantic in an interview published Sunday that the failure to build up Syrian rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad “left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.”

Some have criticized Obama for not helping Syrian rebels early on in the rebellion in order to combat al Qaeda-inspired terrorist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has since taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

“It is striking, however, that you have more than 170,000 people dead in Syria. You have the vacuum that has been created by the relentless assault by Assad on his own population, an assault that has bred these extremist groups, the most well-known of which, ISIS—or ISIL—is now literally expanding its territory inside Syria and inside Iraq,” Clinton said.

On nuclear talks with Iran, which Obama has approached carefully, Clinton said “it’s important to send a signal to everybody who is there that there cannot be a deal unless there is a clear set of restrictions on Iran,” adding, “little or no enrichment has always been my position.”

The U.S. has hoped to punish Russia with sanctions, but Clinton compared President Vladimir Putin’s push for resurgent nationalism to “jihadi Islam.”

“You have Russia massing battalions—Russia, that actually annexed and is occupying part of a UN member state—and I fear that it will do even more to prevent the incremental success of the Ukrainian government to take back its own territory, other than Crimea,” she said.

She also highlighted the foreign policy work of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and herself in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Clinton said Obama’s political message on foreign policy may be different from his worldview, noting, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

Did Obama’s minimalist response to the civil war in Syria really contribute to the rise of ISIS? Far be it for me to defend the president, but I think Clinton is off-base. ISIS, or something like it, was bound to arise in the hothouse atmosphere of a sectarian civil war. The bloodier and more intense the fighting got, the more extreme sorts of warriors and groups were thrown up to meet it.

Also, the only way the rebels can win is if we give them weapons that would allow them to match President Assad’s forces on the battlefield. We’re not going to give potential enemies — even “secular” Syrians” — anti-aircraft missiles, armor, or other heavy weapons that they could turn around and use on our friends after the war is over. In that sense, President Obama was correct in resisting pleas from the Gulf states and the rebels for heavier weapons. And it’s unlikely that even if we had, ISIS would not have arisen.

But Clinton is right about the president’s philosophy. “Don’t do stupid stuff” invites timidity and indecision. It leads to weakness and half measures that sometimes make a situation worse. No one is saying that President Obama should run off half-cocked. But sometimes taking a risk is its own reward. We don’t pay the president to sit in the Big Chair, cross his fingers, and hope for the best. Risk comes with the job, and risking further involvement in Iraq to save the Yazidis or help the Kurds push ISIS out of their territory seems a chance worth taking.

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Did ‘Obsessive’ Gaza Coverage Contribute to the Murder of an Orthodox Rabbi in Miami?

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

There was a horrific murder on Saturday in North Miami. An orthodox rabbi visiting family in Miami was gunned down in broad daylight in a heavily Jewish section of the city. Joseph Raksin was approached by two young males and shot. He was airlifted to a hospital but died a few hours later.

Both the Miami-Dade police and the local Anti-Defamation League say that the murder was more likely a robbery gone bad than a hate crime. But police are still investigating. And a recent spate of vandalism directed against the Orthodox community has many residents questioning whether the rabbi’s murder was an act of anti-Semitism.

The Miami Herald reports:

The shooting took place in an area of unincorporated Northeast Miami-Dade near North Miami Beach, where swastikas found painted on a local synagogue last month have worried local Jewish leaders.

“At this time there is no indication of this being a hate crime,” said Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Elena Hernandez in a statement.

She said police are searching for two young male suspects, one of whom may have fled on a bicycle. The other may have run from the area.

Late Saturday, Hava Holzhauer, the Anti-Defamation League Florida Regional Director, whose organization has been in close contact with Miami-Dade homicide investigators, said the crime “appears to be a robbery that went badly.”

“Currently no evidence has been brought to light that it was motivated by anti-Semitism,” Holzhauer said.

Said Holzhauer: “This is a terrible tragedy. While the motivation for this crime is still being investigated, nothing can justify the killing of an innocent man walking to his place of worship to pray on his holy day.”

Miami-Dade police have not commented on whether the shooting was connected to a robbery attempt on Raksin.

Yona Lunger, a local Jewish community activist and member of the Shmira Patrol — a neighborhood watch group — confirmed to the Miami Herald late Saturday that Raksin was an Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn who was in South Florida to visit his granddaughter and other relatives.

Efforts to reach the relatives were unsuccessful.

Raksin was on his way to Bais Menachem, 1005 NE 172nd Ter., when he was shot, said Lunger, who spoke to one witness who told him that — contrary to what Miami-Dade police reported — Raksin had no altercation with the two young men. He said the witness, whom he did not identify, told him that Raksin was shot immediately after the two approached him on Northeast 175th Street.

Another local Jewish community leader, Brian Siegal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Miami and Broward Regional Office, said he believes Raksin’s shooting may be connected to the recent act of vandalism at the nearby Torah V’Emunah, an Orthodox synagogue, 1000 NE 174th St.

On July 28, police reported that swastikas were spray-painted on the front pillars of a Northeast Miami-Dade synagogue, which has left the local Jewish community on edge, especially amid the heightened tension between Israel and Palestinians over the conflict in Gaza.

There may be “no evidence” that this was a hate crime, but how the shooting went down is certainly suspicious:

Raksin was on his way to Bais Menachem, 1005 NE 172nd Ter., when he was shot, said Lunger, who spoke to one witness who told him that — contrary to what Miami-Dade police reported — Raksin had no altercation with the two young men. He said the witness, whom he did not identify, told him that Raksin was shot immediately after the two approached him on Northeast 175th Street.

[...]

Raskin was walking ahead of his grandsons and son-in-law when he was shot, said Rabbi Moshe Druin.

“We are in utter shock,” Druin said.

Druin said community members ruled out a possibility of robbery because Orthodox Jewish do not carry any money or possession on Saturdays, the community’s Sabbath day.

“There hasn’t been a robbery on Sabbath for the past 35 years,” Druin said.

If the murder was an anti-Semitic act — and judging by these eyewitness reports, it certainly can’t be ruled out — you have to wonder if the coverage of the anti-Semitic rallies here and in Europe might have had something to do with it.

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Hamas Accepts 72-Hour Cease Fire

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Hamas has accepted an Egyptian proposal for another 72-hour cease fire with Israel. Renewed negotiations for a more permanent cessation of hostilities, including the demilitarization of Gaza, are planned.

Israel walked out of the talks when Hamas broke the last truce, saying it would not negotiate under fire. They have reiterated that position as rockets continue to hit targets inside Israel.

USA Today:

Heavy fighting between Israel and Gaza militants has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, as well as 67 people on the Israeli side.

Hamas has refused to extend a temporary truce that helped launch the Cairo talks last week, saying it wants guarantees from Israel first that Gaza’s borders will open. Israel and Egypt have enforced the blockade, to varying degrees, since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.

Since the truce expired Friday, smaller Gaza militant groups — though not Hamas, according to claims of responsibility — have fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells at Israel, including two on Sunday. Israel has responded with dozens of airstrikes on Gaza, including at least 20 on Sunday. Gaza officials said Sunday’s strikes killed at least two Palestinians.

Israel has said it will not open Gaza’s borders unless militant groups, including Hamas, disarm. Hamas has said handing over its weapons arsenal, which is believed to include several thousand remaining rockets, is inconceivable.

Various ideas have been raised to end Gaza’s isolation, including deploying international inspectors at all crossings to address Israeli security concerns about smuggling weapons and militants. Europe has floated the idea of a link between ports in Gaza and Cyprus, with inspectors at both ends checking people and cargo.

Palestinian officials have said that Israel has so far rejected such proposals.

Instead, one proposal circulated by the Egyptian mediators over the weekend offered an easing of some of the restrictions, according to Palestinian negotiators who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss internal deliberations with journalists. It was not clear if this was an Egyptian or an Israeli proposal.

Palestinian negotiators said they rejected the ideas, insisting on a complete end to the blockade. The Palestinian team includes Hamas officials and representatives of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, from whom Hamas took Gaza in 2007.

You might remember what happened following the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, where the UN International Force in Lebanon was charged with preventing Syria and Iran from rearming the terrorists.

So far, the UNIFIL “inspectors” have missed about 40,000 rockets flowing into Lebanon, among other arms. But Israel is to trust the UN to keep Hamas from being resupplied?

As for lifting the Gaza “blockade,” Egypt has as much to lose as Israel, which is why they have mostly maintained the restrictions on weapons and material that could be used for war on their side of the border. Hamas is not going to get a complete lifting of the restrictions, nor is Israel likely to get a complete demilitarization of Gaza — unless they choose to impose it via force of arms.

Prime Minister Netanyahu seems determined that this will be the last time that Israeli defense forces will be sent into Gaza to stop the intolerable hail of rockets being launched by the terrorists. How he achieves that goal — either at the negotiating table or on the battlefield — will dictate how much longer Israel will continue Operation Protective Edge.

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Cruz Strikes Optimistic Note at Iowa State Fair

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Sounding positively Reaganesque at times, Senator Ted Crux lit up the crowd at the Iowa State Fair — a traditional sounding board for presidential candidates — by giving a barn burner of a speech that alternated between heavy criticism of the president and offering a vision of a bright future once conservatives take back the country.

Oh…did I mention he spoke coherently and passionately for 20 minutes — without the use of a teleprompter?

The Hill:

To regain the majority in Washington, Cruz said conservatives needed to champion economic growth and contrast their proposals with Obama’s economic record; protect constitutional liberties, from First Amendment protections of speech to Fourth Amendment protections of privacy; and stand up more to foreign leaders like President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

“It reminds you of a new diet that’s really quite popular in Washington these days. It’s called the Obama diet,” Cruz said after mentioning both the butter cow and a pork chop on a stick. “You just let Putin eat your lunch every day.”

Like other leading Republicans, Cruz cast his economic pitch as positive for minorities and the working poor – those he said have been hurt the most by the economy over the last five years.

Cruz, for instance, said that work requirements in ObamaCare were making it harder for people to find full-time work, and pushed back once more on the blame the GOP has received for last October’s government shutdown.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has also sought to offer a more inclusive message with a new anti-poverty plan, ahead of the 2016 campaign.

Still, Cruz wasn’t shy in knocking the president for a variety of issues, including the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups and National Security Agency surveillance techniques.

He also placed the blame for the recent border crisis on Obama, called for a repeal of the Common Core education curriculum and even found a way to get in a shot at the rumored front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2016 – former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“We are seeing the consequences of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy playing out across the globe,” Cruz said. “It seems like the whole world is on fire right now.”

Cruz will also speak at the Family Leadership Summit this weekend.

Related:  GOP Presidential Candidates Flood into Iowa

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GOP Presidential Candidates Flood into Iowa

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Judging by the number of Republican politicians that have designs on the White House in 2016 who have decided to visit Iowa this weekend, you’d think the state played a major role in the nomination fight, or something.

Well, it does. And as much as many in the GOP wish that Iowa did not have such an outsized influence on the race, they can’t escape the fact that the Iowa caucuses, for better or worse, are the first test for candidates during the long primary season.

The big draw this weekend in Iowa is the Family Leadership Summit in Ames. Scheduled to speak during the event are Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and 2012 candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

In his speech at the summit, Santorum called for GOP outreach to working class voters:

Rick Santorum challenged the Republican Party to “realign” itself to attract working class voters in a speech to Iowa social conservatives here on Saturday.

Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and the 2012 Iowa caucuses winner, said the party erred in the 2012 presidential race by focusing too much on entrepreneurs and business owners rather than workers. If the party does so again in 2016, he said, the results will be disastrous.

“If you look at the map for president, if we don’t see a realignment of the Republican Party, if we don’t see this party reaching out and bringing in new people, then the demographics don’t look very good for us,” Santorum said.

The answer, he said, is to create new manufacturing jobs in the United States by reducing taxes and regulatory requirements and to build stronger families by encouraging marriage. Republicans can win over working-class voters by proving a commitment to jobs and support for families.

Another key to attracting new voters and ensuring economic success for Americans, Santorum said, is reducing immigration – both legal and illegal. America’s labor market has been “distressed” and wages have been held back because of immigration, he said.

“We need a policy that puts Americans first, an American immigration policy that says no to amnesty, that says yes to securing the border and then says we need to dial back on chain immigration in this country that results in over a million people a year coming here to suppress our labor markets.”

Meanwhile, Rand Paul was in the midst of a 9-city tour of the state:

As Paul blitzed across the Hawkeye State this week, holding events at Iowa GOP offices and campaigning for local candidates, he hardly played coy to the question of whether he was running for President. After all, his nine-city trip marked his fourth visit to the state since the 2012 election.

“I don’t know why Iowa keeps popping up on my calendar, but it seems to be pretty frequent,” he said Monday, clearly with sarcasm.

His itinerary this time included a campaign-style schedule where he continued testing his 2016 message on the road.

From reducing the federal deficit to defending civil liberties and reforming the criminal justice system, Paul mostly stayed on his talking points.

But the trip was not without controversy.

His combative answer to a reporter’s question — combined with video of Paul appearing to avoid an immigration activist — absorbed most of the attention surrounding his visit.

Experts say it’s unlikely those story lines will derail any progress Paul has made in the state with voters, but his comments could underscore questions some Republicans have about his foreign policy, especially as he seeks to broaden his appeal.

And just to liven up this blog post a bit, consider that South Carolina Senator Tim Scott will also be speaking at the Family Leadership Summit. Scott, who is heavily favored in the fall to win a full term following his appointment to the Senate to fill out the term of Jim DeMint, is probably not angling for the top spot.

But how about a Cruz/Scott or Paul/Scott ticket? Even a Bush/Scott pairing sounds sexy. Defanging a major Democratic attack on Republicans — that the GOP is anti-black — makes Scott, at the very least, a valuable ally.

Seventeen months from the Iowa caucuses and it already feels like the campaign is in full swing.

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No ‘Notice to Appear’ Receipts for More than Half Illegal Alien Children

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

There’s a vast difference between the number of “Notice to Appear” receipts in government files and the number of illegal alien children who have been apprehended since 2013.

National Review Online reports that only about 4 in 10 illegal children have apparently been given a notice to appear for a deportation hearing.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection data show more than 85,000 total apprehensions of unaccompanied alien children during fiscal year 2013 and fiscal year 2014 through June. Information from the same time period provided to National Review Online by the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review shows 41,592 total receipts marked as juvenile in immigration courts. Kathryn Mattingly, spokesperson for EOIR, tells NRO the receipts refer to new Notices to Appear (NTA) — the document the Department of Homeland Security uses to charge an illegal immigrant with being removable from the United States.

EOIR has recorded 20,814 receipts marked as juvenile in fiscal year 2014 as of June 30, but Border Patrol recorded 57,525 apprehensions of unaccompanied alien children during the same time frame. This means immigration courts have receipts for fewer than four out of every ten unaccompanied alien children apprehended by Border Patrol this fiscal year. Mattingly said EOIR stands behind the numbers of receipts it has recorded, but would not speak about the difference between the number of juvenile receipts and CBP’s apprehension data.

Within DHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have the authority to charge unaccompanied alien children. An ICE spokesperson declined to comment on this story, and a USCIS spokesperson referred questions to DHS, which did not respond to requests for comment. A CBP spokesperson responded to NRO’s requests in an e-mail with a link to apprehension data publicly available on CBP’s website but did not provide comment about the number of NTAs issued to illegal-immigrant children.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, tells NRO it is difficult to determine how much of the discrepancy in apprehensions and receipts appears deliberate and how much resulted because federal officials were overwhelmed with work. “But I think it’s really willful negligence on the part of DHS leadership to allow this already dysfunctional system to become even more overwhelmed,” she says. “It’s just like deliberate chaos.”

Given the crush at the border for the last two years, it is more likely a product of agents being too busy to fill out the paperwork, rather than a deliberate effort to lose track of these kids.

Regardless, the effect is the same. Tens of thousands of children will now be able to disappear into our communities and the federal government will never know where they are.

I guess that’s one way to lighten the judicial load on immigration judges.

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Obama Says No Timetable for Iraq Operations

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The president stopped by the South Lawn of the White House before boarding his helicopter for a trip to Martha’s Vineyard and the start of his vacation to make a statement on the situation in Iraq and take a few questions from friendly reporters.

CNN reports:

U.S. airstrikes have “successfully destroyed arms and equipment” that terrorists with ISIS could have used against the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil in Iraq, U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday.

“We feel confident” that military efforts can prevent ISIS from slaughtering people on Mount Sinjar, where ISIS has been killing many members of the Yazidi minority, Obama said in remarks at the White House.

He declined to give a timetable for U.S. airstrikes and humanitarian air drops in Iraq. “Wherever and whenever (U.S.) personnel are facilities are threatened, it is my obligation … to make sure they’re protected,” he said.

The Iraqi government and military will need to take a series of steps to improve the security situation, Obama said. “I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks. I think this is going to take some time.”

There’s a lesson in this situation for Afghanistan, the president said: If leadership wants a new government to work, then people of different factions and ethnicities have “got to accommodate each other.”

While the U.S. can assist Iraqi security forces in fighting ISIS with airstrikes, ultimately it’s up to Iraqis to secure their country, the president said. That will take an inclusive government, he said. “All Iraqi communities need to unite to defend their country,” Obama said.

Obama said he spoke with French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron about the situation in Iraq, and that both have agreed to join the United States in providing humanitarian assistance to Iraqis endangered by ISIS.

In a scathing editorial, the Washington Post said the president’s Iraq policy “isn’t connected to a coherent strategy” and that it’s “minimalist” and “unrealistic”:

While U.S. airstrikes and drops of supplies may prevent the terrorist forces from massacring the Yazidi sect or toppling the pro-Western regime in Kurdistan, Mr. Obama lacks a plausible plan for addressing the larger threat posed by the Islamic State. In recent weeks, senior U.S. officials have described the danger in hair-curling terms: The Islamic State forces, which have captured large numbers of U.S.-supplied heavy weapons, threaten not only the Iraqi and Kurdish governments, but also Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. With hundreds of Western recruits, they have the ambition and capability to launch attacks against targets in Europe and the United States.

Yet by the White House’s own account, the measures ordered by Mr. Obama are not intended to defeat the Islamic State or even to stop its bloody advances in most of the region. Instead they are limited to protecting two cities where U.S. personnel are stationed and one mass of refugees. The hundreds of thousands of people in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere threatened by the al-Qaeda forces will receive no U.S. protection. Nor will the terrorists’ hold over the areas they already control, including the large city of Mosul and nearby oil fields, be tested by U.S. airpower.

U.S. officials say that Mr. Obama has refrained from a broader campaign because he believes the Islamic State is “an Iraqi responsibility,” as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel put it. The administration is pushing Iraq’s political factions, sharply divided along sectarian lines, to join in forming a new government; once such a government is formed, Mr. Obama said, “the United States will work with it and other countries in the region to provide increased support.”

The president is probably correct that Iraqi forces will have to take the lead in battling the Islamic State. But can they unify before it’s literally too late?

If the president’s policy is to buy time for the Iraqi government to get their act together by keeping the Islamic State away from Baghdad and Irbil, the Kurdish capital, he may be in for a long wait. The deep-seated resentments of the Sunnis is what’s driving the Islamic State forward, as the terrorist militia is actually quite small. It is augmented by Sunni militias and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party. Prime Minister Maliki has shown absolutely no sign so far that he is willing to share power with either the Sunnis or the Kurds. Not even the immense threat from the Islamic State has convinced him to change.

Given that reality, the president’s pinpricks on the Islamic State forces aren’t likely to stop them from continuing their rampage.

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With ISIS, Terrorism is no Longer a ‘Law Enforcement Matter’

Friday, August 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The terrorists who call themselves Islamic State sure aren’t shy about displaying their prowess in mowing down defenseless prisoners. The Daily Mail has several pictures the terrorist posted online detailing one such mass execution. After the prisoners had been murdered — and apparently, in some cases where the poor unfortunates were still alive — fighters could be seen smiling as they beheaded their victims.

I’m not going to post any of the photos. Death porn has become ubiquitous on the web and I have no intention of adding to the desensitizing experience of viewing the horrific death of human beings.

That said, even writing about the horror is nauseating. Not since Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes tore across Asia in the 13th century massacring hundreds of thousands, has a terrorist organization become so effective that the very mention of their name sends people flying. The Islamic State controls a territory larger than some Middle East nations. Their sacking of Iraqi banks has brought them immense wealth, as has their capture of several oil fields. They have a 50,000 man fighting force armed with sophisticated American weapons. Their very existence threatens the stability of the entire region.

So, should we dispatch the FBI to Tikrit and arrest the perpetrators of this massacre? Perhaps Scotland Yard would like to take on the terrorists in Mosul? Maybe the Surete can relieve the suffering of the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar by breaking the ISIS siege?

What do you do when terrorists no longer operate out of secretive, urban cells, but perform their atrocities in the full light of day and proudly record their butchery for all the world to see?

What should be done to wipe this scourge from the earth?

Fahad Nazer, a Saudi terrorism consultant, writes in CNN:

The world grew accustomed to Osama bin Laden’s audio and video messages from undisclosed locations in which he railed about Western “crusaders” and their “agents” in the Arab and Muslim worlds and vowed to bring death and destruction to both. Although what appears to be Baghdadi’s first audio message after the declaration of the caliphate still hit on those themes, war against the West doesn’t seem to be his focus.

His sermon in a mosque in Mosul was startling. The image of Baghdadi preaching in public — mostly about the implications of the establishment of his caliphate and his responsibility to Muslims and theirs to him — was a game changer. It was a stark contrast to bin Laden’s — and his successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri’s — messages, which are recorded in makeshift studios with no audience and remain largely reflective of an organization engaged in a covert, asymmetrical war whose aim is to weaken its adversaries and their “patrons” before it can establish its ultimate goal. Baghdadi portrays al-Zawahiri’s dream as his current reality.

In addition to controlling more territory than any al Qaeda branch ever has, ISIS has commandeered heavy weaponry from Iraqi security forces that have failed to defend Sunni-majority areas. Its total assets in cash and weapons are estimated at about $2 billion.

Its rapid advances in Iraq also indicate that it has learned from other al Qaeda affiliates’ mistakes, as it has forged tentative alliances with some Sunni tribes and ex-Baathists. Its propaganda makes clear that the group is committed to presenting itself as an entity that can actually govern and that can provide the public goods and services — including security — that weak or oppressive states fail to provide. In short, it is adopting the Hamas and Hezbollah model.

This is not “state sponsored terrorism.” Nor is it a faction in a government that supports terrorism, like the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI.

The Islamic State is terrorism personified. Terror is not an element of policy, but the embodiment of a governing philosophy. “Join us or die” is not a slogan, it is an expression of national will.

It is too early to talk about anyone, much less America, going to war to destroy them. The Iraqi government may yet get its act together, and confront the menace. The Iraqi army may perform above expectations and push the terrorists back.

But if none of that happens, then what? Do we accept a full-blown terrorist state in the most unstable region of the world — a military and economic power with sophisticated weapons and nearly unlimited funding thanks to captured oil wealth?

At that point, we can retire the notion that fighting terrorism is best left to law enforcement, and start working on a means to destroy an entity that threatens to set back human civilization more than a thousand years. It could take a coalition of the willing — with or without the US — to confront the evil.  But whatever the price, the civilized part of the world must be willing to pay it.

 

 

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Kurdish TV Report: US Bombs ISIS Positions in Northern Iraq

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

It took the dire plight of 150,000 Yazidis to bestir our president over the out and out butchery that the Islamic State is carrying out on ethnic and religious minorities who happen to get in their way. About 40,000 followers of that ancient religion had been trapped on a mountain with no food or water, and little ammunition to continue the fight against advancing ISIS barbarians.

Now, Kurdish TV is reporting that US planes bombed ISIS positions, trying to relieve the pressure on the Yazidis.

New York Times:

American military forces bombed at least two targets in northern Iraq on Thursday night to rout Islamist insurgents who have trapped tens of thousands of religious minorities in Kurdish areas, Kurdish officials said.

Word of the bombings, reported on Kurdish television from the city of Erbil, came as President Obama was preparing to make a statement in Washington.

Kurdish officials said the bombings targeted fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria who had seized two towns, Gwer and Mahmour. Residents who had fled those areas by car were heard honking their horns in approval. But Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said on Twitter that the reports of the bombings were false.

Obama administration officials had said earlier in the day that Mr. Obama was considering airstrikes or airdrops of food and medicine to address a humanitarian crisis among as many as 40,000 members of religious minorities in Iraq, who have been dying of heat and thirst on a mountaintop where they took shelter after death threats from ISIS.

It wouldn’t be unusual for the Pentagon to deny the bombings took place — especially since the operation may still be ongoing.

As Bridget Johnson wrote earlier, Turkey has been the only country active in trying to save the Yazidis. But Turkey has very little interest in helping the Kurds fight off ISIS, because of the long rebellion by Turkish Kurds against the government.

The US has an interest in a strong, independent Kurdish state. Perhaps while we’re bombing ISIS positions to help the Yazidis, while we’re in the neighborhood, maybe we should take a few shots at ISIS forces who are bedeviling the Peshmerga, the tough little Kurdish army that has been reeling in the last fortnight from ISIS attacks.

We wouldn’t want to interrupt the president’s golf game or fundraising schedule, but if he can squeeze it in, perhaps he can devote some time to dealing with this growing threat from the Islamic State.

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‘Has Putin Seen this Photo of John Kerry Yet?’

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

John Kerry reporting for duty. John Kerry windsurfing. John Kerry riding a pink girl’s bicycle?

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The photo was snapped by a Nantucket local and published in the Boston Herald. Howie Carr supplies the snark:

Has Vladimir Putin seen this photo of John Kerry yet? Has Benjamin Netanyahu?

When they do, I think one of them will be laughing and the other — well, no, even Bibi will be cracking up when he sees Hamas’ best buddy wobbling on a bicycle on Nantucket last weekend.

A girl’s bike.

A girl’s pink bike.

As usual with these annual summer photos on Nantucket, Kerry looks surprised that someone just walking along happens to have a cellphone camera. It’s happened to Liveshot how many times now, just on Nantucket, and he’s still astounded that it’s happened again.

Apparently, he still believes it’s 1984, and the only photographers are from the Globe, and if they take another embarrassing shot, he can just call Mr. Winship or Mrs. Winship and get it killed.

Now, embarrassing photos go around the world when the Globe is Photoshopping tomorrow’s halo above Liveshot’s exquisitely coiffed mane.

Behind him, you can see his new white dog — could his name be Surrender? I don’t see a baggie in Mr. Secretary’s hand, nor do I see Glenn Johnson trailing behind him. That’s a job his aide Johnson is well-suited for — following behind, cleaning up messes left by a clueless Democrat and his pup. After all, Glenn was Kerry’s head cheerleader at the Globe.

I just got back from Dallas, where I went to the museums for George W. Bush and JFK. They have some amazing photos at both locations, but after seeing this last photo of the secretary of state, I have an idea for where John Kerry’s “mu­seum” should go.

On Nantucket, where his greatest photos have been taken.

Last year, it was the Herald’s photo of him climbing onto his $7.5-million yacht, the Isabella, the one he tried to avoid paying taxes on, as Egypt was convulsed in revolution.

Then there was the late-night photo of him with some female teenyboppers, one of them sipping a cold one out of a red Solo cup with a penis straw.

And speaking of Nan­tucket, don’t forget the famous video from the 2004 election, of Kerry wind­surfing — a man of the people, all right, as long as the people are gigolos.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has been seen tramping through the brush, bare chested, with a hunting rifle, as you’ll see in the photo on the next page.

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