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Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
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Fight Over Corporate Merger Results in Anti-Semitic Insults

Thursday, July 9th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A complicated merger of two companies owned by Samsung has been roiled by charges of “Jewish money” working against the deal.

Samsung C&T, a construction company that is part of the corporate empire under the control of Samsung Group, are set to vote on a merger with Cheil Industries, another Samsung subsidiary. Samsung is largely controlled by a single family — the Lee family — in South Korea and the merger is meant to continue the process of consolidating that control over the Samsung family of companies.

But there has been opposition to the merger, with the most outspoken opponent being Elliott Associates, which owns 7% of C&T. The owner and chief executive of Elliott is Paul Singer, a Jew, who believes the merger benefits the Lee family more than shareholders of both companies.

What happened next is probably thought about by many but rarely put into words:

What began as a duel between rival investors over the financial terms of a merger has transformed into a culture war, pitting the expectations of a diverse coalition of foreign and minority investors – western firms such as Elliott have been backed by local groups of South Korean populists and C&T investors, one of which was described by the Wall Street Journal as consisting of “2,500 retirees, professionals and others…following Elliott’s lead” – against the generations-old culture of family led conglomerates.

As the significance of the merger was magnified by these social and cultural tensions, some South Korean journalists began to note the fact that the most prominent rabble-rouser jeopardizing the merger, Elliott Associates, had a Jewish owner and chief executive, Paul Singer.

One South Korean news site, Mediapen.com, has been outspoken on the C&T-Cheil merger. At the time of writing, Wednesday evening, the site had no fewer than five articles about Samsung on its homepage, one a glowing profile of Samsung’s corporate leadership and the other four expressing support for the merger.

Among these was a Sunday column by journalist Kim Ji-ho (Korean-language link), who framed the Elliott-Samsung feud in stark terms.

“Jews are known to wield enormous power on Wall Street and in global financial circles,” Kim began. “It is a well-known fact that the US government is swayed by Jewish capital.”

Railing against Institutional Shareholder Services, or ISS, a proxy advisory firm that published an analysis of the merger that agreed with Elliott’s claims of C&T’s undervaluation, Kim explained to Mediapen’s readers that ISS was moved to side with Elliott because both represented “Jewish money.”

“The rationale for the assumption that ISS will be supportive of Elliott’s claims is that ISS, like Elliott, is founded upon Jewish money. Elliott’s CEO is Paul Singer, a Jew. ISS is an affiliate of MSCI, which is owned by Jewish major shareholders,” he wrote. And he added: “ISS’s opposition to the merger can be interpreted along the lines of Jewish alliance. Jewish money has long been known to be ruthless and merciless.”

“Ruthless and merciless”? Sounds like the bigot got his ideas from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the nauseating screed forged by a Russian intelligence agent in 1903 which purported to be plans for a Jewish takeover of the world.

And then there was a picture of Singer on the website with this caption:

The vitriol in Kim’s column is pervasive. In a caption under Singer’s picture, the Jewish investor is described as a “greedy, ruthless head of a notorious hedge fund.”

Julius Streicher couldn’t have said it better in the pages of Der Sturmer.

Samsung has a close relationship with Mediapen, and the sentiments expressed by Kim may have been channeled through the Lee family. The point being, myths and stereotypes about Jews are still prominent in many places in the world. You just don’t expect to see it among the titans of business.

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Fear of the Unknown Driving Greek Debt Deal

Thursday, July 9th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

It appears that Greece will meet its midnight deadline to come up with concrete proposals to address its debt crisis, and there are signs that some of the hardliners in the EU are backing off some of their earlier statements of what the rest of Europe will do to salvage the Greek economy.

Forty-eight hours ago, it appeared that Greece was headed for catastrophe. Several prominent officials in the EU suggested that Greece wasn’t serious about reforms and that a “Grexit” was imminent.

But now, it appears that even the hardest of the hardliners — Germany — are climbing down from some of their tough rhetoric and may be ready to deal with some of Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras’s concerns. Most notably, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has left the door open to some kind of debt restructuring — an issue that was a non-starter earlier this week.

Washington Post:

German officials have been some of the staunchest opponents of debt forgiveness, but on Thursday they left the door slightly open to creative bargain that could give Greece a measure of what it wants. During a visit to Bosnia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “a classic haircut” would be a nonstarter.

Analysts said her comments indicated that she was ruling out a plan that simply cut the total amount of debt. But she could be more open to possible concessions such as greater flexibility in repayment or lower interest rates.

“Angela Merkel chose this wording, because in the past five years, she has always publicly rejected a debt haircut,” said Julian Rappold, an expert for Greece and the European Union at the German Council on Foreign Relations. “She has to justify to the German population that their tax money will be lost. It has been a mistake in communication to always say, ‘No, this is not going to happen, these are only loans.’”

Speaking along side his French counterpart on Thursday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble — seen as even more hawkish on Greece than Merkel — insisted that a “haircut,” or outright debt forgiveness, would violate European Union laws.

But even he conceded that Greece’s current debt was no longer sustainable, though there were few options for dealing with it.

“I think the leeway we have thanks to the restructuring of debt or the reprofiling of debt is very low,” he said.

Pressure on Merkel to bend has been ratcheted up in the last 48 hours as the exit of Greece from the euro became more than just an academic question:

Germany is at last bowing to pressure as a chorus of countries and key institutions demand debt relief for Greece, a shift that could break the five-month stalemate and avert a potentially disastrous rupture of monetary union at this Sunday’s last-ditch summit.

In a highly significant move, the European Council has called on both sides to make major concessions, insisting that the creditor powers must do their part as the radical Syriza government puts forward a new raft of proposals on economic reforms before a deadline expires tonight.

“The realistic proposal from Greece will have to be matched by an equally realistic proposal on debt sustainability from the creditors,” said Donald Tusk, the European Council president.

This is the first time Europe’s institutions have acknowledged clearly that Greece’s public debt – 180pc of GDP – can never be repaid and that no lasting solution can be found until the boil is lanced.

Any such deal would give Greek premier Alexis Tspiras a prize to take back to the Greek people after they voted by 61pc to 39pc to reject austerity demands in a landslide referendum last weekend.

While he would still have to deliver on tough reforms and breach key red lines, a debt restructuring of sufficient scale would probably be enough to clinch a deal, and allow him to return to Athens as a conquering hero.
The Greek parliament is due to vote to ratify the measures on Friday.

Still to be determined is what kind and how much assistance the European Central Bank will give to Greek banks. The banks in Greece have been closed 11 days with no plan to reopen them. Capital controls are strangling the economy with most factories and businesses closed because they can’t pay their employees. Emergency loans to the banks from the ECB have been frozen until some kind of a deal is inked between Athens and its creditors.

One plan being discussed would be a bank consolidation in Greece, with a depositor haircut of 30%. The ECB would then lift its freeze on loans and theoretically, the Greek banks could get back on their feet.

What is driving Europe to make a deal with Greece is simply fear of the unknown. There is no previous experience with a supposedly industrialized society in the middle of Europe blowing up economically. There is no experience with fallout from a Greek meltdown. “Contagion” is a highly subjective concept because at bottom, it depends on the human factor. Experts can assure us that other European countries can handle the contagion, but the psychology of markets in crisis is not predictable. Panic — even if just for a few hours — could lead to a 2008-style meltdown that could threaten the world economic system.

No one can imagine the worst case scenario, which has stable and prosperous countries like Germany and France very nervous. In the cold light of day, as the potential consequences of their hard line becomes apparent, punishing Athens or setting an example to the rest of the debtor countries doesn’t seem quite as important as saving Greece.

Of course, this doesn’t guarantee there will be a deal. But an agreement is more likely than it was just 2 short days ago.

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North Korean Terrapin Farmer Executed for Angering Kim Jong Un

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Remember: This guy has his finger on a button that could launch half a dozen nukes that could hit South Korea, Japan, and a dozen other Asian countries.

Telegraph:

The manager of a terrapin farm who incurred the wrath of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, has been executed.

State-run media released pictures in mid-May of a clearly furious Mr Kim berating officials of the Taedonggang Terrapin Farm after the dictator arrived to provide “field guidance”.

KCNA reported that the farm for breeding terrapins had been set up on the orders of Kim Jong-il, the father of the present ruler of North Korea, but all the baby terrapins in the tanks died.

The officials tried to explain that a lack of electricity meant that water could not be pumped into the tanks, while there were also shortages of feed for the terrapins.

Mr Kim was additionally outraged that part of the farm had not been set aside to “educate employees in the revolutionary history” of Kim Jong-il, KCNA reported.

The dictator dismissed the officials’ explanations, saying that “only sighs of defeatists come from units” that fail to “uphold and glorify the leadership exploits of the great leaders and the party”.

He added that their excuses about problems with water, electrical supplies and equipment were “nonsensical complaints”, the Daily NK web site reported.

Sources in Pyongyang told NK News that the manager of the terrapin farm was shot dead shortly after Mr Kim’s visit.

No one appears to have attempted to intervene to stop the execution, although the sources said that the assumption is that it “would have happened anyway” as the leader was determined to “set an example”.

The incident – along with the execution of engineers held responsible for the collapse of an apartment building in Pyongyang in May 2014 – seems to have galvanised state employees to express their loyalty to Kim.

Gee. Ya think? Nothing like a few summary executions to bring out the latent loyalty state workers have for Dear Leader.

Can the world afford to have this nutcase in charge of a powerful army and nuclear arsenal? Better question: Can the world afford two nuclear powers led by mentally unbalanced fanatics?

The “moderate” Iranian president Hassan Rouhani urged Iran to “shout its hatred” of Israel:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged the entire country to “shout its hatred for the Zionists” and back Palestinian efforts to seize territory from Israel, according to comments made Wednesday in celebration of Quds Day, which marks the last Friday in Ramadan and has historically been used to tout Palestinian violence against the Jewish state.

As Iranian and Western negotiators in Vienna meet around the clock in a bid to strike a final nuclear accord, the Iranian president expressed his support for the Palestinian cause and urged the Islamic Republic to unite in its hatred of Israel.

“People will tell the world on the Quds Day that the Muslim nations will never forget Palestine and occupation of this territory,” Rouhani was quoted as saying on state-run television by the Fars News Agency.

Rouhani went on to state “that the Iranian nation will shout its hatred for the Zionists on the Quds Day,” according to Fars’ report.

“The Islamic Ummah will actually shout the call of unity on the Quds Day,” the leader added.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry—the head of which is currently in Vienna leading efforts to strike a nuclear deal—also released a statement explaining the need to confront “the Zionists.”

“Reaching this goal” of retaking Jerusalem from the Israelis “needs confronting the Zionist regime’s aggression and expansionism and empowerment of Palestinians to resist against such measures, since resistance is the only way to restore their rights and free the Palestinian territories and the Holy Quds,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in its statement.

American elites have always had trouble understanding fanaticism. The brahmins in the Roosevelt White House could not understand why the Japanese would fight to the last man rather than surrender. And think of the presidents from Nixon on who truly understood Islamic fanaticism. Carter hadn’t a clue. Reagan tried to deal with them. Both Bushes clearly underestimated the depth of hatred of the U.S. by the fanatics in the Middle East. Clinton thought lobbing cruise missiles was enough. And Obama insists Islamic fanaticism doesn’t even exist.

So it shouldn’t surprise us when we have failed to grasp the depth of depraved fanaticism in North Korea. In fact, I think Kim is more likely to launch than any Iranian leader. His paranoia and rabid narcissism  make him extraordinarily dangerous and everything possible should be done to neutralize him and his regime.

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Darin LaHood Crushes Michael Flynn in IL 18 GOP Primary

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

State Senator Darin LaHood, son of the former transportation secretary Ray LaHood, cruised to an easy victory in the special Republican primary in the IL 18th congressional district yesterday. LaHood’s closest rival, a founder of Breitbart.com Michael Flynn, managed only 28% of the vote while LaHood got 69%.

The elder LaHood represented the district for 7 terms until he accepted the position of secretary of Transportation in the Obama administration in 2009. He was succeeded by Aaron Schock, who resigned in disgrace earlier this year when he was accused of questionable personal expenditures and lavish spending on his congressional office.

Pekin Daily Times:

A crowd of several hundred greeted LaHood when he made his appearance at his campaign victory party at the Lariat Steakhouse — just inside the 17th Congressional District that splits the city with the 18th — with a host of local GOP luminaries in the crowd including LaHood’s father, former U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood.

“Central Illinois is very fortunate to have a family who has been giving back to our community for a long, long time,” Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said in introducing Darin LaHood to the crowd.

Now his party’s official nominee, LaHood thanked his supporters for all that they did, from donating to knocking on doors asking for support.

In his victory speech, with his wife and three children standing by his side, LaHood said: “When you think about central Illinois and this district, it’s people who work hard. Play by the rules. Strong faith in God. They love their community. But they’re not real happy with the federal government. … How do we have someone who goes to Washington, D.C., that represents those values, to try to make America a better place. That’s what’s driven me in public service. That message has resonated out there.”

And he returned to a message he’s emphasized since first entering the race during a March 30 announcement at the Lariat.

“It’s important to stay grounded and remember who you work for and remember the community that we live in,” LaHood said. “I’m trying to strive for that. If I’m fortunate enough to win in the general election, I’ll carry those same values forward to proudly represent you in this district.”

Earlier in the evening, one of the campaign’s youngest volunteers extolled the virtues of LaHood as a candidate.

“I just really fell in love with Darin and his family,” said Jacob Schlosser, 21, of Springfield, a senior at Valparaiso University. “He’s got a really great family and he’s a solid conservative candidate.”

The three GOP candidates essentially competed throughout the campaign on who was most conservative, and they lined up closely — broadly speaking — on conservative issues in the contest to replace U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock after his resignation at the end of March.

A who’s who of Illinois and national Republicans endorsed LaHood and he outraised Flynn 10-1. Flynn was popular with more conservative Republicans who tried to make the case that LaHood was a closet RINO despite his stance on issues mirroring Flynn’s.

The voters didn’t buy it. Instead, it was LaHood’s name that probably carried him more than anything. Voters feel comfortable casting a ballot for the familiar, and in addition to his father’s name, LaHood had been running for several offices in the district for nearly a decade. He was a known quantity running against two relative strangers.

LaHood will probably be a loyal Boehner ally on most votes, showing about as much “independence” as a majority of GOP congressmen. That probably won’t prevent a tea party challenge to LaHood in 2016.

The district is a reliable Republican enclave so LaHood should be assured victory in the special election that will be held on September 10.

 

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No Surprises in Rankings of States’ Fiscal Solvency

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Which states manage taxpayer money the best? Which states are the most irresponsible with their fiscal health? The Mercatus Center at George Washington University has developed a chart showing how all 50 states rank in overall fiscal solvency.

Here are the criteria:

The financial health of each state can be analyzed through the states’ own audited financial reports. By looking at states’ basic financial statistics on revenues, expenditures, cash, assets, lia­bilities, and debt, states may be ranked according to how easily they will be able to cover short-term and long-term bills, including pensions.

This ranking of the 50 states is based on their fiscal solvency in five separate categories:

Cash solvency. Does a state have enough cash on hand to cover its short-term bills?

Budget solvency. Can a state cover its fiscal year spending with current revenues? Or does it have a budget shortfall?

Long-run solvency. Can a state meet its long-term spending commitments? Will there be enough money to cushion it from economic shocks or other long-term fiscal risks?

Service-level solvency. How much fiscal “slack” does a state have to increase spending should citizens demand more services?

Trust fund solvency. How much debt does a state have? How large are its unfunded pen­sion and health care liabilities?

[...]

CONCLUSION

How financially healthy is your state? Most states are nearly back to normal since the Great Reces­sion, although there are troubling signs that many states are still ignoring the risks on their books, mainly in underfunded pensions and health care benefits. Even states that appear to be fiscally robust—perhaps owing to large amounts of cash on hand or revenue streams from natural resources—must take stock of their long-term fiscal health before making future public policy decisions.

00.000

 

The top five states are all run by Republicans: AlaskaNorth DakotaSouth DakotaNebraska, and Florida. The bottom 5 are all run by Democrats: IllinoisNew JerseyMassachusettsConnecticut, and New York (New Jersey, Illinois, and Massachusetts have GOP governors and a Democratic legislature).

The next best 5 states are Wyoming, Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Montana. The next 5 worst states are Kentucky, California, West Virginia, Maine and Pennsylvania.

There is ample data to draw the singular conclusion that Republican-run states are far more responsible with tax dollars than Democratic-run states.

But we knew that already, didn’t we?

 

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Greek FM Arrives Empty Handed at EU Summit

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Greece’s new finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, was expected to enter the summit meeting of EU finance ministers on Tuesday with new proposals for reforms that would unlock bailout money the country desperately needs to stay in the eurozone.

Incredibly, Tsakalotos read from a few notes scribbled on hotel stationery that offered absolutely nothing new that would form the basis for a re-opening of negotiations.

Washington Post:

Greece’s government had been widely expected to present a new plan to finance ministers at the Brussels summit, held just days after a Sunday referendum in which Greek voters emphatically rejected Europe’s latest bailout proposal. One of the key elements in that plan was deeper cuts to state pensions.

But instead of a formal blueprint, Greece’s new finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, spoke from hand-written notes about his country’s intentions to rein in costs and prop up its creaky fiscal underpinnings.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, president of euro zone finance ministers, said it was “too early to say” whether the Greek plans were substantive enough to reopen talks.

“In the eyes of the euro group, the problems in Greece do really need credible reforms,” he said. “And, therefore, we need to hear from the Greek government whether they have such reforms in mind.”

Now, the euro group must wait until Wednesday when finance ministers will convene again via conference call. Greece’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, also is due to address the European Parliament on Wednesday morning.

“Time is very short, and more so as we go on,” Dijsselbloem said.

After several hours of closed-doors talks Tuesday, the finance ministers emerged to report disappointment at the lack of progress even as Greek banks struggle just to keep their ATMs stocked with the bare minimum of cash.

No specific details of Tsakalotos’s presentation were made public. But a photo gave a clue of the tone. Tsakalotos held notes, written on hotel stationery, which included the words “no triumphalism” — an apparent reminder not to gloat after the Sunday vote.

Triumphalism? Germany and several other EU countries are ready to throw Greece off a cliff and he thinks he has something to gloat about?

This is just more evidence that the Greek government is operating in a dream world. They actually believe a democratic vote will force the rest of Europe to forgive tens of billions of euros in debt, remove all impediments to their wild spending schemes, and then supply them with more loans and emergency funding for their banks.

Perhaps they should now hold a referendum in the rest of Europe to see if the continent’s taxpayers want to keep funding Greece’s profligacy. I don’t think they’d like the result of that vote.

And what of Greek banks? They were originally supposed to re-open today. But that was put off until tomorrow. Now there are indications they might not re-open for the rest of the week. It hardly matters because Greece is going to run out of cash in the next 48 hours, precipitating the ugliest banking crisis in modern times. The government will either issue IOUs to pensioners and employees, or they could reintroduce the drachma, the currency Greece used before they joined the euro.

Prime Minister Alex Tsipras is scheduled to address a summit of political leaders tomorrow where he may ask for “interim” funding until the end of July. But the Germans especially are tired of kicking the can down the road, and it will be hard for EU hardliners to approve such a request.

Perhaps the harsh reality of a banking collapse will finally bring Tsipras to his senses. Right now, he is feeding his delusions that the referendum vote strengthened his position somehow, when it had exactly the opposite effect. All the “no” vote appeared to do was anger most of the rest of Europe and harden the hearts of Chancellor Merkel and the rest of Greek’s major creditors.

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Evidence of Alien Microbes on Comet is ‘Unequivocal’

Monday, July 6th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Two astronomers say that data coming from a recently “reawakened” space probe that landed on a comet last November indicate the presence of microbes below the water ice.

The Philae lander dropped from the Rosetta spacecraft orbiting a comet called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko last November tried to land, but instead of attaching itself to the surface, bounced several times and landed in the shade. This caused the lander to shut down due to lack of sunlight to power itself.

But 7 months later, as the comet raced toward the sun, more of the surface was exposed to sunlight and Philae woke up. Since then, it has been sending back pictures and reams of data to scientists on earth.

Sky News:

The experts say the most likely explanation for certain features of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet, such as its organic-rich black crust, is the presence of living organisms beneath an icy surface.

Rosetta, the European spacecraft orbiting the comet, is also said to have picked up strange “clusters” of organic material that resemble viral particles.

But neither Rosetta nor its lander probe, Philae, are equipped to search for direct evidence of life after a proposal to include this in the mission was allegedly dismissed.

Astronomer and astrobiologist Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, who was involved in planning for the mission 15 years ago, said: “I wanted to include a very inexpensive life-detection experiment. At the time it was thought this was a bizarre proposition.”

He and colleague Dr Max Wallis, from the University of Cardiff, believe 67P and other comets like it could provide homes for living microbes similar to the “extremophiles” that inhabit the most inhospitable regions of the Earth.

They say comets may have helped to sow the seeds of life on Earth and possibly other planets such as Mars early in the solar system’s existence.

Philae failed to attach itself to the surface of Comet 67P after being dropped by mothership Rosetta in November, and bounced several times before landing in the shade.

After being forced into hibernation by the lack of sunlight reaching its solar panels, scientists were euphoric when it began “waking up” as the comet raced towards the sun. It is currently about 176.7 million miles from Earth and travelling at more than 73,000 mph.

Computer simulations have suggested microbes could inhabit the comet’s watery regions.

It has a black hydrocarbon crust overlaying ice, smooth icy “seas”, and flat-bottomed craters containing “lakes” of re-frozen water overlain with organic debris.

Prof Wickramasinghe said: “What we’re saying is that data coming from the comet seems to unequivocally, in my opinion, point to micro-organisms being involved in the formation of the icy structures, the preponderance of aromatic hydrocarbons, and the very dark surface.

This is an extremely tantalizing clue, but probably won’t be accepted by most scientists as “evidence” of alien life. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” said the late astronomer Carl Sagan. Wickramsinghe and Wallis have fallen far short of that standard.

There’s nothing new in the theory that comets and even asteroids deposited life, or the building blocks of life on earth more than 4 billion years ago. We’ve known that comets carry organic compounds and amino acids on their journey through space by examining their remnants that fall to earth.

But the fascinating thing about this potential discovery is that several moons in our solar system also have abundant water ice. Jupiter’s moon Europa may even be covered by a vast ocean of liquid water that exists below an ice crust that may be several miles thick. The idea that microbes exist below the water ice on a comet will probably spur NASA to fully fund a mission to Europa , tentatively scheduled sometime in the next decade. The agency is still working out a way for a lander to penetrate the ice in order to reach the liquid water below to test for life.

We may have to wait until then for confirmation that alien life exists in our solar system.

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Firefighter Who Flew Battle Flag in Parade Suspended

Sunday, July 5th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A southern Minnesota volunteer firefighter flew a Confederate battle flag off the back of the fire truck he was driving in a 4th of July parade and has been suspended.

Brian Nielson said he had been with the department for about 10 years and flew the flag because he was fed up with political correctness that was “taking things out of history.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune:

My view is that PC is going too far taking things out of history,” Nielsen said. “It has nothing to do with slavery. I don’t see color, black or white. We’re all equal.”

Randy Kehr, the chamber’s executive director said, “My personal view is that it was unfortunate” that the Confederate flag was flown in the parade. “Certainly, it’s within their right. It’s a difficult situation. … It’s a part of history. It truly is.”

Kehr said he didn’t know ahead of time that the Southern flag would be flown, and if he had, “I would probably have asked [Nielsen] respectfully not to fly it.”

Nielsen said the Confederate flag’s display was his decision alone and he did not think he needed his department’s approval.

“I didn’t think it would bring this much attention,” he said. “I just wanted to stand up and say that PC is not right all the time. They’re actually not right most of the time.”

Before the parade, Nielsen said, a woman wearing a DFL patch on her shirt came up to him and criticized him for having the Confederate flag on the truck. Otherwise, he added, “there were some people who stood up and clapped” as the truck went by with the two flags side by side.

Parade rules distributed to entrants say “all vehicles … must be decorated in either a patriotic theme or according to the parade theme.” This year’s theme: “Teaming Up for America.”

Kehr chuckled a bit and acknowledged that the Hartland fire truck was “probably not” in compliance.

During the community’s fireworks Saturday night, Kehr said, he heard nothing about the Confederate flag flying in the parade.

“I think in about two days it will essentially be forgotten,” he said.

The department is overreacting to what amounts to a free speech issue. Simply put, there is more than one interpretation of what the battle flag represents and to embrace the notion that anyone who disagrees with the minority viewpoint that the battle flag represents racism should be fired is tantamount to violating free speech.

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Farewell and Adieu to You, My Greek Ladies

Sunday, July 5th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

About 20% of the referendum vote in Greece has been counted and early official projections show that “at least” 61% of Greeks voted “no” to the bailout terms offered by the EU.

Wall Street Journal:

A first official projection of Greece’s referendum outcome, based on early counting, said that at least 61% of Greeks voted “no” to creditors’ demands on Sunday, an outcome that—if confirmed—would set the country on a collision course with the rest of the eurozone.

The projection, announced by the company Singular Logic, the official partner of Greece’s interior ministry in carrying out the referendum, was announced after some 20% of the vote had been counted.

“The estimate from Singular Logic is that the result in favor of ‘no’ will exceed 61%,” a spokesman for the organizing company said.

The official projection, if confirmed when all votes are counted, points to a heavier-than-expected victory for the “no” campaign against the austerity policies demanded by Greece’s creditors: the rest of the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund.

Four opinion polls conducted during Sunday by private broadcasters had pointed to a narrow majority for the “no” camp.

The projected outcome would strengthen the domestic standing of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who campaigned vehemently for Greeks to reject lenders’ terms for further bailout funding.

But Mr. Tsipras might soon find it difficult to deliver on his promise to secure a more lenient bailout deal from Europe, where other governments, led by Germany, are in no mood to offer Greece more generous terms.

Greece faces a race to secure financing before a major bond held by the European Central Bank falls due on July 20. Default could precipitate an escalation of Greece’s already severe financial and economic paralysis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will fly to Paris Monday for talks on Greece with French President François Hollande, her spokesman said after polls closed in Greece.

Greece has already defaulted on a payment to the IMF and closed its banks for a week. Unless we’ve been reading the French, German, and most of the EU leaders wrong who have been saying for a couple of weeks that a “no” vote would be tantamount to an exit from the common currency, it appears that, at least temporarily, Greece will have to step out of the eurozone.

Whether that becomes permanent or not is entirely up to Prime Minister Tsipras, whose delusions contaminated the Greek electorate. Those most desperate — the young (50% unemployment), pensioners, the poor, and, of course, the far left — share Tsipras’s fantasies about going back to the negotiating table in a stronger position because of a “no” vote. They will be disabused of that notion very quickly by the rest of Europe.

Germany is in no mood — and Chancellor Merkel is in no political position — to offer any compromises to Tsipras. French President Hollande might be more accommodating, but even the socialist government of France cannot give the Greek prime minister anywhere near the concessions he wants.

The banks are set to re-open on Tuesday, to an uncertain populace. Unless the European Central Bank sees fit to open the spigot of emergency funding, there simply will be no cash available.

There will probably be talks this week but the only “give” is going to come from Greece. The rest of the EU is sick of Tsipras’s juvenile antics and appears prepared to give the Greek prime minister a hefty dose of reality.

 

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Clinton Campaign Ropes Off Reporters at New Hampshire Parade

Sunday, July 5th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Any doubts about how Hillary Clinton feels about the press were dispatched yesterday in New Hampshire where Clinton aides created a “moving rope line” that trapped reporters trying to cover the candidate as she marched in a parade, and dragged them along — willing or not.

ABC News:

At the Fourth of July parade Hillary Clinton marched in Saturday in Gorham, New Hampshire, reporters following the candidate were kept — and at moments, dragged — behind an actual moving rope line.

The rope, which two Clinton staffers held on to on either side, was meant to give Clinton space as she walked down the parade route, but photos of reporters being dragged behind the rope as she marched have gone viral on Twitter.

The New Hampshire GOP released a statement critiquing Clinton, saying her use of the rope “insults the traditions of our First-in-the-Nation primary” and touted the Republican presidential candidates for marching in parades without “obstruction from their staff.”

Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement: “While the GOP may want to spin a good yarn on this, let’s not get tied up in knots. We wanted to accommodate the press, allow her to greet voters, and allow the press to be right there in the parade with her as opposed to preset locations. And that’s what we did.”

Clinton, meanwhile, seemed to enjoy the parade herself, as she waved to and greeted voters — ignoring a group of loud protesters that trailed right behind her.

“Where were you at 3am when the phone rang? Name one accomplishment! Tell us about when you were poor!” shouted one man, holding up a sign that read “BENGHAZI.”

But Clinton didn’t let that rattle her.

“I’m just having a good time meeting everybody,” Clinton said when asked whether she had anything to say to them.

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WaPo’s Philip Rucker reported that at first, reporters could get close enough to Hillary to hear what she was saying to voters. But then aides stretched the rope across the street and kept the press at least 15 feet from the candidate.

Clinton’s manic desire to manage the press and her message has gotten her into trouble this time. Jay Caruso, writing at Legal Insurrection, points out how truly bad the optics of these photos are. Indeed, they infantilize reporters, while giving off a whiff of Clinton authoritarianism.

I doubt very much if there will be any more “moving rope lines” during a Clinton campaign event.

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Netanyahu Warns of Western ‘Collapse’ in Iran Negotiations

Sunday, July 5th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is warning that western negotiators have completely caved in to Iranian demands about its nuclear program, setting the stage for the construction of a nuclear weapon.

He may be on to something. A week ago, most observers believed that there was little chance that an agreement could be achieved any time soon. But in the last 3 days, the U.S. has made massive concessions to the Iranians on inspections, sanctions relief, and Iran’s past nuclear activities. These were all Iranian “red lines” that Tehran was refusing to back down on.

No worries. It was the west doing the backing down.

Jerusalem Post:

Three major sticking points obstructing world powers and Iran from making an historic nuclear deal appear to have been resolved by their technical experts over the weekend.

The US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany reportedly have agreed with Iran on a mechanism that would allow sanctions to snap back into place should Tehran violate any final nuclear agreement. The six world powers are negotiating with Iran to cap, restrict, monitor and partially roll back its nuclear program for a finite period in exchange for sanctions relief.

Instead of restarting automatically, a committee made up of representatives from each nation would vote on whether sanctions should be reimposed in the event of “significant noncompliance.”

Good luck with that. In a few months, no one is going to want sanctions to “snap back” — especially Russia and China, who would veto any UN attempt to reimpose sanctions on Iran.

A majority would decide the vote.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and his delegation remained largely silent at the Imperial Hotel in Vienna through another tense day of negotiations on Saturday, just blocks away from the Palais Coburg where the main negotiations are taking place. Kerry and US Secretary of Energy Earnest Moniz met with their Iranian counterparts over the weekend.

A second hurdle challenging world powers has been Iran’s reluctance to cooperate with the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, on its investigation into the possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear program. Negotiations first began in 2013, in no small part to resolve these concerns, and the IAEA’s reports provided a basis for sanctions resolutions out of the United Nations Security Council.

IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano visited Tehran last week for talks on the matter, as well as to negotiate the access it needs to verify Iran’s compliance to any future deal.

His initial statement out of that meeting suggested substantial gaps remain between his understanding of the IAEA’s needs and that of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

However, Amano said on Saturday that his agency’s full PMD report may be ready by the end of the year.

“With cooperation from Iran, I think we can issue a report by the end of the year on the assessment of the clarification of the issues related to the possible military dimensions,” Amano said.

Iran has refused to answer virtually all of the IAEA’s questions since 2006 when it suspended its participation with the organization’s protocols.

As for sanctions relief, here’s what Iran is saying about it in their semi-official news organ:

“On the day of the agreement, all economic and financial sanctions by the EU, the US, and the Security Council will be removed and we will take measures to meet commitments,” the top Iranian negotiator said during a live program from Vienna broadcast by IRIB on Saturday.

Both sides are trying to meet the July 7 deadline, but Iran is not bound by the date, Araqchi said, adding that Tehran will not accept a bad deal and is looking for an agreement that respects its red lines and the Iranian nation’s rights.

“We had never advanced this far during the past talks,” he added.

It appears that the reason we’re so close to a deal is because John Kerry has caved on every major issue. Charles Krauthammer is calling the deal the worst in U.S. diplomatic history.

From what we know, it’s hard to argue with him.

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Illegal Alien, Deported 5 Times, Murders San Francisco Woman

Friday, July 3rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The left will never accept the real point that Donald Trump was trying to make about illegal immigration. They and almost everyone else are having too much fun lining up to take pot shots at The Donald, erasing his name and likeness from pop culture — disappearing him for his “transgression.”

True, Trump stumbled over his statement like the rank amatuer he is. He was inartful, tongue tied, and almost incoherent in making a very valid point. But he did not smear all Mexicans, nor even all illegal aliens as his enemies are gleefully claiming.

Trump’s point: because we don’t have control of our borders, tens of thousands of dangerous criminals sneak into this country where they rape and murder American citizens. These are crimes that don’t have to happen and wouldn’t happen if more attention was paid to border security.

Worse yet, we release these felons back into the population where they are free to rape or kill again.

Almost on cue to prove Trump’s point, an illegal alien, deported 5 times and convicted of 7 felonies, murdered a young, beautiful San Francisco woman yesterday while she was walking on a pier with her father.

The amazing saga of Francisco Sanchez and how he easily slipped through the cracks to wind up on Pier 14 and inexplicably shot and killed 32 year old Kathryn Steinle should make your blood boil.

Fox News:

The man arrested in connection with the seemingly random killing of a woman who was out for a stroll with her father along the San Francisco waterfront is an illegal immigrant who previously had been deported five times, federal immigration officials say.

Further, Immigration and Customs Enforcement says San Francisco had him in their custody earlier this year but failed to notify ICE when he was released.

“DHS records indicate ICE lodged an immigration detainer on the subject at that time, requesting notification prior to his release so ICE officers could make arrangements to take custody. The detainer was not honored,” ICE said in a statement Friday afternoon.

Kathryn Steinle was killed Wednesday evening at Pier 14 — one of the busiest tourist destinations in the city.

Police said Thursday they arrested Francisco Sanchez in the shooting an hour after it occurred.

On Friday, ICE revealed their records indicate the individual has been previously deported five times, most recently in 2009, and is from Mexico.

“His criminal history includes seven prior felony convictions, four involving narcotics charges,” ICE said in a statement.

ICE briefly had him in their custody in March after he had served his latest sentence for “felony re-entry,” but turned him over to San Francisco police on an outstanding drug warrant. At this time, ICE issued the detainer — effectively asking that he be turned back over to ICE when San Francisco was finished with him.

But ICE was not notified. The incident is sure to renew criticism of San Francisco’s sanctuary city policies.

“Here’s a jurisdiction that’s not even honoring our detainer for someone who clearly is an egregious offender,” an ICE official told FoxNews.com.

ICE has since lodged another immigration detainer against the individual, though it’s unclear whether San Francisco will cooperate.

A representative with the police department has not yet responded to a request for comment from FoxNews.com.

Police Sgt. Michael Andraychak earlier said witnesses snapped photos of Sanchez immediately after the shooting and the images helped police make the arrest.

And what’s San Francisco’s excuse?

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Ripley’s Believe it or Not: Something Useful Made by Government

Friday, July 3rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Former PJ Media Tatler editor Bryan Preston has settled in to his new digs, working for George P. Bush at the Texas General Land Office. He sends along his greetings to all, plus information on a new app created by the GLO that appears to be very useful.

TexasCoasts.com is a guide to 600 beaches, piers, boat ramps, camp grounds — all along the state’s Gulf Coast.

Welcome! From fishing and boat ramps to camping and BBQ – the Texas Coast provides a wealth of resources to all visitors. The GLO is proud to offer this free resource to help you explore all that our shores have to offer.

The genesis of the project comes out of Mr. Bush’s empowering his staff to come up with their own solutions:

The fact is, Commissioner Bush empowered me and everyone at the agency to pursue projects like this when he brought me into the General Land Office. He’s a former business man, I’ve been an entrepreneur, this project was one that I jumped on back in December when I saw its potential to help boost the coastal economy. We also created it in about six months with in-house talent, data and software, and it works on launch day – making it the opposite of Obamacare’s website and other similar government projects.

Bryan adds:

We built it at GLO because we’re the agency that’s charged with keeping the state’s beaches open for everyone, and because we thought it might help spur economic activity. The Texas coast generates about $7 billion per year. Maybe this app can add a little bit to that.

If you’re planning a trip to Texas this summer, no doubt this app will prove to be extremely useful.

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Fewer of Us Are ‘Extremely Proud’ to Be an American

Friday, July 3rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

What do you think the consequences might be if you’re constantly told you live in a racist, sexist, homophobic, war-mongering, greedy, heartless, no-good country?

Gallup has an interesting answer:

As Independence Day approaches, most in the U.S. say they are proud to be an American, including a slight majority, 54%, who are “extremely proud.” The percentage saying they are “extremely proud” is slightly lower than in recent years and down from peaks at and around 70% between 2002 and 2004, after 9/11.

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In addition to the 54% who are extremely proud to be an American, 27% say they are “very proud,” 14% say they are “moderately proud,” 4% are “only a little proud” and 1% state that they are “not at all proud.”

These data are from a June 2-7 poll. Gallup has asked this question regularly since 2001. The highest percentage saying they were “extremely proud” to be an American came in 2003, in the months after the Iraq war began and not long after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when Americans’ patriotism surged. It is likely that the aftermath of 9/11 may have produced an anomaly in the levels of “extreme pride” in patriotism.

Older Americans, Southerners and Republicans Lead in “Extreme Pride”

While most Americans are proud to be an American, certain groups are especially likely to say they are extremely proud. “Extreme pride” rises for each succeeding age group, from a low of 43% among those under 30 to a high of 64% among senior citizens.

Extreme pride also varies regionally, from a high of 61% in the South to a low of 46% in the West.

Sixty-eight percent of Republicans say they are extremely proud to be an American, much higher than the 47% of Democrats who say the same. As usual, independents are in the middle, at 53%.

What does it portend for the future that only 43% of those under 30 are “extremely proud” to be an American? Will they become more patriotic with age? Let’s hope so.

This is a highly subjective poll because you can’t quantify the difference between “extreme” pride and “very” proud. “Extreme” is a word that most Americans are wary of — especially when it comes to describing themselves. Regardless, 81% of Americans are either extremely or very proud of the U.S. Considering all the vicious, anti-American screaming that’s been going on for the last couple of months, it’s amazing the number is that high.

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Tsipras Begs for Third Greek Bailout at the 11th Hour

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The histrionics haven’t worked. The arrogant strutting and bombast haven’t worked either. Neither has the name calling and claims that Greek “pride” was being wounded by creditors asking that the money they loaned to Greece be paid back.

All the tricks and gambits tried by the Greek government of Prime Minister Alex Tsipras that the far left is famous for have failed because they cannot alter reality to fit their narrative. These are not low information voters they’ve been trying to bamboozle over these last several months. These are hard eyed money men who have loaned Greece $260 billion over the last 4 years and, acting in the name of the taxpaying citizens of Europe, would like it returned with interest, please.

We’ll never know why Tsipras believed he could get the EU, the ECB, and the European Commission to go easy on the Greek government that blew into office in a landslide this past January. He thought he could remove the restraints on the Greek budget, raise spending 7%, tax the rich, nationalize industries, and most importantly, set up a new debt regime that basically delayed paying creditors for 50 years.

He claimed a continent wide mandate while being elected by a nation with barely 2% of the European population. Was he naive or delusional? Probably both.

But now, as Greek slides into chaos, Tsipras has made some additional proposals to the EU that he hopes will stave off disaster.

USA Today:

Greece requested a third bailout from the eurozone Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to secure a debt deal before its financial-crisis-era bailout expires and it defaults on a loan from the International Monetary Fund, one of its three international creditors.

The two-year deal, if accepted, would allow Athens a new bailout from the eurozone’s European Stability Mechanism, its $560 billion rescue fund.

As European finance ministers met Tuesday to discuss the proposal, thousands of Greeks took to the streets of Athens, many of them in support of accepting new bailout terms. A “no” vote would lead to Greece leaving the European Union and abandoning the euro currency.

Tweets from a variety of European finance ministers who were on the conference call indicated that as expected there would be no extension to Greece’s bailout plan, and that the ministers could also be meeting Wednesday to resume discussions around the details of the new bailout terms.

“#Eurogroups ends,” tweeted Finnish representative Alexander Stubb. “Letter of @tsipras_eu includes three requests. Extension of programme or haircut not possible…cont…”

The last-minute development comes as Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said Tuesday that his country would not make a debt payment to the IMF by a midnight deadline, setting the stage for a showdown with its creditors ahead of a national referendum Sunday on its membership of the euro currency.

But despite the eleventh-hour overture, an imminent resolution to the crisis isn’t expected. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly said there would be no decisions on a new Greek deal until that country’s vote Sunday. And Greek lawmakers have pointed out that once a referendum has been set there is no way to cancel the vote.

Greece is so sick that you have to wonder about the sanity of creditors if they were to contemplate giving Greece tens of billions of more euros. But insanity has been the hallmark of this crisis, so perhaps if there is a “yes” vote on the referendum next Sunday, Merkel, Hollande, and Juncker will swallow hard and try to sell a third bailout to the voters. Indeed, the case is going to be made that Greece must be kept in the bosom of the EU or the entire project will be lost.

If the EU goes that route, they will be playing right into the hands of Tsipras. He has been counting on the indispensability of Greece to the future of the EU, first to get him far more generous terms on debt repayment, and now another bailout.

But a “No” vote on Sunday would probably mean the end of negotiations. And in a twist of irony worthy of a classical Greek tragedy, if the Greeks vote “Yes” they may get a new bailout or financing, but it will almost certainly mean the end of Prime Minister Tsipras, who will almost certainly resign and call for new elections. If they vote “No” they will likely leave the EU but will be stuck with Tsipras in office.

A Hobson’s Choice to be sure.

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Be All That You Can Be: Transgenders Coming to Military

Sunday, June 28th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Recent moves by the Pentagon to expand the rights of gays and lesbians in the military has built momentum for lifting the ban on transgendered persons serving in the ranks.

The Hill:

“In politics, I think it’s always appropriate to take advantage of timing. Whether it’s taking down the Confederate flag or creating equality in the military for transgender persons,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).

She plans to introduce legislation next month that calls on the Pentagon to immediately grant anti-discrimination protection for all service members, and their dependents, who identify as transgender.

The bill, which is still being drafted, would also direct the Defense secretary to hammer out new policies for transgender troops, from regulations about their uniforms to what treatments would be covered under Tricare, the military’s healthcare system.

Separately, Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) on Thursday lead a group of nearly 20 House members in a letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter that urged him to do away with the policy.

“People should be evaluated on performance, not gender,” Honda, who has a transgender granddaughter, said in a statement

Any effort to do away with the prohibition is likely to face stiff resistance in a GOP-controlled Congress.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) has said the decision on the ban should be left to the Pentagon.

The department “needs to look at a variety of policies. As long as they look at it objectively, based on what’s best for the security interests of the country, then we’ll oversee or review what they do,” he told The Hill.

“When there’s a sense that there’s some extraneous social or political agenda … people get concerned,” Thornberry added.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) struck a similar chord.

“The administration policy should always be a basis for our discussion,” he said.

Transgender activists say that, while they are heartened by the increased focus on the issue, they aren’t about to pin their hopes on Capitol Hill.

They note that, while lawmakers led the charge in the 2011 repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” the Clinton-era law that prohibited gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the military, the transgender ban is department-level policy.

“Everyone in advocacy believes this needs to be a Pentagon thing,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. She added that the legislative push could wind up being an “education and advocacy tool.”

Not one word from transgender rights advocates about the effect of the change in policy on our military’s ability to fight a war. Shouldn’t that be the top concern, rather than the politics of the issue?

Frankly, I couldn’t care less how someone wants to identify. None of my business. But what about the men and women in their units? Would it affect cohesion? Morale? Fighting ability?

And then there’s the question of whether taxpayers should foot the bill for a sex change operation. If someone wants to mutilate their bodies, they should have to do it on their own dime. It’s ludicrous to ask taxpayers to fund someone’s delusion — or fantasy.

But none of this matters. Transgenders will have their right to serve whether it debases our military or not. The old Army jingle “Be all that you can be” will take on an entirely different meaning.

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Bill Nye Thinks People Breathing Contributes to Climate Change

Sunday, June 28th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Bill Nye, formerly known as “The Science Guy,” has made some jaw dropping gaffes over the years when he’s talked publicly about climate change. The most notable occurred on Meet the Press last year:

Bill Nye, the actor/comedian/educator who gained fame in the 1990s for his Bill Nye the Science Guy program on PBS, apparently doesn’t know the difference between the Arctic and Antarctic regions of the globe. At least that’s the way it looks from his recent “debate” appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, where he urgently lectured Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and viewers on the supposed need to “do everything” and do it now to stop catastrophic climate change. At the 8:26 minute mark in the program, Nye rhetorically asked Blackburn if they could at least agree on the “facts.” He then held up a graphic purporting to be a satellite image of Antarctica and asked: “Would you say the Antarctic has less ice than it used to?”

This was a big flub for Nye on several counts. First of all, the image he held up was of the Arctic, not Antarctica. Not exactly an inconsequential detail, especially for an alleged “expert.” But maybe he simply grabbed the wrong graphic in the heat of argument and didn’t notice, so maybe we shouldn’t make too much of that, right? OK, let’s magnanimously grant that point and let the mistake slide, though it is difficult to imagine that if the tables were turned and a climate skeptic had made such an embarrassing faux pas on national television that it wouldn’t have been turned into a definitive “gotcha” moment to forever disqualify him or her as a credible witness on climate issues.

Oops.

In a recent video released on the YouTube channel The Watercooler, Nye made the claim that climate change was caused by overpopulation and “billions of people breathing.”

In a video released by The Watercooler, Bill Nye states that the over population of the planet is causing Climate Change:

“Hey, Hey! Bill Nye here for the Emoji Science Lab. This episode: Climate Change.

Climate Change is a real deal everybody and here’s why. If we had some extraordinary car on some extraordinary highway and we could drive, somehow, straight up. For an hour. At highway speed we would be in outer space. It’s right there. The atmosphere is really thin.

Now back in 1750 there were about one-and-a-half billion people in the world. Well today there is 7.2 going on 7.3 billion people.

Well that’s the problem. There’s billions of people breathing and burning the same thin atmosphere…”

So which is it? Are we going to die from global warming or when the atmosphere is all burned up? I don’t know about you but there’s nothing I like better than burning the atmosphere to grill some T-bones. But I’d gladly stop using the atmosphere to cook my steaks if it will save lives.

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Iran Nuke Talks to Miss June 30 Deadline

Sunday, June 28th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

As expected, talks between the western powers and Iran over its nuclear program will miss the June 30 deadline for the conclusion of negotiations. There are many issues still outstanding that need to be settled, with Iran recently drawing several red lines that have complicated the process enormously.

Associated Press:

Iranian media said Mohammed Javad Zarif’s trip was planned in advance. Still, the fact that he was leaving the talks so close to the Tuesday deadline reflected his need to get instructions on how to proceed on issues where the sides remain apart — among them how much access Tehran should give to U.N. experts monitoring his country’s compliance to any deal.

The United States insists on more intrusive access than Iran is ready to give. With these and other disputes still unresolved the likelihood that the Tuesday target deadline for an Iran nuclear deal could slip was increasingly growing even before the U.S. confirmation.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Vienna for their third encounter since Saturday. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius are also in Vienna, and their Russian and British counterparts were to join later. China was sending a deputy foreign minister in a building diplomatic effort to wrap up the negotiations.

For weeks, all seven nations at the negotiating table insisted that Tuesday remains the formal deadline for a deal. But with time running out, a senior U.S. official acknowledged that was unrealistic.

“Given the dates, and that we have some work to do … the parties are planning to remain in Vienna beyond June 30 to continue working,” said the official, who demanded anonymity in line with State Department practice.

Asked about the chances for a deal, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, told reporters: “It’s going to be tough … but not impossible.”

Steinmeier avoided reporters but told German media earlier: “I am convinced that if there is no agreement, everyone loses.”

“Iran would remain isolated. A new arms race in a region that is already riven by conflict could be the dramatic consequence.”

Both sides recognize that there is leeway to extend to July 9. As part of an agreement with the U.S. Congress, lawmakers then have 30 days to review the deal before suspending congressional sanctions.

But postponement beyond that would double the congressional review period to 60 days, giving both Iranian and U.S. critics more time to work on undermining an agreement.

I don’t think Obama cares what Congress says. If an agreement is reached, the ultimate arbiter will be the UN Security Council. If Congress were to vote the deal down, Obama would say “thanks, but I’ve got this covered” and get the SC to approve the deal. The congressional role is advisory only, giving the president the option of ignoring them if he wishes.

The real question is how much of a cave-in to Iranian red lines the U.S. will agree to. Not being able to inspect military installations, as Iran insists, would almost certainly lead to widespread opposition not just in the U.S., but also in France, which has threatened to walk from the talks unless there is a strict inspections regime. And the president’s continued insistence that some sanctions on Iran be maintained for years will probably be negotiated away in favor of something approaching immediate lifting of most of the important sanctions on Iran’s financial and oil industries.

The extra time for negotiations won’t matter if it simply means more time for an American surrender. Kerry and Obama will do anything to get a deal and that’s what should worry everyone who thinks this is a bad idea.

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U.S. Authorities Worry of Terror Attack over 4th of July

Saturday, June 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Even before the terrorist attacks in France, Tunisia, and Kuwait on Friday, U.S. counterterrorism officials were warning that increased activity by Islamic State sympathizers in the U.S. may foreshadow an attack over the 4th of July weekend.

While it is common for Homeland Security to issue terror advisories in advance of a holiday, two foiled terrorist plots this month as well as the carnage on Friday have given special significance to the efforts of law enforcement to be vigilant over Independence Day weekend.

USA Today:

The warning comes as federal investigators have worked to disrupt a number of Islamic State-inspired plots, including a planned assault earlier this month on police officers in Boston. In that case, authorities fatally shot Usaamah Rahim as he allegedly planned to attack police with military-style knives.

Also this month, a New York suspect in a Islamic State-related terror investigation was arrested after attacking an FBI agent with a kitchen knife during a search of his home.

Fareed Mumuni, 21, was charged with attempted murder, after he emerged as a suspect in alleged plots to use pressure-cooker explosives and knives to attack police.

In a statement Friday following attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said local law enforcement was being encouraged to be “vigilant and prepared” in preparation for July 4th celebrations.

“We will also adjust security measures, seen and unseen, as necessary to protect the American people,” Johnson said. “We continue to encourage all Americans to attend public events and celebrate this country during this summer season, but always remain vigilant.”

The FBI has admitted that there are probably hundreds — perhaps thousands — of Islamic State sympathizers in the U.S. who may have been radicalized online. This has led to the FBI beginning a roundup of potential lone wolf terrorists.

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Is This the World’s Ugliest Dog?

Saturday, June 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

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A deformed, mixed breed dog named Quasi Modo has won the World’s Ugliest Dog contest, at a pageant held every year in Petaluma, CA.

Quasi was born with a short spine and other defects, but her owner says she’s a healthy, happy pooch.

Huffpo:

This wasn’t Quasi’s first rodeo. Last year, the spunky Florida pup won second place, losing out to small, wild-eyed dog named Peanut.

Quasi’s pageant bio says that despite the multiple birth defects that contribute to her odd appearance, she is a happy dog who loves to run and play. She also works as an “ambassador for teaching people about acceptance and tolerance for things that are different,” according to the bio.

Veterinarian Virginia Sayre and her husband, Mike Carroll, adopted Quasi from Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control about nine years ago, according to a Palm Beach County press release.

The lovable dog “gets along well with everybody,” but sometimes other people are alarmed by her appearance, Sayre told The Palm Beach Post last year.

“People who love dogs get her, but I’ve had grown men jump on top of a truck to get away from her. They don’t know what to make of her,” Sayre said.

After taking a look at Peanut on the next page — the dog that Quasi lost out to in last year’s contest — you might wonder how this Chihuahua-Shitzu mix ever lost the crown of “World’s Ugliest Dog.”

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Greek PM Calls for Referendum on Bailout While EU Denies Extension

Saturday, June 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

How far has Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras wandered from reality? Tsipras has called for a referendum on the “take it or leave it” offer from Greece’s creditors, targeting July 5th for election day.

But Greece will default on a $1.6 billion payment to the IMF on July 1. And the EU, fed up with Tsipras’s posturing and arrogance, have refused to grant Greece a one month extension on the IMF terms.

So if the Greek parliament approves a referendum, by the time it’s held Greece will be in default.

What Tsipras is looking for is ammunition to use in his argument against the terms of the bailout. He claims that since the Greek voters elected him and his far left Syriza party earlier this year on a platform to end austerity and go back to the good old days of spending lavishly on the welfare state, that the rest of Europe should bow to the voters of Greece and give him more easy money.

Not unexpectedly, the rest of Europe looked with astonishment at this argument and have been telling the PM for months that he has no choice but to make the required reforms in order to receive the rest of the $260 billion bailout and perhaps negotiate another.

But Tsipras refuses to face reality and now, the endgame is playing out.

Reuters:

Athens asked for an extension of Greece’s bailout programme beyond Tuesday, the day it must pay 1.6 billion euros to the International Monetary Fund or go bust.

But the other 18 members of the euro zone unanimously rejected the request, freezing Greece out of further discussions with the European Central Bank and IMF on how to deal with the fallout from a historic breach in the EU’s 16-year-old currency.

The swift rejection was a startling demonstration of the degree to which Tsipras had alienated the rest of the currency bloc with a final-hour announcement that upended five months of intense talks.

The Eurogroup of finance members shut Greece’s Yanis Varoufakis from a meeting in Brussels and issued a statement without him, accusing Athens of breaking off negotiations unilaterally.

“The current financial assistance arrangement with Greece will expire on June 30, 2015, as well as all agreements related to the current Greek programme,” it said, making clear its refusal of a grace period to hold the vote.

Varoufakis said the refusal to provide an extension “will certainly damage the credibility of the Eurogroup as a democratic union of partner member states”.

The euro zone finance ministers met in Brussels for what had been intended as a final negotiation for a deal.

But after they were blindsided by Tsipras’s surprise middle-of-the-night announcement that he rejected their offer and would put it to voters only after Tuesday’s deadline, one after another said all that remained to discuss was “Plan B” – how to limit the damage of default.

“We have no basis for further negotiations,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said ahead of the meeting. “Clearly we can never rule out surprises with Greece, so there can always be hope. But none of my colleagues with whom I’ve already spoken see any possibilities for what we can now do.”

Finland’s Alexander Stubb called it “potentially a very sad day, specifically for the Greek people. I think with the announcement of this referendum we’re basically closing the door for any further negotiations.”

With most Greek banks closed for the weekend, there was no sign of panic on the streets of Athens. Government officials said there was no plan to impose capital controls that would limit withdrawals.

But police tightened security around bank teller machines as lines formed at some in the darkness almost as soon as Tsipras’s early hours televised speech was finished.

The Bank of Greece said it was making “huge efforts” to ensure the machines remained stocked.

After years of going right up to the edge of default only to come up with a bandaid to kick the can down the road a few more months, Greece and the EU have come to the end of the road. Don’t expect a surprise acceptance of the terms by Tsipras at the last minute. His far left deputies in parliament are adamantly opposed to the reforms the EU is proposing, making it impossible for his party to remain in power if he does as the EU wants.

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Is There a Real Solution to the Lawlessness of the Supreme Court?

Saturday, June 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Senator Ted Cruz has penned a powerful article appearing in NRO that states the case for dealing with the lawlessness of the Supreme Court.

The time has come, therefore, to recognize that the problem lies not with the lawless rulings of individual lawless justices, but with the lawlessness of the Court itself. The decisions that have deformed our constitutional order and have debased our culture are but symptoms of the disease of liberal judicial activism that has infected our judiciary. A remedy is needed that will restore health to the sick man in our constitutional system.

Rendering the justices directly accountable to the people would provide such a remedy. Twenty states have now adopted some form of judicial retention elections, and the experience of these states demonstrates that giving the people the regular, periodic power to pass judgment on the judgments of their judges strikes a proper balance between judicial independence and judicial accountability. It also restores respect for the rule of law to courts that have systematically imposed their personal moral values in the guise of constitutional rulings. The courts in these states have not been politicized by this check on their power, nor have judges been removed indiscriminately or wholesale. Americans are a patient, forgiving people. We do not pass judgment rashly.

Judicial retention elections have worked in states across America; they will work for America. In order to provide the people themselves with a constitutional remedy to the problem of judicial activism and the means for throwing off judicial tyrants, I am proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution that would subject the justices of the Supreme Court to periodic judicial-retention elections. Every justice, beginning with the second national election after his or her appointment, will answer to the American people and the states in a retention election every eight years. Those justices deemed unfit for retention by both a majority of the American people as a whole and by majorities of the electorates in at least half of the 50 states will be removed from office and disqualified from future service on the Court.

Why would a Constitutional conservative like Cruz propose something that flies in the face of the intent of the Founders with regards to lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court? As Cruz correctly points out, it was believed that impeachment was a strong enough antidote to judicial tyranny at the time, although the Jeffersonians, who were always suspicious of the Supreme Court, concluded early on that impeachment wasn’t enough of a deterrent.

The reason we don’t elect Supreme Court justices is because they are supposed to be above politics. This has always been a rather fanciful idea given that there are probably no more avid readers of the polls than SCOTUS. They already bend to political winds. How much more would that be true if they faced recall elections?

Even a proposal like Cruz’s to hold a “retention vote” every 8 years would bring up the same problems we would encounter with electing justices in the first place.  But if the justices aren’t going to decide cases dispassionately based on Constitutional principles anyway, perhaps Cruz is right that it’s time to hold the Supreme Court justices accountable to the people.

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The Right’s Valley Forge

Friday, June 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Three massive hammer blows were delivered to the right in the last 48 hours by the US Supreme Court and in reading some conservative reaction to the decisions, you could be forgiven for believing the American experiment was on its last legs. Mike Huckabee says he will not “acquiesce” to the law, while Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says that no matter what SCOTUS says, the definition of marriage will never change. George Will says that John Roberts helped “overthrow” the Constitution.

Upholding subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, granting a nationwide right for gay marriage, and ruling that housing policies that have a disparate impact on race are unconstitutional — even if no discrimination is intended — is a triple whammy for conservatives and the rule of law. How can there be limits on government power when the final arbiter of limits doesn’t see any? The decisions seem surreal.

The Supreme Court decisions play out against a backdrop that includes the contretemps over the Confederate flag and the assault on America’s heritage.  It seems that all the furies in the world have descended to bedevil the right heading into the 2016 presidential election.

I am not arguing against the validity of most of the points made by conservatives about any of these controversies.  But what if the court decisions and flag controversy had come down over a three month period instead of 48 hours? Would the sense of doom and gloom be as pronounced on the right as it is today?

Perhaps it’s time to recall the words of Thomas Paine in his essay “The Crisis,” published December 23, 1776 following a series of unmitigated disasters that befell the Continental Army.

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.

We’ve all read those words a million times, usually in a context where it is believed all hope is lost and that we should bow to the inevitable. Paine would have none of it,  and chastised some of his fellow countrymen for prematurely throwing in the towel.

But perhaps Paine himself would have despaired if those setbacks experienced by the Continentals would have happened in a few days rather than over 6 months. Conservatives are literally reeling from an avalanche of bad news, compounded by hysteria and blame tossing over the killings in Charleston. Is it any wonder that many on the right have declared the American experiment to be nearly a failure?

Even the low point of the Revolutionary War turned into a reason for optimism. We all know the story of Valley Forge, the worst winter of the war, where thousands perished of the cold, disease and hunger. But in the midst of the suffering, there arrived a somewhat comical Prussian officer named Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who presented himself as a general but really held the rank equal to captain in the Prussian army.

Von Steuben set about training the American army in the European tradition — a deficiency that had prevented the Continental army from engaging in a stand up fight with the redcoats. In this, he was successful beyond anyone’s dreams — including Washington’s. The regulation drill instilled a sense of pride and professionalism in the notoriously individualistic American soldier and was evident at the next big engagement of the war, the Battle of Monmouth. After initial setbacks, the Americans rallied and nearly won the day.

Conservatives certainly don’t need a pep talk from anyone. But recognizing the situation  and dealing with the consequences rationally is far better than giving into despair.  To believe that constitutional government is lost or the rule of law overthrown isn’t logical. Our Constitution has withstood a lot more than anything that John Roberts and Barack Obama can throw at it. It may be a little tattered and frayed around the edges. It may be disrespected and ignored in some cases. But the structures that the Founders built and that have stood the test of 227 years are still sound and ready to be redeemed.

We wouldn’t be an exceptional country if we weren’t capable of reinventing ourselves as often as we have in the past. The present will become past soon enough and a reordering of history is not out of the question. It may not mean that Obamacare will go away or gay marriage declared illegal again. That is highly unlikely. But it may be more realistic to believe that we can return to the path laid out by our Founders in the Constitution that the Supreme Court has so cavalierly wandered away from.

 

 

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Study: Right-Wing Extremists a Bigger ‘Threat’ to U.S. than Islamic Terrorists?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A study by the New America Foundation shows that right wing, anti-government extremists and white supremacists are a bigger threat to the U.S. than Islamic terrorists.

Does the study really say that?

Well, no. But it’s a sexy headline, don’t you think? Mediaite headline screams, “White Americans Are Biggest Terror Threat in U.S.”

What the New America Foundation study showed was that more Americans have been killed by homegrown, non-jihadist radicals since 9/11 than were killed by Islamic jihadis.

White Americans are the biggest terror threat in the US, killing more people in attacks than Muslims or any other group in the last 14 years, according to a study done by the New America Foundation.

The group looked into the 26 attacks on US soil that it defined as terror and found that 19 of those attacks were done by non-Muslims. All the studied attacks are post-9/11.

Since then, 48 people have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, compared to 26 killed by people who claimed to be jihadist. The non-Muslim groups include right-wing, anti-government organizations and white-supremacist groups.

Last week’s Charleston shooting — after which reports surfaced of the confessed shooter’s white-supremacist ideology — was included in the count.

Other attacks, like the massacres in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut, were not included, since they do not appear to have been caused by a specific ideology, the standard used by New America Foundation to qualify terrorism.

This information may shock the public, as post-9/11 trauma has made jihadi terror attacks more prominent in the media, but US law enforcement is well aware of the danger of white extremist groups, the New York Times reported.

A recent survey done by researchers at the University of North Carolina and Duke University asked 382 US police departments to list top threats and 74 per cent listed anti-government violence, while just 39 per cent said “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence.

Are white Americans the biggest threat? It depends how you define the word “threat.” The Heritage Foundation released an update to their own study earlier this month that showed law enforcement authorities preventing 69 separate Islamic terrorist attacks since 9/11, the most recent being the Boston plot to kill Pamela Geller. Some of those were mass casualty plots that could have killed hundreds of Americans. And while the inspirations for some of these plots are from overseas, the plotters lived and worked for the most part in America.

There have been 6 Islamic terror plots foiled just since April:

Two years ago, The Heritage Foundation conducted an exhaustive review of publicly available U.S. court and federal and state government records. The researchers documented at least 60 terrorist plots related to Islamist extremism following the 9/11 attacks—all aimed at the U.S. And the pace of plotting has only quickened.

There have been nine additional plots since that report came out in 2013. Seven occurred this calendar year, six since April. Plot number 69 was thwarted just a few days ago. On June 2, federal law enforcement officers killed Usaamah Abdullah in Boston. Dawud Sharif Abdul Khaliq, an alleged accomplice, was arrested later. It is suspected they intended to behead anti-Islamist activist Pamela Geller.

So, yes, Islamist terrorism in America is on the rise. The numbers don’t lie. Still, there is a ferocious debate over what they mean.

There’s a difference between the kind of right-wing extremist terrorism personified by Dylann Root and the fanatical Muslims who are intent on killing us. The paranoid, anti-government nutcases and racist half-wits who carry out unsophisticated attacks on their targets have no interest in sacrificing themselves for the “cause.” They want to escape to live to fight another day.

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Confederate Battle Flag Sales Through the Roof

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Until Amazon.com stopped selling them at 2:30 PM Eastern time today, sales of the Confederate battle flag had shot up 4,000% over the previous 24 hours according to this Business Insider story:

People are snatching up the flags online after several major retailers — including eBay, Wal-Mart, and Sears — pulled them from shelves.

The retailers banned the flags after last week’s shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, in which a gunman killed nine people in the historic black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The man arrested in connection to the shootings, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, reportedly harbored racist sentiments and wanted to incite a “race war.” He appeared to pose with the Confederate battle flag in several photos that were unearthed after the attack.

Gov. Nikki Haley (R) of South Carolina and a bipartisan group of local elected officials announced Monday that they supported the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds.

The debate has since shifted to other Southern states with Confederate imagery on their banners. Mississippi prominently features the Confederate battle flag in its official state flag, and some top Democrats and Republicans have said they want that changed as well.

Gov. Phil Bryant (R) of Mississippi, however, pointed to a 2001 referendum on the subject and said he opposed overturning the will of the voters.

I am still trying to find the logic of using the tragedy in Charleston to set off this hysteria against an icon that barely has a tangential relationship to the killings. About the only thing I can come up with is that the reason the campaign to bury the Confederate battle flag is happening is because it can. The people pushing it have the power so why not exercise it?

I would like to see a campaign to ban the image of Che Guevara. I mean, if we’re going to go around banning symbols of hate and murder, you can’t do better than banning the image of a man who is personally responsible for thousands of deaths due to his unreasoning hatred and bloodlust.

Che’s image may not grace the capitol grounds of a state, but its iconic presence in liberal politics is undeniable. If flying the Confederate battle flag is an indication of racism, then wearing the image of the mass-murdering Che indicates support for violence and hate, right?

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Maryland Governor Larry Hogan Has Advanced Cancer

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that he has late stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which he described as “a very advanced and very aggressive” form of cancer.

Hogan, a Republican who pulled off a huge upset last November beating then Democratic Lt. Governor Andrew Brown, took office in January. “I’m going to face this challenge with the same energy and determination that I’ve relied on to climb every hill and to overcome every obstacle that I’ve faced in my life,” he said.

Washington Post:

The average guy persona that helped Hogan win over Maryland voters last year was fully on display, as he spoke plainly and sometimes emotionally at a news conference that felt more like an intimate family meeting. He was open – explaining how he first noticed a lump in his neck while shaving, and then detailing everything he knew thus far about his condition. At times he became choked up or emotional, as did his wife and grown daughters, who stood by him.

The survival rate for non-Hodgkins lymphoma is relatively high. Physician Kevin Cullen, director of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, said about 70 percent of patients with the disease are still alive after five years.

Cullen said most cases of non-Hodgkins lymphoma are discovered at stage 3, when the tumors are more pronounced, just as Hogan’s was. Patients rarely require surgery or radiation, because chemotherapy can generally treat the disease without those procedures, Cullen said. He said Hogan is taking the right approach with his plans to work through the treatment period.

“There may be the occasional day when you should cut back on your schedule, but we encourage people to maintain as normal a routine as possible when they’re being treated,” Cullen said. “I think it’s important for people to maintain a positive psychological outlook,” he added. “People who derive pleasure and mental stimulation from working, we encourage them to do it.”

Hogan said he would begin aggressive chemotherapy treatments as soon as possible, and was relying on Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) to fill in for him on state business as needed.

Here’s a video of his statement to the press:

Anyone who can offer up a little humor at such a wrenching moment is a cut above the ordinary:

“There’s a very strong chance of success,” Hogan said. “Not only a strong chance of survival but a strong chance of beating it all together. . . My odds of getting through this and beating this are much, much better than the odds I had of beating Anthony Brown,” Hogan said with a smile, referring to the Democratic former lieutenant governor who he beat last November in one of the biggest upsets of the mid-term elections.

Members of the audience – many of whom had tears in their eyes – burst into laughter.

Shades of Reagan in the aftermath of the attempt on his life; “Honey, I forgot to duck,” and to the doctors about to operate on him, “I hope you’re all Republicans.”

The cancer attacking Hogan doesn’t know what its in for.

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Americans Would Vote for an Atheist Before They Vote for a Socialist

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Please, please Democrats — torpedo Hillary’s campaign and nominate the self-described socialist independent from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.

Even before this Gallup Poll was released showing that Americans would be least likely to vote for a socialist compared to religious affiliations or races, it was obvious that Sanders wouldn’t have a prayer in the general election. But it’s clarifying to see that notion vindicated.

Where more than 90% of Americans would vote for a Catholic, a Jew, an Hispanic, or a woman, only 47% would vote for a socialist. Fifty percent said they wouldn’t.

A June 2-7 Gallup poll updated the question — first asked in 1937 — about the acceptability of presidential candidates of various background characteristics. The general trend is that Americans have become significantly more accepting over time.

Among religious identities, while the large majority of Americans would vote for a Catholic or Jewish presidential candidate, smaller majorities say they would vote for a candidate who is Mormon (81%), an evangelical Christian (73%), Muslim (60%) or an atheist (58%).

These dynamics can affect 2016 candidates’ efforts to attract American voters in the upcoming primaries as well as the general election next year, particularly because the field is shaping up as one that will have some diversity in terms of race, gender and, particularly, religion.

Five declared candidates are Catholics — Republicans Jeb Bush, George Pataki, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum, and Democrat Martin O’Malley. Two are women — Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and Republican Carly Fiorina. Republican Ben Carson is the sole black candidate in the race, while two candidates are Hispanic — Republicans Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Independent Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, is the only Jewish candidate in the race. And while a large majority of Americans are willing to vote for a candidate of his faith, Sanders’ self-identification as a socialist could hurt him, as half of Americans say they would not vote for someone with that background.

In addition, several candidates have heavily courted the evangelical community — including Republicans Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Carson, Santorum and Cruz.

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The cross tabs are fascinating. Take a look at the difference in support for various backgrounds between Democrats and Republicans.

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Republicans (84%) are significantly more likely than Democrats (66%) to say they will vote for an evangelical candidate. But Democrats are more likely to say they will vote for a Muslim (73%) or an atheist (64%) than are Republicans, of whom less than half say they are willing to vote for a candidate with either of these belief systems.

Republicans and Democrats differ most in their willingness to vote for a socialist candidate, by 33 percentage points, but socialist ranks last for both parties. The two parties also differ significantly on voting for a gay or lesbian candidate, by 24 points. Majorities of Democrats are willing to vote for a candidate with any of the characteristics mentioned in the poll.

There are no meaningful party differences in willingness to vote for a female, black or Hispanic candidate.

President Obama used the “N” word in a podcast to draw attention to his belief that we have a long way to go in race relations. I’m not disputing that contention. But looking at that first table, I really wish the president would highlight how far we’ve come more often. It is astonishing to me to see the overwhelming majority of Americans who would vote for a black, or a Jew, or a woman, or a Hispanic when the idea of voting for someone with those backgrounds wasn’t even a dream when I was a boy. The president was always going to be a white male and while many believed that in the far future that would change, few would have predicted the possibility in just a couple of generations.

Sometimes, “social progress” has been oversold or worse, politicized and used as a weapon against political opponents. But at a very basic level, it is remarkable what this country has accomplished with regard to race and gender in what is little more than a blink of an historical eye. Within less than a span of one human lifetime, blacks have gone from the back of the bus to Air Force One, women have come out of the kitchen into the boardrooms of our largest corporations, and Hispanics have come out of the shadows to stand front and center in the glare of presidential politics.

Who says America isn’t an exceptional country?

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Iran Parliament Rejects Inspections of Military Sites, Scientist Interviews

Sunday, June 21st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Iranian parliament passed a bill outlining the country’s “nuclear rights” as the deadline for a final agreement on their nuclear program approaches at the end of this month.

The bill would prevent any inspections of military sites, forbid the IAEA from interviewing its nuclear scientists, and insist that all sanctions on Iran be lifted at the time they begin implementation of the deal.

Administration talking points released after the framework deal was agreed to state that sanctions would be lifted over several years, that all sites deemed “suspicious” would be open to inspection, and that the IAEA would investigate previous efforts by Iran to build a nuclear weapon. This would necessitate interviewing Iranian scientists, something the Iranians have now taken off the table.

The Iranian semi-official news organ Press TV:

During an open session of the Iranian parliament (Majlis) on Sunday, 199 lawmakers voted in favor and only 3 voted against the bill. Five MPs abstained.

“In line with safeguarding national interests [of Iran] and in compliance with the Safeguards Agreement of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, any outcome of nuclear negotiations with the P5+1 countries shall be valid as long as” three requirements are met, read the text of the bill.

It said any agreement with the six powers should include the complete and immediate removal of all sanctions against Iran “on the day Iran starts fulfilling its obligations.”

Iranian lawmakers added that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be only permitted to “conduct conventional inspections” of Iran’s nuclear facilities within the framework of the Safeguards Agreement, noting that access to Iran’s “military, security and sensitive non-nuclear sites, documents and scientists is forbidden.”

The bill also calls on the Iranian government not to accept any restrictions on acquisition of peaceful nuclear technology, research and development.

Addressing the session, Iran’s Majlis speaker, Ali Larijani, said the bill has been amended to give a free hand to Iranian nuclear negotiating team within the framework of criteria set by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and the Supreme National Security Council.

The bill’s stipulation that Iran not accept any restrictions on its acquisition of technology flies in the face of the administration claim that the Iranians will be unable to install their next generation centrifuges. Those newer centrifuges would allow Iran to “break out” by building a bomb in a matter of weeks, not months.

It appears now that the framework deal was a mirage with both sides claiming an understanding of the agreement in direct opposition to what the other side’s understanding is.

You would think that what the Iranian parliament has done would be a deal killer. In order for a deal to be reached, the US will have to make massive concessions. But this deal is no longer about stopping Iran from getting the bomb — if it ever was. This is about securing Obama’s legacy and allowing us to pretend that the Iranian nuclear program has been checked.

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Rep. Meadows Pays the Price of Defying GOP Leadership on Trade

Sunday, June 21st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows has been booted from one of his subcommittee chairmanships for defying the Republican leadership on a procedural vote on fast track trade authority taken last week in the House.

There were 34 Republicans who voted against the procedural motion — including several subcommittee chairman — who have not been disciplined for their actions. Clearly, Speaker Boehner was in a mood to set an example and put the fear of God into those conservatives challenging his leadership.

Politico:

On June 11, 34 Republicans voted against the rule that allowed for consideration of President Barack Obama’s request for fast-track authority to negotiate the largest trade deal in history. Conservatives said Boehner and GOP leaders were working too closely with Democrats, and ignoring Republicans. Boehner said he has worked closely with conservatives. In a closed meeting this week, the speaker told rank-and-file Republicans that he was angry that conservatives were voting against the motions. The GOP leadership has told lawmakers that there will be ramifications for voting against such resolutions.

Meadows was one of the 34 lawmakers who voted against the motion. Chaffetz said there were a “variety of factors” that led to him losing his chairmanship of the Government Operations subcommittee.

“I’m just going to leave it at that,” he said, when asked about the other factors. “There were a variety of factors, but I did what I felt was in the best interest of the oversight committee.”

Chaffetz said he this was his decision, not the Republican leadership’s.

Many subcommittee chairs voted against that resolution, and have not been punished. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who chairs the conservative Freedom Caucus, chairs an oversight subcommittee that oversees health care, benefits and administrative rules. He has not lost his chairmanship.

Others who voted against that rule include: New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett, who chairs the Financial Services subcommittee which oversees capital markets and government-sponsored enterprises; Louisiana Rep. John Fleming holds the gavel of a Natural Resources subcommittee which oversees water, power and oceans; Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert is the chairman of the oversight panel on Natural Resources; Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming chairs the interior subcommittee on Oversight.

Boehner has apparently had enough opposition from conservatives on these procedural votes. Historically, the vote to bring a bill to the floor falls along party lines. But two or three dozen conservatives have been defying Boehner, claiming he’s too close to the Democrats or he doesn’t consult them.

They aren’t just opposing Boehner; they are humiliating him. A speaker who can’t control his own caucus on procedural matters is as impotent as they come. Hence, Boehner probably took great relish in dropping the hammer on Meadows.

Chafetz will continue to pretend this was all his idea, but conservatives know full well who’s behind it. But if Boehner thinks this will make his life any easier, he’s probably mistaken. If anything, these kinds of punitive actions make it more likely that the pushback will intensify.

And the speaker’s enemies list is going to grow as well.

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FBI Director Says Charleston Shootings Not an Act of Terror

Sunday, June 21st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Is Dylann Roof a terrorist? Was his murder of 9 innocent black Americans at an historic black church in Charleston, SC an act of terror?

FBI Director James Comey doesn’t think so. At a press conference yesterday, Comey said:

“Terrorism is act of violence done or threatens to in order to try to influence a public body or citizenry so it’s more of a political act and again based on what I know so more I don’t see it as a political act.”

But the FBI’s own definition of terrorism suggests otherwise:

The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

(Emphasis mine)

That definition opens the door to several different interpretations. For instance, the consequences of Roof’s actions may be the intimidation of black Americans. But was that his intent? Or were the shootings simply the result of Roof’s unbalanced hatred for black people?

One terrorism expert disagrees with Comey:

“When we talk about terrorism the important things are ideological motivations – politics, religion – but equally as important is target selection,” says Simi, who teaches at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

On 9/11, Simi points out, terrorists targeted the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, symbols of American capitalism and military might. In Charleston, the target was an historic African-American church, an institution that had a central role in fighting slavery.

And yet, when the FBI initially announced Thursday that they were entering the investigation of the massacre, they said that they were probing the case as a possible hate crime. That is, according to Professor Brent Smith of the University of Arkansas, their prerogative.

“The FBI has exclusive jurisdiction to investigate acts of terror in the U.S.,” said Smith, who is the director of the Terrorism Research Center at the University of Arkansas. “If the FBI labels it as terrorism, it is terrorism. If they don’t, it isn’t.”

[...]

According to the University of Nebraska’s Simi, the way we define terrorism – selecting a target based on ideology and motive, to terrorize a community – is very similar to how we describe a hate crime. But, he says, hate crimes – which are typically defined as a traditional crime plus bias – tend to be more spontaneous. They are often committed by younger people, people who are intoxicated, and those who can sometimes be described as thrill-seekers.

Terrorists, on the other hand, plan their attacks, as Roof allegedly did. Simi compared the Charleston murders with the 2012 massacre inside a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and the shootings outside a Jewish Community Center and a retirement complex near Kansas City in 2014. All of these attacks were allegedly perpetrated by “lone wolf” shooters, and, at least in the case of Oak Creek and Kansas City, the perpetrators had long histories of affiliation with right-wing groups that espoused violent ideologies. Yet, they were not referred to as terrorist acts.

There is no denying a political element to the killings, but it’s another question whether it was an overt political act. Comey is probably correct using a strict interpretation of the definition of terrorism — at least, based on what we know so far. But how much does it really matter? Nine innocent people are dead because Dylann Roof acted out his extreme hatred for black people in a church. Perhaps it’s best we keep our eye on that ball, rather than trying to score political points by claiming what he did was terrorism.

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Sheriff Joe to Send Armed Posses to Protect Black Churches

Saturday, June 20th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will send armed volunteer posses to 60 black churches to provide security in the aftermath of the murder of 9 blacks at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

USA Today:

He said the Rev. Jarrett Maupin, who describes himself as a Progressive Baptist preacher and civil-rights campaigner on his Facebook page, asked him to provide the protection because he was worried about problems with white supremacists in the area.

“I am the elected sheriff of this county. He asked me to help, and I’m going to help,” Arpaio said Friday.

Maupin said he wasn’t aware of any specific threats against churches within the county, the largest in Arizona, but he added that places of worship with black congregations often get hate mail.

“We do have a fear, a very real worry, that the incidents that occurred in Charleston can happen here in Phoenix,” Maupin said.

More than two years ago, Arpaio sent hundreds of posse volunteers to provide security outside of school grounds in wake of a shooting that left 26 people dead at a Connecticut elementary school.

Apparently not all the black churches are eager to welcome armed men in their houses of worship. When told of one pastor’s worries on that score, Arpaio said at a press conference, “But I’ll tell you, he’s going to get them whether he likes them or not.”

I think the overwhelming majority of worshippers will be grateful for the security. The shootings in Charleston have shaken the nation and a little reassurance — a gesture of support and concern — from a white sheriff will be appreciated.

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Russia to Greece: ‘Will You Walk Into My Parlor, Said the Spider to the Fly’

Saturday, June 20th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Greece and Russia have signed a $2 billion dollar gas pipeline deal that will create some much needed jobs in Greece.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras may also make a deal on aid that would help Greece avoid defaulting. Greece has a $1.6 billion payment due to the IMF on June 30, and failure to make the payment will start a chain of events that could lead to a Greek exit from the euro.

USA Today:

Russia said Friday it would consider giving financial aid to Greece as the cash-strapped nation runs out of time to resolve its long-running debt crisis and avert an exit from the eurozone.

“We will support any solution on regulating the Greek debt crisis that is suggested by Greece and our European partners,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said, according to the state-run TASS news agency. “The most important things for us are investment projects and trade with Greece. If financial support is required, we will consider this question.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office also said Friday that Russia would consider giving loans to Greece, adding such aid should be considered par for the course for countries that are partners. Putin’s office stressed Greece has not yet formally asked for any financial assistance from Moscow.

The development came as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met Friday with Putin in St. Petersburg, where the Russian leader was hosting an annual investment forum. However, Russian financial aid for Greece was not discussed between the two, Putin’s spokesman said later Friday.

Speaking earlier at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Tsipras said that Russia’s role in the world was expanding and that Europe was misguided to think of itself as being at the center of the world.

What would Russia want in return? Putin wants to use Greece as a wedge with the rest of the EU to prevent sanctions on Moscow for their Crimea adventure being extended. But Putin’s leverage with Greece wouldn’t have to be that specific. Having an ally on the southern periphery of Europe who is also a member of NATO would be reward enough and given Greece’s dire fiscal and financial straits, Russia would be able to exploit the rift between Greece and the EU for years.

It seems improbable given the previous instances in the past 5 years when Greece has gone to the brink of default only to be rescued at the last by her EU partners. But Tsipras has become so poisonous in the capitals of Europe that there are some who are actually rooting for a collapse. An emergency meeting is set for Monday where Greece’s fate will likely be decided. That is, if it doesn’t become moot as a result of the teetering Greek banking system melting down:

The European Central Bank (ECB) intervened again Friday to prop up Greece’s banks, as savers, fearing their imminent collapse, withdrew record amounts of deposits.

Following the collapse of talks between Greece and its creditors—the European Union (EU), the ECB and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—over the terms of a further spending cuts programme, billions of euros in deposits were withdrawn from Greek banks. This week alone €4.2 billion were withdrawn, including €1.2 billion on Friday.

To stave off financial collapse and a default on its overall debt of over €300 billion, Greece’s Syriza-led government requested that the ECB loan Greece’s Central Bank an additional €3.5 billion. The ECB, which loaned the Greek banks another €1.1 billion of “Emergency Liquidity Assistance” on Wednesday to reach a total of €84.1 billion, released additional money Friday, though it is unclear how much. According to some reports, it was just enough to tide Greece over until Monday.

Speculation mounted that Greece could even be forced to impose capital controls and limit deposit withdrawals as early as this weekend. The Financial Times commented that fear of Greek default on its €1.6 billion debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund at the end of June “is rapidly being overtaken by a separate—and possibly more dangerous—ticking time bomb: the solvency of Greece’s banks.”

The ECB’s strategy is to keep Greece faced with imminent collapse with the aim of ensuring that a deal is signed after Monday evening’s emergency summit of EU leaders, convened by President of the European Council Donald Tusk. It is an extraordinary and reckless example of brinksmanship—threatening not only the decimation of the Greek economy but a potential domino effect that could impact on the entire European economy.

There are whispers of a bank holiday in Greece next week, but even that may not help. Depending on the outcome of the emergency meeting on Monday night, the ECB may refuse to loan Greek banks any more cash. This would be a catastrophe for the Greek people, but how about the rest of the EU?

The contagion of a Greek banking collapse would be serious but limited, given that most other banks in Europe have had years to protect themselves from the fallout. And the ECB has also built a firewall around vulnerable bondholders, minimizing risk.

So it appears that the can kicking on the Greek debt crisis that the EU has been performing these last 5 years is finally, mercifully over and the endgame for Greece is upon them.

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Great News: Iran Still Big Supporter of Terrorism Despite Nuke Talks

Saturday, June 20th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The State Department’s annual report on terrorism was released yesterday, and Iran continues to be front and center as a supporter of terrorism.

Strangely, the administration doesn’t seem too concerned about that — or, at least not as concerned as they are about how the report will affect the negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program. In fact, the administration goes out of its way to decouple the nuclear issue from the terrorism issue, despite the fact that lifting the sanctions on Iran would boost their ability to support terrorism around the world.

Washington Examiner:

Obama administration officials said they remain concerned about Iran’s role as a state sponsor of terrorism, but insist the effort should be kept separate from the nuclear talks, which are reaching their climax ahead of a July 1 deadline for a permanent agreement.

“Our very serious and grave concerns about Iran’s support for terrorism remains unabated. And the negotiations that Iran has agreed to with the P5+1, our international community, is solely focused on making sure that they don’t obtain a nuclear weapon,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Friday.

“So our view is, because of their support for terrorism, that is all the more reason that we need to make sure that they don’t obtain a nuclear weapon. And so that’s where our focus is right now.”

But many lawmakers don’t buy that argument and have been pushing the administration to take a tougher line against Tehran’s actions in the region. They have expressed concern that administration officials are going easy on Iran so as not to disturb the chances for a nuclear deal.

“You’ve got to take into account what Iran is doing and their influences throughout this region. And, by the way, I do not think I got any sort of answer about what’s your plan for dealing with Iran other than the nuclear issue,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, told reporters Wednesday after a hearing on U.S. Middle East policy at which Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the 35,000 U.S. troops in the region were there partly to check Iran’s “malign influence.”

The report notes that Iran continues to support Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, the Shiite extremist group Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shia militias in Iraq that have been accused of abuses against Sunni Arabs there.

Iran also is providing arms, financing, training and travel to foreign fighters helping the Assad regime in Syria, including Afghans, the report noted. The Wall Street Journal reported June 11 that Iran is backing the Taliban in Afghanistan with cash and arms.

Much of the activity is funneled through the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Quds Force, which are the targets of much of the U.S. sanctions against Iran. Though the administration insists it will lift sanctions only related to the nuclear issue if there’s any deal with Iran, lawmakers have raised concerns that the lifting of any sanctions will provide a cash infusion for those groups to expand their activities.

Iran is backing groups that have killed Americans over the years, but it’s ok to lift sanctions because for sure, they are not going to get their hands on nuclear weapons. That dubious assertion — given what we know about what the Iranians will be able to get away with under a final deal — should be placed in the context that the extra tens of billions of dollars that Iran will earn from oil, gas, and other business interests will find its way into the coffers of terrorists.

For the last year, we have been assured that Iran is in a box and can’t afford to offend the west. But we  now know that Iran has enriched more uranium and continues to support terrorism. We are constantly finding out that the assumptions that undergird these negotiations are as wrong as wrong can be and the Obama administration hasn’t a clue about the nature of the enemy they are up against.

 

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The Confederate Battle Flag Murdered Those People in Charleston, Not Dylann Roof

Saturday, June 20th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Judging from numerous articles and statements over the last 48 hours, you can be forgiven if you believe that Dylann Roof was not responsible for the deaths of 9 black Americans attending Bible study at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

In fact, it’s been made very clear that many liberals believe that the Confederate battle flag was responsible for the murders…or something. It’s not exactly clear how they are connecting the flying of the battle flag with murder. But they are trying very hard.

Actually, this outpouring of battle flag bashing is an excellent way to accuse all white people of racism and by extension, make them accomplices to Roof’s dastardly act. And the focus appears to be on the flag flying on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse.

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates:

The Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate.” I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder. Dylann Roof plundered nine different bodies last night, plundered nine different families of an original member, plundered nine different communities of a singular member. An entire people are poorer for his action. The flag that Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, does not stand in opposition to this act—it endorses it. That the Confederate flag is the symbol of of white supremacists is evidenced by the very words of those who birthed it:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth…

This moral truth—“that the negro is not equal to the white man”—is exactly what animated Dylann Roof. More than any individual actor, in recent history, Roof honored his flag in exactly the manner it always demanded—with human sacrifice.

Surely the flag’s defenders will proffer other, muddier, interpretations which allow them the luxury of looking away. In this way they honor their ancestors. Cowardice, too, is heritage. When white supremacist John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago, Booth’s fellow travelers did all they could to disassociate themselves. “Our disgust for the dastardly wretch can scarcely be uttered,” fumed a former governor of South Carolina, the state where secession began. Robert E. Lee’s armies took special care to enslave free blacks during their Northern campaign. But Lee claimed the assassination of the Great Emancipator was “deplorable.” Jefferson Davis believed that “it could not be regarded otherwise than as a great misfortune to the South,” and angrily denied rumors that he had greeted the news with exultation.

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San Antonio Voters Go Off Script to Elect Socially Conservative Democrats

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A very interesting dynamic was present in the race for San Antonio mayor last weekend that bears watching for both parties.

Ivy Taylor, who was appointed San Antonio mayor when Julian Castro left to run HUD last year, won a full term on Saturday, defeating a long-time Democrat, former state senator Leticia Van de Putte. Taylor is the first black to get elected mayor.

San Antonio is a Democratic city, Texas’s second largest, and is majority Hispanic. The city is represented in Congress by Republican* Rep. Will Hurd, a former CIA agent and a conservative who opposes amnesty and favors increased border security.

Taylor is a Democrat. But the catch is that she is a social conservative, opposing abortion and gay marriage. She also tried to appeal to conservatives by promising a less activist government. This led to a large turnout of Republicans that keyed her victory.

The Texas Tribune:

Taylor’s strength, meanwhile, was expected to come from a Republican-leaning coalition of voters looking to move the city further away from the era of her predecessor, Julián Castro, a period marked by an activist city government and bright national spotlight.

Van de Putte’s campaign worked hard to undermine that coalition. The candidate zeroed in on a report that Taylor and her husband were unwilling to pursue charges after a shooting at his bail bonds business, hoping to spook law-and-order voters backing Taylor. Van de Putte trotted out endorsements from elected officials representing Taylor’s native East Side, looking to cut into Taylor’s most oft-cited base of Democratic support. And at one point, a mailer surfaced that cut straight to the chase, calling Van de Putte the most conservative candidate in the race.

But none of it was enough to counteract Taylor’s crossover appeal, anchored in the chorus that Van de Putte was a career politician simply on the hunt for her next job. Both women had initially denied interest in the race, but it was Van de Putte who did so while campaigning for lieutenant governor, just two years after running for re-election to the Senate — a sequence Taylor’s campaign was happy to point out.

“She didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up,” Robinson said.

What does this mean for the “Turn Texas Blue” project that Democrats have been touting recently? Texas is not Maryland or Massachusetts. Even Democrats will vote conservative when the right message is pushed. And Republicans hoping to run a statewide campaign, should take note of Taylor’s telling themes of social conservatism, anti-careerism, and prudent government. Getting voters to go beyond labels to vote for the ideas being promoted by an attractive candidate gives the lie to the notion that Republicans can’t attract minority voters.

* A previous version of this article identified Rep. Hurd as a Democrat.

 

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