Get PJ Media on your Apple

The PJ Tatler

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
Follow Rick:

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

Saturday, June 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

The Washington Examiner reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | 23 Comments »

Democratic Donor Bans Free Beacon from Clinton Papers

Thursday, June 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | Comments »

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

Thursday, June 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s the stinky one now, gov?

Read bullet | Comments »

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

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AEI:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | Comments »

Where in the World Are the Taliban 5?

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where in the world are the Taliban 5?

Read bullet | Comments »

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

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | 13 Comments »

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

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

No way. There’s just no way, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why the piqued interest among Republican whales?

Read bullet | 32 Comments »

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

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

2-01

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

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

Read bullet | Comments »

In Iraq, Truth Not the Coin of the Realm

Saturday, June 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atta said the capital was safe Saturday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | Comments »

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

Saturday, June 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | Comments »

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

Saturday, June 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

Here is Woods demonstrating her act:

1-7

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

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

Will the missing Lerner emails suffer a similar fate?

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

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

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

Read bullet | 51 Comments »

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

Saturday, June 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

A real humanitarian, that guy Hernandez.

Fusion reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | 14 Comments »

‘We Told Ya So,’ on Iraq Says GOP

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

Politico reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | Comments »

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

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | 49 Comments »

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

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

Sounds “smidgeony” to me, Mr. President.

Politico reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are there any dots to connect?

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

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

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

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

Chairman Issa wants some answers:

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

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

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

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

.

Read bullet | Comments »

Here’s the Latest Decree from Our Sovereign Lord

Sunday, June 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

Businessweek reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything is better than the system we have now.

Read bullet | 34 Comments »

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

Sunday, June 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why do they come?

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

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

Does this sound like a national emergency to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | 10 Comments »

Kerry Defends Bergdahl Swap: Dismisses Released Prisoners’ Threats

Sunday, June 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

Businessweek:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yikes.

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

Read bullet | 5 Comments »

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

Sunday, June 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

2-00

The Daily Mail reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | 29 Comments »

Dems Glum About Economy Despite Upbeat Jobs Report

Saturday, June 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

You didn’t miss much:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does that mean for Democrat prospects in the midterms?

Read bullet | 27 Comments »

Awkward! Obama and Putin Meet Face to Face

Saturday, June 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

The Hill:

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

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

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

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

Yikes! Almost as bad as a jilted lover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | Comments »

Hillary Says Bergdahl Actions ‘Irrelevant’

Saturday, June 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

Politico reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | 55 Comments »

Was a Ransom Paid to Get Bergdahl Back?

Saturday, June 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | 10 Comments »

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

Friday, June 6th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

AP describes it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canning: So you chose the Battle of Pearl Harbour?

Rita: Yes, that’s right, we did.

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

Rita: Thank you very much, young man.

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

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

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

Read bullet | Comments »

Obama vs. Reagan at Normandy

Friday, June 6th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Just for fun…

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

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

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

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

ABC News with some exerpts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | 15 Comments »

Secret Reports Say Bergdahl Converted to Islam and Declared Jihad

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read bullet | 14 Comments »

Topless Feminist Stabs Putin Wax Dummy in Paris Museum

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The radical group Femen has struck again. Known for its topless female protests, several Femen activists entered the famed Paris wax museum, the Musée Grévin, and proceeded to strip down to their shorts and, bare chested and in pure Buffy the Vampire Slayer fashion, plunged a wooden stake into the wax representation of Valdimir Putin.

As much as I’d like to accommodate those of you who are aficionados of certain parts of the female anatomy, website policy prohibits such a prurient display. However, here’s an after action photo:

1-7

Voactiv:

The ladies of Femen, the fiercely feminist activist group known for topless protests, have apparently adopted a new role model: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Today they violently thrust a stake into the heart of Russian President Vladimir Putin, saving the world once and for all from “the Kremlin’s Dracula.” Only it was a wax version of him.

Members of Femen charged into the Musée Grévin in Paris this morning and attacked wax Putin where he stood alongside figures of President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Kill Putin! Ukraine has to be free!” the activists cry on their official blog. They are calling the protest a “symbolic act against the legitimacy of Russia’s dictator.”

Putin, a real ladies’ man, has yet to respond to Femen’s protest, but when a journalist recently asked him about Hillary Clinton’s remarks from earlier this year comparing Russian aggression in Crimea to Hitler in the 1930s, he responded by calling her a “weak” person who has “never been too graceful with her statements.”

After stabbing him thoroughly, the activists dragged Putin’s figure to the ground in front of the other Western leaders to symbolize Russia’s exclusion from the G8 this week.

“If the Kremlin’s bloodsucker will not be finished off by Femen’s stake,” the vampire slayers say, “it can be done with Slavic garlic and the Crimean bright sun!” Good to know they have a backup plan.

Femen is a virulently anti-religious organization — one might say they’re even loony about their opposition to organized religion. But, as this Guardian profile of the group points out, their real beef with the world is patriarchy:

Femen’s aims are straightforward, broad and radical. A war on patriarchy on three fronts, calling for an end to all religions, dictatorships and the sex industry. The group has been offered a space in a rundown theatre in Paris as headquarters, and it is here I meet Inna, 24, at the start of a training session with 20 young Femen activists. She is giving instructions on the correct stance – feet apart, firmly rooted, aggressive. Femen warriors never smile, she says, they are not there to please anyone. The group has been protesting topless since 2010, using their bodies to attract attention, to lure journalists, and they have been roundly criticised by some people, who accuse them of playing into sexist stereotypes.

Femen activists have broken into church services and put on obscene displays. They are as cold and as cruel, not to mention as arbitrary and insensitive, as any man who ever lived. Why would anyone want to substitute one form of tyranny for another?

Radical leftists never make any sense so it’s a silly question to ask.

Read bullet | Comments »

Cochran-McDaniel Race Enters the Twilight Zone

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

“You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!”

Even the great Rod Serling could not have penned a script so outrageously bizarre as what has occurred in the aftermath of the Mississippi Republican primary for Senator.

Incumbent Thad Cochran and Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel could be headed for a runoff later this month. Early Wednesday  morning, 3 McDaniel supporters — including a paid staffer — were found locked in the Hinds County Courthouse. When department personnel showed up in response to a call from one of the McDaniel supporters at 3:45 AM, they had been locked in with no security guards for at least 4 hours.

What might have been a sheepish moment for the staffers takes an interesting turn when you consider that there were tens of thousands of ballots in the courthouse that were cast on Tuesday. Not a laughing matter to be sure.

The Hinds County Sheriff assured the Jackson Clarion Ledger that the votes had been secured and that it didn’t appear that there was any tampering. Indeed, Phillip Bump of the Washington Post tells  us that turnout patterns and the number of votes cast in Hinds County is in line with two adjoining counties.

Here’s the problem; the three McDaniel supporters are telling conflicting stories of what they were doing there.

Here’s the story as reported by the Clarion Ledger:

The Hinds County Sheriff’s Department is investigating why three people, including a high-ranking Chris McDaniel campaign official, were found locked in the Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson hours after an election official says the building was closed early Wednesday morning.

Hinds County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Othor Cain said investigators are trying to figure out how Janis Lane, Scott Brewster and Rob Chambers entered the courthouse. They were inside until about 3:45 a.m., Cain said.

Brewster is a former coordinator of presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s Mississippi operation and is currently McDaniel’s campaign coalition coordinator.

“There are conflicting stories from the three of them, which began to raise the red flag, and we’re trying to get to the bottom of it,” Cain said. “No official charges have been filed at this point, but we don’t know where the investigation will lead us.”

Brewster’s name popped up during the first days after conservative political blogger Clayton Kelly was arrested and charged in a photo scandal involving U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s bedridden wife, Rose. Kelly was accused of sneaking into Rose Cochran’s Madison nursing home and taking photos of her for a political video.

After Kelly’s arrest, three other McDaniel supporters were charged with conspiracy in connection with the nursing home case. Those include state tea party leader and attorney Mark Mayfield and a former radio talk show co-host of McDaniel’s.

After The Clarion-Ledger broke the news of Kelly’s arrest, Brewster said he was aware of the video.

“I do remember when it came out,” he said. “I think people made some calls (to have it removed). I didn’t personally — nobody personally talked (to Kelly). I don’t know if anybody made phone calls about it. I’m not sure. Just, I remember all of a sudden it was gone.”

However, after Brewster’s comment, McDaniel and other campaign leaders said they knew nothing about the video.

Another question: Did the three McDaniel supporters break in after the building was already locked up or were they let into the building with the permission of “uniformed personnel” as they claim?

A sheriff’s department spokesman refutes claims by the Chris McDaniel camp that three staffers were let into the courthouse by “uniformed personnel” sometime after it closed late election night.

Janis Lane, Scott Brewster, and Rob Chambers were found locked inside the Hinds County Courthouse early Wednesday morning. They allegedly gained access to the courthouse sometime shortly after 2 a.m., and when they realized they were locked in, they called Hinds County Republican Executive Chairman Pete Perry to ask for help. They were let out around 3:45 a.m.

Brewster is a former coordinator of presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s Mississippi operation and is currently McDaniel’s campaign coalition coordinator.

Lane is a member of the board of directors of the Central Mississippi Tea Party. She is among tea party leaders who claimed Nosef was supporting Cochran for the primary and called for his resignation.

Chambers is a consultant with the Mississippi Baptist Christian Action Commission who has worked with McDaniel and members of the Senate Conservative Coalition to fight Common Core.

The courthouse was locked down when all elections personnel left around 11:30 p.m., Cain said.

Former Gov. Haley Barbour referenced recent election controversy in which conservative blogger Clayton Kelly allegedly went uninvited into a nursing home and took photos of Cochran’s bedridden wife at the direction of three other Tea Party members.

“The McDaniel campaign, they seem to always be on the wrong side of a door,” said former Gov. Haley Barbour. “Have you ever heard of a group of people who were in places they weren’t supposed to be more often?”

The McDaniel campaign issued a statement late Wednesday deflecting the situation as an attack by Perry, who they accuse of being a close Cochran supporter, and stating that the three got in when they were directed to an open door by “uniformed personnel.”

Hinds County Sheriff’s Department does work security for the courthouse, but only during business hours, said spokesman Othor Cain. During an election, off-duty deputies are hired by the elections commissioners to work security, but at the time Lane, Brewster, and Chambers allegedly gained access to the courthouse, all security would have been long gone.

“It’s a fabrication that someone pointed them to a door. I think that’s a total misrepresentation of fact,” Cain said. “None of our guys let anybody in.”

The Clarion Ledger doesn’t mention it but was there evidence pertaining to the blogger photo case inside that courthouse?  I only speculate because of the Tea Party connection in both cases, and the fact that the alleged suspects can’t get their stories straight and have lied about how they were able to enter the courthouse.

What’s next in this race? Aliens endorsing Cochran?

 

 

 

Read bullet | 6 Comments »

‘Operation Bodyguard’ a Key to Victory on D-Day

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

As the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy approaches, you will no doubt read stirring accounts of the bravery and heroism of Allied troops that were involved. You’ll read about the logistics miracle that made the landings possible as well as the subsequent thrust into France. There will be articles about the planning that went into the attack (out the window when so many units failed to land on their designated stretch of beach), and the turn of the weather upon which Operation Overlord depended.

But before the 5,000 ships, 13,000 aircraft, and 160,000 men steeled themselves for combat as they approached the Normandy coast, the battle — and probably the war — had already been won.

A gigantic deception was being perpetrated on the German army by the most colorful cast of characters ever tasked with winning a war. Double agents, con men, British noblemen, radio operators with a sense of humor, and, finally, the most colorful soldier of them all: General George S. Patton.

The deception — known as Operation Bodyguard — had a dozen different elements each designed to further the basic goal: confuse the Germans about where the landings would take place, keep them guessing about how many troops were engaged, and mask the actual date of the assault. “Bodyguard” was chosen as a name for the operation based on one of Winston Churchill’s most famous quotes: “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”

Deception had attended every major Allied landing up to that time, and we were getting very good at it. Part of the reason was that the British had broken some high-level German army codes and were able to read some of what the Nazi plans were. But for two years prior to D-Day, the British and American spymasters had come up with several gimmicks that were destined to flummox the Germans on the lead up to D-Day.

It all began with Operation Double Cross — the capture of most of the German spies in England and their transformation into the most effective double agents in Europe. The operation was run by MI5 and was overseen by the Twenty Committee chaired by Sir John Cecil Masterman, who would go on to become vice chancellor at Oxford. Masterman designed an intricate plan that had the double agents feeding disinformation to the German army intelligence organization known as the Abwehr. Most of it was useless — or even fanciful, like reporting that the British had developed electric canoes — but there was just enough truth in the reports to get the Abwehr to place great faith in their spies. By June 1944, that confidence in their intelligence would be their undoing.

Essentially, Operation Bodyguard was the overall designation for a series of smaller operations. The most important of these was Operation Fortitude South, where, with spectacular panache, British intelligence built an entire American army out of nothing — First Army Group South, or FUSAG. Using deception techniques honed in Sicily and North Africa, fake radio traffic was generated, dummy rubber landing craft, tanks, and planes were placed in plain view, “leaks” to diplomats were generated, and having General Patton, who the Germans were convinced would command FUSAG and lead the invasion, show up in a variety of locations to keep the Germans guessing about where the main thrust of the invasion would take place.

All of this disinformation was regularly “confirmed” by the Abwehr‘s trusted spies in England, who were following the orders of the Twenty Committee.

Perhaps Fortitude’s most notable success was convincing the German high command that the invasion would take place at Pas-de-Calais and not Normandy. Reading German wireless messages, the allies discovered that the German army believed that’s where the invasion would occur anyway, so it was easy to feed into their expectations.

Other elements of Bodyguard were designed to freeze German garrisons in Greece, the Adriatic, Norway, and the Bay of Biscay in France. The more troops they could pin down elsewhere, the fewer  could be rushed to Normandy in the days following the invasion. The Nazis already outnumbered Allied forces considerably in France and hiding the actual invasion site for as long as possible was paramount in order to give General Montgomery, the overall commander of the invasion forces, time to build a broad front.

Indeed, the plan worked to perfection. Fully seven weeks after the Normandy landings, Hitler and Reich Main Security Office  (who had destroyed the Abwehr in 1943) were insisting that the D-Day landings were a diversion and the blow would fall on Pas-de-Calais. By the time the German army realized their mistake, it was too late.

One final deception was carried out by the U.S. Army Air Force in the days leading up to the invasion….

Read bullet | 23 Comments »

Secret Videos Helped Convince Intel Community that Bergdahl’s Condition was ‘Alarming’

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In a Tatler post earlier today, my colleague Bryan Preston makes some salient points about the condition of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl when he was released.

Recall that the White House said that Bergdahl was seriously ill and that his death may have been “imminent.”

NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski appeared on Morning Joe today and noted that Bowe Bergdahl appears to be in good health in that video of his release that the Taliban has pushed out. In the video, Bergdahl is seen wearing Afghan clothing and walking on his own. He looks thin, but has no trouble getting around at all.

Miklaszewski mocks Obama admininistration official Susan Rice for “once again” going on Sunday shows and saying things that turn out to be pathetically easy to disprove. While he’s in mock mode on Rice, even Mika Brzezinski groans.

I, too, was convinced that the health issue was a dodge used by the White House to excuse their not informing Congress of the exchange, as well as explaining why they concluded negotiations with the Taliban in such haste.

But the Wall Street Journal has learned that there were two “secret” videotapes not released to the public that show Bergdahl’s condition deteriorating at an “alarming” rate between 2011 and 2013. There was also a concern in intelligence circles that Bergdahl’s life was becoming less valuable the closer the US came to pulling out. His medical condition may have become such a burden to his captors that they may have concluded he wasn’t worth keeping alive as a bargaining chip.

That analysis finally convinced DNI James Clapper and high ranking officers at the Pentagon that they should conclude the deal quickly and bring Bergdahl home.

A secret intelligence analysis, based on a comparison of Taliban videos of Sgt. Bergdahl in captivity in 2011 and December 2013 that were provided to the U.S., found that the soldier’s rate of deterioration was accelerating. The latest video, provided to U.S. officials by mediators in Qatar, has never been publicly shown. Officials who have seen the video described Sgt. Bergdahl’s condition as “alarming.”

Evaluations of the two videos didn’t allow officials to estimate with any precision how much longer Sgt. Bergdahl might have to live without adequate treatment. But in the analysis, intelligence agencies identified several possible ailments to explain the change in his condition. Officials with access to the analysis declined to provide details about what those ailments were and what treatment Sgt. Bergdahl is now receiving at a U.S. military hospital in Germany.

Qatari representatives provided the latest video of Sgt. Bergdahl in January. The video was shot the previous month.

The growing U.S. concern about Sgt. Bergdahl’s deterioration helped convince key officials who previously were critical of the proposed deal, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, to back trading him for five Taliban detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison.

“Like others, DNI Clapper expressed concerns in 2012 about the prospect of releasing these five detainees” to Qatar, DNI spokesman Shawn Turner said, without commenting on any analysis of the videos. “However, the circumstances have changed dramatically.”

Mr. Turner said the intelligence community had “evidence that Sgt. Bergdahl’s health was failing and that he was in desperate need of medical attention.” Mr. Turner said Mr. Clapper also decided to support the exchange because of the planned drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which meant fewer resources would have been available to locate Sgt. Bergdahl.

The credibility of this administration is shot to hell, so I would hesitate to take this account as gospel. Still, it’s apparent something changed Clapper’s mind and the minds of people at the Pentagon, otherwise you can be sure we would have had a strategic leak or two detailing someone’s opposition to the deal by now.

What changed in the last year?

Three things changed between the time Mr. Panetta rejected the arrangement and Mr. Hagel signed it, a defense official said: The health assessment, additional security assurances from Qatar, and the realization that Sgt. Bergdahl’s value as a prisoner was declining as his health deteriorated and U.S. troops pulled out of Afghanistan.

“We believe they saw Bergdahl as a golden egg. That is why they kept him alive and as healthy as possible. But as he deteriorated, some people believe he became more of a burden to them,” the official said. “And as the war was ending some of them [Taliban] came to doubt his value. He was more of a liability as his health declined.”

The fact that Bergdahl was walking on his own with little difficulty does not mean he wouldn’t have been dead in another month. As the article points out, Bergdahl may have been suffering from several debilitating conditions that might have led to his death. Nor can we speculate on whether his captors would have eventually tired of negotiations and simply killed him.

Whatever Bergdahl’s motivations, whether he deserted or not, or collaborated with the enemy, by 2012 he wanted to come home. There are many things we can question and criticize about this deal. But Bergdahl’s superiors acted correctly in trying to free him, as honor and tradition demanded.

Read bullet | 6 Comments »

GOP Alternative VA Bill Offers Flexibility for Vets to see Private Doctors

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Four Republican Senators have introduced an alternative bill to a Democratic plan to offer some vets the ability to see doctors outside of the VA system. The Republican plan is far more expansive and gives vets more options — especially if they live a great distance from a VA facility.

Associated Press:

McCain and the other GOP senators said their bill would make it easier for veterans to get care. It would direct all 150 VA hospitals to publish on their websites the current wait time for an appointment and require the VA to establish a public database of patient safety, quality of care and outcomes at each hospital.

Veterans who can’t get a VA appointment within 30 days or who live at least 40 miles from a VA clinic or hospital could go to any doctor who participates in Medicare or the military’s TRICARE program. The bill is co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina. Burr is the senior Republican on the veterans panel.

“I’ve always believed that veterans could choose and should choose” their doctors, McCain said. He added that he first proposed private care for veterans during his 2008 presidential bid. “Give these veterans a choice card so they can present it to the health care provider,” he said Tuesday.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, proposed legislation this week that would allow veterans who can’t get timely appointments with VA doctors to go to community health centers, military hospitals or private doctors. The bill also would authorize the VA to lease 27 new health facilities in 18 states and give the VA secretary authority to remove senior executives within 30 days of being fired for poor job performance, eliminating lengthy appeals.

The House passed a similar bill last month, but Sanders said he worried that version would allow “wholesale political firings” and even dismissal of whistleblowers.

With both parties in both the Senate and the House in agreement that veterans must be given the option of some kind of private care, it seems likely that this welcome change to VA rules is coming soon. The GOP plan appears more expansive and takes into account time and distance, as well as offering our veterans vital information on the VA websites pertaining to wait times and quality of care.

You want to say it’s about time something was done about this. But then you remember getting the Leviathan to change its ways is akin to pulling hen’s teeth. Only the white-hot pressure of public indignation over the treatment of our veterans could cause these basic, common sense changes at the VA.

You wish it would be easier.

Read bullet | Comments »

$1 Billion to ‘Reassure’ Europe? Showing Leadership is Cheaper

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The US government spends about $10 billion a day so perhaps earmarking 10% of one day of the taxpayer’s tab in order to reassure the White House that we are reassuring Eastern Europe of our commitment to their security is money well spent.

Or maybe not. Far more than a token billion dollars, what Poland, the Czech Republic, and the rest of the former Soviet satellite states want is a demonstration of American leadership to counter Russian aggression.

Are those government looking at our actions in Ukraine and wondering if it was their hide on the line, would President Obama issue “strongly worded statements” and slap useless sanctions on Russia?

Not long ago, Lech Walesa wondered the same thing:

Speaking to The Associated Press, Walesa said “the world is disorganized and the superpower is not taking the lead. I am displeased.”

The former Solidarity leader said that when he meets Obama in Warsaw, he wants to tell him that the U.S. should inspire and encourage the world into positive action.

“The point is not in having the States fix problems for us or fight somewhere, no,” Walesa said. “The States should organize us, encourage us and offer programs, while we, the world, should do the rest. This kind of leadership is needed.”

“I will say: Either you want to be a superpower and guide us, or you should give the superpower to Poland and we will know what to do with it. Amen,” said Walesa, who is known for sometimes abrasive comments.

Inspiring leadership escapes the president because, as he has proven here at home, he hasn’t a clue how to lead. Empty speeches made to his robotic followers, lovingly reported by an adoring media is no substitute for taking the Congress and the country where he wants us to go. His failures in leadership have forced him to govern partly by decree — a sad commentary on a sad presidency.

In the real world where Eastern European countries are facing a resurgent Russia and wondering about the American commitment to their survival as free states, the president’s words were probably comforting, but are they truly “reassured”?

The White House also said it would review permanent troop deployments in Europe in the light of the Ukraine crisis — though that fell short of a firm commitment to put troops on the ground that Poland and some of its neighbours had sought.

Stationing troops permanently in eastern Europe would be tricky: many NATO members in Western Europe would baulk at the cost, and a big increase in U.S. forces could prompt reciprocal steps by Moscow and spiral into an arms race.

A new arms race? Russia is the aggressor, invading Ukraine to seize Crimea and threatening the rest of the country as well as Eastern Europe and we’d be to blame if another arms race started? Sheesh.

The military assistance for Europe proposed by the White House, called the European Reassurance Initiative, is to include greater U.S. participation in training and exercises, deploying U.S. military planners, and more persistent naval deployments in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea, on Russia’s doorstep.

The White House said in a statement it would help build the defence capacity of Ukraine and two other Western-leaning states on Russia’s borders, Georgia and Moldova. Obama would be seeking the support of the U.S. Congress for the plan, it said.

“In addition to this initiative, we are reviewing our force presence in Europe in the light of the new security challenges on the continent,” it said.

At a separate meeting in Brussels of NATO states, U.S Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged allies to raise their defence budgets in response to the Ukraine crisis, something several of them are reluctant to do.

NATO countries have no interest in cutting social spending to meet a threat they’ve always believed the US should handle. And with the US cutting its own defense budget, these deployments are almost certainly going to cut into our forces elsewhere.

Lech Walesa, again:

“The world does not have politically moral leadership at the moment,” Walesa said in an interview with broadcaster CNN. “The world is a very dangerous place if there is no world leadership… They (the Americans) should finally start acting like a superpower again.”

Would that it were so.

Read bullet | Comments »

No Sentiment in Politics: Cochran on the Brink

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

There may have been a time when a septuagenarian like Mississippi’s 6-term Senator Thad Cochran would have breezed to renomination and re-election. Voter sentimentality would have rewarded him for past service, even though the infirmities of age — and a long tenure in Washington — might otherwise have been liabilities that would have helped defeat him.

Today, those liabilities — both real and perceived — are likely to end his 4 decade political career. There is no longer room for sentiment in politics. Harsh realities and the perception that Cochran has lost his connection to the people by getting too comfortable with the Washington elites will probably doom him to a humiliating primary defeat today.

Cochran’s very effectiveness as a Senator has been turned against him. The tens of billions of dollars he has personally steered to his constituents in Mississippi has been dismissed as “pork” by his opponents and his careful nurturing of relationships with Democrats across the aisle that culminated in a $29 billion aid package for the Gulf Coast after hurricane Katrina has been redefined as accommodation with the enemy.

Such could be said about much of Cochran’s low-key legislating over the years, as this CNN report pointed out:

Though the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report both have the senate seat as remaining solidly in the Republican column, Stuart Rothenberg in April wrote: “Cochran, 76, is in trouble — in deep trouble — primarily because of changes in the Republican Party. But it’s also true that the senator, and his campaign, didn’t start his re-election effort where they needed to be.”

That’s partly because the very thing Cochran has cited as a strength: his tenure in Washington and power broker status, has been used by his tea party backed opponent to paint him as an antiquated Beltway insider.

In 2010, Citizens Against Government Waste, a non profit government spending watchdog group, dubbed Cochran the “king of earmarks” after he netted roughly $490 million for projects he favored.

Cochran has served as the chairman of the Appropriations Committee and the Agriculture Committee. In this role, he was able to help net federal funding for his alma mater, the University of Mississippi, for medical research, as well as money for defense contractors and protected the interests of Mississippi farmers, Barbour said.

“He has worked hard in the state to make sure Mississippi got its fair share,” Barbour said.

Barbour’s nephew, Henry, is an adviser to Mississippi Conservatives, a super PAC that is trying to get Cochran re-elected.

Still, the challenge from McDaniel has Cochran on the defense, Bruce said.

And well he should be on the defense, given his record. Earmarking, now forbidden in Congress, was an unaccountable means of spending that encouraged profligacy and waste. Of course, getting rid of them hasn’t slowed the growth of spending or cut back on the waste. But at least now Congress is more accountable to the taxpayer for their votes.

Cochran is a victim of the changing definition of legislator. No longer is it important what a congressman or senator achieves for his district or state. A lawmaker is now judged on how ideologically pure they are, how intensely they join the battle between the two sides, and how closely they are perceived to be to the power elites in Washington.

Cochran strikes out on all three criteria. It’s not only sentiment in politics that has disappeared; it is pragmatism that is fast disappearing as well.

Read bullet | 8 Comments »

Bribery Scandal Puts Qatar’s 2022 World Cup Bid in Jeopardy

Sunday, June 1st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Yeah, I know. Nobody cares about soccer.

But this has as much to do with politics as sport, and the possibility that there will be a revote for a venue to host the 2022 World Cup would not only be unprecedented, but would probably enrage the Arab world.

The facts, contained in thousands of documents the Sunday Times was able to get a hold of, are fairly clear. A Qatari member of the international body that governs world soccer — FIFA — allegedly paid $5 million to various FIFA officials to get them to award the 2022 World Cup to the Gulf state.

The allegations center around former Qatari football official Mohamed Bin Hammam, who has twice been banned by FIFA for allegations of bribery and conflicts of interest. Qatar has denied that Bin Hammam was involved in the country’s World Cup bid, but the BBC has independently confirmed that the Times-obtained emails show he was lobbying on behalf of the country prior to the 2010 selection announcement. Qatar’s bid chairman Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani once described Bin Hammam as the bid’s “biggest asset.”

Bin Hammam is said to have distributed the money to lower-level African football officials in an attempt to build a groundswell of support, and to have given disgraced former FIFA vice president Jack Warner $1.6 million, including $450,000 prior to the vote.

The reaction to the report has been renewed calls for FIFA to revisit the location of the 2022 World Cup, especially in Britain where several members of Parliament have already called for a revote if the allegations prove to be true. The president of the Dutch football association has said FIFA should “reconsider the allocation” if the charges are proven, while FIFA’s current vice-president Jim Boyce has said he would be in favor of a re-vote if the Times report is ultimately confirmed.

Rejected bids from 2018 and 2022 included England and the United States, but Australia’s bid was probably the strongest considering the 2018 World Cup in Russia is already scheduled be held in a European country and the U.S. hosted just 20 years ago.

Jason List at The Big Lead suggested national boycotts were in order unless the 2022 World Cup is moved, but that seems like it might not even be necessary at this point. The current scandal could be so large that Qatar may lose the tournament without any such additional outside pressure on FIFA.

A boycott of the first World Cup ever held in a Muslim country is a real possibility, unless FIFA conducts a revote. Such a revote could lead to other boycotts by Arab and African countries who always feel like second class citizens in the soccer world. The Qatari World Cup was seen as boosting the prestige of teams in that region and taking the Cup away from Qatar might destroy the tournament anyway.

In truth, FIFA officials have been looking for a way to escape the Qatari 2022 nightmare almost since the tournament was awarded to the Gulf state in 2010. For controversy, think Sochi on steroids.

Forbes:

The allegations come on the eve of a meeting between Michael Garcia and Qatar officials. Garcia is a US attorney tasked in July 2012 by the FIFA executive to investigate ethics abuse within the world governing body.

In addition, Qatar has been under intense scrutiny for its human rights record and for lax workplace health and safety practices that have led to scores of construction workers being killed or injured in the Gulf State.

Then there is the issue of when the tournament will actually be played.

The Qatar bid for 2022 was based on a June-July schedule as were the other bids from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the USA. Since the award in 2010 the claim by Qatar that the stadiums would be air conditioned to cool the 50 degree summer heat has been found to be about as possible as their team winning the World Cup in 2014.

A move to a “winter” schedule is now seen as the only viable option if players and spectators are to participate and attend in a safe environment. But even then there are significant problems. A change in season will require an extensive shut down of some of the world’s major leagues – particularly in Europe – and there is also the 2022 Winter Olympics to consider. (Bidders for that event are dropping like players in Qatar summer heat but that is another story for another day.)

While complaints from European leagues might receive short shrift and be waved off as if coming from brats, it is harder to do the same to broadcasters who deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to the FIFA treasury each cycle.

A decision on the 2022 schedule may be made in March of next year but the Sunday Times’ bombshell, Garcia’s on-going investigation and discontent from wealthy leagues and broadcasters may derail the timeline.

It is extremely doubtful that Germany’s Bundesliga, England’s Premier League, or any other major European club league would shut down their lucrative play to travel to Qatar to play in a world cup. There is also the popular Champions League Tournament featuring the best club teams in Europe that would have to be postponed or cancelled. Billions of dollars would be at stake, which makes the effort to undo the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar nearly a necessity.

Perhaps they will have to change the name of the tournament to the “Most of the World Cup” if boycotts by Arabs and Africans materialize. That would be a small price to pay to dodge all the trouble that should have been avoided by refusing to award the tournament to Qatar in the first place.

 

Read bullet | Comments »

Sudanese Government Backtracks on Release of Condemned Woman

Sunday, June 1st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Yesterday, I blogged the happy story that the Sudanese government would release Meriam Ibrahim “within days,” sparing her from being executed for apostasy. “The related authorities are working to release Meriam through legal measures. I expect her to be released soon,” a foreign ministry official was reported as saying.

Now it appears that either the Sudanese government has changed its mind, or the official overstepped his authority. Today, the foreign ministry said that Meriam’s release was “not imminent” and that only the courts could let her go.

CNN:

Sudan’s foreign ministry denied published reports that a woman sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith is expected to be released.

Foreign ministry spokesman Abubakar Al-Sidiq said that he is not aware of any plans to release Mariam Yahya Ibrahim before a ruling from an appeals court.

Ibrahim was condemned to die by hanging after she declined to profess she is a Muslim, the religion of her father. Sharia law considers her a Muslim and does not recognize her marriage to a Christian. She is unlikely to change her mind despite giving birth in prison, says her husband Daniel Wani, who also is a Christian.

Some Western media outlets have reported that Ibrahim would be released in a few days, but her husband said that only the appeals court could free his wife.

“I’m not aware that any release is imminent,” Wani told CNN.

Technically, the president of Sudan cannot pardon her, so the judiciary might be the only way out for the government, which is coming under increased international pressure to release Ibrahim.

The court convicted her of apostasy and adultery two weeks ago. At the time, she was eight months pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl this week at a Khartoum prison, where she’s detained with Martin, her 20-month-old son.

Despite languishing in prison with two infants, she’s holding firm to her beliefs, according to her husband.

“There is pressure on her from Muslim religious leaders that she should return to the faith,” Wani told CNN in a TV exclusive. “She said, ‘How can I return when I never was a Muslim? Yes, my father was a Muslim, but I was brought up by my mother.’ “

Meriam’s lawyer scoffed at the reports of her release, calling them “rumors”:

Elshareef Ali Elshareef Mohammed, lawyer for Christian Sudanese mother Meriam Ibrahim, 27, who was sentenced to death for her faith, dismissed reports on Saturday that his client is expected to be released in a few days as “absurd,” as her family has not been told there is any chance for her release.

Mohammed made the revelation to Channel 4 News highlighting that Meriam is now being held in an overcrowded ward of a hospital prison, after giving birth in shackles last week. The ward he said is “not a proper place” for a new mother.

Abdullah Alzareg, an under-secretary at the Sudan’s foreign Ministry told the BBC that Meriam Ibrahim is expected to be released in a few days and that Sudan guaranteed religious freedom and vowed to protect the young mother.

Mohammed explained to Channel 4 News that any decision to release Meriam has to come from an appeal court and it takes months, not days, to process an appeal. He added that when Alzareg made the statement of Meriam’s release, he was visiting the UK at the moment and noted: “One person in the UK (the official) saw the UK media, and wanted to stop the campaign (for her release).”

Sudan is desperately dependent on foreign aid for its survival so they may be looking for an “out” in order not to offend their benefactors in the west. That said, it’s curious that a high official in the foreign office would make a statement indicating that Meriam’s release was imminent. I doubt he just pulled the idea out of his hat; he is probably reflecting the thinking inside the government and jumped the gun a bit.

What we know is this; execution for apostasy is popular in much of the Islamic world. The percentages are astonishing; 78% support for executing apostates in Afghanistan, 64% in Egypt and Pakistan. Even in so-called “moderate” Malaysia, 53% of the public supports killing apostates.

Nonie Darwish, director of Former Muslims United, points out in this 2010 article that apostates are executed but for other reasons than their real “crime”:

Muslim apologists often speak from both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, they assure Americans that Islam has nothing in it that condemns apostates to death. On the other hand, they state that announcing publicly that one has left Islam and the reasons for leaving, are grounds for charges of treason. After world condemnation of Islamic tyranny, many Muslim countries are working around the law of apostasy by still killing apostates, but for a different stated reason. If a Muslim declares publicly that he has left Islam and why, this in itself is considered treason, and thus, governments can arrest apostates, torture, imprison, and kill that person. But they officially state that it is due to treason, as if the person had committed espionage or some other crime against national security. As long as a Muslim keeps silent about his apostasy and acts as a Muslim, he is left alone. But the minute he or she starts attending a church, all hell breaks loose. They are arrested for disturbing the peace, causing fitna divisions, and treason; that is the modern way of killing apostates inside Egypt today.

Read bullet | 8 Comments »