When are trillion dollar deficits not an “immediate crisis ? When the deficit as a percentage of GDP goes back to “normal” levels.
That’s the reasoning of a growing number of Democrats on Capitol Hill who want all this budget cutting nonsense to stop so they can go back to good old fashioned deficit spending in order to “stimulate” the economy.
Fueled by some outside commentators like the New York Times’ Paul Krugman who believe there is no immediate debt crisis, a growing number of Democrats are resisting more budget cuts, believing that slashing government spending slows the economy.
A column by Ben White and Tarini Parti in Politico looks at the growing number of Democrats who believe “austerity” has run its course and the time is now to increase spending as a stimulus to get the economy growing faster.
It should be noted that many of the Democrats mentioned in this article are not far left liberals. And the authors point out that even some conservative think tanks have issued papers recently urging caution in cutting more from the budget.
These Democrats and their intellectual allies once occupied the political fringes, pushed aside by more moderate members who supported both immediate spending cuts and long-term entitlement reforms along with higher taxes.
But aided by a pile of recent data suggesting the deficit is already shrinking significantly and current spending cuts are slowing the economy, more Democrats such as Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen are coming around to the point of view that fiscal austerity, in all its forms, is more the problem than the solution.
This group got a huge boost this month with the very public demolition of a sacred text of the austerity movement, the 2010 paper by a pair of Harvard professors arguing that once debt exceeds 90 percent of a country’s gross domestic product, it crushes economic growth.
Turns out that’s not what the research really showed. The original findings were skewed by a spreadsheet error, among other mistakes, and it’s helping shift the manner in which even middle-of-the-road Democrats talk about debt and deficits.
“Trying to just land on the debt too quickly would really harm the economy; I’m convinced of that,” Kaine, hardly a wild-eyed liberal, said in an interview. “Jobs and growth should be No. 1. Economic growth is the best anti-deficit strategy.”
And the intellectual shift away from austerity is not just coming from the left.
The conservative American Enterprise Institute issued a paper last week saying Congress has already achieved enough deficit reduction for now. Other organizations not typically associated with free-spending liberalism, including the International Monetary Fund and Goldman Sachs, have cautioned that the austerity movement — which favors rapid reduction of national debt — may be worsening Europe’s economic problems and slowing down the U.S. recovery, as well.
“American fiscal austerity has been moderate and probably, at the current pace of deficit reduction of about $300 billion per year over the next half decade, has proceeded far enough for now,” AEI scholar John Makin wrote last week.
Does cutting the budget cause a slowdown in growth? As we all know, Washington isn’t “cutting” anything, but rather reducing the rate of growth in government programs. In the sense that the “normal” growth in spending for a government program is cut back slightly, it may affect certain procurement programs like weapons purchases. This would indeed be a loss of economic activity and thus put a damper on the economy.
Regardless of any justification for cutting spending by scholarly papers, the need to cut the budget and cut it now is a necessity. What Krugman and other “stimulus” advocates never mention is the politics of budget cutting, which is not concerned with the numbers of deficit reduction as much as it is with the art of the possible in negotiating a fix for our short and long term deficit problems.
Does anyone seriously believe if we get back to robust growth in the economy — 4% or more — that the political will to deal with our long term debt problems, our entitlement problems, and further deficit reduction will exist? It isn’t so much that the deficit and debt are “immediate” crisis in the sense that unless we balance the budget by next year, the economy will collapse. But once the economy improves, and revenue begins to recover, the need for deficit reduction disappears and Congress will go back to business as usual.
That’s the political reality. Without a spur to their behinds, Congress won’t deal with our debt and deficit problems. And that spur — uncontrolled deficits and a continual increase in our national debt — will disappear once the good times are rolling again.
If it turns out that the administration decides to intervene in Syria because President Assad’s government has used and is using chemical weapons, they would have to answer one, overriding question.
Just who should we be shooting at?
In Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, rebels aligned with Al Qaeda control the power plant, run the bakeries and head a court that applies Islamic law. Elsewhere, they have seized government oil fields, put employees back to work and now profit from the crude they produce.
Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government.
Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.
This is the landscape President Obama confronts as he considers how to respond to growing evidence that Syrian officials have used chemical weapons, crossing a “red line” he had set. More than two years of violence have radicalized the armed opposition fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, leaving few groups that both share the political vision of the United States and have the military might to push it forward.
Among the most extreme groups is the notorious Al Nusra Front, the Qaeda-aligned force declared a terrorist organization by the United States, but other groups share aspects of its Islamist ideology in varying degrees.
“Some of the more extremist opposition is very scary from an American perspective, and that presents us with all sorts of problems,” said Ari Ratner, a fellow at the Truman National Security Project and former Middle East adviser in the Obama State Department. “We have no illusions about the prospect of engaging with the Assad regime — it must still go — but we are also very reticent to support the more hard-line rebels.”
You might recall hearing about several high profile defections of high ranking officers in the Syrian army over the last two years who invariably brought a number of soldiers with them. At the time, it was thought that these defectors would form the bulk of the Free Syrian Army, the main force fighting to remove Bashar Assad from power.
But it didn’t work out that way. Most of those units have either melted away or been absorbed by the dominant Islamist militias who are receiving arms from sympathizers in the Gulf states.
To give you an idea of just how screwed up our policies have made things, the Times article details what happened to an umnbrella military council we set up as a counterpart to the civilian opposition council:
As extremists rose in the rebel ranks, the United States sought to limit their influence, first by designating Nusra a terrorist organization, and later by pushing for the formation of the Supreme Military Council, which is linked to the exile opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition.
Although led by an army defector, Gen. Salim Idris, the council has taken in the leaders of many overtly Islamist battalions. One called the Syrian Liberation Front has been integrated nearly wholesale into the council; many of its members coordinate closely with the Syrian Islamic Front, a group that includes the extremist Ahrar al-Sham, according to a recent report by Ms. O’Bagy, of the Institute for the Study of War.
A spokesman for the council, Louay Mekdad, said that its members reflected Syrian society and that it had no ties to Nusra or other radical groups. “The character of the Syrian people is Islamic, but it is stupid to think that Syria will turn into Afghanistan,” he said. “That’s just an excuse for those who don’t want to help Syria.”
In effect, the US helped facilitate the concentration of Islamist power in the military.
Blunders aside, there is still a question of intervention. Despite fairly conclusive proof that sarin gas has been employed by the Syrian army, President Obama — quite rightly — is still reluctant to react militarily. Do we really want to provide air support for al-Qaeda backed fighters? Or establish a “no-fly” zone to assist those who, once in power, would become our enemy?
A cynical policy would see to it that the civil war went on and on, so that the Islamists would be denied victory and Assad would be too pre-occupied to cause trouble elsewhere, like Iraq. But with millions of civilians threatened with starvation and thousands dying every month, such a policy would be unworthy of the United States. We must find a way with our allies to end this conflict and then try and pick up the pieces as best we can after Assad has been deposed.
We might know for sure already if Eric Holder’s Justice Department hadn’t set the wheels of justice turning, forcing a hearing where the surviving bomber was read his Miranda rights.
House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on Sunday that he believes the Boston bombers had sophisticated training.
“And the question is where is that trainer or trainers?” McCaul said on Fox News Sunday. “Are they overseas in the Chechen region or are they in the United States?”
McCaul cited the sophistication of the pressure cooker bombs and the fact that similar devices have been used in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He said the FBI has cast a “wide net” in the hunt for a possible trainer.
“I think the experts all agree that there is someone who did train these two individuals,” McCaul said.
Brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are believed to have detonated two homemade bombs packed with shrapnel at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and maiming dozens.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed after a shootout with police, but his younger brother has been charged in the attacks. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has said he and his brother were radicalized on the internet and suggested they learned how to build the bombs from instructions in an al Qaeda magazine, according to reports.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) agreed with McCaul, saying the bombings were “more advanced” than what would have been possible with Internet research.
McCaul also said he believes the mother of the two suspected bombers played a “role in the radicalization process” and called her a “person of interest,” but stopped short of claiming she was involved in the bombing.
McCaul isn’t the only media source to point to the relative sophistication of the bomb as proof that the bombers didn’t act alone. Indeed, it appears that the FBI — despite White House assurances that there was no foreign connection involved in the plot — is concentrating on finding additional suspects in the case.
“There could be a wider conspiracy,” Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “What I found astounding is that right out of the box, U.S. officials anonymously are saying there’s no foreign connection to this case. When in fact, the FBI just began their investigation in this case.”
Given the extensive network of Chechen terrorist cells across Europe, it is not a stretch to imagine a cell here in the U.S. Tamerlan Tsarnaev could easily have been put in touch with the cell when he was in Dagestan for six months last yaer. Or he may have made contact during his radicalization. The point being, McCaul is not blowing smoke. And the FBI continues to look into the possibility of a wider conspiracy despite the White House wanting the whole idea of a terror cell of Chechens in America to just go away.
Thank you Vladmir Putin for telling us about these wiretaps — after the bombing.
Russian authorities secretly recorded a telephone conversation in 2011 in which one of the Boston bombing suspects vaguely discussed jihad with his mother, officials said Saturday, days after the U.S. government finally received details about the call.
In another conversation, the mother of now-dead bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was recorded talking to someone in southern Russia who is under FBI investigation in an unrelated case, officials said.
The conversations are significant because, had they been revealed earlier, they might have been enough evidence for the FBI to initiate a more thorough investigation of the Tsarnaev family.
As it was, Russian authorities told the FBI only that they had concerns that Tamerlan and his mother were religious extremists. With no additional information, the FBI conducted a limited inquiry and closed the case in June 2011.
Two years later, authorities say Tamerlan and his brother, Dzhohkar, detonated two homemade bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring more than 260. Tamerlan was killed in a police shootout and Dzhohkar is under arrest.
In the past week, Russian authorities turned over to the United States information it had on Tamerlan and his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva. The Tsarnaevs are ethnic Chechens who emigrated from southern Russia to the Boston area over the past 11 years.
Even had the FBI received the information from the Russian wiretaps earlier, it’s not clear that the government could have prevented the attack.
Again the question: Why didn’t the Russians give this information to the FBI when they requested that the bureau investigate Tamerlan prior to his visit to Dagestan?
It was not immediately clear why Russian authorities didn’t share more information at the time. It is not unusual for countries, including the U.S., to be cagey with foreign authorities about what intelligence is being collected.
Nobody was available to discuss the matter early Sunday at FSB offices in Moscow.
Jim Treacy, the FBI’s legal attache in Moscow between 2007 and 2009, said the Russians long asked for U.S. assistance regarding Chechen activity in the United States that might be related to terrorism.
“On any given day, you can get some very good cooperation,” Treacy said. “The next you might find yourself totally shut out.”
There is no guarantee that the FBI would have monitored Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s activities any more closely if the wiretap information had been given to the FBI. But might it have put other information they acquired in another context? We’ll never know.
The suspect’s mother is emerging as a larger force in Tamerlan’s life than was previously suspected. If she harbors radical beliefs, questions about how the family managed to immigrate successfully to the U.S. need to be answered before any immigration-reform bill can be passed. Americans sympathized with the Chechens as the Russians brutally suppressed their revolt. But judging by the actions of the bombers, closer scrutiny appears warranted regardless of how we feel toward an oppressed people.
The FBI has not had a good month.
After some questionable actions with regard to the events surrounding the Boston bomber suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and initially arresting the wrong man in the case involving letters tainted with ricin sent to President Obama, a judge, and a Senator Wicker, the FBI has taken another suspect into custody connected to the ricin matter.
James Everett Dutschke, a man involved in a bitter personal feud with Elvis impersonator and former suspect in the cast Paul Curtis, was arrested by federal marshals this morning at his Tupelo, Mississippi home. He is being charged with “knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon.”
FBI spokeswoman Deborah R. Madden declined to provide details about the investigation, including what evidence prompted this latest arrest. Linda King, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford, Miss, said Saturday afternoon that the agency was not releasing any additional details about the case.
Dutschke went into hiding on Thursday to escape the media attention, prompting the FBI and local law enforcement officials to launch a five-hour-long manhunt for him. He has insisted he had nothing to do with the letters.
Federal authorities officials searched his home Tuesday for more than 10 hours and spent Wednesday searching the site of his former studio. Several people at the scene were wearing respirators, and a portable laboratory was set up nearby. Dutschke’s studio closed in January when he was under a child-molestation investigation. A grand jury indicted him this month. The alleged victim is a 7-year-old girl who had visited his studio, Basham said.
Law enforcement officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity on the day Curtis was released, said they believed Curtis had been framed.
The evidence that led the FBI to arrest Curtis included several details that could be found on social media sites or were known to Dutschke.
No definitive word yet on whether the substance found in the letters was indeed ricin, or some other poison. If it is, it begs the question; how did someone like Dutschke acquire the expertise to extract the ricin from castor beans and place it in letters without poisoning himself? It’s a nagging detail that should give us pause in thinking that the FBI truly got its man — this time.
Well, if you include feeding starving orphans, you might make a charge like that stick.
North Korea said Saturday it will soon put a detained American on trial for allegedly trying to overthrow the government, further complicating already fraught relations between Pyongyang and Washington.
The indictment of Kenneth Bae comes in the middle of a lull after weeks of war threats and other provocative acts by North Korea against the U.S. and South Korea. It has expressed rage over U.N. sanctions over a February nuclear test and ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills, though analysts say Pyongyang’s motive is to get its Korean War foes to negotiate on its own terms.
“For North Korea, Bae is a bargaining chip in dealing with the U.S. The North will use him in a way that helps bring the U.S. to talks when the mood slowly turns toward dialogue,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean Studies at Seoul’s Dongguk University.
Bae, identified in North Korean state media by his Korean name, Pae Jun Ho, is a tour operator of Korean descent who was arrested after arriving with a tour on Nov. 3 in Rason, a special economic zone bordering China and Russia.
He is the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The other Americans were eventually deported or released after high-profile diplomatic interventions, including some involving former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
“The preliminary inquiry into crimes committed by American citizen Pae Jun Ho closed,” the official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief report. “In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it. His crimes were proved by evidence.”
The North Koreans may be upset with him because he might have been trying to convert people to Christianity:
But his friends, colleagues and South Korean activists specializing in North Korea affairs said Bae is a Christian missionary based in a Chinese border town who frequently made trips to North Korea to feed orphans there. It is not known whether he tried to evangelize while in North Korea.
Officially, North Korea guarantees freedom of religion. In practice, authorities crack down on Christians, who are seen as Western-influenced threats to the government. The distribution of Bibles and secret prayer services can mean banishment to a labor camp or execution, defectors from the country have said.
Of course, Iran pulls the same kind of crap and we let them get away with it too. Hostage taking in the 21st Century is far more nuanced than the simple snatch and ransom gambits of previous eras. These countries don’t want money — not in the sense that they expect suitcases full of dollars to be delivered at a pre-arranged drop. Their primary goal is to have the US pay attention to them — sort of like a pimply-faced teenage boy who can’t get the attention of the gorgeous girl next door and ends up slashing her tires.
We have several candidates to act as high-profile hostage negotiators. Jesse Jackson is available and is always eager to take center stage and tell the world how it’s all America’s fault. Ditto Jimmy Carter, although he may be getting a little old to go gallivanting around the world spouting his blame America first nonsense.
My choice is Dennis Rodman, who apparently really hit it off with North Korea’s number one NBA fan, the Dear Leader himself. Perhaps Dennis could show up wearing a wedding dress and really impress Kim Jong-Un. They may release Mr. Bae out of sheer amazement.
No doubt Mr. Bae will be returned safe and sound after a suitable interval and enough food is showered on the starving North Korean regime. To prevent this from happening in the future, the government should warn all Americans that if you travel to North Korea, you are on your own. We will not negotiate or otherwise intervene in securing your release.
We’d never do it, of course. Nor will North Korea tire of playing the hostage game in order to force the US to pay attention to it.
A Dutch man who is thought to have mastermindeded a massive web attack on Spamhaus, an international organization dedicated to fighting companies who send out spam emails, is under arrest after a request from a Dutch prosecutor.
The man arrested is believed to be Sven Kamphuis, the owner and manager of Dutch hosting firm Cyberbunker that has been implicated in the attack.
“Spamhaus is delighted at the news that an individual has been arrested and is grateful to the Dutch police for the resources they have made available and the way they have worked with us,” said a Spamhaus spokesman.
He added: “Spamhaus remains concerned about the way network resources are being exploited as they were in this incident due to the failure of network providers to implement best practice in security.”
Spamhaus servers were hit with a huge amount of data via an attack technique known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. This attempts to overwhelm a web server by sending it many more requests for data than it can handle.
A typical DDoS attack employs about 50 gigabits of data every second (gbps). At its peak the attack on Spamhaus hit 300 gbps.
Cyberbunker is thought to have kicked off the attack in late March after Spamhaus blocked some servers hosted by the Dutch firm. Cyberbunker bills itself as a firm that will host anything but child pornography and terrorism material.
Non-profit Spamhaus maintains what are known as “block lists” which many organisations use to spot sources of spam and other junk mail to stop them clogging mail servers and inboxes with unwanted messages.
Mr Kamphuis took exception to Spamhaus’s action saying in messages sent to the press that it had no right to decide “what goes and does not go on the internet”.
In a statement, the Dutch public prosecutor said the Dutchman, who it only identifies as “SK”, was “suspected of unprecedented heavy attacks” on Spamhaus. The house where SK was stayed was searched at the time of his arrest and Spanish police confiscated computers, phones and hard drives.
The BBC describes the attack on Spamhaus as one of the “biggest ever” and may have involved criminal networks in Eastern Europe.
Spamhaus is not without its critics, including legitimate businesses who have been placed on their spam list. The problem comes in defining exactly what “spam is. Clearly, the email scams from Nigerians and other obvious attempts at fraud should be blocked. But what of legitimate businesses that purchase email lists for the purpose of sending advertising emails?
The USPS separates such clutter and makes it possible for the consumer to opt out of receiving most of it. But no such service exists on the internet. We can calibrate our spam filters so that it doesn’t clutter our inboxes, and most email services give you the option of using key words to block spam altogether. The latter is especially helpful in preventing advertisements for sex sites and sex products to ever reach your email box.
But using key words to block advertisements risks stopping legitimate, wanted mail from being received. Spamhaus, while occasionally being overzealous in applying its definition of spam, nevertheless performs a valuable service in helping to clean up the internet.
PC World is reporting that the suspect is wanted for other computer crimes as well. Reason enough to take a spammer off the net so that we don’t have to be bombarded every day by scams from Nigerian princes and ads for products that don’t exist.
It looks like the Nigerians will have to find another way to deliver its email scams.
Republican recruiters are finding it slow going in convincing top-tier candidates to run for open Senate seats in some states that the GOP needs to fashion a majority in 2014.
In other states, GOP leadership is having difficulty in heading off expensive primaries for Senate candidates who will probably face well-known, well-financed Democrats. The Democrats have done well so far in identifying and recruiting first-rate candidates with name recognition and fundraising abilities in Iowa, Michigan, and probably Montana, where popular former governor Brian Schweitzer is expected to run for the seat left vacant by retiring Senator Max Baucus.
In Iowa, the national party is in scramble mode, hoping to head off the candidacy of Rep. Steve King, a strong conservative and tea party favorite. King hasn’t declared yet, but that hasn’t stopped the GOP leadership from frantically searching for an alternative:
The party’s top national Senate campaign strategists are so concerned about squandering potential opportunities by failing to persuade popular Republicans to run in critical states that they were in Iowa last week to survey the landscape. The visit came after top Senate prospects U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, a prolific fundraiser, and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, a rising star, decided against running despite aggressive lobbying by the National Republican Senate Committee.
The committee’s senior spokesman, Kevin McLaughlin, and its political director, Ward Baker, met privately Wednesday with state Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey and state Sen. Joni Ernst, who have expressed interest.
They invited Mark Jacobs, the former CEO of Reliant Energy, to breakfast Thursday. They also tried again, and in vain, it turns out, to persuade Terry Branstad, Iowa’s longest-serving governor, to run for Senate instead of seeking another term as governor.
Despite all that, the Washington delegation shrugged off the recruitment troubles. “It’s more important to take the time to get it right than it is to rush and get it wrong,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin and others have lamented the national party’s decision not to intervene in the candidate selection last year, when Republicans lost races viewed as winnable in Indiana, Missouri and elsewhere.
The mission in Iowa for 2014 is to beat Democrat Bruce Braley, a four-term congressman trying to succeed retiring six-term Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. Braley is the party’s consensus prospect. He’s won Harkin’s endorsement and already has raised more than $1 million for his campaign.
In Michigan, GOP brass is working hard to draw former FBI agent and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers into the race. Currently, only little-known libertarian Congressman Justin Amash has indicated any interest in running, and he is reportedly being pressured by both Ron Paul and Rand Paul to forgo a shot at the upper chamber in order to remain in the House as the primary libertarian spokesman in the Republican Party. Neither man will be favored against three-term Rep. Gary Peters, who has the strong backing of both the state and national Democratic Party.
Republican chances in both Iowa and Michigan — even with open seats — have always been less than stellar. Both states have have been unfriendly to conservatives in recent elections and President Obama won both states comfortably in 2012.
You may have seen a Tatler post of mine up this morning going into excruciating detail about how two Iowa Democrats were convicted of fraud in getting President Obama on the ballot in 2008 primary.
I got so excited and carried away in explaining the counterfactual possibility that Obama would never have been elected president, that I failed to notice that the Democrats were not from the state of Iowa, but rather Indiana.
I’ve been writing for PJ Media for 6 years and have had my own blog going on 9. I’ve made many errors of fact and omission during that time, having written more than 3700 blog posts and articles, but I can’t recall being so careless as to get a fundamental fact of a story so massively wrong — and then failing to notice the error until it was pointed out in the comments.
So as I wipe the egg off my face and pick myself up off the floor, I would like to apologize for this inexcusable mistake. I’d like to say it won’t happen again, but being human, you and I both know that it is a fool’s promise to underestimate our ability to make asses of ourselves.
A GOP bill that would actually improve Obamacare was set for a vote today but was abruptly pulled by House leadership when conservative opposition derailed it.
Dubbed the “Helping Sick Americans Now” Act by its author, Majority Whip Eric Cantor, the bill would have rescued a particularly incompetently drawn part of Obamacare; insuring Americans with pre-existing conditions. The bill calls for transferring funds from a preventative disease account into high risk pools that would allow sick people to better able afford insurance.
Mr. Cantor should probably have stayed in bed. Democrats oppose the bill because — well, the Republicans proposed it. President Obama has promised a veto. And several conservative groups — including the Club for Growth who promised to “score” a vote on the bill for its report card — came out adamantly opposed to anything that smacks of improving Obamacare. In fact, many conservatives called for another symbolic vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
As this story in The Hill demonstrates, there was a lot of confusion prior to the Republican leadership pulling the bill:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he asked leadership a lot of questions that weren’t answered at the committee meeting. King is undecided.
Pitts left the committee meeting fully prepared to head to the floor later in the afternoon to manage debate on his measure.
Asked if leaders had the votes for passage, Pitts acknowledged that he didn’t know, but that he was “willing to roll the dice.”
“As far as I know, we’re voting this afternoon,” Pitts told The Hill.
Moments later, the RSC chairman told The Hill that he didn’t know if, in fact, the bill would come up for a vote.
“I don’t know … I’m waiting for the votes to be called,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in an interview with The Hill.
Though Scalise supported the measure in the Energy and Commerce Committee, he wouldn’t commit to doing so on the House floor unless a pending amendment is adopted.
Pitts offered the amendment at the Rules Committee late Tuesday night to allay the concerns of GOP lawmakers that the money would go to the federal pool instead of the state-run high-risk pools.
Still, Pitts conceded “there are some people who still are hesitant because they don’t want to fix ObamaCare.”
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) – a declared “undecided” – left the RSC meeting with a more pessimistic outlook on the measure.
Based on the number of concerns that he heard voiced by his fellow RSC members, Brooks suggested it seems unlikely that GOP leaders would be able to pass the bill without the support of some Democrats.
“It’s pretty simple. We’re shifting money from one part of Obamacare we don’t support to another part of Obamacare we don’t support,” said Michigan’s Justin Amash. That pretty much sums up the truth of the matter.
What possessed Cantor to embark on this fruitless quest to improve Obamacare is a mystery. If he wanted to include help for Americans with pre-existing conditions, he might have included something in any “replacement” bill that the GOP is still insisting it wants after Obamacare is repealed. But to offer it as a stand alone bill that Democrats can unite against and conservatives can snipe at is bad strategy — and worse lawmaking.
Brent Bozell named the bill “Cantorcare.” It looks like the Majority Whip will have that name to live down for a long time.
An West Virginia eighth-grade student was suspended from school and later arrested after wearing an NRA T-shirt with the picture of a gun to school and then refusing to take it off.
Jared Marcum woke up Thursday morning and decided to wear an NRA T-Shirt with the picture of a hunting rifle. When confronted by school authorities who told him to take it off, Jared refused. He was later arrested on two counts including obstruction and disturbing the education process.
The school district refuses to comment and the family has retained a lawyer.
Jared’s father Allen Lardieri says he’s angry he had to rush from work to pick his son up from jail over something he says was blown way out of proportion.
“I don’t’ see how anybody would have an issue with a hunting rifle and NRA put on a t-shirt, especially when policy doesn’t forbid it,” Lardieri said.
The Logan County School District’s dress code policy prohibits clothing that displays profanity, violence, discriminatory messages and more but nowhere in the document does it say anything about gun images.
“He did not violate any school policy,” Lardieri reiterates. “He did not become aggressive.”
Now, Lardieri says he’s ready to fight until the situation is made right.
“I will go to the ends of the earth, I will call people, I will write letters, I will do everything in the legal realm to make sure this does not happen again,” Lardieri said.
Logan City Police did confirm that Jared had been arrested and charged today.
For an eighth grader, the young man appears to have a remarkable clarity of mind:
“People are saying that I did the right thing, that they’re proud,” Jared said.
The 14-year-old student at Logan Middle School in Logan, West Virginia says the NRA shirt that sparked the controversy now symbolizes a fight that is just getting started.
“What they’re doing is trying to take away my rights, my freedom of speech and my second amendment,” Jared said.
“You can take the firearms out of the equation, what this about is fundamental rights,” Jared’s father Allen Lardieri said.
The school authorities wildly exceeded any possible mandate they might have to regulate speech and on a whim — or because of political bias — tried to enforce a non-existent dress code. Now they’re stuck with their behinds hanging out and don’t know what to do. So their only comment is “no comment.” They haven’t even told Jared or his family when he can come back to school.
If a student came to school wearing a T-Shirt with the NRA logo placed in a red circle with a line through it, the kid would probably be feted at a special school assembly.
As it is, poor Jared is on the “wrong” side of the issue and must suffer for standing up for his foul beliefs.
Melissa Harris-Perry, the MSNBC weekend host who doesn’t believe your children belong to you, also doesn’t believe that the religious faith of the Tsarnaev brothers matters to the investigation of the Boston bombings.
Harris-Perry must have been visiting her home planet the last few days, so perhaps we can excuse her for being a little behind the breaking news curve. Still, wherever she calls home, don’t they get the New York Times or Washington Post?
Making the point that the Tsarnaev brothers’ Muslim faith at the moment bears little relevance to the investigation into the brothers’ decision to attack the Boston Marathon last week, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry observed that Tsarnaev’s faith is about as relevant to the investigation right now as are Ben Affleck movies about violent events in Boston. Her panel guests agreed and added that Americans have to “otherize” violent actors in order to absolve themselves from responsibility for or connection to their violence.
“We don’t really know,” said Harris-Perry, throwing her hands up about the discussion into the Tsarnaev’s motives. “The younger brother, he’s getting all kinds of tweets from his friends. I think part of the answer is that it’s still an open question.”
“They don’t have the privilege of being anonymous – ‘they,’ speaking of people of color or other minorities – we don’t know yet, but we fill in the blanks,” said Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson. “We fill in the blanks with what makes us feel the most comfortable that this was an exceptional, extraordinary case that happened because they are this.”
“I keep wondering: is it possible that there would ever be a discussion like, ‘oh, this is because of Ben Affleck and the connection between Boston and movies about violence?’” Harris-Perry asked. “And, of course, the answer is ‘no.’”
“Given that they’re Chechen, given that they are literally Caucasian, our very sense of connection to them is this framed up notion of, like, Islam making them into something that is non-[unintelligible],” Harris-Perry continued.
“The point is that it’s important to say, ‘that is not us,” Dyson agreed. “We want to demonize the other. We have to distance it from the dominant culture.”
If I didn’t know that this surreal discussion was taking place on a major news network and was recorded, I never would have believed it.
Classic epistemic closure. The cocooning of academics and liberals regarding Islam and Islamist extremism specifically is what makes conversations like this possible. The “other,” by definition, is never wrong, never at fault, and always a victim. It doesn’t matter if violent Muslim extremists want to cut off our heads. Harris-Perry and her ilk — even if they acknowledge the truth in that — no doubt believe they have good reason to murder us.
I suppose it’s punishment for demonizing them so that we can distance them from our dominant culture.
The mystery surrounding the Tsarnaev brothers’ ties to Russia is deepening, even as President Obama called Prime Minister Putin to offer thanks for their “close cooperation” in catching the suspects.
We know that Tamerlan Tsarnaev went to Dagestan, Russia — a region bordering Chechnya and a hot bed of extremism — for six months in 2012. We also know that prior to that trip, the Russians requested the FBI look into Tamerlan’s background to see if there were any ties to terrorists. The FBI investigated but found nothing.
What happened when Tamerlan returned from his Russian trip? The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, said on Meet the Press that there were limits to Russia’s “cooperation” in vetting the elder Tsarnaev:
“It’s important to understand why the FBI interviewed him in the first place: They were concerned about his possible radicalization,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding the FBI did a “ very thorough job” trying to run that into the ground. “And then [the FBI] asks [for] some more help from that intelligence service to try to get further clarification.”
“Unfortunately, that intelligence service stopped cooperating,” Rogers said. “What happens is that case gets closed down.”
The New York Times reports that the Russians “had something on him and were concerned about him, and him traveling to their region.”
What did the Russians “have on him”? How much info did they share? Evidently not enough to keep the FBI interested in him:
But the F.B.I. never followed up on Tamerlan once he returned, a senior law enforcement official acknowledged on Saturday, adding that its investigation did not turn up anything and it did not have the legal authority to keep tabs on him. Investigators are now scrambling to review that trip, and learn about any extremists who might have influenced, trained or directed Tamerlan while he was there.
House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul is also wondering why the Russians never got back to the FBI about Tamerlan after he returned from Dagestan in July of last year:
After Tsarnaev came back, he created a YouTube channel with links to a number of videos–two of which were tagged under a category labeled “Terrorists” and were deleted. It’s not clear when or by whom.
“If he was on the radar and they let him go–he’s on the Russians’ radar–why wasn’t a flag put on him, some sort of customs flag? I’ve done this before. You put a customs flag up on the individual coming in and out. And I’d like to know what intelligence of Russia has on him as well. I would suspect that they may have monitored him when he was in Russia,” McCaul told CNN’s chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.
Analysis of his social media accounts and interviews with his family members suggest Tsarnaev became increasingly radical in the last three or four years. But so far, there is no evidence of active association with international jihadist groups.
Might the Russians have evidence of Tamerlan’s associations with terror groups? And why the interest in the young man by Russian intelligence before his visit? Why were they concerned about radical associations of Tamerlan ostensibly before he was radicalized? Had the young man been in touch with people in Dagestan who were already on Russia’s terror radar?
Two people were wounded at the “420 Day” marijuana “smoke-in” at Denver’s civic plaza when shots rang out, scattering the sky-high participants and causing mass confusion.
The unintentional hilarity of this UPI story is one for the books:
Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said a man and woman in their 20s were both shot in the leg, The Denver Post reported. They were expected to survive, said the newspaper, which initially reported three people had been shot.
Police said they were looking for two suspects and were asking witnesses from the big crowd that scattered when the shots were fired about 5 p.m. to come forward.
OK — so it’s still illegal to smoke pot in public in Colorado and the cops want people to come forward who were engaged in illegal activity? And what kind of descriptions of the suspects are they going to get from people who had been smoking grass all afternoon?
Johnny Lee, who was at the civic center when the shooting erupted, said he didn’t hear any disturbance beforehand.
“Everybody started to run,” Lee said. “They were running over people.”
Damontay Wimberly told the Post he heard about seven shots.
“Pow-pow-pow-pow-pow, about seven times,” he said.
Laura Forduno said the event was peaceful right up until the gunfire.
This is your brain on pot. Thanks for the illustration Ms. Forduno.
You feel sorry for the couple that was shot, and anyone injured in the melee that followed. But the vision of thousands of stoners trying to leave someplace all at the same time while higher than a kite is a scene reminiscent of the Keystone Kops. Hilarity is tempered with concern, but if anyone knows where there’s a video of the event, I’d love to see it.
In addition to making marijuana legal, Colorado recently passed some stiff gun control laws. It is obvious that guns and grass don’t mix very well. In fact, anyone stupid enough to take a gun to such an event should have their license revoked and their head examined, not necessarily in that order.
No one knows whether the couple was targeted or some toked-up rally-goer accidentally fired off several rounds. Regardless, it’s a sure bet that at next year’s 420 Day rally, cops are going to be out in full force and may even set up metal detectors to prevent this from happening again.
They were taken into custody on Friday night but released a short time later. Now two men believed to have have been roommates with the younger Tsarnaev have been arrested again — this time for possible immigration violations.
Evidently, you can drive a vehicle with license plates showing your support for terrorism, but God help you if you messed up your immigration paperwork:
From the Daily Mail:
The two men who own a BMW with the license plate ‘Terrorista #1’ and who are said to be friends with the younger Boston bombing suspect were taken into custody again on Saturday.
This time the two foreign nationals were arrested over alleged immigration violations in the Massachusetts town, New Bedford, where police say the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, may have once lived.
The students, named by neighbours by their first names Azmat and Diaz, drive a black BMW 330XI with the personalised plate and a sticker on the back which reads: ‘F*** you, you f****** f****’.
They are thought to be from Kazakhstan and had not been seen since the bombings until Friday night when their ground floor apartment in New Bedford, MA, was raided by a dozen FBI agents at gunpoint.
One of their girlfriends was also arrested on Friday. All three are in their late teens or early 20s.
The three were subsequently released on Friday night before Saturday’s arrest of the two men.
Their apartment was raided because police say the younger Boston Marathon bombing suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, may have lived at their address.
MailOnline has discovered another link – Dzhokhar Tweeted pictures of the car on his Twitter account J_tsar.
In one picture the BMW is next to another dark coloured sports car with the caption: ‘Place your bets’ as if they are about to race.
Inside the car was a receipt from a Ralph Lauren store, a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses, a receipt from a shipping company, a prescription, lots of crushed water bottles and a number of parking tickets.
The neighbour told MailOnline that Azmat and Diaz were ‘nice boys’ who were light skinned, thin and short.
She said that they were students at the University of Massachusetts and had been living in the apartment for around a year.
She said: ‘They used to have parties until three or four in the morning. There would be drinking and dancing and the police would come. I didn’t mind but they stayed up til late every now and then’.
Evidently Dzhokhar was something of a party animal. Authorities now believe he hid out in a dorm at University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, working out at the gym and actually going to a party Wednesday night just hours before he was involved in a huge firefight with police.
The “Gang of Eight” presser that rolled out the immigration reform bill was Washington theater at its finest.
Until a little reality intruded on the proceedings.
ICE union head Chris Crane was present and tried to ask a question of the Senators. But the Gang ignored him and he was eventually escorted to the wings in order to allow the play to continue.
Recall in the film Dr. Strangelove President Merkin becoming angry when an argument broke out between the Russian ambassador and one of his advisors.
“There’s no fighting here,” shouted Merkin. “This is the War Room!”
Might Senator Schumer have said to Crane, “There are no questions here. This is a press conference!”
Chris Crane, head of the immigration officers union, was pulled out of a Senate press conference today when he tried to question Sen. Chuck Schumer during the televised roll-out of the 844-page immigration rewrite.
While reporters asked questions, Schumer ignored three requests from Crane, who sought to question him about aspects of the far-reaching law, which promises to tighten enforcement of immigration laws at borders, airports and seaports.
“Will you take a question from law enforcement?” Crane asked, repeating the question twice before being removed.
Schumer ignored the question, and repeated his advocacy for the bill. Crane’s union represents agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) service.
Schumer and the other Senators have struggled to control the debate about the bill, which was released this week after months of closed-door drafting. Supporters are now trying to win Senate approval of the far-reaching bill by June.
Critics say the bill has many loopholes and flaws that will allow political appointees to minimize enforcement of immigration law.
Crane, who heads the president of the National ICE Council, has been a vocal critic of the bill.
One would think that the man who heads the union responsible for enforcing our immigration laws might want to ask a question or two of the Senators so that maybe he and his members could better perform their jobs.
One would think.
But in the bizarro world of Capitol Hill where you can’t ask questions at press conferences, situation normal – all screwed up.
Twitter is, indeed, the most diverse social media platform going. They have nearly 555,000,000 registered users with 135,000 new sign ups every day. Nearly 58 million tweets are made everyday — that’s about 9.100 tweets a second.
It might also interest you to know that about 40% of registered Twitter users are lurkers — that is, they never tweet, just watch others.
They may be the smart ones.
The Czech ambassador to the United States has put on record his alarm that during the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect so many Americans on social media appeared to confuse his own country – in central Europe – with Chechnya – a republic in south-west Russia.
As the identities of Chechen brothers Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev – the suspects in Monday’s attack which killed three and injured over 150 – filtered across the internet, many people tweeted that the pair were from the Czech Republic.
In a statement posted on his embassy’s website, Petr Gandalovic said he was “deeply shocked by the tragedy,” adding: “As more information on the origin of the alleged perpetrators is coming to light, I am concerned to note in the social media a most unfortunate misunderstanding in this respect. The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities.
“As the President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman noted in his message to President Obama, the Czech Republic is an active and reliable partner of the United States in the fight against terrorism. We are determined to stand side by side with our allies in this respect, there is no doubt about that.”
This is sort of like liberals who believed “right wing fanatics” were behind the Boston Marathon bombings, using as “proof” the idea that April 15 was “close” to the anniversary date of April 19 for the Waco massacre and Oklahoma City bombing.
Chechnya is also “close” to the Czech Republic. Only 1,700 miles separate the two countries. April 19 was also “close” to Christmas but no one was accusing elves of being the bombers.
Really now, you don’t need a degree to use Twitter. But perhaps one should refrain from posting on international events without being familiar with…international stuff. Like the right name of countries.
In a significant climb down, the Boy Scouts of America are about to pass a resolution that would lift the ban on gay scouts, but maintain it for adults.
The shift comes after a review of the long-standing policy that began in February, with surveys of adult members, parents, alumni, teens, donors, religious partners and scouting leaders. Since the Boy Scouts announced in January that they would reconsider the ban, both supporters and opponents of the ban have been lobbying leadership aggressively.
“While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community, and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting,” the organization said in a statement. According to the group’s review, a majority of adults in the organization’s community still support the ban. However, parents under 50 oppose it. So do teens both inside and outside the Boy Scouts. Slightly less than half of parents of current scouts support it.
The group originally considered a compromise that would let local scouting organizations decide their own policies on homosexuals. The study found that idea generally unpopular.
Under the new resolution, the Boy Scouts will continue to bar adult leaders “who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”
Religious chartered organizations, which run the majority of Boy Scout units, told the national group that they were particularly concerned with allowing gay adult leaders and that including both gay youths and adults could cost the organization over 100,000 members.
There are about 2.7 million youth members of the Boy Scouts and about 1 million adult leaders. About 70 percent of units are chartered by faith-based organizations, with the Mormon church leading the most groups.
Despite disagreement about the ban, parents, teens and the scouting community at large agreed that an openly gay youth should not be denied an Eagle Scout award because of his sexual orientation. A 16-year-old gay scout from California, Ryan Andresen, was denied the Eagle Scout badge last year and has been held up by opponents as an example of the current policy’s injustice. A lesbian mother also became a national figure last year when she was removed from her position as den mother in a Cub Scout troop.
It’s logically inconsistent to allow gay scouts but not gay scoutmasters. But then, there is no logic at work here — just fear and emotion. The BSA doesn’t want to be seen as bigoted or out of touch with the modern world. At the same time, they can only go so far in accommodating their critics before their religious affiliates revolt. Hence, this very unsatisfactory compromise that will only embolden their critics and upset the churches.
If scouting is supposed to mold young boys into men with good character, then teaching a lesson in tolerance is not a bad idea. But placing limits on that tolerance by denying adult males the opportunity to impart their life lessons to the young based on their sexual orientation is confusing and ultimately, self defeating for the cause of scouting.
From spreading false rumors about everything associated with the bombing to showing extraordinary insensitivity and rank partisanship at a time when the nation should have come together, social media proved to be as much a hindrance as a help during the last few dramatic days following the Boston Marathon bombing.
A couple of innocents got caught up in social media’s hysteria and paranoia, pointing up not only the ubiquitous nature of Twitter, Reddit, and other sites, but also their potential for causing trouble for mainstream media.
In short order, forums like Reddit and 4chan were alive with speculation — based on little or no evidence — that the culprits were Muslim fundamentalists or perhaps right-wing extremists.
In a mad rush to be the first to identify the perpetrators, anonymous posters online began openly naming people they believed had planted the bombs. Caught up in the mania, some traditional media ran with that information. Thursday’s New York Post cover showed a photo of two men at the marathon under the headline “Bag Men” and implied that the two were prime suspects. In fact, neither was a suspect and one of the men, Salah Barhoun, was a high school student from outside Boston and had nothing to do with the explosions.
Once the FBI released images of the actual suspects, things really got out of hand. Online gumshoes scoured the Web for faces that might match and illustrated their work with drawings, circles and other home-brewed CSI techniques.
Some amateur sleuths focused their suspicions on Sunil Tripathi, a Brown University student who has been missing since last month. Using an animation tool, they used an image of Tripathi to highlight similarities between his face and the FBI photos of one of the Boston bombing suspects.
However, Tripathi has no apparent connection to the marathon bombing. That was underscored Friday, when authorities revealed the identities of their suspects, two ethnic-Chechen immigrant brothers — Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of Cambridge, Mass.
“We have known unequivocally all along that neither individual suspected as responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings was Sunil,” Tripathi’s family said in a statement on Friday.
Advocates of social media and crowd-sourcing have long touted its unrivaled power to gather huge amounts of information quickly in crisis situations. With tens of thousands of people on hand at the marathon, most armed with smartphones, the sheer volume of data available for analysis proved too tempting to ignore.
“People in the moment want to participate. They want to be a part of what’s going on,” said Nicco Mele, an expert on technology and social media at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
So as the Boston Police Department engaged in a gunfight with the two brothers in Watertown, Mass., early Friday, tens of thousands of Web denizens tuned in to live streams of police scanners, furiously tapping notes and ideas into Reddit and Twitter.
The FBI will use the “public safety exception” to the Miranda rule in order to interrogate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston bomber, without having to read him his constitutional rights.
From ABC News:
The exception, according to the FBI‘s website, “permits law enforcement to engage in a limited and focused unwarned interrogation and allows the government to introduce the statement as direct evidence.”
“Police officers confronting situations that create a danger to themselves or others may ask questions designed to neutralize the threat without first providing a warning of rights,” according to the FBI.
Anticipating that Tsarnaev may be in a condition to be questioned, expect the activation of the president’s High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG).
The group, set up in 2009, is made up of agents from the FBI, CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. They have been on standby waiting for the moment the suspect was taken in.
According to the FBI, the HIG’s “mission is to gather and apply the nation’s best resources to collect intelligence from key terror suspects in order to prevent terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies.”
We know very little at this point about the conspiracy to bomb the Boston Marathon. Did the brothers act alone or did they have help? Are they part of a larger terrorist cell of Chechens located in the U.S.? And, most importantly, is there another, deadlier attack being planned that puts Americans in imminent danger?
The employment of the public safety exception giving the FBI the ability to question Tsarnaev without reading him his Miranda rights is a pretty good indication that the government is worried that our lack of hard information about the bombers’ background and associates puts the U.S. and its citizens at risk.
The “ticking bomb” scenario has never actually occurred. There has never been a situation where we have had a terrorist in custody who might supply us with information that would head off an imminent attack. Our interrogations of several high-value terrorists have indeed led to the disruption of plots and the arrest of other terrorists. But there has never been an instance where a terrorist in custody has given us information — or even possessed information — that could have led to the dismantling of an active plot that had gone operational.
This doesn’t mean that, at some point in the future, a ticking bomb scenario won’t arise. But it hasn’t yet, and the fact that it was used to justify torture makes its use problematic, at least in some people’s minds.
As zero hour approaches for the full effect of Obamacare to take effect and it becomes more and more obvious that a national tragedy will be unfolding as a result, Obamacare supporters are, to put it bluntly, losing it.
There’s no question that Obamacare faces difficulties. It’s an imperfect law with a lot of moving parts, and it’s also facing tremendous resistance from Republicans around the country, who are doing everything they can to delay, defund, and just generally sabotage it. Put those two things together and smooth sailing was never in the cards.
But “catastrophe” is stretching things a bit.
Oh really? Unable to attack the authors of the bill, some Obamacare supporters have taken to shooting the messenger who brings the bad news. In this case, Minnesota Senator Al Franken, and Obamacare’s #1 non-profit advocate the Kaiser Foundation, try to smear actuaries for running the numbers and releasing a study that says the cost of many premiums as a result of the Affordable Care Act are going to be anything but affordable:
Few aspects of the Affordable Care Act are more critical to its success than affordability, but in recent weeks experts have predicted costs for some health plans could soar next year.
Now health law supporters are pushing back, noting close ties between the actuaries making the forecasts and an insurance industry that has been complaining about taxes and other factors it says will lead to rate shock for consumers.
“Most actuaries in this country — what percentage are employed by insurance companies?” Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, asked an actuary last week at a hearing of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The committee was discussing a study published last month by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) predicting that, thanks to sicker patients joining the coverage pool, medical claims per member will rise 32 percent in the individual plans expected to dominate the ACA exchanges next year. In some states costs will rise as much as 80 percent, the report said.
The witness was unable to answer Franken’s question, but the senator made his point. Insurance is why actuaries exist. The industry and the profession are hard to separate.
Using predictive math, actuaries try to make sure insurers of all kinds don’t run out of money to pay claims. Many actuaries also work for consultants whose clients include insurance companies.
Undisclosed in the SOA report was the fact that about half the people who oversaw it work for the health insurance industry that is warning about rate shock. The chairman of society committee supervising the project was Kenny Kan, chief actuary at Maryland-based CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.
Others on the committee work for firms with insurer clients. The report included committee members’ names but not their affiliations.
Oh, dear what are we to do? Actuaries working for the evil insurance companies? What a revoltin’ development. Of course they’re giving us bogus numbers. Professional integrity? Ha! No one can believe anything from anyone connected to the insurance industry, right?
Of course, not one shred of proof is offered to rebut the report of the actuaries. Not a hint of evidence by Franken or Kaiser is introduced that could be used to argue that the methodology was flawed, the figures fudged, the people who prepared the report are crooked, or, for that matter, that anything in the report isn’t true. Their entire “case” rests on guilt by association — the last refuge of smear merchants who have nothing of substance to argue.
It is a libelous smear made by desperate people who are going to be held responsible for whatever untoward consequences result from their foolish and arrogant presumptions that the government could actually run 1/6 of the economy without massive dislocations, skyrocketing costs, confusion, pain, suffering, and yes, death.
We will know where to go and who to blame when Obamacare proves to be a disaster. And we won’t have to smear anyone to convince people we were right all along.
In an admission of defeat, Majority Leader Harry Reid has pulled the gun control bill from Senate consideration.
“This debate is not over, in fact this fight is just beginning,” said Reid who also stated that the Senate would “take a pause” and return to the issue sometime in the future.
Reid said the Senate would “take a pause and freeze the background check bill where it is” and return to it at an undetermined date, likely with consideration of other proposed amendments.
“We’re going to come back to this bill,” Reid said.
Before making the announcement Thursday afternoon, Reid consulted with the White House about pulling the bill, and the White House supported the move, according to a White House official familiar with the talks.
The underlying bill hasn’t been defeated and is still technically on the legislative calendar. As majority leader, Reid can bring up the bill again at a moment’s notice.
When the Senate might reconsider the bill remains uncertain and may not occur for weeks or months. Reid said the Senate would move next to consideration of an Internet taxation bill, a proposal that is believed to enjoy bipartisan support.
Before Reid pulled the bill, senators voted Thursday to approve two amendments: One that would deter states from publishing lists of gun owners and a bipartisan plan to bolster federal funding for mental health efforts, including suicide prevention programs.
There isn’t much of a gun control bill to pull; just the two amendments passed yesterday and some initiatives to improve school safety and beef up enforcement of “straw purchases” of weapons.
We won’t see the bill unless some horrific act of barbarism riles the public enough to justify bringing it to the floor again. Because the gun control lobby relied on emotional arguments rather than logic or reason, they must wait until the emotions of the public are stoked by another incident where sufficient pressure can be placed on fence sitters to push the legislation through.
Ghoulish to be sure. But that’s all Harry Reid has.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has withdrawn all support from from former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s bid for a House seat in a special election to be held later this month.
Sanford’s ex-wife Jenny filed court papers indicating that he had violated the terms of their divorce by trespassing the grounds of their beach front property. The AP report says that the court papers indicate that the former governor trespassed “several times.”
Sanford claimed that he went to the beach house on Super Bowl Sunday to watch the game with his son and was unable to reach his ex-wife who was out of town at the time. He offered no explanation for any other violations of the settlement decree.
That revelation prompted the National Republican Congressional Committee to pull its support from the campaign Wednesday, a day after The Associated Press obtained court documents detailing the accusations from Sanford’s ex-wife, Jenny.
The group, which had conducted polling and provided additional resources to the campaign, was blindsided by the news and said it wouldn’t provide more funding or pay for television advertising because officials worried Sanford would have difficulty making inroads with women voters. That blow effectively leaves Sanford on his own with three weeks to go before Election Day.
The latest Federal Election Commission reports still show that Sanford had $272,000 on hand to about $210,000 for Elizabeth Colbert Busch, his opponent in the race for a vacant seat in the state’s 1st Congressional District.
“Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections. At this time, the NRCC will not be engaged in this special election,” said Andrea Bozek, an NRCC spokeswoman. The decision was first reported by Politico.
Gibbs Knotts, chairman of the political science department at the College of Charleston, said it’s not an insurmountable problem if Sanford can stick to his small-government talking points and appeal to the GOP base.
“I don’t think this is fatal for Sanford. It’s just a bad day for Sanford,” Knotts said. “He needs to be out there talking about the size of government, the federal budget deficit and the themes he did very well talking about during the primary.”
The NRCC made its announcement just hours after Sanford issued a statement explaining why he was at his ex-wife’s home on Feb. 3. Jenny Sanford filed a complaint the next day, saying his visit on that night and several other occasions violated their divorce settlement.
Mitt Romney won 62% of the vote in the SC 1st as did now Senator Tim Scott. Scott was named by Governor Nikki Haley to fill the unexpired term of Senator Jim DeMint who retired from the Senate to run the Heritage Foundatio. This necessitated the special election where Sanford is opposed by Democrat Colbert-Busch, sister of Comedian Stephen Colbert.
With such a decided Republican advantage and turnout for special elections being notoriously sparse, Sanford could still eke out a victory. But even GOP women are asking questions about his stability and that doesn’t bode well for election day.
A report circulating earlier today that the immigration reform bill contained free cell phones for immigrants has proved to be erroneous.
Javier Manjarres of the political blog Shark Tank broke the news today:
With the new ‘Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act’ finally being filed in the U.S. Senate, concerns over how much money the immigration reform bill will cost an already debt-ridden United States continues to swirl among Americans who are already strapped for cash.
According to the newly filed bill, immigrants who are allowed to enter the United States under a work visa, will be ‘granted’ a taxpayer funded cellular phone. Move over “Obama phone,” we present the new ‘Hola, Como Estas?!’ MarcoPhone.
Brietbart picked up on the story, as did a few other anti-reform blogs. Fortunately, as NRO’s Andrew Stiles points out, the report is incorrect:
Several conservative sites are suggesting that the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration-reform bill contains a provision under which immigrants will be eligible for taxpayer-funded cell phones that they’ve labelled “Marcophones,” a nod to the infamous “Obamaphone” lady. But the claims appear to be little more than misguided speculation.
It was lifted almost verbatim from the Border Security and Enforcement Act of 2011, legislation introduced by Republican senators John McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona. That bill did not include any provisions with respect to immigration, or a legalization process; it was focused solely on border-security measures, such as deploying 6,000 National Guard troops and 5,000 Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border and improving law-enforcement communication in the region.
To that end, the bill called for a grant program that would provide satellite communications equipment and service to individuals living in remote areas along the southern border, many of whom lack cell-phone coverage, so that they could report illegal activity. The Gang’s bill simply incorporated that provision, which was proposed in response to the 2010 fatal shooting of an Arizona rancher, Robert Krentz, in a remote area with little to no cell-phone reception. It took a search team 13 hours to find Krentz’s body due to the sparse coverage, which meant authorities couldn’t track his location using the GPS from his cell phone.
Appearing on Laura Ingraham’s radio show earlier today, Rubio insisted the provision was “not for the illegal immigrants,” but for “U.S. citizens and residents who live in the border region so that they can have access to calls.”
I’ve seen this mistake countless times. It’s due to us lay people’s inability to get our heads around the arcane, convoluted legalese that substitutes for plain English in most of the legislation that comes before Congress.
In short, our logical, literal minds are incapable of turning itself into a pretzel to understand the intent and, in this case, the specifics contained in legislation.
The culprit? The Office of the Legislative Counsel whose only job in life is to make sure you have to hire a lawyer to understand any law you might accidentally break while minding your own business. There have been several attempts over the years to bring “plain language” legislation to Capitol Hill but to no avail. The law must be kept beyond the ken of understanding of us lowly folk. For if we truly understood what Congress was trying to put over on us, revolution would follow.
Every once and a while we’ll get an email from some over-excited citizen pointing to the language in some proposed bill that would end our liberty and destroy the country — if the citizen’s interpretation were correct. Fortunately, there’s Google search and it’s a snap to find someone who has been confronted with the same question and received a satisfactory answer.
The 9/11 Memorial Foundation, charged with running the memorial museum, promised America that access to the museum would be free.
They have now gone back on that promise and have outraged families of the victims who believe it a travesty that anyone should have to pay to honor their loved ones.
The 9/11 Memorial foundation, funded to the tune of $830 million, has begun nickel-and-diming visitors for ticket reservations.
Even though the nonprofit has long vowed admission to the sacred site would be free, it is now demanding $2 per ticket for all advance reservations made online or by phone.
Officials quietly rolled out the fee on March 1 — but it did not escape the notice of some outraged families of Sept. 11 victims.
“I don’t want the American public to have to pay a dime to pay respects to my son,” said Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son, Christian, died in the World Trade Center attacks.
“They made . . . a vow that no one would ever be charged for going to the memorial, but money is the bottom line here,” she fumed.
“They’re making money off the people that died. It’s disgusting,” said Jim Riches, a retired FDNY deputy chief who lost his firefighter son, Jimmy, on 9/11.
“The memorial should be free for everybody to pay their respects. You wouldn’t charge money to get into a cemetery.”
According to the memorial’s Web site, the booking fees are necessary to “safely manage visitor capacity” while surrounding construction projects are completed.
The nonprofit claims on its Web site that it “does not receive city, state or federal funding for its operations.”
But from 2006 to 2011, it pulled in about $295 million in taxpayer-funded grants for construction.
It also reaped more than $430 million in private donations after the tragedy, including pennies raised by millions of patriotic American schoolchildren.
“Like other similar institutions, in order to help support the operational needs of the 9/11 Memorial, we have implemented a service fee, solely for advance reservations,” foundation CEO Joe Daniels told The Post.
The memorial compares it to the American Museum of Natural History’s $2 charge and the Washington Monument’s $1.50 reservation fee.
But critics are calling it a two-bit money grab by fat cats hemorrhaging funds. Construction costs are now pegged at $700 million for the museum and memorial — more than it took to build the Empire State Building.
The incredibly bloated salaries of the directors is an outrage:
The foundation, chaired by Mayor Bloomberg, says the memorial and museum will cost $60 million a year to operate once complete. Security will cost $12 million a year, and another $5 million will go to operating the waterfall tributes.
Add that to the nonprofit’s swanky salaries: Ten of the 12 directors raked in more than $200,000 in 2011. Daniels pulled down $336,224 in salary and benefits, and Museum Director Alice Greenwald made $351,171, tax filings show.
Since tomorrow is tax deadline day, how about having the National Park Service shell out $20 million a year of your tax dollars? Forget about cutting some of those gargantuan salaries down to size. The foundation is talking about reviving a Senate bill that would do just that.
The museum opened in 2011, but construction was shut down by the Port Authority due to $300 million in cost overruns. Perhaps someone will explain to me how the directors are making such monumental salaries while demonstrating an incompetence rarely seen outside of government.
Museums were free when I was a kid. Now, admission at many of them costs as much as box seats at the ballgame. Not only are the poor shut out of experiencing what the museum has to offer, but even Middle Class families end up paying a significant part of their disposable income to enjoy what the museum experience has to offer.
The 9/11 museum wasn’t supposed to be like that. But mismanagement and misplaced priorities may make the 9/11 memorial just another urban luxury that only the well off can truly afford.
Secretary of State John Kerry said in Tokyo today that the United States was willing to start talks again with North Korea as long as it took steps to give up its nuclear weapons.
Kerry was vague on just what the North Korean government would have to do as far as giving up their nukes. In fact, he indicated later in the news conference that talks may begin even if the North does nothing on their nuclear program.
Kerry said he might consider using someone other than an official U.S. government envoy to reach out to the North and he left the door open to a negotiation with the North that might not require them to take denuclearization steps in advance.
“If the Chinese came to us and said, ‘look, here’s what we’ve got cooking and so forth,’ I’m not going to tell you that I’m shutting the door today to something that’s logical and that might have a chance of success,” he said. “On the other hand, what the standard is today is they have to take action.”
Sen. John McCain, a Republican, voiced skepticism about the resuming negotiations with the North.
“If we give them food, if we give them oil, if we give them money, they will come around and they take our money and run,” he said.
Japan’s Kishida told the same news conference that the two allies want Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
“We agreed that North Korea should cease provocative speech and behavior and show it is taking concrete action toward denuclearization,” he said. “We cannot allow North Korea in any way to possess nuclear weapons.”
Kerry thought it “unfortunate” that the media had concentrated its coverage on “war”:
“I think it is really unfortunate that there has been so much focus and attention in the media and elsewhere on the subject of war, when what we really ought to be talking about is the possibility of peace. And I think there are those possibilities,” Kerry earlier told a news conference in Tokyo after a meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida.
Kerry was in Japan for the final stop on an Asian tour aimed at solidifying support for curbing North Korea’s nuclear program, and reassuring U.S. allies.
Perhaps Kerry would share with us what else the media should have been covering when the North Korean leader was declaring war, threatening war, hinting at war, and describing war.
Monday is the anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung and it is expected that the North will finally launch one or two ballistic missiles — just to make sure that there’s no relaxing anywhere in the region. Otherwise, more of the same coming from Pyongyang:
“We will expand in quantity our nuclear weapons capability, which is the treasure of a unified Korea … that we would never barter at any price,” Kim Young-nam, North Korea’s titular head of state, told a gathering of officials and service personnel applauding Kim Il-Sung.
The KCNA news agency also rejected as a “cunning trick” South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s suggestion last week of holding talks with the North.
There’s also been some interest in the world press in the fact that Kim Jong-Un has not been seen in public since April 1. With no noticeable military movements, it is unlikely there has been a coup. Some analysts suggest it’s just more psychological warfare by the North who delights in keeping the west off balance.
I suppose we should resign ourselves to enduring these tantrums from North Korea every couple of years as their economy continues to demonstrate an inability to adequately feed its people. But perhaps next time, we shouldn’t pay quite as much attention to Kim’s rants and take a page from the South Koreans who pretty much continued with business as usual despite the bombast from their neighbor.
I found this on Anthony Watts‘ site and couldn’t stop laughing.
A group that calls itself “F*ck For Forest” makes porno tapes and sells them to raise money for rainforest projects in South America.
And, of course, only the Guardian would be far left enough to actually cover it:
Few people would imagine any overlap exists between pornography and environmentalism, but FFF smash the two concepts together right there in their brutally blunt name. It’s a concise signifier of what they do and how little they care about what you think of it. The live displays are a sideline; funds are primarily raised via their website, which has images and videos of its core staff members and whatever volunteers they pick up on the street in myriad sexual permutations, from naked people up trees to chaotic orgies. Subscribers pay about £10 a month, and the proceeds go towards rainforest conservation projects in South America.
It’s difficult to know how to categorise such an enterprise. Is it kinky eco-activism? Porn for foliage fetishists? Exhibitionism with the fig-leaf of a good cause? FFF have a better question: What is more obscene, they ask, the depiction of people enjoying their sexuality or the destruction of our natural environment?
“Sex is often shown to attract us to buy all kinds of bullsh*t products and ideas, so why not for a good cause?,” says Tommy Hol Ellingsen, FFF’s Norwegian co-founder. “The human body is considered more offensive and threatening than most things in the industrial world around us, like cars, but I don’t see the naked body in itself as a threat to the morals or values of modern society. I think it’s more a mass psychosis people have. Why we are destroying the planet may be somehow connected to the values modern humans have created for themselves.”
Tommy and his Swedish partner Leona Johansson can talk at great length about the ills of western society, freedom of expression, the sanctity of nature and nobility of indigenous tribal life, but in the documentary their philosophy is put to the test. The first half details their eco-hippy existence, wandering the streets of Berlin, propositioning strangers to contribute to the website, getting stoned, having sex, and subjecting audiences to their performance art (if the “blood and sperm” part sounds shocking, wait for their terrible folk songs). But then FFF’s dreams are confronted with reality, in the form of a journey to their much-idolised Amazon rainforest, at the request of a threatened Peruvian tribe. It would spoil things to reveal what happens when they get there, but let’s just say it’s not quite the tribal connection they hoped for.
You have to read that article to get a sense of how truly bizarre — and stupid — FFF really is. When they went to Peru to film with the tribe of indigenous people, they were amazed that “…they live in a little fairytale wonderland, according to their own rules. They never plan anything, even what they’re going to do the next day. There are no rules. That’s what intrigued me about them.”
The immigration reform bill that will be unveiled this week is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that the Senate has addressed since Obamacare and has the potential to change millions of lives.
One would think with stakes that high, that Senators would live up to their history as “The World’s Most Deliberative Body” and read the bill carefully, weight its various provisions, watch the hearing on the bill closely, and then seriously weigh their vote.
According to an ABC News report, senators from the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” pushing immigration reform are expected to drop their bill, estimated at around 1,500 pages, on Tuesday, mere hours before the only scheduled Senate hearing on the topic.
“A bipartisan group of senators plans to introduce its long-awaited immigration bill on Tuesday, Senate sources confirmed to ABC News,” Jim Avila and Jordan Fabian wrote on Friday. “Four Democrats and four Republicans, known as the ‘Gang of Eight,’ wrapped up months of hard-fought negotiations this week and will put forth a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.”
If the Senators actually do wait until Tuesday to roll out their lengthy proposed overhaul of the U.S. immigration system, that will give members of the Senate Judiciary Committee less than a full day to read it before the only Senate hearing on the topic. Despite ardent pleas from Senate conservatives, including ranking Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Pat Leahy, has only agreed to one hearing on the legislation.
Leahy scheduled that single hearing for Wednesday at 2:30 PM, and the hearing’s sole scheduled witness is Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Napolitano would have less than a full day to read the bill she is scheduled to testify about.
“Gang of Eight” member Marco Rubio (R-FL) has said he supports multiple hearings and an open and transparent immigration reform process, but his actions do not necessarily back his words. He has not pushed Leahy to force multiple hearings; he appears content with the single hearing Leahy has scheduled on the issue and now appears to be backing down from his demand for multiple hearings.
In a Friday morning report, Politico’s Manu Raju notes that after Rubio was “rebuffed” in his request for multiple hearings, “the senator wants to launch his own public hearing process of sorts to allow Republican senators to question expert witnesses about the plan, a move aimed at alleviating conservative fears that the plan will be jammed through Congress with little public airing.”
How much would you like to bet that no Democratic senators attend those Republican hearings?
They’re not interested in what’s in the bill — and apparently many Republicans aren’t either. Giving Senators less than a day to read a 1500 page mess that is written in legalese rather than good old fashioned plain English is an invitation to a slew of unintended consequences being passed by Senators not familiar with what’s in the bill.
Where have we heard that one before?
This is no way to run a government. And it certainly isn’t conducive to prudent governance.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine has become the first Republican Senator to say she will vote for expanded background checks.
Collins said “I do intend to support it” now that she has reviewed the actual text of the Manchin-Toomey bill and calls it a “reasonable” approach. Collins described the Manchin-Toomey effort as “a responsible break through from two people who have far better NRA rankings than I have.” Both Sens. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia and Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, hold “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association. Collins added she knows her yes vote and support is “not a popular thing in my state.”
Speaking exclusively to NBC News, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is the first GOP senator to say publicly she will vote for the bipartisan compromise on expanded background checks for the sale of guns online and at gun shows.
Collins said “I do intend to support it” now that she has reviewed the actual text of the Manchin-Toomey bill and calls it a “reasonable” approach. Collins described the Manchin-Toomey effort as “a responsible break through from two people who have far better NRA rankings than I have.” Both Sens. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia and Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, hold “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association. Collins added she knows her yes vote and support is “not a popular thing in my state.”
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., worked with Manchin and Toomey privately during negotiations and is expected to vote yes on the background checks bill.
Collins, who is running for re-election next year, said she would not have supported a plan that required universal background checks, including individual sales. She cited an example of a father who gives his daughter a gun for protection when she “moves to the big city.”
Collins pointed out that her state has among the highest rate of gun ownership in the country at more than 40 percent while also ranking as the safest state with respect to low violent crime.
The three-term Republican says she is “being hit hard” and “being besieged by all sides” referring to ads run against her by both the conservative National Association of Gun Rights and the president’s group, Organizing for America.
Reid needs at least 5 GOP Senators to break any filibuster on passage of the background check amendment, depending on any vulnerable red state Democrats up for re-election in 2014 break ranks . He’s got two in Collins and Kirk, while a few other moderates like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are currently sticking their fingers in the air to judge which way the political wind is blowing.
With some polls showing a 90% support level for background checks, and wide support for the bill’s school safety provisions, some form of gun control is probably going to pass the Senate — and by a hefty margin.
The battle then moves to the House where the background check is in trouble and the entire notion of gun control may be a non-starter for the GOP majority.
A New York teacher who gave her students a writing assignment to research Nazi propaganda and then write a letter trying to convince an official of the Third Reich “that Jews are evil and the source of our problems” has been placed on leave.
A high school English teacher who had students pretend to be Jew-hating Nazis in a writing assignment has been placed on leave.
The teacher at Albany High School caused a storm of criticism after having students practice the art of persuasive writing by penning a letter to a fictitious Nazi government official arguing that “Jews are evil.”
District Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard held a news conference Friday to apologize for the assignment.
The Times Union newspaper reported ( http://bit.ly/ZTc4PU ) on Saturday that the teacher was not in class on Friday and had been placed on leave by the school district.
The writing assignment was done before a planned class reading of the memoir “Night,” by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
For the assignment, the teacher asked students to research Nazi propaganda, then write a letter trying to convince an official of the Third Reich “that Jews are evil and the source of our problems.”
“Review in your notebooks the definitions for logos, ethos, and pathos,” the teacher’s assignment said. “Choose which argument style will be most effective in making your point. Please remember, your life (here in Nazi Germany in the 30′s) may depend on it!”
Wyngaard said she didn’t think the assignment was malicious but “it displayed a level of insensitivity that we absolutely will not tolerate.”
One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading, writing, and thinking about history for me is how the subject matter has the ability to transport me back in time and set me down as a stranger in a strange land. Reading about the Revolutionary War? Square your conservative beliefs with being on the side of the rebels. Where would you have stood as a southerner during the Civil War? How about as a northerner? Superficially, there are easy answers. But in order to truly understand the subject, you must know yourself. Writing does that. It makes one “an exact man,” as Francis Bacon noted.
It appears to me that the unnamed teacher approached this assignment in the correct manner. She told students to research Nazi propaganda and argue that propaganda from a particular point of view using accepted styles of argument. The exercise expanded their minds, made them think, took them out of their comfort zone, and forced them to think like an entirely different person.
What kind of person would you have been in Nazi Germany circa 1936? Think about it. A particularly virulent and nauseating form of anti-Semitism gripped the entire continent of Europe in the period between the wars. It was normal. It was natural to harbor evil thoughts about the Jews. Everyone you knew hated the Jews. Your parents hated the Jews. Your friends and neighbors hated the Jews.
Forget about the “good Germans” who opposed Hitler. There were damn few of them and they were weak-willed and weak-minded. For the most part, the good German people approved of and applauded Hitler’s oppression.
Is it a valuable lesson to force students into that world, that mindset, and have them act out what they would have been thinking by having them write about it? I think it is an extremely valuable exercise. It won’t change anyone’s mind about the Nazis or the Jews. But it will help the students know themselves better. What could possibly be wrong with that?
More on the next page.
The prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center appear to be feeling their oats of late. Several dozen of the detainees have been on a hunger strike since February, protesting “the confiscation of letters, photographs and legal mail, and the rough handling of Korans during searches of their cells.” Other prisoners cite President Obama’s failure to live up to his promise to close the facility as a reason for the hunger strike.
In an effort to break the strike, the military decided to place the prisoners in individual cells rather than allow them to live in a communal area. During the transfer, several prisoners apparently attacked their guards, necessitating a response.
Durand said in a statement that some detainees “resisted with improvised weapons, and in response, four less-than-lethal rounds were fired.”
He said there were no serious injuries to guards or detainees.
The hunger strike began in early February after detainees said the guard force initiated new and aggressive sweeps of the cells that they alleged included inappropriate searches of the detainees’ Korans. The military acknowledged that Korans were searched for contraband, but said they were handled only by interpreters, most of whom are Muslim, not the guard force.
Lawyers for the detainees, the military and the International Committee for the Red Cross agree that the hunger strike is also born of a deeper frustration that the Obama administration has abandoned any real effort to close the facility.
There are 166 detainees at Guantanamo, and dozens of them were cleared for transfer out of Guantanamo Bay by an interagency review panel. The Obama administration has not yet started another promised review process. And it closed the office in the State Department that was charged with getting the cleared detainees home or resettled in third countries.
The administration has said that Congress has blocked its ability to act, but lawyers and human rights groups say that the administration could still move out some detainees. They charge that the White House is unwilling to fight for its 2009 executive order to close the facility in Cuba.
The detainees are not wanted back in their home countries, and few other nations are willing to shelter someone who has spent a decade in prison for terrorism. They can’t stay here and they don’t want to live in Guantanamo, so what are we to do with them?
Human rights groups want the U.S. to release all but a handful of the detainees, but they never get around to saying where they will go and who would take them in. Perhaps some countries who have been the loudest in denouncing the U.S. because of Guantanamo will step forward and volunteer to take them in. Don’t hold your breath.
The bottom line is that about a quarter of detainees at Guantanamo — if history is any guide — will “re-engage” and go back to being a terrorist if they are released. Do you want to be responsible for deciding which detainees will go straight and which won’t?
Neither does the president.
An ad released by Americans United for Change compares Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stand on gun control with the beliefs of al-Qaeda.
A liberal political organization is slamming Mitch McConnell’s stance on gun control by linking his beliefs to those of a member of Al Qaeda.
“So who does agree with Mitch?” the narrator in the ad asks. The video then shows an Al Qaeda recruitment video that encourages its audience to go to gun shows to purchase weapons since they probably would not have to go through a background check or show identification.
“These rabid partisan extremists have no interest in promoting what’s right for Kentucky and they’ll stop at nothing to attack its biggest advocate,” McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton told Fox News. “The political Left has proven they’ll stop at nothing to target people who disagree with them. Racist attacks on Mitch’s family, illegal bugging, and connecting him with terrorists won’t stop him from fighting for the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Kentuckians.”
Americans United, however, isn’t backing down. Shortly after the group released its own statement saying that McConnell did not defend his position at all, mainly because it was “indefensible”
“To be very clear: nothing in the ad says Sen. McConnell pals around with terrorists – but we are saying the reckless policy he espouses benefits criminals and terrorists looking to get their hands on guns in America no questions asked, a point made straight from the horse’s mouth in that Al Qaeda recruitment video,” said the group’s communications director Jeremy Funk in the statement. “It is hard to imagine a more frightening example why the gun show loophole needs to be closed than that video.”
This is ridiculous — even amusing. Background checks are going to stop terrorists from getting guns? The level of stupidity it takes to make a statement like that with a straight face is breathtaking. I don’t know what’s funnier; the fact that they believe that background checks will stop terrorists from getting a gun or using an al-Qaeda video as justification for their position.
I don’t think it’s apt to use what we now know are fake Hitler quotes on gun control or link an American politician to anything having to do with terrorists in this debate. It doesn’t prove anything about the other side but says a lot about you for using rancid analogies. Even if Hitler favored gun control or al-Qaeda tells its members to shop at gun shows for their weapons because there’s no background check, what exactly does it prove about protecting the Second Amendment or regulating guns? Absolutely nothing. It is a political attack — no more, no less.
And anyone who uses the tactic should be called out for it.
An interesting carrot for border security hawks is included in the Senate version of immigration reform; deportation for illegal aliens arriving after December 31, 2011.
The legislation by a bipartisan group of senators would give the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally a way to obtain legal status and eventually become U.S. citizens, provided certain measures are met.
But of the unauthorized immigrants, those who entered after the December 2011 cut-off date would be forced to go back to their country of origin, said the aide, who was not authorized to speak publicly because the bill is still being negotiated.
“People need to have been in the country long enough to have put down some roots. If you just got here and are illegal, then you can’t stay,” the congressional aide said.
The lawmakers – four Democrats and four Republicans – are aiming to unveil their bill on Tuesday, one day before the Senate Judiciary Committee is to hold a hearing to examine the legislation.
Senators and congressional aides have said that most major policy issues have been resolved. But some details still need to be worked out, said sources familiar with the negotiations.
Support has been growing among lawmakers and the public for immigration reform since President Barack Obama was re-elected in November with help from the Hispanic community.
The last time U.S. immigration laws were extensively rewritten was in 1986 and those policies have been blamed for allowing millions of people to enter and live in the country illegally, while also resulting in shortages of high-skilled workers from abroad, as well as some low-skilled wage-earners.
Under the bill being crafted, security would first be improved along the southwestern border with Mexico. At the same time, the threat of deportation would be lifted for many who are living in the U.S. illegally. Within 13 years of enactment, those immigrants could begin securing U.S. citizenship.
The bill would increase the number of visas issued for high-skilled workers and create a new program to control the flow of unskilled workers. It would also make it harder for U.S. citizens to petition for visas for their extended families.
As we’ve seen, just because it is federal policy doesn’t mean much. “Sanctuary cities” will presumably keep their own enforcement policies as will those local law enforcement bodies that turn a blind eye to most immigration violations.
But if the feds are serious about deportation, they cannot continue their “catch and release” practices where illegals are allowed to walk free after being given a court date for their appearance. Currently, only those illegal aliens who commit serious crimes are detained until their hearing. If the federal government is going to get serious about sending illegals back to their home country, the deportation process needs to be reformed or the problem will persist.
Irin Carmon also blames pro-lifers for politicizing abortion. I suppose that’s true if you look at how the pro-life lobby has worked at the state level to make abortion harder to obtain.
But Carmon and other liberals this morning have gone far beyond politicizing abortion. They are politicizing infanticide:
Here are some important things to know about the tragedies committed in Gosnell’s clinic, based on the sources you missed. This week, as Virginia-based pro-choice activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns noted on Twitter, “Fitting that the right is trying to whip folks into a frenzy over #Gosnell the same day VA is trying to put safe abortion care out of reach.” She’s referring to so-called TRAP laws, which are regulations aimed at abortion clinics that have nothing to do with safety — say, the size of parking lots — to seek to drive them out of business, and which are expected to go forward in a vote today. According to Tara Murtha, a Philadelphia-based reporter who has been covering the Gosnell case from the start, in the aftermath of Pennsylvania’s own TRAP laws, the state went from 22 free-standing clinics to 13. As Murtha puts it, “The bottom line is that politicizing abortion led to Gosnell. Their answer? Politicize it more.”
“Politicizing abortion led to Gosnell”? Is she serious? Why is it the de facto response by many liberals to absolve individuals who commit heinous crimes of personal responsibility? It’s not Gosnell’s fault! It’s those damn pro-lifers that “led”(?) to Gosnell. This counterfactual view of Gosnell — if only abortion were free this wouldn’t have happened — is a favorite construct on the left because it demands absolutely no proof whatsoever.
After all, the question is not just why the state failed to respond to the complaints of women and advocates who visited the clinic, although that matters hugely. It’s why women kept going there anyway: because they felt they had no alternative. Read this account from Jeff Deeney, a social worker from Philadelphia, who points out that the lack of public funding for abortion is a big factor leading desperate women to Gosnell: “It’s worth noting for outsiders that Health Center #4 which serves the same neighborhood is the best in town, providing quality care for the uninsured poor. But Health Centers don’t do abortions, and Medicaid, where a TANF mom’s insurance coverage would come from, if she had any at all, doesn’t pay for them. And for these women the cost of paying for an abortion out of pocket breaks the budget, leaving mom scrambling to make next month’s rent or possibly wind up on the street.” Cost is also how women often get past the legal gestational limit, as they struggle to save up enough money — and Gosnell’s willingness to break the law was what made him their last chance. To everyone who thinks his case was a reason for more abortion restrictions: What he did was already illegal.
There is one small issue that Ms. Carmon fails to bring up. These women are “desperate.” The felt they had “no alternative.” But babies do not come from storks or grow on trees. Presumably, these “desperate” women know a little bit about the facts of life and how babies are conceived. It can also be presumed that these women with “no alternative” know how to prevent babies from being conceived and know something of birth control — or are aware of what a condom is for.
Needless to say, women who are raped or are impregnated due to incest are indeed, victims, and the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that abortion should be available to them in order to terminate the pregnancy. (Only 10% believe in “no exceptions” abortion.) The issue of public monies being used to provide abortions in these cases can and should be debated. But lumping the victims in with women who make bad choices (and the men who facilitate and assist in those choices) is blowing smoke to obscure the fundamental issue of personal responsibility.
Yesterday afternoon, Congressman Frank Wolf received a phone call from Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, the foreign service officer killed in the Benghazi attack last September. She expressed her support for Wolf’s House Resolution 36 that would form a select congressional committee to investigate the Benghazi attack.
Following up the phone conversation, Mrs. Smith sent the following letter to Wolf:
April 10, 2013
Hon. Frank R. Wolf
This letter is to endorse resolution H. Res. 36 to create a Select Committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks.
I am the mother of Sean Smith, one of the four people murdered in Benghazi by terrorists along with ambassador Chris Stevens and ex-seals Ty Woods and Glen Daugherty. When I was in Wash. DC at the reception of the caskets, I asked for and received promises from Pres. Obama, Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, VP Biden and several other dignitaries in attendance. They all looked me directly in the eyes and promised they would find out and let me know. I got only one call from a clerk about a month later quoting from the time line, which I already had.
I agree completely with items 1 thru 16 of this resolution. I especially want to know WHY the four were abandoned the way they were. My son told me that he saw someone taking pictures just before this happened and reported it. He told me they asked repeatedly for better security.
Please, Please help me find out who is responsible and fix it so no more of our sons & daughters are abandoned by the country they love. It is very difficult to find out Leon Panetta advised Pres. Obama that the attack was occurring and Pres. Obama went to bed without sending help. It is too late for my son but not too late for those that follow.
I have been following John McCain and Lindsay Graham hoping they had the ability to get some answers but no luck. Hillary finally testified but didn’t answer the questions (i.e. If they were watching this happen in real time, why wasn’t help sent).
Patricia A. Smith
Mother of Sean Smith
Killed in Benghazi
Ps Sean was in Special Operations in Okinawa before joining the State Dept.
Mrs. Smith’s letter follows the actions of 700 special ops veterans who sent an open letter to Congress also demanding an investigation into the Benghazi attack, including the answer to at least 16 specific questions.
More than 60 House members have co-sponsored H. Res. 36, But it appears that the GOP leadership has other ideas:
Before the recent congressional recess, House Speaker John Boehner convened a meeting of three leading Republican senators, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of Florida and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, as well as the chairmen of the house committees on Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs, respectively, who are leading their own investigations. Rather than form a select committee, a decision was made to coordinate and pool their findings, to be completed in “weeks, not months.”
“We want to make sure that we have a full story of what happened, and where there are conflicting stories, we going to work to de-conflict them,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers told Fox News on Mar. 21.
His committee counterpart, Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger, said he had “no problem” with his colleagues “continuing to get the facts and data,” and suggested the Benghazi issue should not be further politicized.
With the Special Operations Speaks letter expected on Capitol Hill Monday, it is not clear whether this new push for a select committee will change the minds of lawmakers.
Congress has a full plate in front of it now, with gun control, immigration reform, and the next round of budget negotiations scheduled for the summer. Boehner et.al may have seen it as politically impractical to proceed with a select committee.