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Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
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Cochran-McDaniel Race Enters the Twilight Zone

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What changed in the last year?

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

Associated Press:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You wish it would be easier.

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

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

Not long ago, Lech Walesa wondered the same thing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lech Walesa, again:

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

Would that it were so.

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No Sentiment in Politics: Cochran on the Brink

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 1st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Yeah, I know. Nobody cares about soccer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forbes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Sudanese Government Backtracks on Release of Condemned Woman

Sunday, June 1st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

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

CNN:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ted Cruz Wins RLC Straw Poll

Sunday, June 1st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Texas Senator Ted Cruz edged out neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson to win the Republican Leadership Conference presidential straw poll.

The tally, via Breitbart:

In the straw poll, 633 ballots were cast, which was attended by more than 1,500 people. The results were as follows:

1. Ted Cruz — 30.33 percent
2. Ben Carson — 29.38 percent
3. Rand Paul — 10.43 percent
4. Mike Huckabee — 5.06 percent
5. Rick Perry — 4.90 percent
6. Curt Clawson (write-in) 4.58 percent
7. Jeb Bush — 4.42 percent
8. Marco Rubio — 3.32 percent
9. Rick Santorum — 2.37 percent
10. Paul Ryan — 2.05 percent
11. Allen West (write-in) — 2.05 percent
12. Chris Christie — 1.11%

Carson’s supporters evidently did a superb job in organizing for him at the conference. But we’re going to be spending 8 years excoriating a president who lacked any relevant experience for the office. Carson has zero experience in politics and government. Why would we want to repeat the mistake we made with Obama?

No matter. The big surprise from the straw poll was Rand Paui’s distant 3rd place finish. He may not have poured any resources into organizing at the event — he wasn’t in attendance at the conference. But given his showing at the CPAC event where he finished 1st, it must have been a disappointment to finish so far out of the running.

Meanwhile, Cruz wowed the crowd with a barnburner of a speech:

CNN:

The potential 2016 presidential candidate said that across the country, people tell him that they are scared – of losing their freedom, losing their constitutional rights, and bankrupting their children and grandchildren.

“There is an urgency facing this country – there is an urgency in politics unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” he said, arguing those fears were driving a new movement.

“America is waking up. We are seeing revival, we are seeing renewal, and together – mark my words – we are going to turn this nation around,” he said.

Cruz highlighted his past battles with what he regards as the Washington elites, Democrat and Republican, in the fight over drones, gun rights and filibusters. But he cited a “tsunami” of populist power, a wave of grassroots support as the core of those victories.

“Thank you!” he exclaimed to a shout of thanks from the audience. “Nobody cares what any politician in Washington says. Power in politics, sovereignty in America is with we the people, and that is the path to turning this country around, empowering the people.”

That wave will unseat Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, and force Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, out, he said to applause and cheers. A conservative Democrat, Landrieu faces a tough re-election this fall, and the crowd of Louisiana Republicans is eager to unseat her and strip the Democrats of their majority status.

Cruz’s victory in the straw poll is significant because the attendees at the RLC are committed activists who donate money and volunteer for campaigns. It was an impressive demonstration of support from Republicans who matter, as the Texas Senator appears to have a leg up on other conservatives who may run next year.

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Sudanese Woman Condemned for Apostasy to Go Free

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Good news from Sudan. The foreign ministry says that the woman condemned to death for apostasy and who gave birth in prison will go free “within days.”

Voice of America:

Ministry spokesman Abdullah al-Azraq announced the development late Saturday in Khartoum, just days after the woman — 27-year-old Mariam Yahya Ibrahim — gave birth in prison while awaiting her execution.

Ibrahim is also the mother of a 20-month-old son. Both children are incarcerated with their mother.

Born to a Christian mother and a Muslim father and raised Christian after the father left the family, Ibrahim said she had never herself been a Muslim, despite Sudanese law defining children of Muslim fathers as Muslims by definition.

A court in early May gave her four days to recant her Christian faith, and imposed the death penalty when she refused to do so.

Christian-Muslim unions such as Ibrahim’s marriage to U.S. citizen Daniel Wani are defined under Sudanese law as adultery, prompting the judge to impose an additional sentence of 100 lashes on the young mother.

Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is a Christian. He was not allowed to visit his wife and children on the day of the daughter’s birth, but did see his family a few days afterwards. He says they are all doing well.

Sudan has made no move to change the law, so one assumes that this outrage can happen again and again. Perhaps next time, the Sudanese won’t be quite so public about the matter, and some unfortunate woman will pay the price for living in a country stuck in the eighth century.

There were very few expressions of outrage from Muslim countries. Why should there have been? Many would have done the exact same thing. Some may have even resisted the calls from western countries to let her go.

This kind of thing must be punished as surely as a nation is taken to task for violating the human rights of its own people. Trade sanctions, aid withheld, travel restrictions — until there is a strong, vital reaction from the west, this kind of outrage will continue.

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Would a Primary Defeat of Cochran Bring Mississippi into Play for Dems?

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Six term Senator Thad Cochran is in serious trouble and may not win the Mississippi GOP primary on Tuesday. The 76-year old is being challenged by state senator and former talk radio host Mike McDaniel, a Tea Party favorite endorsed by Sarah Palin. Polls show Cochran with a slight lead, but McDaniel has regained the momentum after a scandal involving one of his supporters taking photos of Cochran’s bedridden wife and publishing it on his blog has blown over.

This has been a dirty campaign — an internecine conflict between the establishment and Tea Party that is damaging both candidates. Cochran launched a spurious attack on McDaniel’s voting record, claiming he missed more votes than any other sitting state senator. That proved to be false, although the Senator has refused to correct the record.

The McDaniel campaign has aired ads claiming Cochran supported amnesty in 2006 and only gives lip service to his opposition to Obamacare. Both claims — as well as the attack on McDaniel’s voting record — have been debunked by FactCheck.Org.

All this has Democrats salivating about running against either candidate in November. The likely nominee will be former Rep. Travis Childers who voted against Obamacare, opposes restrictions on firearms, and is against gay marriage. In short, he’s not your typical Democrat and voters may be inclined to give him a hard look following the bruising GOP primary.

Politico:

With the Cochran-McDaniel race headed for a photo finish next week, Childers outlined his general-election campaign message in a phone interview Friday. He all but acknowledged the conventional wisdom on the race: that a Democrat like him might stand a much better chance against a firebrand like McDaniel than a well-liked, 42-year incumbent like Cochran.

“I think there would be a stark contrast between me and state Sen. McDaniel,” Childers said, casting himself as a populist opponent of “far-right extremism” and criticizing Washington for having “forgotten the working people, especially in my state.”

Childers has raised little money to date, just $51,600 through the end of March, and would presumably be counting on an influx of funds from Democrats exploiting every possible path to keeping their Senate majority. In the event that he faces McDaniel, Childers would likely mount a campaign similar to the one Cochran has run in the primary: underscoring the gaps between him and McDaniel on Mississippi-centric concerns, like storm relief and federal spending on agriculture, while seeking to reassure conservative voters that he’s no Barack Obama Democrat.

“I’ve never really been called a liberal myself,” Childers said, parrying a series of questions about his views on national wedge issues.

On health care, he stood by his vote against the ACA, explaining that he believed Congress “could have done a much better job.” But Childers also rebuked opponents of the law who continue to promise its repeal.

“It’s not going to be repealed. You and I know the numbers that it would take. I resent these politicians lying to Mississippians about it being repealed,” he said. “I’m one of those people that will work to make the bill better.”

On gun control and same-sex marriage, Childers distanced himself from national Democratic positions. “I’ve always been a big proponent of the Second Amendment and I still am,” he said, continuing: “My personal feeling is of traditional marriage. That’s my personal feeling … Just because I believe this way, it’s not my place to be judgmental and degrading to anyone.”

But Childers also supports the minimum wage increase, voted for the stimulus bill, and would be a reliable Democratic vote on budgets and taxes.

Does he have a shot?

While McDaniel and his supporters dismiss the specter of a Democratic victory in November, some Republicans in the state aren’t as certain. One of them is Clarke Reed, a godfather of Mississippi GOP politics who led the state party for a decade in the 1960s and ’70s.

“It’s not out of the question a Democrat could win if Thad loses,” said Reed, now in his ninth decade. “With our population, any Democrat who gets one out of four white people wins. I hate to put it that way, but that’s how it is.”

Childers efforts to tar McDaniels with the “extremist” label is probably a dry hole. Mississippi is a very conservative state and while McDaniel may be too conservative for some states, his views are mostly in the mainstream of Mississippi politics.

Democrats are making the same argument in Georgia where Michelle Nunn is facing off against Rep. Jack Kingston. Trying to paint Kingston as an “extremist” in a very conservative state isn’t resonating. Nunn, despite being the daughter of legendary Georgia Democrat Sam Nunn, still has that “D” next to her name in a very “R” state.

Perhaps it’s more a sign of desperation by Democrats who are looking around for ways to keep their Senate majority, than any attachment to reality. Childers is little known, bereft of cash, and is an outlander when it comes to the positions of most Democrats. It’s hard to see how that translates into victory.

The fact is, whoever emerges from the GOP primary fracas on Tuesday will have a clear advantage in the November elections.

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Breaking: POW Held by Taliban Released

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only US POW believed to be held by the Taliban, was freed by his captors in exchange for give Guantanamo detainees, the Associated Press is reporting:

The officials said the Taliban agreed to turn over Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The transfers happened after a week of intense negotiations mediated by the government of Qatar, which will take custody of the Afghans.

In a statement, President Barack Obama said Bergdahl’s recovery “is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield.”

Officials said the Taliban turned the 28-year-old Bergdahl over Saturday evening, local time, in Afghanistan. Several dozen U.S. special forces were involved in the exchange, which took place in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border.

Officials described the transfer as a nonviolent handover between the American forces and about 18 Taliban.

Bergdahl was in good condition and able to walk, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity in order to describe the details of his release.

Bergdahl is expected to be transferred to Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, then on to the United States.

Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, had been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009. He is thought to have been captured by members of the Haqqani network, which operates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and has been one of the deadliest threats to U.S. troops in the war.

The Haqqani network, which the State Department designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2012, claims allegiance to the Afghan Taliban, yet operates with some degree of autonomy.

PJ Media Washington Editor Bridget Johnson highlighted the plight of Bergdahl earlier this year as part of the Yellow Ribbon Project, which seeks to keep the names of Americans held overseas before the public until they are brought home.

Controversy has surrounded Bergdhal since his capture. Did he walk away from his post and desert? Emails to his parents just prior to his capture indicate he was “disillusioned” with America and thought about deserting. His emails home were full of details about the extreme dysfunction of his unit and how he felt he had been lied to by the military.

The emails, published by Rolling Stone in a 2012 article, read as if Bergdhal was ready to go over the wall:

The Rolling Stone article, to be published Friday, also quotes other soldiers and associates of Bergdahl’s as saying that he had talked about walking to Pakistan if his deployment was “lame” and that shortly before his disappearance he had asked whether he should take his weapon if he left the base. Friends and other soldiers describe a survivalist mentality, and Bergdahl’s father, Bob, told the magazine that his son was “living in a novel.”

“The future is too good to waste on lies,” one email reads. “And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong.”

The emails were provided to the magazine by Bergdahl’s family in Idaho, which has gone public with its own discontent with U.S. efforts to free their son. There is no way to authenticate the emails.

Some of Bergdahl’s reported words read like a suicide note.

“I am sorry for everything,” he wrote. “The horror that is America is disgusting.”

He mailed home boxes containing his uniform and books.

Bergdhal made several propaganda videos, but the military usually doesn’t hold that against a returning POW. More problematic will be his debriefing where he will almost certainly be asked about the circumstances surrounding his capture. After telling his parents he was “ashamed to even be an American,” Sgt. Bergdhal will have a lot of explaining to do.

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GOP on Suicide Watch as Immigration Vote Looms

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

OK boys and girls — Let’s all join hands, count to three, and jump off the cliff together.

 

Nobody will ever accuse John Boehner of having political courage — or possessing excess intelligence. Why now? What’s the rush?

Allahpundit
is as disgusted as anyone:

Outrageous. Not the fact that the House leadership wants to do something on immigration; that’s been common knowledge for 18 months. What’s outrageous is the timing, which, if this AP report is accurate, would confirm our most cynical suspicions about just how gutless and unaccountable Republicans are on this issue. I remember critics predicting last year that Boehner wouldn’t bring something to the floor before the House primaries for fear that a backlash among conservative voters would knock out a bunch of incumbents. He’d wait until just after the primaries had ended to do it, so that conservatives would be powerless to exert any influence over the process.

So the timid, scaredy-cat Republicans didn’t want a vote on immigration reform until their sinecure was secure and they didn’t have to face angry conservatives who might have primaried them.

Profiles of a jellyfish.

Businessweek gives the real reason Boehner is hesitating:

Some reformers had hoped that Boehner would find a way around the anti-immigration conservatives in his caucus—that even as he appeased them by denouncing the Senate bill, he would arrange to make it a fait accompli through legislative maneuvering. In January, Boehner issued a “framework” to legalize undocumented workers that might have smoothed the path to legislation, but conservatives quickly beat it back.

To maintain an appearance of working toward reform even as they reject the Senate’s comprehensive approach, various House Committees have passed narrowly targeted bills.

Modest though they may be, such a bill could theoretically serve as a vehicle for more ambitious reform. Were the House to pass it, a House-Senate conference committee assembled to reconcile the two bills could—if it were stacked with reform supporters—produce something that very closely resembles the Senate’s bill. “I think that moving in a piece-by-piece fashion on this in a common-sense way is the way to do this,” Boehner said on May 22. Yet so far he has refused to allow the House even to vote on these narrow Republican measures.
Story: An Immigration Deal Worth Reaching

Reformers are clinging to one final possibility: When the primaries are finished and Republican members no longer face the immediate prospect of being unseated by a challenge from their right, they’ll act quickly to address their party’s problems with Hispanics. But that hope is hard to square with how these primary races are unfolding. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who claims to support reform and faces a June 10 primary, recently sent out a campaign flier boasting that he “is stopping the Obama-Reid plan to give illegal aliens amnesty.”

Boehner is likely to lose his speakership if immigration reform passes. At the very least, millions of conservatives would stay home  on election day if he’s stupid enough to bring the bills to the floor.

While the GOP approach is sound — carefully targeted reforms of a broken system with strong enforcement provisions — the problem is that any conference committee with the Senate is likely to end up with a final package looking an awful lot like the execrable “comprehensive reform” passed by the upper body last year. That makes any vote on immigration reform in the House an invitation to force a vote on the Senate bill.

What is the problem with waiting until next year when there’s a good chance the GOP will control both houses of Congress, and won’t have to worry about “amnesty?” The Republican’s piecemeal approach to reform — prudent, realistic, and popular — is a far better alternative than passing a fatally flawed Senate bill that no one expects the Obama administration to honor the enforcement provisions. A GOP bill could put real teeth into those provisions, making it far more difficult for the administration to weasel out of their responsibilities to secure the border.

it’s a canard to say that the passage of an immigration reform bill will attract any Hispanic votes. Reform supporters repeat it like a mantra despite the fact there is zero evidence that Hispanics will begin a love affair with the Republican party if immigration reform is passed. The president, the Democrats, and the press will all see to it that the GOP will get no credit for the bill’s passage, and all the blame for the delay.

The Republicans are about to commit hari-kari and John Boehner is handing them the sword.

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Cake Shop Owner Defiant After Ruling Forces Him to Serve Gay Couples

Friday, May 30th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that Jack Phillips, owner of a cake shop in a suburb of Denver, must bake cakes for gay couples — even though gay marriage is illegal in the state.

Associated Press:

Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission on Friday ordered a baker to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, finding his religious objections to the practice did not trump the state’s anti-discrimination statutes.

The unanimous ruling from the seven-member commission upheld an administrative law judge’s finding in December that Jack Phillips violated civil rights law when he refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012. The couple sued.

“I can believe anything I want, but if I’m going to do business here, I’d ought to not discriminate against people,” Commissioner Raju Jaram said.

Phillips, a devout Christian who owns the Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, said the decision violates his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of his religion. “I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” he told reporters after the ruling.

He added his bakery has been so overwhelmed by supporters eager to buy cookies and brownies that he does not currently make wedding cakes.

The couple who sued Phillips, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, were pleased that the commission roundly rejected Phillips’ arguments. “We’re just thrilled by that,” Mullins said.

Gay marriage remains illegal in Colorado. Mullins and Craig were married in Massachusetts and wanted a wedding cake for a reception to celebrate their union back home in Colorado.

State law prohibits businesses from refusing to serve customers based on their sexual orientation.

The panel issued its ruling verbally. It ordered Phillips to stop discriminating against gay people and to report quarterly for two years on staff anti-discrimination training and any customers he refuses to serve.

The “Civil Rights Commission” is a kangaroo court. Their mandate is to find people brought before it guilty of discrimination. That is their raison d’être, and the members of the commission are chosen to prove discrimination is present.

Here is part of their mission statement:

The Commissioners are citizens of Colorado who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate to serve four-year, voluntary terms. They are selected from across the state to represent both political parties. Two represent business (one of whom represents small business), two represent government, and three represent the community at-large. At least four of the members are members of groups of people who have been or who might be discriminated against because of disability, race, creed, color, sex, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, religion or age. Matters concerning current investigations or appeals before the Commission are confidential and can only be discussed with the parties in the case or the parties’ representatives.

There are 3 Democrats, one Republican, and 3 “un,” meaning unaffiliated on the commission. The fact that at least half the commission is part of the victimhood culture should tell you all you need to know about the fairness of the proceedings.

To sum up: Mr. Phillips was hauled before this commission for not serving a wedding cake to a gay couple even though gay marriage is illegal in Colorado. In other words, it is illegal in Colorado to refuse to take part in the extension of an illegal act. Mr. Phillips is being punished and forced to violate his religious tenets despite the fact that one of the Commission’s mandates is to protect people from being discriminated against because of their religion.

Go figure.

Mark Steyn’s run in with this sort of lunacy in Canada brought out the best in his writing:

If you schmooze enough Third World thug states, it’s not surprising your postmodern cultural relativism starts to drift past the point of no return. As Commissar Lynch primly notes in her report, America’s First Amendment absolutism on free speech is out of step with the “growing global consensus”—that would be the “growing global consensus” represented by the CHRC and its “distinguished guests.” Take Sweden and Cameroon, split the difference, and that should be enough human rights for anyone.

In an op-ed for the Globe and Mail, Jennifer Lynch justified her report on the grounds that it would assist a “balanced debate.” That same day, CTV booked her and Ezra Levant, author of Shakedown, the bestselling book about Canada’s “human rights” regime, on to Power Play, to have that, er, “debate” she’s always talking about. When Queen Jennifer heard Ezra was to be on the show, she refused to debate him, and demanded he be bounced from the airwaves. As Kathy Shaidle put it: “Canada’s Official Censor Tries To Censor TV Debate About Censorship.”

Okay, if she won’t debate Ezra, I’d be happy to do it. All very “balanced”: Maclean’s can sponsor it, Steve Paikin or some such public-TV cove can anchor it. Name the date, I’ll be there. But, in the absence of any willingness to debate, reasonable people pondering Canada’s strangely ambitious Official Censor might object not just philosophically but on Professor Moon-like utilitarian grounds: if you’re not smart enough to debate Ezra Levant, you’re not smart enough to police the opinions of 30 million people.

In the world of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, freedom is a zero sum game; in order to give freedom to some you must take away freedom from others.

It’s nonsense, of course — but Mr. Phillips isn’t laughing.

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Tidal Wave of Illegal Minors Crossing the Border

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

More than 60,000 illegal children below the age of 18 will cross the border this year unaccompanied by an adult, and the government thinks that number is likely to double next year.

The flood of children from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and other Central American nations is putting a tremendous strain on government resources. Reuters reports that not only is there simply no room to house the children, but the budget problem makes it difficult to adequately care for them. It costs the U.S. $252 a day to care for each child and the total cost this year could reach $868 million. That number is expected to climb to $2 billion next year.

The tenfold increase in illegal minors crossing the border alone since 2011 is partly the result of relaxed deportation policies of the Obama administration. But it is also true that many of these children are escaping poverty, abuse, and rampant violence in their home countries.

The shortage of housing for these children, some as young as 3, has already become so acute that an emergency shelter at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, has been opened and can accommodate 1,000 of them, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in an interview with Reuters.

The issue is an added source of tension between Democrats and Republicans, who disagree on how to rewrite immigration laws. With comprehensive legislation stalled, President Barack Obama is looking at small, administrative steps he could take, which might be announced this summer. No details have been outlined but immigration groups are pressing him to take steps to keep families with children together.

The minors flooding over the border are often teenagers leaving behind poverty or violence in Mexico and other parts of Central America such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. They are sometimes seeking to reunite with a parent who is already in the United States, also without documentation.

“This is a humanitarian crisis and it requires a humanitarian response,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski said in an interview. The Maryland Democrat, a former social worker, has likened the flood of unaccompanied children to the “boat people” of past exodus movements.

Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on Mikulski’s committee, said, “The need is there, you know the humanitarian aspect of it, but we’re challenged on money.”

Immigration groups lobbying for comprehensive reform argue that children are being hit hardest by the political deadlock.

With an even bigger funding challenge looming for 2015, Mikulski worries corners might be cut. She said children could end up being placed in federal holding cells meant only for adults and that funds might have to be shifted from other programs, such as refugee aid, to help cover the $252-per-day cost of detaining a child.

Mark Lagon, who coordinated the George W. Bush administration’s efforts to combat human trafficking, tied the sharp increase in unaccompanied minors to both U.S. economic factors and escalating violence in Central America.

He noted that there was a decrease in migration to the United States in the period 2008-2010 that reflected the U.S. economic downturn, and that has been reversed.

What’s to be done? I have some ideas on the next page.

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The ‘Opportunity Gap’ is What Should Concern Us

Sunday, May 25th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Thoughtful piece by Andrew Quinn of AEI, writing in the  Federalist.  Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity — “fairness at the starting line of life, not forced equality at the finish line,” as Quinn puts it.

But in modern America, with redistributionist schemes a feature of governance, how can we prevent the continuing slide into socialism? Closing the opportunity gap is a good idea but what if those who need opportunity the most fail to take advantage?

Conservatives have little patience for no-strings-attached transfers, but many are amenable to things like vocational training. Such programs seem like straightforward ways to expand opportunity. Offer classes and guidance to people who seek to learn new skills and become more attractive hires. That’s how you offer a hand up—and that beats a handout eight days a week.

It may not be that easy. In their new book Scarcity, behavioral economist Sendil Mullainathan and psychologist Eldar Shafir complicate that distinction. They note that many poor people fail to follow through on promising opportunities—even, curiously enough, when money is no object. Across the world, poor people are disproportionately unlikely to get their children vaccinated even when all they have to do is sign up; they are disproportionately reluctant to wash their hands even though this is cost-free. Low-income Americans on Medicaid, which pays for their prescriptions, still fail to take their medication regularly.

This phenomenon defies the assumptions of standard economics. People whose lives are teetering on the brink have more incentive than anyone to seize on free and low-cost opportunities to improve their lot. But, the data show, they are in fact the least likely group to take advantage of these opportunities. What gives?

Mullainathan and Shafir developed several experiments to find out. In one study, they administered a cognitive test to farmers in India at various times of the year. The test, called the “Stroop task,” measures fluid intelligence and executive control. To paraphrase, it looks both at the subjects’ raw mental bandwidth and their ability to focus and channel that horsepower. The researchers found that farmers systematically did worse in the months leading up to the harvest, when the funds from the last harvest were starting to run out. The stress of financial scarcity markedly limited their cognition. When they measured the farmers post-harvest, after abundance had been restored, their disability disappeared.

America does not have the kind of grinding poverty found in India and other developing countries. But the poverty stricken in the US act much the same as those in poorer countries. With a plethora of programs designed to help, most simply don’t take advantage of the opportunity to go back to school , or train for a good job, or better their lives in a meaningful way.

This is why redistributionist policies are so poisonous. They don’t work and they only add to the hopelessness felt by so many who are poor. An argument can be made that it’s class, not skin color that is holding back many living below the poverty line. And no amount of government handouts is going to change that reality.

 

 

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Reparations and the Moral Repugnance of Collective Guilt

Sunday, May 25th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You’ve no doubt seen Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 15,000 word article in The Altantic, making the case for slavery reparations. I’ve always enjoyed reading Coates — a brilliant writer, and not one to march in lock step with anyone.

But Mr. Coates has gone off the rails with his advocacy for reparations. He has added to the burden of white man’s sins by including, “Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy.”

Coates presents evidence to buttress his case. Many compelling, maddening anecdotes. Charts, graphs, pictures — a scholarly effort to be sure.

But Bill Jacobson points out the flaws in his argument with devastating ease:

Coates never gives the answer as to who gets what and how.

And that’s ultimately the problem with reparations arguments that are not based upon the people causing the harm paying the people directly harmed by specific conduct soon after the conduct is remedied.

If you can’t answer the question of why a Vietnamese boat person has to pay reparations for the conduct of white plantation owners more than a century earlier, then you can’t make the argument.

If you can’t answer the question of why two successful black doctors living in a fashionable suburb should get reparations paid for by the white children of Appalachia, then you can’t make the argument.

If you can’t answer the question of why the adult black recent immigrant from Paris should be pay or be paid reparations based on the color of his skin for crimes committed in a land he did not grow up in, then you can’t make the argument.

And what about the increasing number of children of mixed race?

That’s the bottom line. Any reparations plan is totally, finally unworkable as a practical political matter. You can’t get there from here and making the attempt will only breed resentment by whites and dashed hopes for blacks.

It is morally repugnant to assign blame to the blameless, and then penalize them for something not their fault. My family never held slaves, we did not participate in Jim Crow, and we did not redline anyone to prevent them from getting a mortgage. How can you justify trying to address injustice by creating more injustice? Madness.

One of the promises of America is that the sons are not held responsible for the sins of their fathers. We don’t always live up to that promise — like we don’t always achieve equal justice under the law. But what makes America exceptional is that we are constantly striving to realize those promises. Not the absolute certainty of guaranteed outcomes, but simply the promise that we can do better. That’s all one can practically expect from human beings.

Coates thinks that without reparations, the U.S. will never be “whole.” Any reparations scheme will tear this country apart — end to end, coast to coast. There may be a case for reparations, but saying it will unite the country is the most ridiculous of all.

Racism, sexism, homophobia — these things will die a natural death. Each successive generation of all colors becomes more tolerant of those who are different. Barack Obama could not have been elected 50 years ago, or 25 years ago — perhaps not even a decade ago. Racial progress is not something that can be quantified by dollars or cents, or how many minorities are lawyers, doctors, and successful businessmen. Progress is measured in the hearts and minds of each individual. Reparations won’t do anything to speed the evolutionary process of achieving a colorblind society and, in fact, would set the cause back 50 years.

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The Case For and Against Mike Pence for President

Saturday, May 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

If the Republican nominee for president is going to come from the ranks of current or former governors, the GOP could do worse than choose former chairman of the House Republican Conference and current governor of Indiana Mike Pence.

Pence is the kind of candidate who just might be able to act as a bridge between the warring conservative factions. His conservative voting record as a House member is nearly impeccable: no to No Child Left Behind and the prescription drug biil; no to the bank bailout; and a budget hawk who was calling for big cuts in spending before it became popular to do so on Capitol Hill.

On the other hand, he has governed Indiana via compromise and pragmatism — two traits that don’t sit well with much of the GOP base. As James Antle III writes in the American Conservative, those qualities of governance have led to several problematic decisions by Pence:

With great fanfare, Pence signed legislation pulling Indiana out of Common Core, making it the first state to junk the controversial education standards many Tea Party conservatives see as a precursor to a national curriculum. “I believe education is a state and local function,” he said. He then embraced new academic standards that were panned as “warmed over” Common Core.

Hoosiers Against Common Core describes Pence’s standards as “re-branding Common Core” and the bill he signed back in March as “a ruse to fool Common Core opponents.” The group says on its website, “The legislation gave the appearance of voiding the Common Core while the Indiana Department of Education and the Center for Education and Career Innovation walked it through the backdoor.”

Then Pence announced he would accept the federal funds that come with Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. But he vowed to seek a waiver that would allow him to pursue Medicaid reforms based on former Gov. Mitch Daniels’s Healthy Indiana Plan rather than the traditional Medicaid plan.

“Reforming traditional Medicaid through this kind of market-based, consumer-driven approach is essential to creating better health outcomes and curbing the dramatic growth in Medicaid spending,” the governor said.

Some conservatives see this too as sleight of hand. One complained to the Indianapolis Star it was “merely the latest iteration of full Obamacare Medicaid expansion thinly disguised as a conservative entitlement reform.” Other critics wrote at Forbes, “Gov. Pence has tried to cover his ObamaCare expansion plan with the veneer of the Healthy Indiana Plan begun by Mitch Daniels.”

Those who have followed Pence since he was in Congress may remember a third instance where he tried to split the baby on a contentious issue. In May 2006, as House Republicans stood against an immigration plan hatched by Bush, John McCain, and Ted Kennedy, Pence gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation in which he outlined “a rational middle ground” between “amnesty and mass deportation.”

Pence’s proposal was an ambitious guest-worker program that essentially privatized a large part of immigration enforcement. “Private worker placement agencies that we could call ‘Ellis Island Centers’ will be licensed by the federal government to match willing guest workers with jobs in America that employers cannot fill with American workers,” he said.

Pence’s immigration reform proposal never went anywhere, with some conservatives calling it “backdoor amnesty.” So what happened to the Tea Party favorite and conservative lion who served in Congress? I’ll explain on the next page.

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The Great National Divide Is on Abortion

Saturday, May 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Despite all the “War on Women” rhetoric coming from Obama and the Democrats, the facts speak for themselves: America is divided right down the middle on the question of abortion.

Taxes, the budget, immigration reform — these are Republican vs. Democratic issues. But abortion as an issue that transcends party, so that even independents are split down the middle.

While solid majorities from each party support their position on abortion, both parties also have a significant number of “defectors” — about the same percentage of Democrats are pro-life as there are Republicans who are pro-choice. This is what makes abortion the true dividing line in American politics.

Gallup:

Americans remain divided on the abortion issue, with 47% of U.S. adults describing their views as “pro-choice” and 46% as “pro-life,” continuing a pattern seen since 2010.

These results are based on Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted May 8-11. Gallup’s trend on this question stretches back to 1995, when Americans tilted significantly more toward the pro-choice label. The balance generally remained more in the pro-choice direction until 2009 when for the first time more Americans identified as pro-life than pro-choice. Since then, these attitudes have fluctuated some, but remain roughly split.

Americans’ identification with the two abortion politics labels differs somewhat by gender and age, with women and 18- to 34-year olds tilting pro-choice, and men and Americans aged 55 and older tilting pro-life. Middle-aged adults are evenly split on the issue.

Regionally, Easterners are the most unified, with 59% calling themselves pro-choice, whereas in all other regions, no more than 50% identify with either label. However, Southerners lean toward the pro-life position (49% to 41%), while those in the Midwest and West are about evenly split.

By far the biggest differences in these views are political, with over two-thirds of Republicans calling themselves pro-life and about as many Democrats identifying as pro-choice. Independents fall squarely in the middle.

A second long-term Gallup trend, this one measuring Americans’ views on the extent to which abortion should be legal, finds 50% saying abortion should be “legal only under certain circumstances,” or in other words, favoring limited abortion rights. This stance has prevailed since 1975. However, a combined 49% of Americans takes a more hardline position, including 28% saying abortion should be legal in all circumstances and 21% believing it should be illegal in all circumstances.

Support for the strong anti-abortion rights position has hovered around 20% since 2011, just below the record-high 23% seen in 2009. Support for strong pro-abortion rights is a notch below the highest levels seen from 1990 to 1995 when it consistently exceeded 30%, but support is up from four to five years ago when it had dipped into the low 20s.

Of course, both sides tolerate their defectors — they just don’t give them any power or place at the national level. Many older Democrats are pro-life while many younger Republicans are pro-choice. That would seem to indicate that eventually, the pro-life faction in the Democratic Party will die off while the pro-choice position in the Republican Party will grow. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Many of those young, pro-choice Republicans may change their minds at some point after they have their own families, their own children. It’s a lot different advocating a position that kills a baby after you’ve looked your firstborn in the eyes and whispered his name.

For the foreseeable future, the issue of abortion will cleave the country, creating a divide that’s going to be hard to bridge.

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It’s Not the VA: It’s Government-Run Health Care

Saturday, May 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Excellent piece in Reason’s Hit and Run blog by J.D. Tuccille that makes the case it’s not just the Veterans Administration that is at fault for the scandal. The problem is government-run health care systems in general, as the UK, Canada, and other places have already discovered.

Such delays are typical of government-controlled, single-payer systems, I wrote yesterday. They’re such a regular feature that the U.K. National Health Service boasts “you have the legal right to start your NHS consultant-led treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks from referral.”

And the deaths that go with such delays may also be a regular feature of single-payer systems.

“Canada’s growing wait times for health care may have contributed to the deaths of 44,273 Canadian women between 1993 and 2009,” that country’s Fraser Institute announced just yesterday.

The estimated 44,273 deaths between 1993 and 2009 represent 2.5 per cent of all female deaths in Canada during that 16-year period, or 1.2 per cent of Canada’s total mortality (male and female).

More specifically, during that same 16-year period, for every one-week increase in the post-referral wait time for medically necessary elective procedures, three female Canadians died (per 100,000 women).

The study reaching those conclusions found no such dramatic relationship between extended waits for care and male mortality, which is reassuring to those of us with a Y chromosome. For double-XXs, not so much.

Fraser reports that wait times for Canada’s single-payer system have grown across 12 major medical specialties from 9.3 weeks in 1993 to 18.2 weeks in 2013. The extended delays grew so bad in Quebec that Canada’s Supreme Court ruled laws banning private medical insurance unconstitutional in 2005.

Wait times for patients in a government-run system appear to be a feature, not a bug.

Inefficiencies are endemic in large bureaucracies because there is zero incentive to perform at a high level. No one works hard because slackers get paid just the same as good workers. There was no incentive at the VA to figure out a way to cut wait times. In fact, it was easier to attempt to cover up the problem than fix it.

For all the enthusiasm shown by the left for a single-payer system, there doesn’t seem to be much thought given to the consequences.  In fact, those eager to expand the power and reach of Washington rarely, if ever, carefully weigh what would be gained against what would be lost or destroyed. It’s why every major initiative by this president has been a disaster — a lack of prudence and judgement that has led to far too many unintended consequences.

Of course, in the case of the VA vs. sick vets, the consequences were known: death and serious illness. But because there is little or no accountability, there was every incentive to hide the bad news.

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The 9/11 Museum’s Tasteless Gift Shop

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Perhaps it’s because the 9/11 attacks occurred so recently that I find the idea of a gift shop inside the recently opened 9/11 Museum to be tasteless and, as the New York Post says, “absurd.”

It may also be that the gift shop is located inside the museum itself that strikes the wrong chord. The Gettysburg National Cemetery has a gift shop located near the battlefield in the wonderful Gettysburg Heritage Center — a place to put on your bucket list if you’re a civil war or Americana buff at all. Similarly, the USS Arizona Memorial runs a bookstore/gift shop in another place dripping with history, the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center.

These are appropriate places to place a commercial establishment — close to but not on hallowed ground. Not so the 9/11 Museum and some of the families of the lost are complaining.

The 9/11 museum’s cavernous boutique offers a vast array of souvenir goods. For example: FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority Police T-shirts ($22) and caps ($19.95); earrings molded from leaves and blossoms of downtown trees ($20 to $68); cop and firefighter charms by Pandora and other jewelers ($65); “United We Stand” blankets.

There are bracelets, bowls, buttons, mugs, mousepads, magnets, key chains, flags, pins, stuffed animals, toy firetrucks, cellphone cases, tote bags, books and DVDs.

Even FDNY vests for dogs come in all sizes.

After paying $24 admission for adults, $18 for seniors and students, and $15 for kids 7 to 17, visitors can shop till they drop.

“To me, it’s the crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died,” Diane Horning said.

She and husband Kurt never recovered the remains of their son Matthew, 26, a database administrator for Marsh & McLennan and aspiring guitarist.

About 8,000 unidentified body parts are now stored out of sight in a “remains repository” at the museum’s underground home.

“Here is essentially our tomb of the unknown. To sell baubles I find quite shocking and repugnant,” said Horning, who also objects to the museum cafe.

“I think it’s a money-making venture to support inflated salaries, and they’re willing to do it over my son’s dead body.

Among the museum shop’s specially designed items:

- A black and white “Darkness Hoodie” printed with an image of the Twin Towers. The pullover, like other “Darkness” items, bears the words “In Darkness We Shine Brightest.” Price: $39.

- Silk scarves printed with 1986 photos by Paula Barr, including a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline. Another depicts “lunchtime on the WTC Plaza.” They go for $95 each.

And so on. Tourist gouging is a time honored tradition in these gift shops associated with historical places, so it’s hardly a surprise they want $95 bucks for a scarf. But Mrs. Horning has a point about “inflated salaries” as Breitbart reported in February:

Daniels’s salary was last reported to be $371,307. He received huge raises for three years running. As far back as 2009, there were no fewer than eleven staffers at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum who each made more than $170,000. Four had salaries higher than $320,000.

There has been controversy about the Museum since plans were unveiled 5 years ago. By most reports, much of the museum is a moving tribute to those who died. They played the political correctness game in downplaying the ideology of those who attacked us, but it is mentioned despite CAIR’s complaints.

A restaurant I can see — as long as they don’t serve “Twin Towers Burgers” or some other ridiculous dish. But a gift shop is a a reach and museum officials should consider moving it off the premises.

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Governor Moonbeam Lectures GOP on Climate Change

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

There are about 1500 wild fires raging in Southern California — an annual occurrence as nature clears out old, dry scrub so that new sprouts can take hold.

The danger, of course, is that a hundred years ago, there weren’t million dollar homes in the path of these fires, so residents rightly are anxious and fire fighters exhaust themselves trying to bring the blazes under control.

Also a hundred years ago, there was no theory that global warming was causing the wild fires. But that isn’t stopping Governor Jerry Brown from lecturing Republicans about the dangers of climate change.

Daily Caller:

Brown spoke with Sunday with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about the fires, most of which are in San Diego County and which appear to be more contained than earlier this week.

The governor almost immediately made mention of global warming, claiming the state’s climate “appears to be changing.”

“You say that climate change definitely is at the heart of — at least, a big part of this,” Stephanopoulos noted. “You know there’s a lot of skepticism, particularly among Republicans in Washington, about that. How do you build a consensus to adapt.”

“That’s a challenge,” Brown replied. “It is true that there is virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous. I mean, there is no scientific question, there is just political denial for various reasons best known to those people who are in denial.”

“We live in a world that is not just business, it’s natural,” the governor lectured. “The natural systems. And as we send billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping gases, we get heat and we get fires and we get what we’re seeing.

“So we’ve gotta gear up,” Brown continued. “We’re going to deal with nature as we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature, and we’ve gotta adapt to it the best way we can.”

“No scientific question”? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) would beg to differ. The UN body admits it doesn’t know why there has been a 17 year pause in the rise in temps. Isn’t that a question, Jerry? They also admit that they don’t know why there’s more arctic ice this year than last, nor can they explain why the ocean level isn’t rising as fast as their models predict.

“We live in a world that is not just business, it’s natural…” That may be the most awkward, cringe inducing political attack I’ve ever read. What’s he trying to say? Republicans only care about business? Sheesh.

Perhaps the most jaw dropping statement he made is the idea that heat from global warming causes fires. If that were true, we’d all be crispy critters. The theory is that rainfall patterns will be disrupted by climate change and areas that were previously wet would suffer droughts and places that were dry would experience flooding.

Well, as mentioned at the outset, these wild fires are pretty much of an annual occurrence, although for reasons unrelated to climate, they are getting worse. That’s because the wildfires are indeed, a man made phenomenon — but not due to man made global warming.

Those hillsides and ravines that are burning have been made tinder dry by soil erosion due to over building. Just 7 years ago, scientists dismissed global warming as a cause of the fires:

In a study published last year in the journal Science, researchers looking at Western federal forests found nearly seven times more land burned from 1987 to 2003 than in the previous 17 years.

The analysis mainly attributed this to a 1.5-degree rise in average spring and summer temperatures. With spring arriving earlier and snow melting faster, the forests dried out sooner, extending the average fire season by more than two months.

The study, however, found Southern California was different from the rest of the West, with no increase in the frequency of fire as temperatures rose.

“In Southern California, it’s hot and dry much of the year,” said Anthony Westerling, a climate scientist at UC Merced and the study’s lead author. In other words, Southern California was already perfect for fire.

“That is a fire-prone environment regardless of whether we are in a climate-change scenario,” said Tom Wordell, a wildfire analyst at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. “I don’t want to be callous, because many people are homeless and suffering, but if you live in a snake pit, you’re going to get bit.”

A far cry from Governor Moonbeam’s dire warnings of catastrophe.

It appears that a concerted effort is underway by global warming hysterics to push a climate change legislative and regulatory agenda. The White House releasing a big climate change study designed to scare the pants off Americans. The EPA ready to publish new CO2 regs next month. Every tornado, every cyclone, every excess raindrop, every unusual temperature change — warmer or cooler, it doesn’t matter which — brings out the long faces and dire predictions from the cultists.

Does anyone take them seriously anymore?

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Obama is ‘Madder than Hell’ about VA Scandal

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Of all the self-serving tripe…

Guess what. The president of the United States is “madder than hell” about the Veterans Administration scandal. That’s the word from White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

Funny…VA Secretary Eric Shineski said almost the exact same thing last week when testifying before Congress when he said, “Any allegation, any adverse incident like this makes me mad as hell.”

I suppose they could have channeled Howard Beale completely and added, “And I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Perfect — the administration taking its defense cues from a fictional nutcase TV anchor. Except this administration has an abundance of patience and forbearance when it comes to the incompetence and stupidity of its members — president included. So you have to wonder where their breaking point truly is.

Politico:

President Barack Obama is “madder than hell” about the Veterans Affairs scandal, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough says.

“The president is madder than hell, and I’ve got the scars to prove it, given the briefings I’ve given the president,” he said in an interview with CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett that aired Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

“Nobody is more outraged about this problem, right now, Major, than the president of the United States,” McDonough added.

McDonough’s comments echoed VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s statement at last week’s Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, when the secretary said he was “mad as hell” about the reports.

Shinseki and the Obama administration have come under fire for reports that at least 40 veterans died while waiting for care in the Phoenix VA system. Several lawmakers, as well as The American Legion, a top veterans’ advocacy group, have called on Shinseki to resign.

Asked about the secretary’s performance at the Senate hearing last week, McDonough said: “We don’t score testimony on Capitol Hill or otherwise. What we score is results that results to the services and benefits that our vets have earned.”

Undersecretary of Health Robert Petzel, who testified with Shinseki at the hearing, stepped down on Friday.

McDonough, as he has in earlier interviews, touted the administration’s commitment to veterans and its “historic increase” in benefits for veterans.

“The president’s demanding that we get to the bottom of the exact allegations that you’re talking about as it relates to whether veterans are getting the timely access to care that they have earned,” McDonough said, adding that as soon as the reports came out, he reached out to Shinseki to ensure the department had accountability measures in place to handle the problem.

“Nobody is more outraged about the problem…” than Obama? Oh really? The president is more outraged than the families of the 100 vets who died waiting for treatment because the VA was trying to cover up its mismanagement?

I’m sure the loved ones of the dead appreciate the president’s anger. Too bad Obama couldn’t get worked up about the unacceptable care at VA hospitals prior to it becoming a scandal.

More than Benghazi or even the IRS scandals, this has the potential to seriously damage the president and his administration. The VA’s actions have angered both Democrats and Republicans, so the administration can’t claim it’s a partisan witch hunt. There are also documents that prove the coverup, willing witnesses who are eager to tell their story, and the politically explosive charge that the Commander in Chief doesn’t care about those who served.

No way the press can bury this scandal or turn it into a partisan circus. For the first time in his presidency, Obama faces a scandal without his party to back him up or the press to run interference for him.

It’s going to be a long summer for Obama.

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Swiss Voters Decisively Reject $25 an Hour Minimum Wage

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A Swiss TV network projects a decisive defeat for a ballot measure that would have established the world’s highest minimum wage at $25 an hour. The network projects a 77-23 tally when all the votes are counted.

The measure was backed by unions, the Greens, and the socialists. Business and the government opposed the wage, warning it could make living in Switzerland even more expensive than it is now, and would hurt the very people it was aimed at helping due to a loss of low-skill jobs.

BBC:

Under the plan, employers would have had to pay workers a minimum 22 Swiss francs (about $25; £15; 18 euros) an hour.

Supporters said the move was necessary for people to live a decent life.

But critics argued that it would raise production costs and increase unemployment.

Almost 77% of voters opposed the minimum wage proposal, according to almost complete results. Supporters had argued it would “protect equitable pay” but the Swiss Business Federation said it would harm low-paid workers in particular.

The issue was the most prominent of several referendums held on Sunday.

Unions argued that the measure was necessary because of the high living costs in big Swiss cities such as Geneva and Zurich.

The unions are angry that Switzerland – one of the richest countries in the world – does not have a minimum pay level while neighbouring France and Germany do.

They argue that surviving on less than 4,000 francs a month is not possible because rents, health insurance and food are all prohibitively expensive.

The minimum wage in Germany will be 8.5 euros an hour from 2017.

A key element of the campaign in favour of a minimum wage was the argument that the Swiss welfare system was being forced to subsidise businesses which refuse to pay a living wage.

But business leaders and the government said low unemployment and high standards of living for the majority showed there was no need for change.

Small businesses, in particular Swiss farmers, were especially worried that being forced to pay their staff 4,000 francs a month would price their products out of the market.

Most of Switzerland’s low-paid workers operate in the service industry, in hotels and restaurants, and the majority of them are women.

This is not a turn to the right for Switzerland — just likea referendum earlier this year on limiting immigration from the EU was not a sign of xenophobia. The Swiss are a very practical, pragmatic people and detest extremes. By any measure, the $25 an hour minimum wage was a radical proposal and deserved to go down to defeat.

Voters also defeated a ballot measure last year that would have limited executive pay to 12 times the amount made by the lowest paid worker in a company. That measure was also overwhelmingly rejected 65-35.

The Swiss apparently see limits to their experiment in democratic socialism and, while concerned about the income inequality question, won’t overturn their society to address it.

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Does Obamacare Need a CEO?

Saturday, May 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Sure. Let’s add another layer of bureaucracy to an already fantastically complicated program.

Reuters:

A group of healthcare experts close to the White House is urging the Obama administration to appoint a new chief executive officer to oversee Obamacare’s online health insurance exchanges and safeguard the next open enrollment period that begins in six months.

The recommendation, in a report due to be released by the Washington-based Center for American Progress think tank, calls for a major shakeup within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which presided over last year’s disastrous rollout of the federal market portal, HealthCare.gov.

The idea would be to take the exchanges out of the current bureaucracy and put them in the hands of a CEO with private-sector experience who could run them as true e-commerce sites. The CEO would answer only to President Barack Obama and his intended new health secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

CAP’s plan would have the CEO assume full oversight of both federal and state exchanges, as well as insurers and market regulations, but not Medicare or Medicaid.

The White House said in a statement it had not reviewed the CAP recommendation, but was open to considering “all ideas” that might improve the law’s implementation after the botched October rollout and subsequent recovery.

The report’s co-authors, including former White House healthcare adviser Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, say the change should be made soon to address challenges that include the completion of automated “back end” systems needed to carry out vital functions with insurers, state Medicaid agencies and other entities.

“An absolutely essential element of achieving these goals is having the exchange run by a CEO who is both given the resources and made accountable for the exchange’s performance,” Emanuel, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, told Reuters in an email from Switzerland.

The idea is not new. Reform advocates, including CAP pressed the same idea on the White House after HealthCare.gov’s October crash, the first in a series of setbacks that posed a political challenge for Obama and his Democratic allies. The administration opted instead for a more narrowly defined health technology czar to rescue the site.

I hate to break the news to the wonks at CAP, but what the hell do we employ a cabinet-level Secretary at Health and Human Services for except to be accountable and run programs like Obamacare? If they’re saying that Obamacare is too complex for one agency to run, then it’s too complex to be run by government at all.

Why is the standard liberal answer to every problem in government to add on more layers of bureaucracy? Why not cut some bureaucracy, simplify things? The levers of power to run Obamacare won’t change. CMS will still be heavily involved. What will change is that CMS will answer to the Obamacare CEO, who will have his own staff, his own departments. One need only look at the Department of Homeland Security to get an idea of what ever expanding bureaucracy can do.

Making someone responsible for a disaster doesn’t mitigate the effects of the disaster. It’s bound to make things worse.

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Hero Cat to Throw Out First Pitch at Minor League Baseball Game

Saturday, May 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

As a cat lover, I never tire of seeing this video of Tara, the Hero Cat, saving his young boy from serious injury at the hands of a very mean, vicious dog.

Now, Tara has been asked to throw out the first pitch at a Bakersfield Blaze minor league baseball game. Sounds impossible, right? Take a look at that video again and tell me there’s anything a cat can’t do — besides come when they’re called, sit, fetch, and, er…never mind.

Dan Besbris of the Bakersfield Blaze minor league baseball team said Friday that the cat named Tara will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the next home game. Besbris wouldn’t reveal how they expect to pull off the stunt, hoping to heighten interest. Tara has already proven she’s exceptional, he said.

“It sounds crazy,” Besbris said. “But we’ve got a trick up our sleeve.”

Can’t wait for video of that.

Indeed, I have been kept by cats for more than 40 years and could never have imagined a feline capable of such an act. What went on in that devious, mammalian brain — that usually could give two figs about their human companions — that caused Tara to place herself in mortal danger by attacking an animal three times its size? Tara not only ran toward the dog, she actually gave it a good bump. Her aggressiveness startled the dog to flight.

There have been instances of cats waking up sleeping humans, warning them of a fire. But cats tolerate us, allow us into their lives for mostly selfish reasons. Magnanimous gestures are not, as a rule, part of a cat’s makeup.

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Great News: Your Obamacare Subsidy Is Probably Too Big

Saturday, May 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Washington Post has gotten a hold of some documents that the administration probably hoped would never see the light of day.

Apparently, more than a million people who are receiving subsidies for their Obamacare insurance policies are in for a surprise: the subsidies are either too large or too small.

The problem is that the income reported by more than a million consumers doesn’t match what the IRS has on file. And the procedure to match income with subsidy can’t be implemented because the back-end of the healthcare.gov website still hasn’t been built.

The problem means that potentially hundreds of thousands of people are receiving bigger subsidies than they deserve. They are part of a large group of Americans who listed incomes on their insurance applications that differ significantly — either too low or too high — from those on file with the Internal Revenue Service, documents show.

The government has identified these discrepancies but is stuck at the moment. Under federal rules, consumers are notified if there is a problem with their application and asked to upload or mail in pay stubs or other proof of their income. Only a fraction have done so, according to the documents. And, even when they have, the federal computer system at the heart of the insurance marketplace cannot match this proof with the application because that capability has yet to be built, according to the three individuals.

So piles of unprocessed “proof” documents are sitting in a federal contractor’s Kentucky office, and the government continues to pay insurance subsidies that may be too generous or too meager. Administration officials do not yet know what proportion are overpayments or underpayments. Under current rules, people receiving unwarranted subsidies will be required to return the excess next year.

The inability to make certain the government is paying correct subsidies is a legacy of computer troubles that crippled last fall’s launch of HealthCare.gov and the initial months of the first sign-up period for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Federal officials and contractors raced to correct most of the technical problems hindering consumers’ ability to choose a health plan. But behind the scenes, important aspects of the Web site remain defective — or simply unfinished.

White House officials recently have begun to focus on the magnitude of income discrepancies. Beyond their concerns regarding overpayments, members of the Obama administration are sensitive because they promised congressional Republicans during budget negotiations last year that a thorough income-verification system would be in place.

Under White House pressure, federal health officials and the contractor, Serco, are this weekend beginning to step up efforts at resolving a variety of inconsistencies that have appeared in applications, including income discrepancies. One White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity about internal discussions, said that White House and federal health officials are “all on the same page that the issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible.”

In light of this information I call to your attention this statement from CMS that is full of lies from beginning to end:

Julie Bataille, communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the federal insurance exchange, said: “The marketplace has successfully processed tens of millions of pieces of data — everything from Social Security numbers to tribal status to annual income. While most data matched up right away during the application process, we take seriously the cases that require more work and have a system in place to expeditiously resolve these data inconsistencies.”

Bataille also added that “an inconsistency does not mean there is a problem with a consumer’s enrollment” but that the consumer must send in additional documentation to verify whether their application information is accurate. “We’re working every day,” she said, “to make sure individuals and families get the tax credits they deserve and that no one is receiving a tax credit they shouldn’t.”

So, the website has processed a lot of information — except the correct subsidy amount for more than a million people. And there will be nothing “expeditious” about resolving the inconsistencies. CMS won’t even start addressing this problem until the summer.

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EPA to Unveil Carbon Regs Next Month

Saturday, May 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In early June, the Environmental Protection Agency will launch the most determined assault on American business since the 1970′s when they unveil new regulations governing the release of carbon dioxide by power plants.

The new regs are ostensibly aimed primarily at coal-fired power plants. But similar regulations are in the works that will impact dozens of industries and tens of millions of consumers who will see their electric bills skyrocket (as promised by candidate Obama).

The new regulations may also mean the virtual death of the coal industry, already hit hard by other EPA regs, costing tens of thousands of jobs.

Once published, the EPA will ask for comments on the new regs, looking at the summer of 2015 for the rules to become final. There will also be legal challenges to be overcome. But with the Supreme Court already having ruled that CO2 is a “poison” and the EPA can legally regulate it, any challenge to the regulations faces an uphill climb.

Politico:

The move could produce a dramatic makeover of the power industry, shifting it away from coal-burning plants toward natural gas, solar and wind. While this is the big move environmentalists have been yearning for, it also has major political implications in November for a president already under fire for what the GOP is branding a job-killing “War on Coal,” and promises to be an election issue in energy-producing states such as West Virginia, Kentucky and Louisiana.

The EPA’s proposed rule is aimed at scaling back carbon emissions from existing power plants, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gases. It’s scheduled for a public rollout June 2, after months of efforts by the administration to publicize the mounting scientific evidence that rising seas, melting glaciers and worsening storms pose a danger to human society.

“This rule is the most significant climate action this administration will take,” said Kyle Aarons at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, one of a host of groups awaiting the rule’s release. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has urged the EPA to “go ahead boldly” with the rule, saying the agency must step in where Congress has refused to act.

But for coal country, the rule is yet another indignity for an industry already facing a wave of power plant shutdowns amid hostile market forces and a series of separate EPA air regulations. Coal-state Democrats like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin have joined the criticism, echoing industry warnings that the fossil fuel was crucial to keeping the lights on in much of the U.S. during this past brutal winter.

“You have another polar vortex next year, how many people will lose their lives?” Manchin asked at a POLITICO energy policy forum Tuesday.

Manchin may or may not have a point. Certainly, coal fired plants will find it too expensive to operate, thus reducing the amount of electricity generated in the US. But it’s unclear whether there will be any actual shortages due to this loss of capacity as other plants can increase their output. Of course, all of this means much higher electric costs that will be passed on to the consumer.

The EPA insists that coal and carbon regulation can co-exist:

Despite opponents’ warnings that the rule will be a death sentence for coal-fired power, EPA leaders have been adamant that they’ll offer states ample “flexibility” to devise their own ways to cut carbon. Some states may join regional cap-and-trade networks, similar to an existing Northeastern compact that has co-existed with coal plants for years. Others could push for investments in wind and solar power, or in energy efficiency programs that help homeowners and businesses reduce their demand for electricity.

The rule, set to become final in mid-2015, would apply to the nation’s thousands of coal and natural gas-fired power plants. But coal — the cheapest, dirtiest and most abundant fossil fuel — would bear the heaviest burden.

That means its impact could be greatest in states like Kentucky, a major coal producer that gets as much as 90 percent of its power from the fuel — and which as recently as 2010 had the country’s lowest electricity prices. It’s also a crucial state in the 2014 Senate electoral calendar.

All of this because the administration has determined that climate change is impacting the US now and cutting emissions will somehow save us. If we’re that close to destruction, it’s already far too late to reverse or slow down the warming process. Besides, there is no evidence that any of these regulations will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by one, single molecule. That’s because China and India — who will be constructing dozens of new coal fired plants over the next few years — will more than make up for any reduction in CO2 emissions from the US.

The coal industry is still years away from any kind of clean burning process that would take most of the CO2 out of emissions. By that time, there probably won’t be much call for coal as an energy source anyway.

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Did Oregon Senate Candidate Monica Wehby ‘Stalk’ Her Old Boyfriend?

Friday, May 16th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You’d certainly think so reading this Politico headline:

“Oregon Senate hopeful accused of stalking boyfriend”

Her ex-boyfriend, timber magnate Andrew Miller, called police last year after seeing Wehby leaving his home. In a police report, he is quoted as accusing her of “stalking” him and told the police he would get an order of protection the next day.

As it turns out, Miller did not seek the protection order, and both sides describe the break up as “amicable.”

What happened then?

Miller and Wehby’s relationship has become an issue ahead of Oregon’s GOP Senate primary on Tuesday. Miller has helped fund radio and billboard ads slamming one of Wehby’s rivals for the Senate nomination, state Rep. Jason Conger. The Oregon Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Wehby in which it noted that Miller has given nearly $31,000 to a super PAC attacking Conger. Miller said he does not think his relationship with Wehby is relevant “outside a group of people who pay a lot of attention to politics.”

Miller has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years backing GOP candidates in Oregon, including Chris Dudley in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

In a statement to POLITICO, Wehby said she was unaware that a police report had been filed over the 2013 incident and downplayed the episode.

“The first time I ever learned of this report was this evening and there really isn’t much to it of consequence,” Wehby said in her statement. “A year ago I went through the process of concluding a relationship. That relationship ended amicably, and while I’m not pleased that it has been deemed newsworthy, I guess that is the cost of challenging the political status quo.”

In an interview, Miller said he now regrets calling the police on Wehby. The couple had dated for about two years, but broke up in 2013. Miller, who is divorced with four children, said they remain friendly.

“There was a week there or so when we were breaking up that people can be emotional. And me included,” Miller said. “If I think back to that period of time, I regret saying those things in that light.”

“There’s a lot of things that I like about Monica and respect about her,” Miller added. “I never sought [a protective order]… We’re friends.”

Miller said he supports Wehby’s candidacy, yet he will not be involved in the Senate campaign if Wehby is the Republican nominee. Miller said his efforts to defeat Conger are not related to his relationship with Wehby.

Where did the police report come from? The Oregonian says that Politico obtained it. Suspicion on who put the bug in Politico’s ear about a juicy police report that was published 4 days before the GOP primary has fallen on incumbent Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley. But Merkley denied leaking the report — which, when you think about it, is not quite the same as telling Politico it existed in the first place.

Merkley has plenty of reason to drag Wehby down — or even try to alter the GOP primary where Wehby is heavily favored to win. Wehby is running neck and neck with Merkley in the polls and is likely to be well funded and very competitive in November.

We’ve all been where Wehby was two years ago; suddenly dumped by your ex like a sack of potatoes with no explanation, no call, no nothing. It’s clear she wasn’t stalking Miller — that all she wanted was some kind of explanation for his sudden change of heart.

This really is a non-story, but whoever leaked the police report has gotten what they wanted; a barrage of negative press for Wehby just a few days before the primary.

 

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Racist Camel Draws Protests on College Campus

Friday, May 16th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

What’s a clever, creative way to celebrate “Hump Day”? Yeah, I thought of that too but this is a “G” rated site.

At St. Thomas College in Minnesota, one student hit upon the brilliant idea to bring a camel on campus so that students could have a little fun before finals next week. They’d call the event “Hump Day” and make the event something of a petting zoo where students could relax, take pictures with the camel and generally let off a little steam.

A local vendor was contacted and everything was ready. Then, trouble.

But last week the plan was abruptly scrapped after opponents mounted a protest on Facebook, saying it was not only a waste of money, but insensitive and possibly racist as well.

The event — called “Hump Day” — was organized by the Residence Hall Association, a student social committee, “to have a little fun, bring students together,” said Aaron Macke, the group’s adviser.

Their intention, he said, was to come up with an idea for a gathering that was creative and drew interest.

“And obviously, this one did, both ways.”

The original plan was to bring the camel to the St. Paul campus May 14 and turn the quad into “a petting zoo type of atmosphere,” Macke said. The camel, he noted, is trained for events like these and owned by a local vendor.

In fact, last December St. Thomas brought a reindeer to campus (also hired locally) for the same purpose. No protests ensued.

Macke said he’s not sure who started the Facebook page, but last week it was bristling with indignant comments. Some suggested the event was disparaging to Middle Eastern cultures, an example of animal cruelty and even environmentally unfriendly. “I think they thought the camel was coming from another part of the world,” he said, “[and] it would be bad for our carbon footprint.” Others simply objected to the cost. (Macke said the fee, about $500, was coming from a social event fund.)

Within 24 hours, the organizers decided to cancel the event. “It kind of comes back to the purpose of the organization,” said Macke, who is director of residence life at St. Thomas. “If this is going to be something that’s divisive, then it’s not worth doing.”

Is it any wonder that college campus’s have become bastions of political correctness? With an attitude that nothing divisive should occur — except when being divisive scores political points, like BDS protests and “white privilege” demonstrations — the opposition to tyranny cowers in the corner.

Were there protests against this GEICO commercial?

Are there 21,000,000 racists out there? That’s how many hits the video has gotten on YouTube.

Actually, one school actually banned the phrase “Hump Day” because middle school kids were saying it so much — no doubt, with the double entendre fully in mind:

The Geico “Hump Day” commercial has received over 15 million hits on YouTube, and has it be one of the most memorable commercials to date.

But the “Hump Day” catch phrase is causing problems at a middle school in Connecticut. So many kids were saying it all day, every day. They said it so much that it was disrupting class.

The principal took drastic steps and banned the phrase from school.

As is obvious from this statement on the cancellation offered up by RHA, the organization assumed that students actually have a sense of humor and want to have fun, rather than demonstrate a humorlessness and an overripe notion of “sensitivity” to a particular culture:

“RHA’s goal in programming is to bring residents together in a fun and safe environment where all people can enjoy themselves,” RHA president Lindsay Goodwin said in a statement on RHA’s Facebook page. “It appears however, this program is dividing people and would make for an uncomfortable and possibly unsafe environment for everyone attending or providing the program. As a result, RHA has decided to cancel the event.”

Unsafe environment? Students are going to riot over a camel? Sheesh.

Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, had the tweet of the day: “Reindeer, yes, camel, no? … Are college students ‘racially insensitive’ to Laplanders? Or are they just idiots?”

It’s been said by many that we are becoming a country where our only freedom left is freedom from being offended. I’d add that we’re also becoming a country where people take fake offense to innocuous gestures simply because they know that the powers that be — especially on college campuses — wish to avoid “divisiveness” at all costs and will bow to their will. It’s an irresistible power trip that the gimlet eyed revolutionaries on campus can’t let go.

Not only is it injurious to free speech, it makes America a very boring place to live. And that’s the bottom line with the students who protested this event. They have the sense of humor of marmosets and a killjoy attitude that makes watching grass grow exciting by comparison.

Lighten up, kids. Kick off your shoes, feel the grass between your toes, and pet the damn camel.

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Your Right to Be Annoying Upheld by New York Court

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

If you make a living on the internet, you’ve no doubt been exposed to harassing, annoying, correspondents and commenters who anonymously (or otherwise) seem to take enormous enjoyment from attacking you.

But most of us have not been subjected to the kind of pathological attacks that some academics experienced at the hands of the the son of a scholar whose theories about the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls were dismissed by the academy. The son began a campaign of internet harassment that included voluminous emails, blog postings, and even forgery and impersonating his father’s critics. This led to his arrest and conviction under a controversial statute — “aggravated harassment in the second degree” — which is defined as communicating with someone “in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm” and “with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm.”

New York’s highest court ruled that the statute is drawn too broadly to be consistent with free speech rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.

Jacob Sullum of Hit and Run blog:

Quoting an earlier case, the court said “any proscription of pure speech must be sharply limited to words which, by their utterance alone, inflict injury or tend naturally to evoke immediate violence.” That’s a reference to Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, a 1942 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court approved criminal penalties for “fighting words.” The defendant in that case, a Jehovah’s Witness who attracted a hostile crowd by denouncing organized religion as a “racket” on the streets of Rochester, New Hampshire, was arrested for calling a city marshal “a goddamned racketeer” and “a damned fascist.” The Court never again used the “fighting words” doctrine to uphold speech restrictions, which is just as well, given the utterly subjective nature of a test that hinges on anticipated emotional reactions to insulting or offensive utterances. In any case, all of the interactions that led to the harassment charges against Raphael Golb took place online, a situation quite different from the in-person encounters the Court evidently was imagining in Chaplinsky.

The Court of Appeals vacated Golb’s three harassment convictions, along with several other convictions based on allegations that did not meet the statutory definitions of those crimes. But it left in place 10 counts of forgery in the third degree and 10 counts of criminal impersonation in the second degree, based on email messages in which Golb pretended to be his father’s academic nemeses. Both of those crimes are Class A misdemeanors.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, disagreeing in part with his six colleagues, said he would have dismissed the entire indictment against Golb. He argues that the criminal impersonation statute is “unconstitutionally broad” and that using the forgery statute to punish the same actions is “similarly objectionable”:

Treating pseudonymous emails as forgeries when they are made with some intent to “injure” in some undefined way is no different than penalizing impersonation in internet communication for the same amorphous purpose. Both treatments give prosecutors power they should not have to determine what speech should and should not be penalized.

Are there no limits, then, to internet harassment?  This ruling would not appear to affect communication that threatens bodily harm to a recipient or his family. But what of some crazy who who disagrees with you and floods your email box with scurrilous lies or posts comments or Facebook postings clearly designed to injure you?

You can block his email and ignore what he says about you elsewhere. The attorney who handled the case for Mr. Golb said it best:

Ronald Kuby, an attorney who was involved in Golb’s defense at an early stage of the case, welcomed the decision as victory for “the demented and dissident, the crazies and the critical, the malcontents and the maladjusted.”

That describes a lot of internet commenters — present company excluded, of course.

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A Millennial Trashes the Class of ’14

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Daily Beast political reporter Olivia Nuzzi, who once interned for Anthony Weiner, has penned a serious tirade directed at her millennial brethren.

The not very subtly titled: “The Oh-So-Fragile Class of 2014 Needs to STFU And Listen to Some New Ideas” — takes millennials to task for their agitation against commencement speakers with which they disagree. She refers to the action by Smith College students to get the school administration to cancel the appearance at commencement of one the most powerful and consequential women in the world — IMF head Christine Lagarde:

The petition—which boasts 483 signatures (less than half of their goal of 1,000)—states that although they “do not wish to disregard all of Ms. Lagarde’s accomplishments” and they “recognize that she is just a good person working in a corrupt system” they do not want to “encourage the values and ideals that the IMF fosters.” As if Smith College has such influence that allowing Lagarde to address its graduating class will have some kind of measurable effect on how people think about the IMF.

On the petition page, a student is quoted as saying she is “utterly disgusted that Smith has chosen to host someone from the IMF, an organization that has proven itself to be nothing but imperialistic, ineffective, and oppressive.”

Because God forbid these delicate students should be exposed to an idea or an organization with which they disagree—at college.

Whether or not you think the IMF is destructive, Lagarde is a powerful woman who has probably managed to do more in her 58 years on the planet than many whole graduating classes accomplish in the entirety of their lives.

You might barely understand opposition to Condi Rice appearing at Rutgers due to the hard left’s position that she’s a war criminal. That might not have a basis in fact, but as an exercise in hysterical, ideological fervor, you might be able to explain their position.

Not so with Lagarde, who heads one of the most powerful organizations in the world. Opposition to her speaking at commencement appears to be centered on the idea that the IMF forces kleptocrats, crooks, crony capitalists, and free spending socialists to tighten their belts and become a responsible government before they receive any funds. This necessarily leads to budget cuts, cuts in the government workforce, reduced pensions, and other offenses against powerful public service unions who would rather blame the IMF (who are trying to save them) than their own government that brought them to the brink in the first place.

Unlike the US government, who loans money to the same crooks and doesn’t necessarily expect it to be repaid, the IMF’s austerity plans are meant to force governments to face the reality that the free ride is over and it’s time to grow up. Countries come to the IMF as a last resort because no responsible central bank in the world would loan them any more money. The kids don’t understand this and Nuzzi hits the nail on the head in explaining why:

Millennials have grown up in a world where you are never forced to see, hear or read anything that you haven’t personally selected. 7,000 TV channels, a DVR to skip commercials, millions of websites—we have been able to curate our own little worlds using technology, wherein nothing unpleasant or offensive can creep in. So when we’re forced to sit through a commercial or, heaven forbid, listen to someone talk who isn’t Mary-freakin’-Poppins, we can’t handle it.

The entire point of college is to be exposed to different things: Different types of people, different ideas—and maybe some of those people will hail from organizations that negatively impacted poor countries, or maybe they were partly responsible for a war that ate up the country’s resources and resulted in human rights abuses and lots of needless death. But if, at the end of your time as an undergrad, you haven’t learned that oftentimes you find great wisdom in shitty people, or just that there might be some value in hearing what someone you don’t like or respect might have to say, what on earth have you learned?

Smith College President Kathleen McCartney, who is apparently the only sane person in the room at that institution. said in a statement that activists had their “desired effect, but at what cost to Smith College?

I want to underscore this fact: An invitation to speak at a commencement is not an endorsement of all views or policies of an individual or the institution she or he leads…I remain committed to leading a college where differing views can be heard and debated with respect.”

Young people are the worst.

Even the appearance of offending is enough to set these kids off. If Lagarde had been able to explain to these kids that, for instance, Greece was forced into draconian budget cuts because the government employed 20% of workers; that pensions and other benefits were literally bankrupting the country; that the Greek government had hidden the extent of their budget deficit and debt from the rest of the EU (with the help of Goldman Sachs); that the rest of the EU had been bankrolling the Greek budget deficit; and that the European Central Bank would only loan the Greek government money if the IMF came on as a partner; don’t you think they would have learned something genuinely valuable?

But millennials put very little stock in learning as a process, preferring to pick and choose what information to “learn” based on whether the source of that information has views that generally comport with their own worldview. It’s this sort of ideological cocoon that Nuzzi is directing her anger and she should be commended for doing so.

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Have Scientists Found the Santa Maria?

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

This gave me chills reading it. The mystery of the resting place of Christopher Columbus’s flagship may have been solved after 500 years.

The Independent is reporting exclusively that archeologists believe they have found the remains of the Santa Maria — the ship that carried Columbus to the New World in 1492.

The key discovery actually occurred in 2003 when archeologists pinpointed Columbus’s first fort in the New World on the coast of Haiti. From there, it was a matter of some brilliant detective work and a careful reading of Columbus’ journal.

“All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship, the Santa Maria,” said the leader of a recent reconnaissance expedition to the site, one of America’s top underwater archaeological investigators, Barry Clifford.

“The Haitian government has been extremely helpful – and we now need to continue working with them to carry out a detailed archaeological excavation of the wreck,” he said.

So far, Mr Clifford’s team has carried out purely non-invasive survey work at the site – measuring and photographing it.

Tentatively identifying the wreck as the Santa Maria has been made possible by quite separate discoveries made by other archaeologists in 2003 suggesting the probable location of Columbus’ fort relatively nearby. Armed with this new information about the location of the fort, Clifford was able to use data in Christopher Columbus’ diary to work out where the wreck should be.

An expedition, mounted by his team a decade ago, had already found and photographed the wreck – but had not, at that stage, realized its probable identity.

It’s a current re-examination of underwater photographs from that initial survey (carried out back in 2003), combined with data from recent reconnaissance dives on the site (carried out by Clifford’s team earlier this month), that have allowed Clifford to tentatively identify the wreck as that of the Santa Maria.

The evidence so far is substantial. It is the right location in terms of how Christopher Columbus, writing in his diary, described the wreck in relation to his fort.

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(The final resting place of the Santa Maria?)

The History Channel is underwriting the dig and may have hit the jackpot. Can you imagine the ratings for a show that tells the story of how they found the Santa Maria? They would at least rival the National Geographic Channel show about the finding of the Titanic.

They may never be able to conclusively prove the wreck is the Santa Maria. There isn’t much left after 500 years. But if they ever do confirm the discovery, it will be one of the most significant historical finds in history.

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Sabato: Surf’s Up, GOP!

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

An interesting chart from UVA professor Larry Sabato that lists various scenarios for the November elections.

“How big a wave” for the GOP?

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Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley’s unkind jab at farmers and Senator Chuck Grassley has made Iowa as competitive as Arkansas. If the right GOP candidate emerges from a very crowded, competitive primary,  Iowa could very well go Republican.

Much depends on President Obama’s approval numbers — which many analysts believe can’t get much better given the moribund economy and late summer-early fall fallout from more Obamacare surprises.  Republicans have to be able to field candidates who can ride the wave– regardless of whether they’re Tea Party or establishment.

If not — wipeout.

 

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Chamber of Commerce Gives Stark Ultimatum to GOP

Monday, May 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Tom Donohue, President of the US Chamber of Commerce, has given an ultimatum to the Republican party; pass immigration reform or don’t bother fielding a candidate for 2016.

Earth to Mr. Donohue: The most recent Pew survey of the most important issues facing the country places immigration reform in 16th place — just behind “reducing the influence of lobbyists” and just ahead of “Dealing with moral breakdown.”

And a Pew/USA Today poll released just a few days ago shows immigration reform finishing dead last as an issue that matters most in 2014. It received 6% of the vote compared to the economy and health care at 27% and 21% respectively.

The American people don’t care about immigration reform. It’s an inside the Beltway issue being pushed by the business community that wants millions more low wage, low skilled workers.

Donohue’s threats are empty:

Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, predicted that Congress would pass immigration legislation this year and said Republicans shouldn’t bother to field a presidential candidate in 2016 if they don’t.

His comments echo warnings from others, including high-profile Republicans, that the GOP cannot win if it does not improve its showing with the fast-growing Latino electorate, and cannot do that without approving an immigration package. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill last summer but it has languished in the GOP-controlled House ever since.

“If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016,” Mr. Donohue said at an event Monday on infrastructure issues. “Think about that. Think about who the voters are. I just did that to get everybody’s attention.” (His comments are at about the one hour mark on this C-Span video.

Some House Republicans have said they want to pass immigration legislation, including legal status and the chance for citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally. But many in the House are loathe to take on an issue the divides the party during an election year.

Mr. Donohue tried to knock down one popular notion that Congress can still tackle the issue next year, ahead of the 2016 election. “We’re absolutely crazy if we don’t take advantage of having passed an immigration bill out of the Senate because going back and doing it again might be harder,” he said.

Many Republicans recognize a need for some immigration reform. Guest workers, visa reforms, even a modified DREAM Act would pass the House. Reasonable people may disagree about immigration reform but the Senate bill that so enamors Mr. Donohue is far from reasonable. The chamber president is starting to sound like Obama when he was trying to get Democrats to pass Obamacare. “We’ve come this far, let’s finish it,” was the president’s message. Look what that got us.

There’s a very good reason why the GOP is so obstreperous when it comes to immigration reform; the Senate bill stinks. There is a huge divide between the House and the Senate regarding what constitutes “immigration reform” and many Republicans — even those who support some kind of reform — don’t trust House Republicans to resist Senate Democrats on the issues of path to citizenship and border security, to name two.

Donohue resorted to wild exaggeration to try and hammer his point home:

Beyond politics, he said stalling on immigration will have economic ramifications. He said immigrants are needed for all sorts of jobs, including health care. “If you don’t do it (pass immigration), you’re going to go to the nursing home and pick up your mother-in-law and bring her home,” he said.

Utter nonsense, and Donohue knows it. If the nursing home is short staff, maybe they’ll have to raise wages to attract workers. Of course, Donohue and the rest of his Business Roundtable friends want new immigrants so they can keep wages low.

And that’s the whole reason for this tirade. It isn’t about improving the GOP’s position with Hispanics. Republicans will get zero credit for helping to pass it and even if Latinos were grateful, how many votes would switch?

This is about Chamber of Commerce members being able to hire ultra-low paid foreign workers — people who will take any job at any wage.

Republicans must find a way to attract more Hispanics to the party, but they’re not going to do it pandering to immigration activists. Convincing Hispanics that Republican policies are ultimately better for them as Americans is what needs to be done, not some fake “outreach” that will legalize millions of people who snuck in through the back door.

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