The obliviousness — or cynicism — of third world thugs and terrorists who are criticizing the United States for torture is beyond belief. Now comes word that those fine respecters of human rights and the rights of the accused — the Taliban — have weighed in on the issue and has harshly condemned the US for its interrogation practices.
A couple of hours earlier, the Taliban had blown up a French cultural center killing 4 innocents and injuring 23.
Among the critics blasting U.S. policy in the wake of a Senate CIA torture report are the Taliban — the same group that routinely carries out suicide attacks, and just on Thursday claimed responsibility for a bombing at a film screening in Kabul that killed at least four people.
The Taliban, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate, released a statement Thursday that said the Senate report “reveals the true face of America.” The report, released Tuesday, said U.S. interrogators used extreme tactics that included simulated drownings, beatings and confinement in coffin-sized boxes in the years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The Taliban said that the alleged abuses in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s long-awaited report are continuing in Afghanistan, and called for the international community to investigate.
Earlier Thursday, the Taliban claimed responsibility after a teenage boy blew himself up in a packed auditorium at a French cultural center in Kabul, where a documentary — about suicide bombers — was being screened. The Taliban also vowed revenge against American forces for the alleged abuses in the CIA torture report.
I’m sure it slipped the Taliban’s mind that they tortured US deserter Bowe Bergdahl when they held him for 5 years.
Those who are protesting the loudest are usually the ones who are guilty of even more horrific acts than a few interrogators at the CIA. Torture is built into the Taliban culture; their punishment for adultery is stoning, arguably generating more terror and pain than the CIA ever caused a terrorist.
Those who live in glass houses…
Don’t look now but the city of Detroit, which has gone through the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history, is poised to regain control of its own destiny.
And that’s very good news for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
To be sure, Detroit’s underlying problems are immense and whether civic leaders have learned anything from the past is open to question. But the city has gotten it’s pension problems under control, it has shed billions in debt, police and fire response times have improved, and there appears to be a new determination among politicians to address problems that previous administrations allowed to fester.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Snyder announced that the emergency manager he appointed to guide the city’s finances through the bankruptcy would be stepping down, giving city fathers control over their budget once again. And it wasn’t lost on observers that Snyder said he wanted to take the message of Detroit’s resurgence on the road next year to “explain the Michigan story to the rest of the country.”
“As we solve these problems, one of the things you find is the perception of an area tends to lag five or 10 years behind the reality of it,” he said. “As we’ve shown the vast improvement over the last few years, now it’s time to start talking about the success in Michigan.”
Although officially the trips are aimed at promoting the local economy, they will also help boost Snyder’s national profile at a time when the emerging 2016 GOP field is anything but settled.
And while Snyder’s uneasiness talking about social issues means he will have a tough time winning the party’s nod — and he’s not taking active steps toward a candidacy — his economic background and success governing a blue state could make him an attractive running mate.
Snyder plays coy when asked if he’ll run for the White House, keeping the door wide open. He says his focus – “right now” – is on launching his second-term initiatives.
“I don’t want to even start that speculation, but you know that there are traditional timelines that people have to look at if they’re looking at those things,” he said. “I’m just focused on being governor right now. I appreciate you asking, though.”
Michigan is a purple state with enough of a blue tinge that the Democratic Senate candidate asked President Barack Obama to come campaign with him, even as most in his party shunned him this year.
Detroit in particular has been a haven for Democrats. Obama won Wayne County — which includes Detroit — by 47 points in 2012.
When Snyder put Detroit into managed bankruptcy, Democrats pushed back. Public employee unions said they would not let allow any cuts to benefits. But the Republican governor, who just won reelection in November by 4 points, worked with local leaders, creditors and the conservative state legislature to strike a so-called “grand bargain.”
Snyder, a former chief executive of Gateway Computers, told POLITICO that the federal government could learn a lot from what he and his allies just accomplished.
Snyder is one of several governors who have emerged in the Obama era as “technocratic Republicans.” Mitt Romney was the most prominent of this new breed of GOP politician, until he tried to rebrand himself as a conservative ideologue.
Basically, the technocrats eschew ideology in favor of conservative pragmatism. Social issues like abortion and gay marriage are downplayed in favor of fiscal conservatism and competent governance. This is a formula that has proven itself successful for Republicans who govern in blue and purple states, which is why Snyder has suddenly gotten some people interested in his chances for 2016.
Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker, Iowa’s Terry Branstad, and Snyder would all be considered second tier presidential candidates if they were to run. But what about the second spot? A strong conservative like Ted Cruz might look very hard at a blue or purple state governor for the vice presidential slot. Not so much to “balance” the ticket but because their statewide organizations would be of great help in getting out the Republican vote in the general election.
But who knows? By 2016, Detroit might be in big trouble again and people will have forgotten Rick Snyder’s role in saving it. And it’s not like the GOP doesn’t have enough candidates already. Snyder isn’t even the most prominent RINO who would be entering the race.
Given all of that, Snyder will probably pass on running in 2016.
Senator Elizabeth Warren is bat guano crazy. She is calling on Democrats in the House to oppose the bi-partisan budget bill negotiated by the House and Senate because an obscure rule dealing with derivatives contained in the Dodd-Frank financial regulation reform bill has been removed.
If House Democrats follow her lead, the budget bill will fail and the government will be forced to shut down at 12:01 AM on Friday. At present, Speaker Boehner does not have enough votes for Republicans to pass the measure themselves. That’s because some conservatives in the House are also bat guano crazy and insist they can defund the president’s immigration orders, despite a majority of Democrats in the Senate and a certain veto from President Obama, even if they could somehow get the measure through the upper body.
I have yet to hear one right-winger explain just how defunding can work under these circumstances. Do they plan to hypnotize 15 Democratic senators and, through the power of suggestion, get them to vote for the provision defunding the immigration executive orders? Maybe they don’t know that President Obama has to sign the bill for them to achieve victory. Lacking a coherent plan, their futile gesture will fail and make them look, well, crazy.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Democrats in the House to use their leverage and reject a bipartisan spending bill to keep the government open until a measure tucked inside rolling back a piece of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law is removed.
“Who does Congress work for?” Warren said in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon. “Does it work for the millionaires, the billionaires, the giant companies with their armies of lobbyists and lawyers, or does it work for all the people?”
Warren’s call went further than House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said Wednesday that she is “deeply troubled” by the banking measure. The Democratic discontent with the measure could make passing the bill more difficult, as House Speaker John Boehner is not expected to have enough votes on his own.
(Also on POLITICO: Coburn threatens spending deal over defense bill)
Warren, a popular figure on the left, told Democrats to withhold their support for the funding bill until the Wall Street provisions are removed. Warren, a fierce opponent of Wall Street, is a populist who has supported reforming banks for years.
“Now, the House of Representatives is about to show us the worst of government for the rich and powerful,” she continued. “The House is about to vote on a budget deal, a deal negotiated behind closed doors that slips in a provision that would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.”
She acknowledged that bipartisan House and Senate negotiators have worked “long and hard” on the spending bill, and that Senate leadership “deserve great credit for preventing the House from carrying out some of their more aggressive … fantasies about dismantling even more pieces of financial reform.”
Note: The amendment to Dodd-Frank would mostly help farmers and other commodity producers.
Some House conservatives want to join with liberal House Democrats to assure a government shutdown. They probably wouldn’t admit it, but that is the practical effect of their plans. But for rabid ideologues of the right and left, “practical” is just another word for “cowardice.”
Outgoing Colorado Senator Mark Udall took to the floor of the Senate to skewer the Obama administration and the CIA over the CIA torture report, at one point calling for a “purge” of the CIA and accusing the agency of continuing to lie.
Udall didn’t stop there. He discussed the findings of a classified report known as the Panetta Review, claiming that the administration was keeping the document from the Senate.
He also called for the resignation of current CIA chief John Brennan:
In a career-defining speech, Sen. Mark Udall took to the Senate floor Wednesday to discuss a largely classified internal CIA investigation into the agency’s Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and to call for the current CIA director’s resignation.
Udall, an outbound Democrat from Colorado, began highlighting key conclusions from the CIA’s so-called Panetta Review, written in 2011 and named after then-agency Director Leon Panetta. Its critical findings, in addition to the agency’s attempts to prevent the Senate from seeing it, Udall said, demonstrates that the CIA is still lying about the scope of enhanced-interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration.
That deceit is continuing today under current CIA Director John Brennan, Udall said.
“The refusal to provide the full Panetta Review and the refusal to acknowledge facts detailed in both the committee study and the Panetta Review lead to one disturbing finding: Director Brennan and the CIA today are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture.”
Obama, Udall said, “has expressed full confidence in Director Brennan and demonstrated that trust by making no effort at all to rein him in.” Udall additionally referred to Brennan’s “failed leadership” and suggested that he should resign.
Udall said that redactions in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark torture report obfuscated key details about the CIA’s harsh interrogation methods. Among those, Udall said, the report is ambiguous about how many CIA officials participated in the brutal practices. In reality, it was only a handful, he said.
As he spoke, Udall continued to give a blistering and detailed account of the CIA leadership’s and its refusal to come clean with the American people on the Bush-era program. Udall accused the CIA of outright lying to the committee during its investigation.
“Torture just didn’t happen, after all,” Udall said. “Real, actual people engaged in torture. Some of these people are still employed by the CIA.”
Udall said it was bad enough not to prosecute these officials, but to reward or promote them, he said, was incomprehensible. Udall called on Obama “to purge” his administration of anyone who was engaged in torturing prisoners.
“He needs to force a cultural change at the CIA,” Udall said.
And, Udall said, the institutional problems are far from over. “CIA was knowingly providing inaccurate information to the committee in the present day,” he said.
One of the signature parts of the Affordable Care Act was the expansion of Medicaid to those earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level (about $32,900 for a family of 4 in 2014). Originally, all states were required to adopt this expansion. But the Supreme Court decision in June, 2012 that declared the individual mandate legal also struck down the mandatory expansion of Medicaid and made state participation in the program voluntary. Subsequently, 26 states and the District of Columbia adopted the expansion.
The federal government promised the states to pay 100% of the bill for those participating in the expanded Medicaid program through 2016. In 2017, the feds promised to pay 95% through 2019. And in 2020 and forever after, 90%.
Medicaid expansion is a success story for Obamacare — sort of. Although more than 9 million Americans took advantage of the expansion to sign up for Medicaid, an already broken program is now being threatened with collapse due to the massive increase in demand for services. The reason? There just aren’t enough doctors and hospitals out there willing to accept the far below market reimbursements for services. And now, a new report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services reveals just how bad the problem of finding a doctor is for new Medicaid patients.
Large numbers of doctors who are listed as serving Medicaid patients are not available to treat them, federal investigators said in a new report.
“Half of providers could not offer appointments to enrollees,” the investigators said in the report, which will be issued on Tuesday.
Many of the doctors were not accepting new Medicaid patients or could not be found at their last known addresses, according to the report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. The study raises questions about access to care for people gaining Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
The health law is fueling rapid growth in Medicaid, with enrollment up by nine million people, or 16 percent, in the last year, the department said. Most of the new beneficiaries are enrolled in private health plans that use a network of doctors to manage their care.
Patients select doctors from a list of providers affiliated with each Medicaid health plan. The investigators, led by the inspector general, Daniel R. Levinson, called doctors’ offices and found that in many cases the doctors were unavailable or unable to make appointments.
More than one-third of providers could not be found at the location listed by a Medicaid managed-care plan.
“In these cases,” Mr. Levinson said, “callers were sometimes told that the practice had never heard of the provider, or that the provider had practiced at the location in the past but had retired or left the practice. Some providers had left months or even years before the time of the call.”
About 8 percent of providers were at the locations listed, but said they did not participate in the Medicaid health plan with which they were supposedly affiliated. Another 8 percent participated in Medicaid, but were not accepting new patients.
“When providers listed as participating in a plan cannot offer appointments, it may create a significant obstacle for an enrollee seeking care,” Mr. Levinson said. “Moreover, it raises questions about the adequacy of provider networks. It suggests that the actual size of provider networks may be considerably smaller than what is presented by Medicaid managed-care plans.”
Investigators called 1,800 providers listed by more than 200 health plans under contract with Medicaid in 32 states. In all cases, insurers confirmed that the doctors were supposed to be taking Medicaid patients.
You might ask why states aren’t jumping to take the deal offered by Washington. Usually, a state splits the cost of Medicaid 50-50 with the federal government. So when the feds offer to reimburse states for 90-100% of Medicaid costs, you’d think it was an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Some GOP governors couldn’t refuse. But those governors that declined to receive the Medicaid expansion cash did so for good reason; Washington “guarantees” on funding are not set in stone. Congress could cut the reimbursement amount and leave states holding the bag. States would then be forced to either cut physician reimbursement rates further or trim the Medicaid rolls. Neither option is palatable, but is the probable future of those states that accepted the expansion.
So, a program already teetering because physicians were opting out of Medicaid networks or refusing to take new patients at all, finds itself becoming even more dysfunctional as millions of new enrollees enter the system and are having a difficult time finding a doctor to treat them.
One option being proposed — whispered by Obamacare proponents — is to force doctors to take Medicaid patients. If you can mandate that individuals buy insurance, why not mandate that doctors take Medicaid patients? It’s this sort of illogic that got Obamacare passed in the first place and will ultimately lead to a complete takeover by government of the health care system.
US embassies around the world are bracing for violence as the Obama administration is set to release a 500-page report on interrogation techniques used by the CIA to get intelligence from terrorists following the attacks on 9/11.
If I were an American traveling in a Muslim country today, I would find a very deep hole to hide in and ride out the storm of protests and attacks that is sure to follow this report’s release. That’s because the people who dance in the streets when an American gets his head lopped off by their co-religionists are going to throw a tantrum over depriving a terrorist of sleep.
To be sure, this report is no Pentagon Papers, which were stolen and then published by the New York Times. The report is based on a much larger 6,000 page classified study. The similarity between the two is that the authors never expected their work to see the light of day.
Despite the threat board blinking red all over the world, the report is going to be released anyway. And Republicans are up in arms about it.
Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, spoke out in a statement Monday after lawmakers and Obama administration officials warned that releasing the report could lead to a backlash against Americans around the world.
Rubio and Risch called the choice to release the report a “partisan effort” by Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, saying the report is not “serious or constructive.”
“We are concerned that this release could endanger the lives of Americans overseas, jeopardize U.S. relations with foreign partners, potentially incite violence, create political problems for our allies, and be used as a recruitment tool for our enemies,” the senators said. “Simply put, this release is reckless and irresponsible.”
The lawmakers spoke out as alleged new details of the report, which is expected to be released Tuesday, began to emerge. The 480-page report, a summary of a still-classified 6,000 page study, amounts to the first public accounting of the CIA’s alleged use of torture on suspected Al Qaeda detainees held in secret facilities in Europe and Asia in the years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Reuters reported Monday night that the report contains graphic details about the techniques, including sexual threats made to detainees.
According to Reuters, the report describes how at least one detainee was threatened in a sexual manner with a broomstick. In another example, Reuters reported, a detained Al Qaeda operative was threatened with a buzzing power drill.
U.S. officials who have read the report say it includes disturbing new details about the CIA’s use of such techniques as sleep deprivation, confinement in small spaces, humiliation and the simulated drowning process known as waterboarding.
A former CIA officer told Fox News Monday that the agency’s techniques led to helpful intelligence. The former officer noted that once accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s will was broken, he generated more than 2,000 intelligence reports.
In addition, three former CIA officers from the program told Fox News that they believe the Senate report seeks to minimize intelligence that led the U.S. to Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti– Usama bin Laden’s trusted courier.
Another former officer told Fox News that the CIA was encouraged by lawmakers “to do whatever it takes” to prevent another attack on the scale of Sept. 2001. The former officer said that Hill leadership was briefed more than three dozen times before the program was shuttered.
So some of the very same Democrats who will bemoan what’s in this report sat in a committee room and listened to some of the details of the interrogations without saying a word.
Is threatening sodomy with a broomstick and threatening to use a power drill on a terrorist the same as actually using the broomstick and power drill? The fact that our enemies wouldn’t hesitate to use either torture technique — and with great glee — is apparently lost in translation.
I’m sure there’s a good reason to risk American lives and the damage to our international standing by releasing this report. I just can’t think of one at the moment. Has there been a domestic outcry from all sides to get this report out? Haven’t heard it. Is there an international crisis that will improve with the publication of this report? Can’t think of one.
Will it make President Obama a hero to the rabid dog left? Well…there’s that, of course.
This sort of self-flagellation is good for us, we are instructed. It is absolutely imperative that the American people be told of what their government does in secret to terrorists, we are lectured.
But why the excruciating detail? I suppose the nature of torture makes it necessary to fill in some blanks, but why the PR campaign in advance of publication?
If laws were broken — domestic or international — the perpetrators should be tried in an American court and sent to jail if found guilty. But why the public secret spilling? We keep hearing that we can try terrorists in civil court because our legal system can adopt to the secret nature of much of the evidence against them. We can’t do the same for American citizens charged with torturing prisoners?
There is no good or compelling reason to release this report now, if at all. I question the motives of those on the left who seek to air our dirty laundry and who piously proclaim they’re only seeking the truth. If it is truth you seek, read the Bible, or the Koran, or the Hindu Bhagavad Gita. The human, transient truth regarding actions the United States took after the horrific attacks of 9/11 is far more complicated and deserves more consideration than those who want this report released because it will lay America low in the world and justify their hatred of their own country.
If one American dies because of this report’s release, their blood will be on the hands of the Obama administration and their supporters who would sacrifice innocent lives in service to their political agenda.
I wept when I read this news today:
2006 was the year Twitter debuted and Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status. It was also the last time French Toast Crunch cereal was for sale in U.S. stores.
Now, General Mills has given the sugar-blasted breakfast treat new life, announcing its return to supermarket shelves after an eight-year hiatus.
The distinctive “little toast-shaped, maple-flavored bites of deliciousness,” as General Mills describes them, were survived by their sister cereal Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
General Mills said it was responding to demand by relaunching French Toast Crunch.
But it also wants to ride a wave of nostalgia: Children who ate the cereal in the mid-to-late 1990s are now in their 20s and buying cereal themselves.
For now, French Toast Crunch is available in only a limited number of grocery stores, but it will be available nationally in January.
While French Toast Crunch was discontinued in the U.S., it has been available in Canada; in French-speaking parts, it sells as “Croque Pain Doré.” Devotees ordered the cereal online from there, but General Mills said “the shipping fees were often steep” and only “a lucky few” could score a supply.
French Toast Crunch cereal should be a separate food group. The blast of maple flavor, along with a sublime consistency that holds up very well when milk is added, makes the product far more than a run-of-the-mill breakfast cereal. French Toast Crunch can be eaten for lunch, for dinner, as a snack right out of the box, and is particularly attractive if you run string through individual pieces and wrap around a Christmas tree.
Of course, even “part of a complete breakfast,” French Toast Crunch is unsuitable for children. The sugar rush will have them bouncing off the walls to begin the day, and then falling asleep in the middle of class when it wears off. So if you want to enjoy it, make sure they don’t see it and place it on a shelf beyond their reach.
But for discriminating adults, you can’t beat it. I had a friend who substituted beer for the milk and swore he was in heaven.
Now if I can only get Sue to buy it for me so I can get her hooked on it too.
Six detainees from the prison at Guantanamo were transferred yesterday to Uruguay, where they will be released and treated as “refugees.”
House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers, appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, wondered whether the Pentagon is really performing “due diligence” when considering the release of those accused of being terrorists.
“I’ve been opposed to this notion that we’re going to farm out Gitmo to places,” Rogers told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union,” noting most of the detainees sent to Uruguay are not originally from there.
According to Rogers, the foreign intelligence services the United States pays to monitor the newly released detainees in countries such as Uruguay are often ill-equipped to handle the job.
“What we have found in the past is it doesn’t work very well,” he said. “I don’t think that surprises anybody. So I argue that maybe we ought to rethink what we’re doing here.”
Rogers: Torture report will cause deaths
Echoing the sentiments of many members of Congress, Rogers said some previously released prisoners are now re-engaged in the terrorist fight.
Hostages killed in failed rescue attempt
“We knew that was going to happen,” Rogers said. “That’s why those of us who were trying to do the review of this were so concerned, because they were so interested in getting them out, that they forgot to do the due diligence — I think — that would allow them to at least protect those that were going to go back into the fight, from getting back into the fight.”
Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who recently announced his resignation in light of administrative pressure, authorized the prisoner release, according to the Pentagon. His reluctance to approve the mission until now could have been a part of the tension leading to his resignation.
But House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff, D-California, defended Hagel’s decision to delay the authorization of the mission, citing his continued concerns over the timing of the prisoner release.
“There were a couple of things I think Secretary Hagel had some continued concerns over,” Schiff said on CNN’s “Newsroom.” “He wanted to make sure that he was satisfied that he could sign on the dotted line.”
Schiff pointed to Uruguay’s recent presidential election as one of the roadblocks.
“There was an election taking place in Uruguay, and I think the president — who agreed to accept these detainees — didn’t want it to be an issue in the presidential campaign,” Schiff said. “And so it was stayed until after that election was over.”
The Pentagon has tried to track the released terrorists to find out how many rejoin terrorist groups. Their latest figures show about 8% of detainees released since 2009 have re-entered the fight against America. Before that, the figure was over 32%.
What these numbers don’t show is how many released detainees have been providing material support to terrorists. Some of them may not have picked up a gun, but are assisting our enemies in other ways. Some government officials put that number a lot higher than 8%.
Of course, statistics mean little unless it’s your loved one killed in a terrorist attack carried out or planned by a former Gitmo inmate.
We are paying the Uruguayan government to monitor these former detainees, which, as Rogers points out, doesn’t often work well. Consider the Taliban 5, released in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl. The US government apparently has no knowledge of whether the Qatari government is keeping track of them as promised. And as trained terrorists, those released to Uruguay may be able to evade that country’s intelligence agencies.
This is a bad idea all around, and further transfers should be scrutinized by Congress.
MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry hosts one of the lowest-rated shows on television. This is no surprise given the tiresome twaddle she and her liberal guests spout on every show.
You may recall an ad for her show that aired last year, telling us we have “to break through our kind of private idea” that raising children is the responsibility of parents:
…we’ve always had a private notion of children, your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children. So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.
This sort of nonsense would get any run-of-the-mill TV host escorted out the door. But MSNBC has a small problem with the “diversity” of its TV lineup, and firing an African American woman would shrink their miniscule audience of fanatical liberals even more.
No matter. We can count on Harris-Perry to say something off the wall on a regular basis. And on Saturday, she didn’t disappoint our expectations.
Speaking of the civil disturbances surrounding the protests against the Ferguson grand jury decision, Harris-Perry offered up this little gem of wisdom:
HEAD (Michael Brown’s stepfather): “Burn this b*** down! Burn this mother f***er down!”
HARRIS-PERRY: “That night, some in Ferguson committed acts of arson, vandalism and theft and by the next day twelve commercial buildings in the city have been destroyed by the fire. And let me also just point out, arson and looting, while illegal and not things that I support and I think also counterproductive in many ways, are also not necessarily violence in that they are they are violence against property, and that does actually carry a legal difference, right? I mean, violence against property ought to be different than violence against bodies?”
NELSON: “Certainly harming a human being is worse than burning down a building.”
HARRIS-PERRY: “Right, it should be, right?”
Harris-Perry tries her best to bend over backwards to say that she doesn’t “support” violence and that in “many ways” violence is “counterproductive” — implying that in some ways, it is productive.
But it sure sounds an awful lot like she’s trying to excuse the arson and looting, doesn’t it? I mean, no one got hurt so it’s OK, right?
The differentiation between violence against people and violence against property is a false one. Violence is an action. Its definition does not depend on who or what it is directed against. The act of setting a building on fire is a violent act. The act of smashing a window is a violent act. The act of looting is a violent act in that an object with monetary value is taken by force.
Harris-Perry is trying to advance a political agenda by minimizing the mayhem that broke out in Ferguson after the grand jury decision. It may assuage her conscience and the conscience of those who agree with her to comfort themselves with the knowledge that no one was killed as a result of the actions of arsonists, looters, and vandals. But to make a case that what went on in Ferguson the night the protestors tried to burn the town down was not “violent” is dishonest and hypocritical.
Planes apparently belonging to Israel struck two targets near the Syrian capital of Damascus on Sunday. Both the Syrian military and the opposition group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced the attacks but differed on the targets struck.
There were no reports of casualties in the reports, but the general command of the Syrian army said in a statement that several facilities had been hit, both at the Damascus International Airport and in the area of Dimas.
According to the reports, the Israeli air force flew at least 10 sorties over the Dimas area and attacked several military targets. Residents of Damascus reported hearing loud explosions on the outskirts of the city.
Al-Mayadeen, a pan-Arab television channel that is regarded as being close to both Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, reported that Syrian anti-aircraft batteries stationed at the airport had fired two missiles at the planes during the attack.
Israeli officials have neither confirmed nor denied the reports and it is unclear how reliable they are.
“This aggression proves Israel’s direct involvement in supporting terror in Syria, along with other Arab and regional countries,” the Syrian military command said..
“The Israeli attack was designed to lift the morale of the terror groups, primarily Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State, after the blows they have received from the Syrian army.”
Lebanese sources that the Israeli air force had been flying over southern Lebanon since Sunday morning. It was not specified whether the planes entered Syrian air space or fired from within Lebanese air space.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a planned live video broadcast on Sunday evening due to “events in Jerusalem.” The premier made do with a short, pre-recorded speech to the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, being held in Washington.
Earlier, during the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that Israel “is following the Middle East and what is happening very closely, with wide open eyes and ears – and a lot is happening.
CNN reports that last October, the Israeli air force struck targets suspected of transferring sophisticated missiles to Hezbollah:
In October, Israeli warplanes struck a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia, an Obama administration official told CNN.
The target, according to the official, was missiles and related equipment the Israelis feared might be transferred to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah. The official declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information.
Asked for comment on that strike, an Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman told CNN, “We don’t refer to foreign reports.”
In May of 2013, Israeli jets hit the same airport in Dimas, destroying a shipment of Iranian missiles bound for Hezbollah. It seems more than possible that the Israeli attack today was to interdict weapons bound for Israel’s enemies.
Protests in Berkeley, California, against the Ferguson and Eric Garner grand jury decisions turned violent as several dozen protestors hurled objects at police and vandalized stores near the campus.
Police were forced to use smoke, tear gas and rubber bullets to keep the unruly crowd under control.
During the chaos, several protestors were injured, including Cindy Pincus, an intern at a local church:
She shared her account of what happened with Berkeleyside, and said she is at the hospital and receiving staples to treat her injury.
“The police began walking forward and in 2-3 seconds were pressed up against us with their batons held parallel between them and us. I shouted ‘Be calm, be calm, we’re peaceful!’ And they kept walking forward. I looked to the left and a police officer had begun jabbing a protester with the end of his baton. I turned around to retreat and passed a woman who had fallen and was being trampled. I bent down to pick her up under one armpit while another woman grabbed her other arm. As we were lifting her backwards I saw an officer raise his baton over my shoulder and was struck on the back of the head as I was bent forward. My vision momentarily blacked out and I saw stars. I put my hand to the back of my head and started running. I felt a welt rise immediately and blood ran down my neck and covered my hand.”
A local photographer took pictures of the violence and acts of vandalism — until the rioters saw him and surrounded him:
Lurie told Berkeleyside: “The vast majority of people there were peaceful, but a small group (5-15 people) of black bloc / anarchist agitators continually engaged in acts of vandalism, including tagging buildings with spray paint, breaking windows, and overturning trash cans. I had photographs of these acts, but some in the group saw me taking pictures, at which point I was surrounded and forced to delete all my pictures. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had refused, but I definitely felt physically threatened.”
This account from the Berkeley police suggests there were considerably more violent protestors than “5-15″ troublemakers:
Berkeley Police say splinter groups caused the peaceful protest to turn violent tonight. In a release issued around 11:45 p.m., BPD spokesperson Officer Jenn Coats said splinter groups broke off and began hurling bricks, pipe, smoke grenades, and other missiles at officers. “Numerous officers were struck, and one officer was struck with a large sandbag, and treated at a local hospital for a dislocated shoulder,” she wrote. “These splinter groups also ran through several Berkeley neighborhoods vandalizing cars and breaking windows and looting businesses.”…”Berkeley Police used smoke and tear gas after crowds refused to disperse and continued to vandalize local businesses and pelt officers with rocks, bottles, and pipes. Numerous police vehicles were vandalized as the crowd moved through the south campus area.” … Coats said BPD was being supported by more than 100 officers from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, police from Oakland, Pleasanton, Hayward, and Alameda, as well as from California Highway Patrol and the BART Police Department.”
An account from the San Jose Mercury News:
An officer suffered minor injuries as a protest in downtown Berkeley on Saturday evening became unruly and police made efforts to disperse the growing crowd.
Police deployed smoke, rubber bullets and flares in an effort to disrupt the march, which turned from peaceful to aggressive around 6 p.m. when protesters began fighting and looting businesses — including a Trader Joe’s grocery story on University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
“They fired rubber bullets and some smoke grenades,” said Tawanda Kanhema, a video journalist who was on the street in front of Trader Joe’s. “No one was injured, as far as I could tell,” said Kanhema, who estimated there were at least 1,500 protesters and 100 law enforcement personnel.
Police announced early Sunday that six people were arrested, one of them a juvenile. Police did not have a list of the charges they will face.
Berkeley police Officer Byron White said on Twitter that the demonstrators were also releasing gas into the crowd.
Several people on social media posted pictures of smashed windows at Trader Joe’s and officers in riot gear surrounding the doors while shoppers inside waited to exit.
Clearly, the vast majority of protestors were peaceful — at least, by Berkeley standards. Trying to goad a policeman into reacting precipitously might not constitute a “violent” act, but it certainly can’t be considered “peaceful” in the truest sense of the word.
Nevertheless, the police showed admirable restraint for the most part and the violence was contained.
The least surprising contest of the 2014 midterms is over. Rep. Bill Cassidy ran a mistake-free campaign and massively outspent incumbent Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu to win the runoff election by 56% to 44%.
Landrieu was abandoned by the entire Democratic Party establishment, including the Democratic National Committee that pulled nearly $2 million in ad buys from her campaign a few days before the November election.
Politico reports on the raw numbers:
Landrieu publicly criticized the party for giving up on her, and she asked female colleagues to try cajoling DSCC leaders to reverse their decision.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee also scaled back its buys after the Democrats pulled out but still spent around $1 million in the runoff. Also spending around $1 million were American Crossroads, Freedom Partners and the National Rifle Association. Ending Spending, the conservative group, spent $1.7 million on TV ads and direct voter contact.
The Republican National Committee said it spent $2.9 million on the ground game, including an effort to test new tactics it wants to try during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The main outside group helping Landrieu on TV during the runoff was the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which spent a paltry $123,000.
In total, outside groups supporting Landrieu aired about 100 TV ads, compared to more than 6,000 commercials from anti-Landrieu groups.
Before the November election, Landrieu’s campaign aggressively reached out to the African-American community, which is about one-third of the electorate. But they did so carefully to avoid linking the senator too closely with Obama.
During the runoff, the campaign became much less cautious. Her chief of staff was caught on hidden camera bragging to a predominantly African-American crowd that his boss votes with Obama 97 percent of the time and would continue to — a statistic already being cited in Republican attack ads.
Also believing the runoff was ultimately a base election, Cassidy focused on winning over conservatives who didn’t vote for him in the first round. The Friday after the election, Cassidy took fellow Republican Rob Maness, who won 14 percent of the vote in the primary, to dinner at Ye Olde College Inn in New Orleans. Maness agreed to endorse Cassidy at a unity rally the following Monday.
The phones were ringing off the hook at Cassidy campaign headquarters with top-flight surrogates, including potential presidential candidates, trying to help so they could claim some credit for an anticipated win. Among those who campaigned on the ground were Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), along with former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), neurologist Ben Carson and Sen.-elect Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sent fundraising emails, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush headlined a high-dollar fundraiser in Washington this week.
Landrieu brought in a handful of lesser-known Senate colleagues. Hillary Clinton hosted a fundraiser for her at the start of this week, but it was in New York City.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (no relation) told the crowd at Cassdy’s victory speech something that should depress national Democrats:
Republicans now control every Senate seat, governor’s mansion and legislative body from the Texas high plains to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas.
I remember a lot of political obits written about Republicans over the years, most recently the “death” of the GOP in the Northeast. Today, the NERPs are on the rise and running highly competitive races from New England to the Mid-Atlantic states.
So as you read all the stories bemoaning the downfall of Democrats in the South, you would do well to understand that eventually — probably not in the immediate future — the Democrats will be back and competitive again in the South. The deadwood has been swept away and new, younger Democrats who understand how to reach out to Southern voters will rise.
How successful they’ll be will depend on whether they’ve learned the lessons lost on their elders who badly misread what ordinary people care about.
One of the most powerful and feared men in China has been kicked out of the Communist party and arrested on corruption charges.
The former head of China’s domestic sercurity apparatus, Zhou Yongkang, has been charged with numerous counts including bribery, plundering government assets, and leaking official secrets.
The announcement signaled the biggest move yet in Mr. Xi’s two-year campaign to curb graft and malfeasance in the party hierarchy. Mr. Zhou, 72, became the first member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee, retired or active, to face criminal investigation in a corruption case. The state news media celebrated the decision as a confirmation that Mr. Xi was serious about cleaning up officialdom.
Continue reading the main story
“Corruption is a cancer that has invaded the party’s healthy tissue,” an editorial in People’s Daily, the party’s main newspaper, said Saturday. “We must use investigating and dealing with Zhou Yongkang’s grave violations to thoroughly advance the struggle against corruption.”
The decision by the Communist Party Politburo, a council of 25 senior officials, to expel Mr. Zhou and place him under a legal investigation made it all but certain that he would face trial, conviction and a heavy sentence from one of the party-run courts that were once part of his political fief.
The official Xinhua news agency, which issued the announcement, said the Politburo made the decision on Friday.
“Zhou Yongkang’s actions were totally in contravention of the party’s essence and mission,” said the report, citing the Politburo decision. “This has severely damaged the party’s image, and brought major damage to the affairs of the party and the people.”
Separately, China’s top prosecution office, or procuratorate, which handles corruption inquiries, said that Mr. Zhou had been arrested. The office did not provide details of the charges.
Until now under Mr. Xi, the Communist Party anticorruption agency has investigated dozens of powerful officials, including Xu Caihou, a former People’s Liberation Army commander who confessed to taking enormous bribes, according to the official news media. But none of these fallen officials were as formidable as Mr. Zhou.
Mr. Zhou stepped down from power in November 2012, at the same congress that appointed Mr. Xi the party’s leader. For five years starting in 2007, Mr. Zhou held a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, and at the same time ran a committee overseeing the police and domestic security forces, as well as courts, prosecutors and prisons.
What’s incredible about this story is not only the fact that Xi would arrest such a powerful person, but the fortune amassed by Zhou must be astronomical:
His son landed contracts to sell equipment to state oil fields and thousands of filling stations across China. His son’s mother-in-law held stakes in pipelines and natural gas pumps from Sichuan Province in the west to the southern isle of Hainan. And his sister-in-law, working from one of Beijing’s most prestigious office buildings, invested in mines, property and energy projects.
In thousands of pages of corporate documents describing these ventures, the name that never appears is his own: Zhou Yongkang, the formidable Chinese Communist Party leader who served as China’s top security official and the de facto boss of its oil industry.
But President Xi Jinping has targeted Mr. Zhou in an extraordinary corruption inquiry, a first for a Chinese party leader of Mr. Zhou’s rank, and put his family’s extensive
Even by the cutthroat standards of Chinese politics, it is a bold maneuver. The finances of the families of senior leaders are among the deepest and most politically delicate secrets in China. The party has for years followed a tacit rule that relatives of the elite could prosper from the country’s economic opening, which rewarded loyalty and helped avert rifts in the leadership.
Crony capitalism, nepotistic capitalism — is this America’s future? Obviously, there are laws against this kind of corruption in China. But if the law is ignored or applied differently depending on your party loyalty or family ties, you get the kind of society that has made Chinese citizens cynical and angry.
Yes it could happen here. Liberals would blame capitalism. But clearly, the fault lies with the character of leaders that are elected or, in the case of China, appointed. Weakening the delicate fabric of law that has made us strong in the past, and prevented the kind of corruption we see in China, will only serve to hasten the day when politicians and their cronies will become so ensconced in power that it will be difficult to remove them.
We should be used to the fawning adoration of Barack and Michelle Obama by now. It may not be as intense or as widespread as it used to be, but this story shows that Obama worship is still alive in some corners of the land.
A film is in the works that will depict the “legendary” romance of Barack and Michelle Obama. The movie will center on the early days of their romance, including a re-enactment of their “epic” first date.
Bringing this romantic drama to the screen will be an indie film company, Homegrown Pictures, and will star Get On Up’s Tika Sumpter as the young Michelle Robinson. No actor has been chosen to play Barack yet, which is probably just as well. Only a larger-than-life actor like Heston or Eastwood could possibly portray such an iconic figure.
From Deadline Hollywood:
As Presidential lore has it, the date took some convincing. Obama, then an idealistic first-year Harvard Law student, took a summer job as an associate at Chicago law firm Sidley Austin where he fell for lawyer Michelle Robinson, his younger boss. Southside With You spans the day she agreed to go out with him when the two visited the Art Institute, took a long walk, and caught a showing of Spike Lee’s new film, Do The Right Thing. They were married in 1992.
Richard Tanne (Worst Friends, The Roman) is helming the indie feature from his own screenplay, and former Warner Independent exec Tracey Bing and Columbia Pictures alum Stephanie Allain (Hustle & Flow, Beyond The Lights) are producing for Allain’s Homegrown Pictures. The project originated with Tanne and Sumpter, who developed the script together and will executive produce. Filming is set to begin in July on location in Chicago.
“I took her to this new movie that everybody was talking about, directed by a guy that not that many people had heard of, but it was supposed to be pretty good,” Obama recalled during the film’s 25th anniversary celebration this summer. The site of the Obamas’ first kiss – curbside, outside a Baskin-Robbins in Chicago’s Hyde Park – was commemorated with a city plaque in 2012.
The inscription on that plaque is all that any Obamabot could hope for. It’s a quote from the president’s interview that appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine:
On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate.
That’s very nice. I’d hate to read a plaque describing my first date with my ex-wife. It would come with an “R” rating. And that’s after it was cleaned up.
Facing almost certain political extinction, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu appears to have retreated into her own private world of delusion and denial, telling a local radio host that Obamacare was not the president’s “signature legislation” and questioning whether the local radio host interviewing her could read.
Her disdain for the host was probably due to the fact that he is a well-known Tea Party conservative. Jeff Crouere was relentless in his questioning and Landrieu eventually hung up on the host before the first segment was over.
It marked a sad end to a campaign that the incumbent was destined to lose anyway.
Crouere began by asking her why she had been absent for so long, to which she apologized — albeit awkwardly — and then countered that “I’ve been looking for you as well.”
The first question of substance was on why Landrieu gave a decisive vote in favor of Obamacare, since Crouere sees it as the death knell to her career in the US Senate. After she responded for 50 seconds, acknowledging that the law had flaws but diverting attention to Hurricane Katrina aid, he gently interjected, “well, right,” but he could not get another word in.
“Hold on, Jeff,” she said curtly. “You asked me a question. Let me finish.”
After Crouere then suggested that her loyalty to Obamacare and the president had placed her in a vulnerable position, she let loose, and not in a way likely to score points with the listeners.
“Let me just tell you something. I am really sorry you’re a part of the Tea Party, because they’re taking this country in the wrong direction.”
She then went on to compare Obamacare to Social Security and Medicare, two other fiscal train wrecks that apparently she sees as monumental and admirable. But Crouere countered that it “has killed [her] campaign.”
Then came an exchange that can only be termed bizarre:
LANDRIEU: “I voted for the Affordable Care Act. I did not vote for Obama. I voted for the Affordable Care Act for Louisiana —“
NN HOST: “His signature legislation.”
LANDRIEU: “That isn’t a truth.”
NN HOST: “That’s his signature legislation. His number one accomplishment.”
LANDRIEU: “That is such baloney! You know what his signature legislation was?”
NN HOST: “I think it’s ObamaCare.”
LANDRIEU: “Jeff, you are smart enough. Jeff.”
NN HOST: “That’s his number one. When the history books are written they gonna say ObamaCare in the first paragraph, senator, you know that.”
LANDRIEU: “Jeff. Jeff. Where did you go to high school?”
NN HOST: “Del Sol.”
LANDRIEU: “OK. The brothers at Del Sol would teach you to read. Do you know what his signature education, I mean his signature healthcare plan was? It was single payer.”
Calling the observation that Obamacare is the president’s signature legislation “baloney” is indicative of a politician in total denial. She is so desperate to separate herself from the president in the final hours of the campaign that she attempts to change history — or, at least, posit an alternative universe where she’s almost saying “Barack who?”.
Right before she hung up on the host, she had this to say in response to a question about fraudulent ballots cast on her behalf:
“Love you man, love your family. Jeff, take care.”
She did accept one more question from Crouere, but it was regarding an allegation of fraudulent votes in her favor, so there was no let up.
“It is such an insult for you and your listeners to claim that black people in the state, or African-Americans, cannot cast votes honestly. It’s truly sickening.… You’re repeating it because it makes you just such a happy person.”
At that point she repeated her out-of-context pleasantries and hung up abruptly.
Landrieu’s blow up is a bizarre coda to a discordant campaign that the voters of Louisiana are probably relieved is now over.
American journalist Luke Sommers, held by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists for more than a year, was killed during a rescue attempt by a joint US-Yemen military action early Saturday.
Also killed during the raid was a South African aid worker, Pierre Korkie.
Secretary Hagel made the announcement from the Pentagon early Saturday. He said “there were compelling reasons to believe Mr. Somers’ life was in imminent danger.” Hagel is referring to a video released by AQAP earlier in the week that said Sommers would be killed in 3 days unless their demands were met.
The President condemned AQAP’s killing of the two hostages and explained his decision to authorize the rescue attempt in a statement.
“Earlier this week, a video released by his terrorist captors announced that Luke would be killed within 72 hours,” the statement said. “I also authorized the rescue of any other hostages held in the same location as Luke.”
In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said that a recommendation to authorize the operation had been made to the President.
Obama offered his condolences to Somers’ family.
“I also offer my thoughts and prayers to the family of a non-U.S. citizen hostage who was also murdered by these terrorists during the rescue operation,” the statement read. “Their despair and sorrow at this time are beyond words.”
An Osprey aircraft transported a team of U.S. Navy SEALs to the captives’ location. A firefight quickly broke out, and the hostages were loaded onto the plane and flown to a nearby U.S. ship, a U.S. official said.
One of the hostages died before reaching the ship. The other died afterward.
Drones and fighter jets patrolled overhead during the mission.
The U.S. forces who carried out the mission are safe, a U.S. defense official said. Both the President and Kerry praised their valor.
The hostages were being kept at a location close to another where U.S. and Yemeni forces had carried out a previous raid.
This rescue missions was particularly difficult, in part due to Yemen’s sparse population, retired Lt. Col. James Reese, global affairs analyst for CNN, said Saturday.
Reese noted that it would have been difficult for the military to travel a significant distance by air and still maintain the element of surprise in a rescue operation.
“It has to take precision,” he said. “This is like brain surgery.”
There had been a previous rescue attempt last month, during which US and Yemeni forces freed 8 hostages. Unfortunately, Sommers was not present at the location.
There is a claim by the aid group that Korkie worked for that he was to be released on Sunday:
During the raid, the militants with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) also killed South African hostage Pierre Korkie, according to his employer, the relief group Gift of the Givers.
Korkie was to be released on Sunday, the group said in a statement.
He and his wife Yolande had fallen into the hands of abductors in May of last year, but they subsequently let her go. On Friday, a team of local leaders was finalizing arrangements to reunite Pierre Korkie to his wife and children, the statement reads.
Gift of the Givers recently told his wife that “the wait is almost over.”
“Three days ago we told her ‘Pierre will be home for Christmas,’” the group said. “We certainly did not mean it in the manner it has unfolded.”
How many times have we heard in recent years that a deal to release a hostage was near completion only to see the terrorists withdraw from the agreement at the last minute? I’m sure the aid group was negotiating in good faith and believed the terrorists were going to do as they promised. But terrorists are, by definition, pathological liars which is why negotiating with them is impossible.
This is the fifth hostage rescue attempt that we’ve heard about. Only one has been successful. Previous attempts have either failed to find the hostage or, as today, a hostage is killed. But when you consider the alternative, a rescue operation is probably the only chance these hostages have of surviving.
Sheesh. Alex Wagner answered a question that nobody asked her which came out making her look ridiculous.
For some reason, Wagner felt compelled to defend President Obama from detractors who compare him to a dictator. At the end of a segment detailing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s decree that no one in his country can share his name, Wagner offered up her opinion on what a real dictator looks like.
ALEX WAGNER: There is only one Kim Jong Un and in North Korea, that’s a law. By directive of the North Korean regime, the name Kim Jong Un is now off-limits to any other citizens of the secretive and repressive state. Birth certificates with the name Kim Jong Un are rejected and anyone who happens to share the supreme leader’s name must change it. The order dates back to 2011 when Kim came to power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il who incidentally participated in the very same vanity project as did his father before him.
The cult of personality is nothing new to North Koreans who are required to hang portraits of Kim’s father and his grandfather on the walls of their homes and offices. North Koreans also wear lapel pins featuring their leaders and riotous applause is strongly encouraged wherever and whenever the one and only Kim Jong Un appears.
To all the detractors who compare our American president to an emperor and a dictator, this is what dictatorship actually looks like. And to the 169 babies born between 2007 and 2011 named Barack: you can keep your name. That’s all for now; I’ll see you back here tomorrow.
“Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations,” says Mark Finklestein of Newsbusters. Indeed. NoKo’s Kim is a tyrant, no question.
But Wagner’s straw-man argument is absurd. I can’t think of anyone who has compared Obama to Kim, even if they think he’s acting more like a dictator than a constitutionally-bound American president. If “dictator” can be defined as a leader exercising arbitrary power, you can make a case against Obama — a weak case, in my opinion, if only because President Obama was elected and the Congress is hanging on to some powers, like the power of the purse and the power to investigate the executive branch.
How about comparing Obama to Vladimir Putin? I see possibilities in that comparison. But Wagner thought she was being amusing by taking an extreme example of dictatorship and tried to tar Obama’s opponents as crazy.
Better luck next time, Alex.
Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia is no stranger to making strange, off-the-wall comments. He demanded that Rep. Joe Wilson be censured for calling out “You lie” to Obama during his health care speech before Congress in 2009, saying, “We will have people with white hoods running through the countryside again,” unless Wilson was severely punished.
And who can forget his bewildered comment about overpopulation on Guam:
“My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.”
Johnson joined about a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus in their “hands up don’t shoot” demonstration earlier this week on the House floor. Today, Johnson used his one minute speech to recite a little poem that was both incoherent and incomprehensible, using Eric Garner’s “I can’t breathe” as a refrain of sorts:
Black men and boys killed by police.
I can’t breathe.
Impunity for the killers – no justice, no peace.
I can’t breathe.
Militarized police met peaceful protesters on their knees.
I can’t breathe.
Weapons of war – a show of force on our streets.
I can’t breathe.
Disenfranchised youth driven to violence as speech.
I can’t breathe.
Cynical media think this makes great TV.
I can’t breathe.
This cowardly Congress afraid of losing our seats.
I can’t breathe.
Half-hearted reform when there’s more that we need.
I can’t breathe.
Just thinking about the despair that this breeds.
I can’t breathe.
Black lives matter. Hear my pleas.
I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
I’m having a little trouble catching my breath myself after reading that gibberish. This is too juvenile to take seriously enough to dissect in its entirety, but the line ” Disenfranchised youth driven to violence as speech,” is just too objectively nonsensical to let go.
Looting and burning is not speech; it’s thuggery. Shooting at police is not speech; it’s a felony. Any violence committed in Ferguson and elsewhere cannot ever be excused for any reason, and for Johnson to try and justify rioting and mayhem as another way for young black men to express themselves — well, it doesn’t get any worse than that.
Johnson should have stuck with offering his opinion about the nautical dangers of overpopulation on an island. As for the poem…don’t quit your day job, Hank.
No rational person is in favor of gerrymandering congressional districts. In recent years, the process has become ridiculous, as the party in charge of a state legislature redraws districts to the ultimate advantage of their party. Or, the parties collude in the drawing of districts to assure their incumbents are safe.
The reason is partly due to demographics, and partly due to powerful new data available at the click of a mouse. Segmenting the population into ever expanding subsets related to race, zip code, income, and other markers, the data helps identify party voters using Census Bureau information. Highly sophisticated computer programs are used to carve out safe districts with the precision of a scalpel. The technology combined with old-fashioned politics leads to polarization and hyper-partisanship, as Resident Scholar at AEI, Norman Ornestein points out in the National Journal:
Gerrymandering has leached much of the broader heterogeneity out of congressional districts, contributing to the echo-chamber effect, where members’ ideological predilections are reinforced, and not challenged, back home. A corollary is the racial segregation of districts—the fact that so many Republican districts now have barely more than trace elements of minorities, giving GOP lawmakers little incentive to reach out or be sensitive to issues that resonate with those groups. Partisan gerrymandering skews results away from the broader sentiments of voters in a state, as much research, including a new study by Duke University’s Jonathan Mattingly and Christy Vaughn, demonstrates powerfully.
And, of course, gerrymandering has helped create a huge number of districts that are fundamentally safe for one party. This is sometimes done by a dominant party in a state “packing” the other party’s districts to limit its chances in other districts. Other times it is done by an unholy alliance of both parties to keep all incumbents safe. Gerrymandering adds both to the homogeneity of districts and to making low-turnout primaries dominated by ideological activists the only meaningful elections.
More broadly, gerrymandering moves House and state legislative elections away from any meaningful responsiveness to the will of the people. And the pattern of lawmakers choosing their voters instead of voters choosing their lawmakers creates more disaffection and cynicism among the public.
There have been several ideas put forth that seek to address the problem of gerrymandering. One proposal, known as “Fair Voting,” is intriguing:
Under fair voting, members of Congress are elected in multi-member districts of three to five representatives instead of just one. In those districts, candidates are elected in proportion to their vote share. A majority of votes always wins a majority of seats, and minority groups of voters that make up more than a certain threshold of votes (25 percent in a three seat district) are always able to elect a representative.
Some proposals are similar, but would give weight to other factors than population, basing district lines on a broad range of criteria:
How do we reform the redistricting process in this country? Through independent commissions that can use multiple criteria—not just equal population in districts, but factors such as competitiveness, compactness, and communities of interest—to create districts that more closely reflect broader public views. But creating independent commissions is no easy task; doing so through legislative action requires buy-in from the same lawmakers who draw the district lines—and who have the least incentive to give up their power via reform.
With the exception of Iowa, where the state Legislature turned the drawing of lines over to a nonpartisan agency in 1981 after disputes and deadlocks handed the power to the Iowa Supreme Court, the one outlet for change has been using the initiative process to implement such commissions. That process worked in Arizona in 2000 and in California in 2008, and while the results are no panacea, the reforms have brought more competitiveness and more fairness to the process.
Unfortunately, many states cannot change the way they draw districts without going to Washington and begging the attorney general for permission. There’s a difference between “non-partisan” and “non-discriminatory,” making any attempted change in drawing congressional districts for many states a crapshoot.
There’s also a bill in Congress that would require states to set up such commissions:
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) in January introduced legislation that would do just that. Called the John Tanner Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act — named after former Tennessee Rep. John Tanner (D), who pushed similar bills during his tenure — the legislation would require every state to appoint an independent commission to draft a redistricting plan that “emphasizes geographical contiguity and compactness of districts rather than political affiliations.”
Could you program a computer to draw lines fairly? It’s possible, but you would have to get both sides to agree on what’s “fair” — a herculean labor that would probably be beyond the ability of most state legislatures.
I’m not convinced that simply reforming the way in which we draw congressional districts will lead to comity and bi-partisanship at the federal level. There are other factors at work, including the very real chasm-like differences on many issues that afflict Congress. Those differences will not disappear by waving a magic wand over the redistricting problem, hoping that excessive ideology and hyper-partisanship will go away.
But if there’s a chance that it can help, we shouldn’t stand in the way.
I’m actually starting to feel sorry for Senator Mary Landrieu.
Not so much that I want to see her win Saturday’s runoff election against Republican Bill Cassidy — that’s probably not going to happen. But the Democratic party has pulled their support, cancelling more than $2 million in ad buys while some outside groups who supported her candidacy have actually switched sides and are now backing Cassidy. Major party figures have found something else to do besides coming to Louisiana and appearing on her behalf and local Democrats, besides being dispirited and uninterested in the runoff, are going to be staying home in droves on election day if early voting patterns hold up.
So things couldn’t get much worse for Landrieu — except they just did.
Landrieu has been a strong backer of the oil and gas industry in Louisiana. Considering how many jobs in the state are dependent on that industry, she could hardly have survived this long without being a fossil fuel booster.
But in a last ditch attempt to prove her independence from liberal Democrats, Landrieu warned her constituents that if she lost, the next ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee, Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, would be a Senator “who’s all for windmills and alternative energy, and doesn’t support the oil and gas industry.”
Landrieu said this just as Cantwell issued a fundraising letter on her behalf.
Beleaguered Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., underdog in her forthcoming Senate runoff election, warned Pelican State voters on Wednesday that her defeat would elevate an advocate of “windmills” to a powerful position on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
She was speaking about Democratic colleague Sen. Maria Cantwell, who just then was sending out an email appeal to raise money for Landrieu.
“There’s … much we can accomplish together if we send Mary Landrieu back to the Senate,” Cantwell told her donors.
Louisiana is a big oil and gas producing state, and Landrieu is a big ally of the industry. She has chaired the Senate Energy Committee with Democrats in the majority. She will become ranking minority member if she survives re-election. Otherwise, Cantwell will become senior Democrat on the panel.
Hence, this warning from Landrieu in New Roads, Louisiana:
“If I don’t get back there as a senior member of the committee, we’re gonna have a woman who I like very much (but) I’m not sure Louisiana is going to think very much of a senator from Washington state who’s all for windmills and alternative energy, and doesn’t support the oil and gas industry.”
Cantwell has been a major wind energy advocate on Capitol Hill, and a critic of billions in federal subsidies to the oil and gas industry.
Despite their differences, Cantwell has gone to the mat for Landrieu. Earlier this year, Landrieu and other endangered Democrats were feted at the home of a major Seattle donor to the League of Conservation Voters. Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., were on hand to smooth out any rough spots over oil and gas legislation.
Cantwell was still at it Wednesday.
“Your calendar might say Election Day passed a month ago, but Mary Landrieu is still fighting for a critical seat in the Senate,” Cantwell told donors.
She warned that Landrieu’s GOP challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, has “the Koch brothers and shadowy right wing groups on his side, but Mary’s got us.”
Beware the Koch Brothers and shadowy right wing groups like the Republican National Committee. Whatever.
Landrieu’s desperation to appear more Republican is only fueling the notion that she’s a liberal Democrat. Trailing politicians frequently make this mistake and it never works. Trying to fool people into thinking you’re something you’re not usually ends up making the candidate look pathetic.
And as the hours count down to the end, the last Democratic Senator still on her feet in the south starts to sink into political oblivion.
What is the IRS doing sharing tax data from individuals with the White House?
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration informed the group Cause of Action that, even though thousands of documents relating to the IRS sharing tax information with the White House existed, the group couldn’t have them due to privacy concerns. Cause of Action had filed an FOIA request for the documents and a judge ruled the IRS must turn the docs over by December 1.
The obvious question is why the White House can see the data and not private citizens? There is probably some rule relating to vetting appointees that makes it legal for the White House to view tax data, but more than 2000 documents?
On Tuesday, an attorney with TIGTA wrote a letter to Cause of Action, and acknowledged that the watchdog had located “2,509 pages of documents potentially responsive to your request.” Of those, TIGTA confirmed that 2,043 were in fact responsive to the request.
However, TIGTA said it could not release the documents to the group, citing the tax code.
“These pages consist of return information protected by 26 U.S.C. § 6103 and may not be disclosed absent an express statutory exception,” the letter said. “Because no such exception exists here, we are withholding those.”
Dan Epstein, a spokesman for Cause of Action, told FoxNews.com he believes that the IRS “essentially ignored the order of the court” with this declaration and that the group is considering the best path forward to force the IRS to disclose the documents.
However, Epstein said that the group feels that TIGTA’s acknowledgment of the documents is “absolutely” a victory in their investigation. He said the sheer number of relevant documents indicates that wrongdoing occurred on the part of both the IRS and the White House.
“That indicates scandal,” he said.
When asked about the case Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he wasn’t familiar with it but that the administration “very closely” adheres to rules that ensure the IRS operates without political interference.
“I can tell you that, as a rule, that the Obama administration has been very rigorous in following all of the rules and regulations that govern proper communication between Treasury officials and White House officials and the Internal Revenue Service,” Earnest said.
Epstein said it is clear that’s not true.
“We know for a fact that the IRS broke the law,” he said.
Epstein said he hopes that TIGTA’s revelation will spur Congress and the Department of Justice to investigate the issue, and possibly get access to the documents themselves.
“If there is any evidence that the White House requested (unauthorized taxpayer information), then people in the White House are going to be implicated,” he said.
Not a “smidgeon” of corruption, eh Barry?
In case you didn’t catch the significance of this revelation, the IRS scandal just shot to #1 on the Obama administration biggest scandals chart. And the arrogance of this White House in their response only shows that they know this is a non-story being reported by the non-media. They have nothing to worry about from the lapdog press. It’s already disappearing down the memory hole
You would hope that Cause of Action would continue their quest, but federal privacy laws are tough to overcome. They may request that a judge order the IRS to turn over the documents with the private info redacted. But requiring that the IRS redact the private information in the docs would be an open invitation for the agency to strike out 90% of what’s written.. That’s a favorite tactic of the FBI and CIA when FOIA requests come too close to government wrongdoing.
It’s very difficult to make a case in defense of the White House’s actions in this matter. Absent evidence to the contrary, one has to assume that the politicians in the White House either used the information to intimidate their enemies or researched the tax data of their political opponents to use against them in campaigns.
Pro-basketball analyst Charles Barkley, whose career on and off the court has been marked by controversy, came down on the side of the Ferguson grand jury in their decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.
Barkley has often gone against the grain on race issues, finding himself on the opposite side from today’s black civil rights leaders on issues like education, crime, and the black family.
He supported the jury decision in the George Zimmerman case of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, raising the hackles of just about every black leader in America.
About Ferguson, the voluble Barkely pulled no punches — as usual.
The Christian Science Monitor reports:
During an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia on Tuesday, the day after the Ferguson decision was announced, host Mike Missanelli asked Barkley about it and why “black America” doesn’t trust the ruling.
His response surprised some listeners.
The true story came out from the grand jury testimony,” Barkley said, adding that he was made aware of “key forensic evidence, and several black witnesses that supported Officer Darren Wilson’s story…” He continued, “I can’t believe anything I hear on television anymore. And, that’s why I don’t like talking about race issues with the media anymore, because they (the media) love this stuff, and lead people to jump to conclusions. The media shouldn’t do that. They never do that when black people kill each other. ”
He also called those who rioted after the decision was announced “scumbags,” and said “There is no excuse for people to be out there burning down people’s businesses, burning down police cars.”
And in a marked departure from other prominent black leaders who have questioned tactics used by officers and, in some cases, accused officers of racial profiling and outright racism, Barkley supported police officers, especially those who work in black neighborhoods.
“[W]e have to be really careful with the cops, because if it wasn’t for the cops we would be living in the Wild, Wild West in our neighborhoods,” he said. “We can’t pick out certain incidentals that don’t go our way and act like the cops are all bad…. Do you know how bad some of these neighborhoods would be if it wasn’t for the cops?”
His comments are in sharp contrast with those made by other black leaders on the Ferguson case. Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson have both criticized the Ferguson decision and racial profiling by police. President Obama is scheduled to hold meetings with civil rights groups Monday on law enforcement and how to rebuild trust in black communities.
Barkley identified himself as a Republican for a time and has made it clear he’d like to run for Alabama governor some day. But he has also made clear that if he runs, it will be as an independent. In 2007, in a magazine interview, he said he was a Republican “until they lost their minds”:
The word conservative means discriminatory practically. It’s a form of political discrimination. What do the Republicans run on? Against gay marriage and for a war that makes no sense. A war that was based on faulty intelligence. That’s all they ever talk about. That and immigration. Another discriminatory argument for political gain.
Drudge is calling it “Whack Friday” and his headlines tell the story:
It’s hard to reconcile the spirit of the season with grasping, shoving, punching customers in a rugby scrum trying to pry away the latest hot toy or home electronics gadget.
Here’s a compilation of the madness at one Walmart store:
Certainly, some blame must lie with retailers. Do you really need to slash prices 50,60, or 70% to get people to come into the store? The free for alls are the result of the retailer deliberately buying a small number of sales items, which is understandable. Otherwise, they’d lose their shirts. But if you have 1000 people going for a home theater system that’s 50% off and only put 50 on the shelves, there is going to be violence.
Unfortunately, that’s the culture now. People expect the deep discounts and wouldn’t patronize a store that stops the madness.
The stores are opening earlier every year. I remember when stores were being daring by opening at 6:00 AM on Friday. Now it’s 1:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day. In 5 years it might be Halloween night.
The pretentious pundit might rail against capitalism and acquisitiveness in American society to explain the madness. You might as well rant against human nature. And then there are the commentators who think Black Friday’s madness is a sign of America’s class divide:
Increasingly, the seasonal shopping surge has become a window into America’s class divide, in which high earners have benefited from a booming stock market and rising home prices as many others still grapple with stagnant incomes and lingering financial anxiety.
Consider these opposite scenarios: In 2013, Bloomingdale’s went against the grain by offering fewer Black Friday bargains than the year before, according to the advertising experts at bestblackfriday.com. At a Wal-Mart, customers elbowed one another to get their hands on Crayola crayon sets, marked down to $11 from nearly $20. (A trending Twitter hashtag last Thanksgiving was #Walmart Fights.)
“You have people who really need a bargain — they will sit out for two days to get that deal because that may be the only big thing they can afford for the whole family,” said Britt Beemer, founder of America’s Research Group. “Luxury retailers don’t do very well on Black Friday because their customers are not going to fight the crowds.”
These are the families that retailers fight over Thanksgiving night — ones with limited budgets who are willing to gobble down their apple pie and hustle to the malls to score enough discounts to check off Christmas lists, said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics Inc.
“Once they have spent their budgets, they are done,” Perkins said. “Retailers know if they get them first, they may not have anything left to go to other stores.”
The theory that by opening earlier than the competition, you grab a bigger share of the customer’s holiday budget rarely pans out. Sue went to a big retail store last year on Black Friday at 4:00 PM and reported only modest crowds and a short wait at the checkout line. Of course, most of the door buster items were long gone, but retailers don’t make any money on those products anyway.
There have been suggestions for years that towns and cities re-establish “blue laws” that mandate the opening and closing of stores — especially on holidays. The idea of opening on Thanksgiving evening, remaining open all night, and then all day Friday is hard on employees and shoppers alike. And if retailers want their employees to unionize, I can think of no better way than to yank them away from their families on Thanksgiving and force them to deal with the mayhem unleashed by half crazed shoppers looking for the deal of a lifetime.
Media reporter Erik Wemple of the Washington Post got a bizarre response from the New York Times’ Philip Corbett, the paper’s associate managing editor for standards, when he asked why the Times had published information on where Officer Darren Wilson lived.
“The Times did not ‘reveal’ anything here. The name of the street was widely reported as far back as August, including in the Washington Post.”
The Post on Aug. 15 published an article on Wilson shortly after his name surfaced as the officer who’d killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. It noted the presence of “[d]ark blue unmarked police cars were parked outside his house” and mentioned the street name. A number of other outlets also traded in information about Wilson’s residence and it has been circulated on the Internet, of course.
When asked whether the standard for publication of a street name is whether others have already revealed it, Corbett replied, “We would have to look at the issue case by case. But if you’re considering whether to withhold information from a story, the question of whether that information is widely available or has been previously reported would certainly be a factor to consider.”
In any story about newlyweds who jointly own a home, it makes sense to describe where that home is located. But the street name? Such detail adds nil news value to a scoop about a man at the center of one of the most contentious news stories of our time. Leave it out.
Wemple has a great point. What was the news value in publishing the street name where Wilson lives? Who outside of the St. Louis area could even identify where the town in which Wilson lives is located, much less the street name?
Corbett is being coy. It’s very hard to justify the information published by the Times — just as it’s difficult not to believe they published the information with malice aforethought. Is the Times trying to tell us that of all the reporters and editors that read over this story before going to press, none of them raised their hand and said, “Isn’t it dangerous to publish a hated man’s address like this”?
If no one asked the question, they’re irresponsible. If someone did, they’re liable for anything that happens to Wilson.
Satirist PJ O’Rourke thinks that giving thanks to God has gone out of fashion in America these days. He thinks it’s time we give thanks instead to the one entity that’s almost as powerful as God: government.
Thank you, Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906, Poultry Product Inspection Act of 1957, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, for the turkey.
Thank you, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Guide to Minimize Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables” and 2014 Farm Bill Dairy Product Price Support Program, for our mashed potatoes.
And thank you, USDA Cranberry Market Loss Assistance Program, for the cranberry sauce.
Lacking these laws, subsidies, regulations, and regulatory agencies, America’s Pilgrim forefathers had to eat grass and tree bark at Thanksgiving, and then died of food poisoning.
Thank you, FCC, for all the football that is broadcast on Thanksgiving Day.
My wife and daughters thank you too, for C-SPAN, which gives non-football fans a Thanksgiving Reality TV alternative to Keeping Up with the Kardashians. NFL-averse viewers can choose between watching butts and watching asshats.
Thank you, Mr. President, for immigration reform. I’m pretty sure the O’Rourkes are undocumented aliens. We immigrated during the Potato Famine when there weren’t a lot of documents and we didn’t fill out any because we couldn’t read or write. So now, at last, after 170 years, the O’Rourkes can “come out of the shadows.”
Also, thank you for this month’s Affordable Care Act health insurance open enrollment. It’s amazing how much I got done around the house while cradling a cordless phone receiver between my shoulder and ear. I raked the yard, swept out the garage, brushed the dog, put the dishes in the dishwasher, and did a load of laundry as I waited for someone to answer your 1-800 line. And what’s this “100% co-payment” clause in my new policy? Does that mean that when the insurance company pays my doctor they also pay the same amount to me? Cool.
Plus, Mr. President, thank you for your foreign policy. At first I was worried that you’d whimp out. But when the time came you stepped up to the plate just like George W. Bush did. If it weren’t for you, President Obama, Islamic militants might be threatening Americans the way they were before you deep-sixed Osama bin Laden. Heck, we might be fighting in Iraq again, Afghanistan and Pakistan might be sliding into chaos, Syria might be in the throes of a civil war, Libya might be a failed state, Egypt might be ruled by a dictator, Israelis and Palestinians might be at daggers drawn, NATO might be wobbly, and Vladimir Putin might be invading Ukraine.
Read the whole hysterical thing.
Natalie Dubose had a dream to open her own business — a bakery and cake shop along a busy thoroughfare in Ferguson, MO. In June, she opened Natalie’s Cakes & More and, by most accounts, was making a go of the concern.
But on Monday night, rioters broke her display windows and trashed several very expensive baking machines.
But Dubose wouldn’t give up. And with a little help from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and actress Patricia Heaton, it looks like her dream is still alive.
A Ferguson bakery owner says she is “so humbly blessed” after receiving nearly $100,000 in online donations to repair her shop that was damaged by looters.
Natalie Dubose, who owns Natalie’s Cake’s & More at 100 S. Florissant Road in Ferguson, said rioters damaged the shop’s windows and baking equipment overnight Monday, after a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Ms. Dubose started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to repair her shop and has received a wave of support, including from “The Middle’s” Patricia Heaton and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Brandi Glanville.
“Thank you to actresses Patricia Heaton and Brandi Glanville for supporting me!” she wrote in an update on her page. “I must have missed thousands of other tweets, and I’m so sorry I can’t mention them all. The sweet lady who offered money from her social security check brought me to tears … Thank you to EVERYONE for the kind words, prayers, and emotional support.”
The account reached $98,241 in only 20 hours since it was created.
“May God turn this tragedy to a lesson in the power of the love of strangers,” wrote one donor. “I stand with you Natalie and pray God’s blessing and protect on you!”
“Natalie, along with my little bit of money goes all my prayers and thoughts for your success,” wrote another. “Hang in there and stay strong. I am rooting for your continued presence in Ferguson — we have to keep your community strong, with love and hope. Best Wishes.”
Two total (white) strangers originally set up the Go Fund Me accounts.
— Ferguson’s Natalie (@Ferg_Natalie) November 25, 2014
Limbaugh devoted a segment of his show to the fundraising effort and has a widget on his website linking to the Go Fund Me page:
A poor woman saved up everything to open her cake store in Ferguson. She’s African-American and she had nothing to do with any of this that went down, but her store got destroyed. So people set up a couple of Web links for Americans to donate to give her a chance to rebuild. I don’t even know if she had anything to do with it. I think others set it up for her. Not sure about that.
Anyway, so many of you are coming through on this that it’s really heartwarming to see. Did you go check it out? I had a couple people tell me that a lot of you are logging in and donating. I think it’s great, and you’re renewing people’s faith, or you’re solidifying it in some cases, which is also what I want to do later in the program with the true story of Thanksgiving.
A great Thanksgiving story.
You may recall actor Ben Affleck’s reflexive defense of Islam when comedian Bill Maher and author Sam Harris referred to the religion as a “motherlode of bad ideas”:
“Gone Girl” star Affleck took umbrage at the pair’s contention that Islam is, in Harris’ words, a “mother lode of bad ideas” and that liberals are squeamish about criticizing Islam for stances on women and LGBT issues because people “have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where every criticism gets confused with bigotry toward Muslims as people.”
Affleck said Harris — a neuroscientist known for works criticizing religion — and Maher were guilty of using a broad brush themselves.
“It’s gross. It’s racist,” Affleck said. “It’s like saying ‘shifty Jew.’ “
You have to wonder how Affleck will respond to the contention by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey that it’s “against nature” to think men and women are equal.
“You cannot put women and men on an equal footing,” he told a meeting in Istanbul. “It is against nature.”
He also said feminists did not grasp the importance of motherhood in Islam.
His comments often seek to appeal to his pious core supporters, says the BBC’s Mark Lowen in Istanbul, but they anger more liberal voters.
Turks who have more secular views argue that the government’s social policies are taking the country in a dangerous direction, our correspondent says.
Mr Erdogan has previously urged women to have three children, and has lashed out against abortion and birth by Caesarean section.
His latest remarks were delivered at a women’s conference in Istanbul.
“In the workplace, you cannot treat a man and a pregnant woman in the same way,” Mr Erdogan said, according to the Anatolia news agency.
Women cannot do all the work done by men, he added, because it was against their “delicate nature”.
“Our religion regards motherhood very highly,” he said. “Feminists don’t understand that, they reject motherhood.”
He said women needed equal respect rather than equality.
Mr Erdogan also told the Istanbul meeting that justice was the solution to most of the world’s issues – including racism, anti-Semitism, and “women’s problems”.
The Turkish leader often courts controversy with his statements.
Earlier this month, he claimed that Muslims had discovered the Americas more than 300 years before Christopher Colombus.
In his 11 years as prime minister, Mr Erdogan became a crucial player in regional politics
You can easily see Affleck’s dilemma. Does he trash Erdogan, who is only repeating the Islamic view of women, or does he defend Muslims for their misogyny?
Actually, if Erdogan wants to leave 50% of the population of his country on the sidelines, it’s his problem not ours. It’s what gives western countries a huge advantage over Islamic countries that oppress women and keep them from fully contributing to society.
Turkey was, at one time, a modern secular country. But over the decade that Erdogan and his Islamist Justice and Development party have been in power, the slow, inevitable decline of democratic institutions, as well as the Islamization of the army, has made Turkey the backwater of NATO.
Erdogan is far less circumspect lately about revealing his Islamic views. It should raise the question about Turkey’s continued participation in the alliance, given his coziness with the Muslim Brotherhood. He has refused to recognize Egypt’s new government, calling President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi “illegitimate.” Tellingly, he has adopted the Muslim Brotherhood supporters’ four-fingered “Rabia” salute as a part of his party’s rallying cry.
As the mask continues to fall, revealing Erdogan for the Islamist tyrant he is, dupes like Ben Affleck are going to have to decide which side of history they wish to be on.
I don’t agree with this take on issues surrounding the Ferguson grand jury by Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe. But it is a valid interpretation based on his worldview that police are gunning for black kids and that nothing is being done about it.
The national hysteria over the Ferguson grand jury is a fresh indictment of America. The core issue is a charge of police brutality by a white officer shooting an unarmed black 18-year-old man. Yet all around the country, the talk is about black violence.
Here in Boston, police are sending out robocalls to public school students and sending messages to college students to stay calm. In Oakland, California, businesses are putting steel plates on their doors. In Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck said he hopes to get advance notice from Missouri authorities about whether or not the grand jury indicts Ferguson officer Darren Wilson for Brown’s shooting. And in Ferguson, some schools are already closed in anticipation of the decision, gun sales have skyrocketed and a state of emergency was declared by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
To be sure, Attorney General Eric Holder and many black clergy have also asked for police restraint for any protests after the grand jury decision is announced. But such balanced pleas have been drowned out by the drama of an FBI warning that the grand jury’s decision “will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure.” The memo said people “could be armed with bladed weapons or firearms, equipped with tactical gear/gas masks, or bulletproof vests to mitigate law enforcement measures.”
Meanwhile, police restraint is hard to come by.
Jackson points to the incredible shooting in Cleveland involving a 12-year-old boy with a pellet gun who was gunned down by officers. Another incident in New York City involved the shooting of a man in a dark stairwell by a rookie cop.
Understandable confusion and an accident? Not according to Jackson:
Until the nation frets more about actual police killings than it does speculating on potential black violence, questions like Mallory’s will continue to be asked.In 1968, the literary critic Hoyt Fuller wrote, “Black people are being called ‘violent’ these days, as if violence is a new invention out of the ghetto. But violence against the black minority is in-built in the established American society.”
As if to prove that Fuller continues to be right, USA Today two weeks ago reported that the number of fatal police shootings around the country last year was nearly nine a week, the highest in two decades. Earlier this year, the newspaper reported that nearly two black people a week were killed by police in a seven-year span ending in 2012. While one in five black people killed by police are under 21, only one in 11 white people killed by police are so young.
And many criminologists say we hardly know the full truth as USA Today found that only 750 of 17,000 police departments around the nation file killings by police with the FBI.
So far, the nation has settled for the worm’s eye view on police while maintaining an eagle watch for an explosion by black people. Although few want riots, the disparity between these views is so blatantly unequal that it guarantees that violence against the black minority will remain built into established American society.
Does all the talk about potential violence because of the Ferguson grand jury decision constitute a kind of intimidation in and of itself? I think it does. But it’s a tactic by authorities to keep the peace. The speculation about violence is meant to warn the radical elements that the police will be ready for anything. As for ordinary citizens, the warnings and preparations make it advisable for them to avoid the protests altogether.
I’m just wondering if all this speculation about violence breaking out isn’t actually contributing to an atmosphere where violence becomes inevitable. It certainly raises the tension to unbearable levels where a release of some kind becomes necessary. You would hope that release takes the form of peaceful protests — but there are a lot of wild cards in the mix and quite literally, anything can happen.
I don’t share Mr. Jackson’s perspective, but I understand it. His positions may be based on a skewed worldview, and faulty reasoning, but it’s very difficult to walk a mile in his shoes.
Trying to understand the frame of reference of someone who holds polar opposite views of your own is never a wasted exercise.
Grand jury deliberations are as secretive as the conclave of cardinals who elect the pope. Unlike trial juries, which can be sequestered, grand juries live and work in the community, meeting several times a month to hear witnesses and weigh evidence. They are fully aware of the situation in their communities and what’s at stake with their decision.
You can imagine the pressure on the Ferguson grand jury as they are exposed to threats of violence from thugs, as well as pleas for “justice” from more peaceful advocates. And while there may, indeed, be an intimidation factor from those who threaten to riot and loot, you would hope they ignore outside forces and render their decision based on the facts.
So why has it taken so long? CNN’s Steve Almasy explains that it’s a matter of the time the grand jury spends on the case and the fact that the prosecutor has given them all the evidence he has. Normally, a prosecutor will withhold as much ammunition as he can so as not to give the defense a heads up on what he has until he absolutely has to. But in this case, prosecutor Robert McCulloch wanted the grand jury to have everything.
Almasy explains that the grand jury usually only meets once a week, although in the Brown case, “the panel is allowed to meet on days when all 12 jurors can get together. Once agreed upon, the schedule is given to the prosecuting attorney’s office.” So, it’s more often than once a week but less than 5 days a week.
McCulloch told CNN’s Ana Cabrera that it had taken longer than expected to get some of the witnesses in front of the grand jury.
The grand jury meets in secret, so it is impossible to know whether all the evidence has been presented and all the witnesses have testified. One possibility is the grand jury wanted to hear from a witness again.
Another scenario is that the grand jurors took a break before starting their deliberations.
McCulloch has told CNN that if there is no indictment, he will seek to publicly release all evidence in the case.
Paul Fox, St. Louis County’s director of judicial administration, sent a statement to media on Sunday that said that a judge must approve such a request and that the court will have to “analyze the need for maintaining secrecy of the records with the need for public disclosure of the records.”
There are several possible outcomes to the grand jury’s deliberations:
Two horrific terrorist attacks yesterday carried out against civilians by two of the worst terrorist groups in the world.
A group of Somalia-based al-Shabab gunmen stopped a bus full of Kenyans at dawn on their way to Nairobi. The gunmen then began to ask the 60 passengers to recite a verse from the Koran. Those that couldn’t were told to lie on the ground.
A primary school headteacher who was the only survivor of the Kenya bus massacre has said he was saved because his would-be killers became confused as he lay waiting to be murdered.
Non-Muslim Douglas Ochwodho, who was singled out to to be killed, said one gunman shot from the right and one from the left, each killing their victims lying in a line on the ground.
They grew closer and closer to Mr Ochwodho, who was in the middle, then the shooting stopped. Apparently each gunman thought the other shot Mr Ochwodho, who remained perfectly still until the 20 Islamic extremists left the scene.
Twenty-eight passengers were murdered when Somalia’s al-Shabab group attacked a bus in northern Kenya at dawn yesterday and picked out those who could not recite an Islamic creed who they assumed to be non-Muslims.
Nineteen men and nine women were killed.
Those who could not say the Shahada, a tenet of the Muslim faith, were shot at close range, Mr Ochwodho, who spoke from a hospital bed where he was being treated for shock, said.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the killings through its radio station in Somalia, saying it was in retaliation for earlier raids by Kenyan security forces on four coastal mosques.
Kenyan troops are fighting alongside government troops against al-Shabab in Somalia, and the terrorists are murdering civilians in retaliation. Last September, 4 al-Shabab gunmen walked into the upscale Westlake Mall in Nairobi and gunned down 63 men, women, and children. They, too, singled out people who could not recite the Muslim profession of faith, “There is no god but allah and Mohammed is his prophet.”
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, Boko Harum rampaged through a small town killing at least 60 innocents.
An attack by Islamic extremists killed dozens in the northeastern Nigerian village of Doron Baga, a major fishing center on the shores of Lake Chad, witnesses said.
Fisherman Usman Abubakar told the Associated Press that suspected Boko Haram members drove into Doron Baga, in Borno state, “shooting people on sight.”
“I counted 60 bodies with my own eyes,” Abubakar said.
He said he, his wife and three children hid in their home before fleeing to the state capital of Maiduguri about 200 kilometers (124 miles) away.
Abubakar said he is among the many residents who are fleeing Borno and returning to their state of origin, Sokoto in northwestern Nigeria.
Nigerian security official Gideon Jubrin, spokesman for the Borno state police, told AP he has not received any official confirmation of the attack.
Communication in the area are difficult because Boko Haram have destroyed mobile phone masts across the northeastern region, which means attacks often go unreported for days.
Baga was the site of a mass killing in April 2013 where almost 200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and more than 2,000 homes were destroyed in crossfire between the Nigerian troops and Boko Haram.
An attack on Wednesday in Azaya Kura village in Borno left at least 45 people dead when Boko Haram members surged through the village raiding homes and stealing livestock.
Most observers in the region don’t think the Nigerian military can stand up against Boko Harum. Besides, the people fear the military almost as much as they hate Boko Harum. Without the population on their side, Boko Harum will only grow stronger while the Nigerian government fumbles its way to defeat.
Newt Gingrich, writing at CNN, contrasts the words that President Obama used to describe his deferred deportation plan with what his administration is actually proposing.
The President also said in his speech that his actions would offer relief only to people who met certain criteria he described, including having child dependents in the United States. But the actual policy memo makes clear that “DHS will direct all of its enforcement resources at pursuing” people who are “national security threats, serious criminals, and recent border crossers.”
In other words, there will be one group, estimated at 4 million or so, who are eligible for the new work authorization program. But at the same time, there will be no resources directed at enforcing immigration law against the other 7 million people here illegally as long as they do not fall into a few narrow categories, according to the President’s Office of Legislative Affairs. And indeed, a “senior administration official” told Roll Call that the administration “will order immigration agents to prioritize deportations of criminals and recent arrivals — and let people who are not on that priority list go free.” This is not at all the program the President described in his speech.
As I wrote yesterday, drunk drivers, sex abusers, drug traffickers, and even burglars will not be “prioritized” as far as deportations are concerned. Most local governments don’t turn illegals over to the feds anyway, so not much will change. Still, for the federal government to ignore the immigration laws already on the books by looking the other way and “deferring” deportations for almost all 11 million illegal aliens is a breathtaking expansion of executive power.
An alarming article in the Jerusalem Post reports that Israel may take military action against Iranian nuclear sites even if a deal being negotiated between Iran and the west is reached.
The Israelis point to several concessions made by the west that does not reassure them of Iran’s intent with its nuclear program.
In fact, Israel sees these concessions as a threat. One official cited a “sunset clause” in proposed comprehensive deal, which guarantees Iran a path into the nuclear club and may corner Israel into war.”
But reflecting on the deal under discussion with The Jerusalem Post on the eve of the deadline, Israel has issued a stark, public warning to its allies with a clear argument: Current proposals guarantee the perpetuation of a crisis, backing Israel into a corner from which military force against Iran provides the only logical exit.
World powers have presented Iran with an accord that would restrict its nuclear program for roughly ten years and cap its ability to produce fissile material for a weapon during that time to a minimum nine-month additional period, from the current three months.
Should Tehran agree, the deal may rely on Russia to convert Iran’s current uranium stockpile into fuel rods for peaceful use. The proposal would also include an inspection regime that would attempt to follow the program’s entire supply chain, from the mining of raw material to the syphoning of that material to various nuclear facilities across Iran.
Israel’s leaders believe the best of a worst-case scenario, should that deal be reached, is for inspections to go perfectly and for Iran to choose to abide by the deal for the entire decade-long period.
But “our intelligence agencies are not perfect,” an Israeli official said. “We did not know for years about Natanz and Qom. And inspection regimes are certainly not perfect. They weren’t in the case in North Korea, and it isn’t the case now – Iran’s been giving the IAEA the run around for years about its past activities.”
“What’s going to happen with that?” the official continued. “Are they going to sweep that under the rug if there’s a deal?”
On Saturday afternoon, reports from Vienna suggested the P5+1 – the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – are willing to stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran.
Speaking to the Post, a senior US official rejected concern over limited surveillance capabilities, during or after a deal.
“If we can conclude a comprehensive agreement, we will have significantly more ability to detect covert facilities – even after its duration is over – than we do today,” the senior US official said. “After the duration of the agreement, the most intrusive inspections will continue: the Additional Protocol – which encompasses very intrusive transparency, and which Iran has already said it will implement – will continue.”
That may be wishful thinking. In fact, the inspection regime falls short of being “intrusive,” as Iran will still be able to deny immediate access to their facilities. In other words, no “snap” inspections. And without full disclosure of Iran’s previous bomb making efforts, the inspectors may not even know where to look for dual-purpose facilities.
Meanwhile, the calculus for and against Israel taking military action to degrade or destroy Iranian nuclear infrastructure hasn’t changed, except it’s probably a more difficult mission than it was 2 years ago. Facilities have been hardened or built underground. Even with an attack lasting several days, there’s no guarantee that Israel can destroy enough of Iran’s nuclear program to make big difference.
But given the threat, Israel may feel itself backed into a corner and would attack anyway. And as the J-Post article makes clear, it may not matter what kind of deal might be reached between Iran and the west.
A good, prudent immigration policy would allow people into the country who can contribute something to the culture or the economy. Job skills, talent, brainpower — these are qualities in people that the U.S, should be encouraging to come, or stay.
Some of the people who will qualify under “deferred deportation” have other kinds of talents. Burglars who have demonstrated a proficiency in robbing people are welcome, according to new rules issued by DHS. Also, those excellent illegal-drug salesmen — some of whom are so good they could probably sell crack cocaine to a 10 year old — have talents desired by President Obama.
Sex abusers, drunk drivers — I mean, it’s obvious that President Obama feels we have a shortage of low-life scumbags in America.
Byron York writes of the new rules issued by U.S. immigration authorities:
The new priorities are striking. On the tough side, the president wants U.S. immigration authorities to go after terrorists, felons, and new illegal border crossers. On the not-so-tough side, the administration views convicted drunk drivers, sex abusers, drug dealers, and gun offenders as second-level enforcement priorities. An illegal immigrant could spend up to a year in prison for a violent crime and still not be a top removal priority for the Obama administration.
In the memo, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson says his department must develop “smart enforcement priorities” to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in order to best use his agency’s limited resources. Johnson establishes three enforcement priority levels to guide DHS officers as they decide whether to stop, hold, or prosecute an illegal immigrant.
Priority One is the “highest priority to which enforcement resources should be directed,” the memo says. The category includes “aliens engaged in or suspected of terrorism or espionage, or who otherwise pose a danger to national security.” It also includes “aliens apprehended at the border or ports of entry while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States.” In addition, any illegal immigrant convicted of an offense involving a criminal street gang, or convicted of a felony — provided that immigration status was not an “essential element” of the charge — is targeted. Finally, any illegal immigrant convicted of an aggravated felony is included in Priority One.
The guidelines say Priority One aliens “must be prioritized” for deportation unless they qualify for asylum or unless there are “compelling and exceptional” factors that indicate the alien is not a threat.
Priority Two offenders, whose cases are less urgent than criminals in Priority One, include the following:
aliens convicted of a “significant misdemeanor,” which for these purposes is an offense of domestic violence; sexual abuse or exploitation; burglary; unlawful possession or use of a firearm; drug distribution or trafficking; or driving under the influence; or if not an offense listed above, one for which the individual was sentenced to time in custody of 90 days or more (the sentence must involve time to be served in custody, and does not include a suspended sentence)
DHS further defines a “significant misdemeanor” as an offense for which the maximum term of imprisonment is one year or less, but greater than five days. In addition, the guidelines contain a possible out for illegal immigrants accused of domestic abuse. “Careful consideration should be given to whether the convicted alien was also the victim of domestic violence,” the guidelines say. “If so, this should be a mitigating factor.”
It’s bad enough that an illegal with one conviction on any one of those crimes can stay. But a burglar caught and convicted twice is still eligible to remain in the U.S. under Obama’s new rules.
The president told America during his speech on Thursday night that those convicted of “serious” offenses would be deported. But rape is sometimes reduced to a sexual abuse misdemeanor. Other charges related to burglary, like strong-arm robbery, can be dropped. A drug-dealing gangbanger can be convicted of trafficking if the amount of illegal drugs he’s caught with is less than a felony.
The point being, just because a criminal is convicted of a couple of misdemeanors doesn’t mean he’s not a threat to the community. It’s apparent that President Obama and the rest of America have different ideas on what constitutes a “serious” crime.
Go figure. It’s Iran whose economy has been crippled by sanctions. It’s Iran that is isolated and nearly alone in the world. It’s Iran that’s literally under the gun to make a deal as, theoretically, the deal would virtually guarantee the US — and probably Israel — would forgo an attack.
Then why in the name of all that is good and holy is it the US that’s desperate to make a deal?
World powers are pressing Iran to stop stonewalling a U.N. atomic bomb investigation as part of a wider nuclear accord, but look likely to stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran to avoid killing an historic deal.
Officially, the United States and its Western allies say it is vital that Iran fully cooperate with a U.N. nuclear agency investigation if it wants a diplomatic settlement that would end the sanctions severely hurting its oil-based economy.
The six powers face a delicate balancing act at talks in Vienna, due to end by Monday; Israel and hawkish U.S. lawmakers – wary of any rapprochement with old foe Iran – are likely to pounce on a deal if they believe it is too soft on Tehran.
A senior U.S. official stressed that the powers had not changed their position on Iran’s past activities during this week’s talks: “We’ve always said that any agreement must resolve the issue to our satisfaction. That has not changed.”
Privately, however, some officials acknowledge that Iran may never be prepared to admit to what they believe it was guilty of: covertly working in the past to develop the ability to build a nuclear-armed missile – something it has always denied.
A senior Western official said the six would try to “be creative” in finding a formula to satisfy those who want Iran to come clean about any atomic bomb research and those who say this is simply unrealistic.
What’s the point of inking a nuclear deal with Iran if it doesn’t guarantee their enrichment program won’t be used to build a nuclear weapon? Isn’t that the the major reason for these cockamamie negotiations in the first place?
The IAEA issued a report in 2011 with intelligence information indicating concerted activities until about a decade ago that could be relevant for developing nuclear bombs. It said some of these might be continuing.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano this week said Iran had again failed to provide the explanations needed for the IAEA inquiry, which has made scant headway in months.
Iran for its part has said these “possible military dimensions” (PMD) are an issue it will not budge on. “PMD is out of the question. It cannot be discussed,” an Iranian official said.
Another Western official said many inside the IAEA and Western governments felt uneasy about compromising on the issue, but added: “I believe the PMD issue is not a deal-breaker, even though it probably should be.”
Just so we have this straight…
Most western governments believe that Iran should come clean about any military dimensions to its nuclear program (that includes work on ballistic missiles). Those same people believe Iran’s failure to be forthcoming should be a deal breaker.
But the desire for a deal — any deal — is so strong, Iran’s secrecy about its nuclear bomb program will be overlooked in order to make history.
If a deal is signed, there will be great fanfare with President Obama perhaps traveling to Tehran to sign the document. We will be told it’s “historic.” We will be told it’s a great step forward. We will praise Iran’s “moderate” new government.
And in a few years when it becomes obvious that Iran has a nuclear weapon, these same people will throw their hands in the air and claim it wasn’t their fault.
Americans are inveterate tinkerers — a trait commented on by observers from de Tocqueville to Winston Churchill.
That’s why it’s not surprising that the bureaucrats at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would want to keep tweaking Obamacare. Mind you, it’s not so much because they think they can perfect the law. Rather, they keep tweaking the law in order to keep the American people from brandishing pitchforks and coming to Washington to tar and feather them and ride them out of town on a rail.
Self-preservation can be a marvelous motivating factor.
The geniuses who brought us the dysfunctional website healthcare.gov are in a panic because just about every Obamacare policy is going up in price. So rather than having American citizens deal with such unpleasantness, our intrepid bureaucrats have hit upon a brilliant scheme: why not change the auto-renewal rules of Obamacare premiums by automatically shifting a consumer from a policy that went up in price over to a cheaper policy? Of course, the cheaper policy will have fewer benefits and a larger deductible. And some people may actually like the policy they have now.
But what does that matter to the jamokes at HHS? They know what’s best for you. Just ask them.
In a 300-page regulatory proposal released late this afternoon, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it is considering changing Obamacare’s auto-renewal rules so that, within the health law’s exchanges, instead of being automatically renewed into your current health plan, you’d be moved into the lowest cost plan from the same service tier.
From the attached fact sheet:
Under current rules, consumers who do not take action during the openenrollment window are re-enrolled in the same plan they were in the previous year, even if that plan experienced significant premium increases. We are considering alternative options for re-enrollment, under which consumers who take no action might be defaulted into a lower cost plan rather than their current plan.
(Fact sheet via Adrianna McIntyre; proposal first noted by Politico.)
States running their own exchanges could start doing this in 2016, and federal exchanges could start in 2017.
It’s not just auto-reenrollment. It’s auto-reassignment, at least for those who pick that option. Basically, if you like your plan, but don’t go out of your way to intentionally re-enroll, the kind and wise folks at HHS or state health exchanges might just pick a new plan—perhaps with different doctors, clinics, cost structures, and benefit options—for you. And if you want to switch back? Good luck once open enrollment is closed. There’s always next year.
A hassle? Maybe. But have faith: They know what’s best.
Presumably the idea came up because, even though by some measures premiums aren’t rising by large amounts this year, premiums for many of the lowest cost and most popular plans from last year are rising quite a bit. And since HHS decided over the summer to institute auto-renewal, and since the majority of Obamacare enrollees are expected to take no action and thus stay in their current plans, the reality is that under the current system a lot of enrollees are likely to see large premium hikes, just because they didn’t shop around for a new plan.
Bless their nanny state hearts. The thoughtfulness of liberals is neverending, isn’t it? As we are constantly reminded by many on the left, Americans are just too stupid to realize what their best interests are, so why not make it easy on us and take decisions on our health insurance out of our hands and place the responsibility with our all-knowing betters in government?