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Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
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How We’re Not Degrading and Destroying ISIS in One Chart

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Despite weeks of air strikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist army continues to advance with little sign that they have been slowed down.

Fox News reports that ISIS is making steady progress in conquering Anbar province in Iraq — the same province America shed a lot of blood and treasure in pacifying during the Iraq War. There are reports that IS is closing in on Baghdad, as their forces are just a few miles from the airport.

And in Syria, the Kurdish border town of Kobani is being overrun, as defenders continue to issue pleas for assistance. Here, too, American air strikes have been ineffective in halting the IS advance.

Waves of U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State fighters appear to have done little to stem the terrorist army’s advance in Syria, and now the militants are close to overrunning key positions on the outskirts of Baghdad.

With the world’s eyes on the terrorist army’s siege of the Syrian border city of Kobani, where U.S.-led airstrikes are backing Kurdish fighters, some 500 miles southeast, Islamic State fighters are within eight miles of the Iraqi metropolis. The Islamic militants have reportedly infiltrated the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib, not far from the runway perimeter of Baghdad’s international airport. The suburb is perhaps best known to the west as the site of an infamous prison operated by the U.S. military during the Iraq war.

“Daash is openly operating inside Abu Ghraib,” an Iraqi soldier told McClatchy news service, using a common Arabic term for the Islamic State. “I was at the 10th Division base there two days ago, and the soldiers cannot leave or patrol,” he said. “Daash controls the streets.”

Islamic State’s proximity to the airport is especially worrisome, because they are now armed with shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles with a 20-mile range, according to the Iraqi Defense Ministry. The weapons, which Islamic State has grabbed up along with tanks, helicopters and fighter planes as it has seized up vast territory in northern Syria and Iraq, could allow the militants to shut down the airport.

Baghdad is guarded by some 60,000 Iraqi soldiers, but the much smaller and extended Islamic State army has sent them scurrying in the past, raising questions about their discipline and U.S. training. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf expressed rare confidence in Iraq’s military on Friday, saying it is capable of defending Baghdad.

“There are places where [the Islamic State] continues to make gains in Iraq,” said Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, press secretary to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “We talked about Hit. We talked about Ramadi. We talked about Fallujah, which is still in contention right now. That’s worrisome, because it’s close to Baghdad.”

The buffer zone that protects Baghdad for now includes much of Anbar province, a key region between Baghdad and Syria. But the Iraqi army’s performance under fire has done little to build confidence.

“The situation in Anbar is really critical,” Falih Al Essawi, deputy head of the Anbar provincial council told the Wall Street Journal, adding that Iraq’s military in Anbar is “continuously losing.”

It is believed (hoped?) that Baghdad itself is in little danger at the moment. Even if Iraq’s army collapses there are several hundred thousand Shia militiamen and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who would fight to the bitter end to save the Shia regime’s capital.

But it raises the question why air strikes are so ineffective? Maybe this chart from BBC compiled from CENTCOM daily reports will shed a little light on the matter:

0000000Two months of air strikes and this is all we have to show for it? Those “armed vehicles” include the ubiquitous “Technicals” — pick-up trucks with machine guns mounted in the truck bed. How smart is it to use a $3 million smart bomb to destroy a used Toyota Tacoma?

In fact, air force pilots are complaining that targets to shoot at are hard to come by:

Within the U.S. Air Force, there’s mounting frustration that the air campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is moving far more slowly than expected. Instead of a fast-moving operation with hundreds of sorties flown in a single day—the kind favored by many in the air service—American warplanes are hitting small numbers of targets after a painstaking and cumbersome process.

The single biggest problem, current and former Air Force officers say, is the so-called kill-chain of properly identifying and making sure the right target is being attacked. At the moment, that process is very complicated and painfully slow.

“The kill-chain is very convoluted,” one combat-experienced Air Force A-10 Warthog pilot told The Daily Beast. “Nobody really has the control in the tactical environment.”

Does this sound like an Obama operation or what? No one in control, half measures, slow and deliberate when speed and overwhelming power is called for.

Sounds like the rollout of Obamacare.

Call it a “Sham War” or a “Phony War,” it’s not working. If we’re really set on degrading and destroying Islamic State, we’re going about it in a strange way.

 

 

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No Sign of Increased Turnout for Dems on Election Day

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

At the beginning of the summer, the White House and Democrats on the Hill promised to highlight issues that were near and dear to the hearts of their core constituencies of single women, minorities, and young people.

To that end, they launched a series of attacks on Republicans: “war on women,” income inequality, exploiting racial tensions in Ferguson, and a promise from the president to take executive action on immigration.

None of those issues have resonated with their targets. The needle has hardly moved and it appears that Senate Democratic incumbents, as well as other Democratic congressional candidates, are going to pay the price for this miscalculation.

Recent polling suggests that the turnout for traditional Democratic groups for midterms will be even lower than it was in 2010 — an ominous sign that the party will suffer another humiliating defeat.

The Hill:

If the numbers hold, it could mean a rout for Democrats similar to the 2010 “shellacking” — President Obama’s description — that swept away their House majority.

“We cannot have 2010 turnout. If we have 2010 turnout among our key constituencies, we’re going to have 2010 all over again. It’s math,” said Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, who served as a pollster for President Obama’s election campaigns.

Overall voter participation in midterm elections has hovered around 40 percent in recent years, compared to a 56 percent average for presidential years. But turnout levels are more resilient among older, richer and white voters — all of which is good news for Republicans.

According to the nonpartisan Voter Participation Center, nearly 21 million fewer African Americans, Hispanics, unmarried women and young people voted in 2010 compared to 2008. That’s exactly the situation Democrats want to avoid this time around.

Some Democrats think the party hasn’t done enough to pep up the groups that form its main pillars of support. Veteran Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told The Hill last week that Hispanic voters would largely be unmotivated to vote in this year’s elections due to President Obama’s decision to delay an executive action on immigration.

“I think if we’d done something, it would have energized the Latino vote and drawn a clear distinction with the Republicans,” Lake said.

Polling has further shown that young people are generally disengaged with this year’s elections. A Pew Research poll this month found that only five percent of adults ages 18-29 were following the 2014 midterms very closely.

That could spell disaster for Democrats. National exit polls from the last midterm elections in 2010 indicated that voters aged 18-29 favored Democratic candidates over Republicans by 55 percent to 42 percent. Those figures were roughly reversed among voters aged 65 and older, who voted Republican 59 percent to 38 percent.

Tellingly, those voters who were 65 and older accounted for 21 percent of the votes cast in 2010, while only about 12 percent of the total voters came from the 18-29 cohort.

Turnout should be higher in states with high-profile competitive races. Michael McDonald, an associate professor at the University of Florida who specializes in elections, said that turnout may be low nationally simply because most of the county’s largest states — such as California and Texas — don’t have major competitive races.

Driving the point home is the fact that Dems are pulling ads from races they originally targeted for takeover, and moving money into the campaigns of House incumbents who are looking shakier all the time.

As for the Republicans, they are pouring money into Senate races, looking to put their candidates over the top:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is increasing television ad buys by $7.4 million in six of the tightest races, raising efforts to regain Senate control in the final weeks before Election Day.

The GOP Senate campaign arm will up ad buys by $1.5 million in Colorado, $1.45 million in Georgia, 1.25 million in Iowa, $1.2 million in New Hampshire and $1.0 million in both South Dakota and Alaska.

“These additional investments are part of our overall strategy to win and build a new Senate Republican majority,”  Ron Bonjean, a consultant for the party’s finance arm, said in a statement.

The move comes as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced this week it will drop $1 million into the South Dakota Senate race.

With Senator Roberts looking a little better in Kansas, and other Republican challengers staying close or maintaining a lead, the stage is set for a blowout GOP win. But in addition to battling their opponents, Republicans are fighting complacency . So far, the enthusiasm — what little there is for this race — appears to be on the GOP’s side. That doesn’t always translate into higher turnout, but given the historical advantage Republican constituencies show over Democrats in off-year elections, GOP confidence should be growing just 3 weeks from election day.

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Obama Mulls Closing Gitmo, Moving Inmates to Mainland

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In 2010, a bipartisan Congress passed a bill preventing the administration from transferring prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the mainland. Every year since, Congress has reauthorized the measure, attaching the restriction to the National Defense Authorization Act.

The will of Congress in this matter is clear. But when did the will of the people’s representatives stop this president from getting his way?

Barack Obama entered the presidency promising to close the Guantanamo prison camp. Apparently stung by his inability to persuade even members of his own party to pass legislation that would accomplish that goal, the president is once again thinking about using his executive authority to go around Congress and unilaterally change the policy.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

White House officials have concluded Mr. Obama likely has two options for closing Guantanamo, should Congress extend the restrictions, which it could do after the midterm elections.

He could veto the annual bill setting military policy, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, in which the ban on transferring detainees to the U.S. is written. While the veto wouldn’t directly affect military funding, such a high-stakes confrontation with Congress carries significant political risks.

A second option would be for Mr. Obama to sign the bill while declaring restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners an infringement of his powers as commander in chief, as he has done previously. Presidents of both parties have used such signing statements to clarify their understanding of legislative measures or put Congress on notice that they wouldn’t comply with provisions they consider infringements of executive power.

The core obstacle standing in the White House’s way is Congress’s move in 2010 to ban the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. That legislation was passed after the administration sparked a backlash when it proposed relocating detainees to a maximum-security prison in Thomson, Ill.

The administration hopes to tamp down controversy by reducing the inmate population by at least half through quickly transferring Guantanamo detainees cleared for release.

On Thursday, Estonia, which Mr. Obama visited last month, announced it would accept one detainee. Officials said additional transfers are in the works.

“We are very pleased with the support from our friends and allies, and we are very grateful to them,” said Clifford Sloan, the State Department envoy for Guantanamo closure.

Nonetheless, administration officials say the detention center can’t be closed without sending at least some of the remaining inmates to the U.S. mainland.

Mr. Obama said in his 2014 State of the Union address that “this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.” The president now expects to miss that deadline, administration officials say, a departure from earlier this summer when White House aides were still saying it was possible.

Mr. Obama’s decision in May to exchange Guantanamo detainees for an American prisoner of war, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, without the required 30-day advance congressional notice drew a backlash on the Hill. The start of a U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State militant group has similarly overshadowed any appetite for a repeal of the ban.

What can Congress do? They can deny the president funds to transfer the prisoners, although Obama has shown himself to be creative in this regard. He took monies from HHS earmarked for other uses to fund his Obamacare rollout. There’s nothing stopping him from dipping into one Pentagon fund or the other to finance his congressional workaround.

How many detainees would be housed on American soil? That depends on how effective the administration is in convincing other countries to willingly take accused terrorists into their midst. The fact is, there are still 179 inmates held at the prison because few countries are enthusiastic about taking their nationals back after they were accused of being terrorists. Repatriation of the terrorists has come to a standstill.

Of the 149 who remain, 79 have been approved for transfer by national-security officials but remain because of political or diplomatic obstacles in repatriating them.

Another 37 have been designated for continued detention without trial. These are men considered too dangerous to release, yet against whom the government lacks usable evidence. A further 23 have been referred for prosecution by military commission, where 10 detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks, are in pretrial hearings.

It appears that at least 60 hardened terrorists will be placed in mainland prisons without the consent of Congress or the people.

It’s been said before but it bears repeating. We’re in uncharted waters. Separation of powers as envisioned by the Founders doesn’t work unless all branches of government recognize that there are limits to what they can do. There may be disagreement on where those limits are, but at the very least, all must agree that limits exist.

It is troubling in the extreme that President Obama refuses to accept limits on his power. He claims to be reluctant about using his executive authority but who believes that? He will do anything and everything to effect his kind of “transformation” of America. And until Congress and the courts make up their mind to stop him, he will continue to do so.

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Cop Killer Commencement Speaker Urges Students to Make America a Better Place

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The left’s fascination and, indeed, idolization of the worst kinds of thugs and killers is one of the signature aspects of modern liberalism. Those who repel normal human beings attracts them. What disgusts decent people brings out their admiration.

It would be inexplicable except there doesn’t need to be an explanation. Anti-Americanism doesn’t explain it, although it certainly is part of the attraction. Perhaps the students at tiny Goddard College in Plainfield, VT, who invited convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal to speak at one of their commencement ceremonies, give the best answer to the question, “what were they thinking”?

The school, which has about 600 students between the ages of 18 and 18 (sic), says the graduates chose Abu-Jamal as a way to “engage and think radically and critically.”

Goddard students design their own curriculums with faculty advisers and do not take tests or receive grades.

Obviously, they utterly failed to think “critically” in the academic sense of the word. But it is an absolute imperative of today’s left to be able to think “radically.” And that means supporting what normal, decent people consider repugnant while embracing radicals who put their beliefs to the test in the bloodiest, cruelest way imaginable.

So what does a convicted cop killer have to say to young people starting off in life?

Mumia Abu-Jamal spoke by video to 20 students receiving bachelor degrees from Goddard College in Plainfield. He earned a degree from the college in 1996.

“Think about the myriad of problems that beset this land and strive to make it better,” Abu-Jamal said in the video.

He said his studies at Goddard allowed him to learn about important figures in distant lands.

“Goddard reawakened in me my love of learning,” he said. “In my mind, I left death row.”

The former Black Panther did not address the crime for which he was convicted. He originally was sentenced to death for killing white police Officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981, but he was resentenced to life in 2012.

His claims that he’s been victimized by a racist justice system have attracted international support. A radio show, documentaries and books have helped publicize his case. Goddard College describes him as “an award winning journalist who chronicles the human condition.”

But the decision to allow Abu-Jamal to speak angered police and corrections officials in Vermont and Pennsylvania. The Vermont Troopers Association said it showed a disregard for the victim’s family at a time when the nation is seeking solutions to gun violence.

The case against Abu-Jamal is airtight. It was airtight then and it is airtight now. The murder of Officer Faulkner was a cold blooded, brutal execution — a cowardly act for which Abu-Jamal rightly received the death penalty. The sentence was overturned on a technicality after dozens of appeals and entreaties by leftists all over the world.

Michael Smerconish describes Abu-Jamal’s crime:

On Dec. 9, 1981, at about 4 a.m., 25-year-old Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was executed while making what seemed like a routine traffic stop.

Faulkner pulled over the brother of Mumia Abu-Jamal, William Cook, who was driving his Volkswagen the wrong way on a one-way street in the city’s red-light district.

Abu-Jamal was then an out-of-work journalist who was driving a cab. His revolutionary ideas were well-documented.

He saw the police stop from across the street.

Four eyewitnesses testified at trial as to what happened next. Their testimony portrayed a horrific sequence:

Abu-Jamal ran across the street, shot Faulkner in the back, and finally between the eyes. Before that final fatal shot, Faulkner had discharged his gun, hitting Abu-Jamal in the stomach. With that bullet, you could say he confirmed the identity of his executioner.

When police arrived quickly on the scene, Abu-Jamal was still wearing his shoulder holster.

The murder weapon was registered to Abu-Jamal. He’d purchased it at a local sporting-goods store. The five-shot Charter Arms revolver contained five spent shells. Ballistics tests verified that the shells found in Abu-Jamal’s gun were the same caliber, brand, and type as the fatal bullet removed from Faulkner’s brain.

Both men where taken to a local ER. Faulkner was pronounced dead. Abu-Jamal was heard by witnesses to say, “I shot the motherf- and I hope the motherf- dies.”

So the case had eyewitnesses, a ballistics match, and a confession.

Wikipedia summarizes his “defense”:

The defense maintained that Abu-Jamal was innocent and that the prosecution witnesses were unreliable. The defense presented nine character witnesses, including poet Sonia Sanchez, who testified that Abu-Jamal was “viewed by the black community as a creative, articulate, peaceful, genial man”.[40] Another defense witness, Dessie Hightower, testified that he saw a man running along the street shortly after the shooting although he did not see the actual shooting itself.[41] His testimony contributed to the development of a “running man theory”, based on the possibility that a “running man” may have been the actual shooter. Veronica Jones also testified for the defense, but she did not see anyone running.[42] Other potential defense witnesses refused to appear in court.[43] Abu-Jamal did not testify in his own defense. Nor did his brother, William Cook, who told investigators at the crime scene: “I ain’t got nothing to do with this.”[44]

His own brother, the proximate cause of the incident, refused to back Abu-Jamal up. There just isn’t any credible evidence to counter the overwhelming case made by the prosection.

So, of course, Abu-Jamal is a hero:

Labor unions,[100][101][102] politicians,[7][103] advocates,[104] educators,[105] the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund,[25] and human rights advocacy organizations such as Human Rights Watch[106] and Amnesty International have expressed concern about the impartiality of the trial of Abu-Jamal,[5] though Amnesty International neither takes a position on the guilt or innocence of Abu-Jamal nor classifies him as a political prisoner.[5] They are opposed by the family of Daniel Faulkner, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia,[107] Republican politicians,[107][108] and the Fraternal Order of Police.[109] In August 1999, the Fraternal Order of Police called for an economic boycott against all individuals and organizations that support Abu-Jamal.[110]

Abu-Jamal has been made an honorary citizen of about 25 cities around the world, including Copenhagen, Montreal, Palermo and Paris.[107][111] In 2001, he received the sixth biennial Erich Mühsam Prize, named after an anarcho-communist essayist, which recognizes activism in line with that of its namesake.[112] In October 2002, he was made an honorary member of the German political organization Society of People Persecuted by the Nazi Regime – Federation of Anti-Fascists (VVN-BdA)[113] which Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has considered to be influenced by left-wing extremism.[114]

Incredible.

Abu-Jamal is celebrated because he acted on his radical beliefs and executed his “oppressor.” Perhaps the students of Goddard College could be given a lesson in “critical thinking” by weighing the relative merits of the prosecution and defense cases. Their conclusions would reveal much about their education — or lack thereof.

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Suit Seeks to Give Chimpanzees Some Human Rights

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Chimpanzees are human’s closest genetic relatives, possessing 97% of the human genome. Research — some of it controversial — has determined that many of the Great Apes (chimps, gorillas, orangutangs, bonobos, and humans) have most of the cognitive abilities of humans. Their family and social life is similar to ours. Dawn-Prince Hughes, a noted anthropologist and a leader in the Great Ape Personhood movement, claims that “great apes meet all the standards set out for personhood: self-awareness; comprehension of past, present, and future; the ability to understand complex rules and their consequences on emotional levels; the ability to choose to risk those consequences, a capacity for empathy, and the ability to think abstractly.”

Some of those conclusions are in dispute in the scientific community. One argument made by critics is that researchers tend to anthropomorphize some behaviors of chimps which may compromise some experiments. But recent research strongly suggests that chimpanzees have complex minds capable of great subtlety.

This is important to keep in mind when contemplating the Great Ape Personhood initiatives that are being pushed in many western countries. Do Great Apes deserve to be treated more like humans? Should they be given human rights, especially the right to be free from captivity?

Next week, a New York appeals court will hear the case of Tommy, a chimpanzee in his 20′s, who has been kept in a small cage for most of his life. The suit seeks to free Tommy from his cage and bring him to Florida to live out his life in an animal preserve.

New York Post:

Steven Wise, part of the Nonhuman Rights Project, which is leading the effort, will have to convince a panel of Albany appellate judges that a chimp name Tommy is a “legal person” to get him moved from a cage in an upstate farm to a sanctuary in Florida.

“It’s a morally wrong thing to do,” said Wise of Tommy’s longtime captivity as a pet in Gloversville. “As a matter of both liberty and equality, Tommy should be seen as a person.”

Research by cognitive experts says chimps have autonomous and self-determining qualities akin to human beings, Wise said.

In December, a Montgomery County Supreme Court judge tossed Wise’s writ of habeas corpus that tried to get Tommy, who’s in his mid-20s, sprung from his tiny cage.

Three similar suits filed on behalf of other chimps living in New York state were also thrown out.

But some of the judges remained sympathetic.

“You make a very strong argument. However, I do not agree with the argument only insofar as (habeas corpus) applies to chimpanzees,” said Justice Joseph Sise of Tommy’s case.

“Good luck with your venture. I’m sorry I can’t sign the order, but I hope you continue. As an animal lover, I appreciate your work,” the judge added.

Wise appealed and will take the case to the state Appellate Division in Albany on Wednesday. The ground-breaking case — the first of its kind in the nation — has been years in the making.

It culminated last November when Wise visited Tommy.

“Tommy did not look happy. Chimps are extraordinarily social beings. Keeping him in solitary confinement is essentially the equivalent of putting me in solitary confinement,” said Wise.

Tommy’s owner, Patrick Lavery, didn’t return messages.

But he told the Albany Times Union last year that the chimp’s “really got it good.”

“He’s got a lot of enrichment. He’s got color TV, cable and a stereo,” Lavery said. “He likes being by himself.”

The ignorant owner aside, this would be a hugely consequential decision if the case is decided in Tommy’s favor. It could mean that medical and other testing on live Great Apes would come to an end, complicating — and making more expensive — the process of bringing consumer products to market. It may even make it impossible to keep chimps in captivity in zoos and circuses.

The argument that you can’t give Great Apes human rights because they are unable to understand the very concept of rights falls apart when you consider that there are developmentally disabled humans who are also incapable of understanding their rights. In their cases, a guardian or court-appointed advocate speaks for them. Is that not the case with Tommy?

Some opponents of giving apes rights might make the argument that apes have no souls, and are therefore undeserving of being treated like a human being. Given the limited ability of the two species to communicate, the inner lives of chimps are a mystery. Do they have an understanding of the sacred? Of a supreme being? Given all the surprising information we’ve discovered about Great Apes over the last 50 years, it wouldn’t be shocking if we found out they did.

Certainly we should be cautious and prudent in what rights we grant animals. But what is the ultimate goal? If you believe that how we treat the least of us tells the rest of the world a great deal about our society, then perhaps the goal is simply to affirm our own humanity by demonstrating our capacity to expand freedom beyond the boundaries of our own species.

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Are Administration Critics ‘Panicking’ Over Ebola?

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Are those of us questioning the administration’s Ebola policies and plans panicking about the disease? Are we trying to spread panic?

It’s a legitimate question, largely because everything the administration is saying about the virus and how it spreads is the truth — at least, as far as we understand it. The problem isn’t so much that the White House has their facts wrong. The problem is that because they have little credibility, their reassurances about having everything under control and that it could never happen here ring hollow.

That, and the fact that the few common-sense precautions recommended by those critics are dismissed with claims that the proposals will only make things worse — a dubious assertion given the circumstances.

This is a gang that can’t shoot straight, whose demonstrated incompetence in dealing with big public policy issues, both foreign and domestic, worries those of us who have heard this recording about having a handle on things before.

It doesn’t matter if they think they know what to do. It matters that they have shown in the past that facts are of little value when incompetent execution of policy, or developing the wrong policy, leads to disaster.

In a brilliant essay, Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon fleshes out the context of the administration’s pronouncements on Ebola:

Over the last few years the divergence between what the government promises and what it delivers, between what it says is happening or will happen and what actually is happening and does happen, between what it determines to be important and what the public wishes to be important—this gap has become abysmal, unavoidable, inescapable. We hear of “lone-wolf” terrorism, of “workplace violence,” that if you like your plan you can keep your plan. We are told that Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration, that al Qaeda is on the run, that the border is secure as it has ever been, that Assad must go, that I didn’t draw a red line, the world drew a red line, that the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups involved not a smidgen of corruption, that the Islamic State is not Islamic. We see the government spend billions on websites that do not function, and the VA consign patients to death by waiting list and then cover it up. We are assured that Putin won’t invade; that the Islamic State is the jayvee team of terrorism; that Bowe Bergdahl served with honor and distinction; that there is a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia.

While the public remains pro-Israel, our government negotiates with Israel’s enemies. While the public wants to reduce immigration, the preeminent legislative objective of both parties is a bill that would increase it. While the public is uninterested in global warming, while costly regulations could not pass a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate, while the scientific consensus behind the green agenda is, at the very least, fraying, the president says that climate change is the greatest threat to the United States. While Americans tell pollsters their economic situation has not improved, and that things are headed in the wrong direction—while even Democratic economists acknowledge the despondent state of the middle class—the president travels to Chicago to celebrate his economic recovery.

These disjunctions and confusions, these missteps, scandals, and miscalculations, have hurt Obama’s approval numbers. They endanger the Democratic Senate majority, contribute to the widespread sense of disorder and decay, shatter trust in government and in public institutions. They have put into stark relief a political class dominated by liberal partisans, captured by ideas and interests removed from those of ordinary Americans. The stories of ineptitude or malfeasance that appear in the daily newspaper are more than examples of high ideals executed poorly. They are examples of the pursuit of ideas—of equality and diversity and progress and centralization and environmentalism and globalization—to absurd and self-destructive limits.

It is not “panicking” nor is to an attempt to spread panic when legitimate questions about public policy — and the ability of those whose responsibility it is to implement that policy — are asked. But apparently, recommending precautions that the administration says are unnecessary (regarding a disease with a mortality rate of over 50%) is grounds for some to accuse critics of trying to spread hysteria.

Here’s David Nather writing in Politico:

For once, President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are on the same page. At separate briefings on the Ebola crisis, Obama administration officials and Perry have delivered the same message: Don’t panic — the health authorities know what they’re doing.

But for other Republicans — and conservative media outlets — it’s time for panic.

The likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates — except for Perry — are practically lining up to warn that the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to keep Ebola out of the United States, now that Dallas is dealing with the nation’s first confirmed case.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky declared on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that “this could get beyond our control” and worried, “Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?”

Sen. Ted Cruz — Perry’s Texas colleague — raised the prospect of restricting or banning flights to the West African countries that are hardest hit by the disease, noting in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration that some African nations and certain airlines have already imposed their own flight bans.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin floated the idea of quarantining airline passengers in the affected African countries before they could fly out. “We’re learning a lot about how it’s spread but the question is ‘How can a person just jump on a plane and get here without a quarantine period of 21 days,’ which I believe is recommended,” he said on a radio talk show Wednesday. A spokesman for Ryan says the congressman misspoke and was referencing a recommendation to be monitored for 21 days.

And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says the United States should cut off flights from those countries. “President Obama said it was ‘unlikely’ that Ebola would reach the U.S. Well, it has, and we need to protect our people,” he said in a statement Friday.

In fact, of the 2016 Republican hopefuls who have commented on the Ebola crisis, Perry is the only one who has been a reassuring voice.

In other words, Perry is the only potential candidate who hasn’t ripped the Obama administration for their inexplicable policy of carrying on with travel from Ebola-afflicted countries almost as if there was nothing to worry about. None of the policy recommendations by Republicans are off base or out of line. They are sensible, reasonable, and may end up being necessary. How this demonstrates “panic” or spreads hysteria is beyond me.

Perhaps Nather should look to his colleagues as the panic-spreaders in this situation:

But while it’s fine for the media to tell us not to panic about Ebola, let’s bear in mind that the people most likely to panic about Ebola are the media. Everyday citizens tend to keep their heads in situations like this. As I wrote half a decade ago, when the purported panic on the horizon involved swine flu, “It’s easy to find examples of public anxiety, with every hypochondriac in the country fretting that the cold his kid always catches this time of year was actually the killer flu. But panic? Where’s the evidence of that?” Going through a series of stories that were supposed to show flu hysteria, I was underwhelmed. A Time feature, for example, had a headline that said a “swine flu panic” had hit Mexico, but the actual article didn’t demonstrate that.

Of course, the press has a built in motive to spread panic. Panicked people voraciously consume information, and who better to stoke that panic by creating a vicious circle of fear than the media?

Continetti tells us just what it is we should be afraid of:

Not only do I disagree with the constant stream of soothing and complacent rhetoric from Dr. Zeke’s friends in government and media. I also believe it is entirely rational to fear the possibility of a major Ebola outbreak, of a threat to the president and his family, of jihadists crossing the border, of a large-scale European or Asian war, of nuclear proliferation, of terrorists detonating a weapon of mass destruction. These dangers are real, and pressing, and though the probability of their occurrence is not high, it is amplified by the staggering incompetence and failure and misplaced priorities of the U.S. government. It is not Ebola I am afraid of. It is our government’s ability to deal with Ebola.

Given all that we’ve seen in nearly six years from these government managers, it is only acting as a responsible citizen to question whether this White House can deal with a serious public health crisis that has the potential — if managed incorrectly or incompetently — to kill thousands of citizens.

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Screening Procedures at Monrovia Airport ‘Completely Useless’ Says Virologist

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In their latest attempt to tamp down any panic from the Ebola crisis, administration officials pointed out that screening procedures at airports in West Africa had prevented “dozens and dozens” of people from boarding flights to the U.S.

Monaco stressed that the air screenings have been almost entirely effective in preventing the spread of Ebola onto U.S. soil.

“Dozens and dozens of people have been stopped from getting onto planes,” she said. “We have now seen tens of thousands of people [arrive in the U.S.] since March to the current day, and we now have this one isolated case.”

But according to a top virologist working on a vaccine for Ebola, those screening procedures in Liberia leave a lot to be desired.

Breitbart reports:

Virologist Heinz Feldmann, who has studied Ebola for 20 years and is currently working on one of several experimental vaccines for the virus, warned in a September interview that the airport was the place in Monrovia where he felt the most unsafe, and that screening for Ebola at the airport was a “disaster.”

In an interview with Science Magazine in September, Feldmann, who had recently returned from three weeks in Monrovia, explains that the front lines in west Africa against the Ebola virus are by far the most dangerous; those working for organizations like Doctors Without Borders live under the constant threat of contracting the virus. Feldmann notes that he himself did not feel unsafe working in Liberia because his work was academic, and thus enclosed with the virus, rather than the patients:

Patients are like virus factories producing up to a hundred million virus particles per milliliter of blood, and a patient is unpredictable; a patient could cough, could spit at you, vomit on you, or even become aggressive and attack you. So these people really have the highest risk and have the highest burden.

Feldmann confesses that the place at which he felt the least safe was the airport, calling it the place of “highest risk.” For example, screening occurs in areas confined enough that those being screened are likely to come into contact with the virus should an Ebola patient be among them. Furthermore, screeners are so poorly trained that they often cannot even properly measure temperature.

“They are checking your temperature three times before you get into the airport, but if you look at the people that do this kind of work, they don’t really know how to use the devices,” Feldmann explains. “They are writing down temperatures of 32°C, which everybody should know is impossible for a living person.” Feldmann calls for major overhauls in the system, as he asserts that the checks are “completely useless” and “just a disaster.”

You would expect such incompetence from a third world country like Liberia. And that makes it even more puzzling why we haven’t pulled the plug on flights out of that country where passengers end up in the U.S.

Do authorities really believe that Liberian screening procedures are adequate? Or are they just whistling past the graveyard, hoping that any sick people they miss at Monrovia will be caught somewhere else?

It sounds to me like we are extremely lucky to have only this one case so far. The White House is rolling the dice with American lives and keeping their fingers crossed that their absurd policies won’t blow up in their face.

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Biden Tries to Blame Turkey for Administration ISIS Failures

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The most gafftastic vice president in history has struck again.

Joe Biden is an international name dropper, never failing to mention some world leader or another he has met with and who he says he’s good friends with.

On Thursday, Biden took the ploy a little too far. Speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Biden told the audience of a private conversation he had with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan where the Islamist leader admitted he had given arms and money to terrorist groups in Syria. “He (Erdogan) said: ‘You were right. We let too many people through,’” said Biden.

The vice president was trying to show that it’s not the administration’s fault that ISIS became powerful; it’s the fault of our allies.

“The Turks, who are great friends – I have a great relationship with Erdogan, whom I spend a lot of time with – the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war,” Biden said.

“What did they do?” Biden continued. “They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaida and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world…. Now they’re trying to seal their border.”

Mr. Erdogan emphatically denies Biden’s assertion that the Turkish President acknowledged his country’s mistake in allowing foreign fighters to cross into Syria, and on Saturday he demanded that Biden apologize.

“Foreign fighters have never entered Syria from our country. They may come to our country as tourists and cross into Syria, but no one can say that they cross in with their arms,” Erdogan said. “I have never said to him that we had made a mistake, never. If he did say this at Harvard then he has to apologize to us.”

Otherwise, Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, Biden “will be history for me if he has indeed used such expressions.” No word yet whether Biden will apologize to Erdogan.

Biden did apologize, although you wonder whether Erdogan thinks his former friend is, indeed, “history”:

Biden spoke with Erdogan by phone on Saturday, the White House said.

“The vice president apologized for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria,” the White House said, referring to an acronym for the Islamic State group.

The spat comes as Turkey, a NATO ally, is expected to define the role it will play in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic state militants who have captured a swath of Iraq and Syria, in some cases right up to the Turkish border.

While Biden is correct to some extent — most of the original funding for ISIS came from another US ally, Qatar — you don’t go around 1) revealing private conversations with other government’s leaders; and 2) accuse an ally of breaking international law by knowingly giving material support to terrorists.

In Biden’s eagerness to brag about how important he is by revealing conversations with a foreign leader, the hapless veep damaged relations with a NATO ally and weakened NATO itself.  Erdogan hardly deserves our sympathy, but Biden’s latest gaffe is one a first year international relations major would know not to make.

 

 

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White House, CDC Can’t Get their Stories Straight on Ebola Preparedness

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Here’s something that’s sure to fill your heart with gladness and soul with confidence.

First, the White House says it has the Ebola virus “under control” and that we needn’t worry because the “U.S. has the most capable healthcare system and the most capable doctors in the world, bar none.”

Good to know, yes?

“We know how to do this, and we will do it again,” Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said at a press briefing.

“It’s very important to remind the American people that U.S. has the most capable healthcare system and the most capable doctors in the world, bar none,” Monaco said.

The press conference appeared to be aimed at calming a public worried about a possible outbreak in the United States of the disease, which has killed more than 3,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

[...]

Monaco said the U.S. healthcare system “could not be more opposite” than those in countries most affected by Ebola.

Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stressed the U.S. healthcare care is “very, very, very well-established.”

While he acknowledged that the disease has spurred “a lot of fear” across the country, he reiterated that an outbreak is extremely unlikely.

The officials outlined a long list of precautions taken to control the disease since it was first diagnosed in March. The first humanitarian workers were deployed to the region that same month and continued to escalate their presence throughout the summer.

The HHS sent its first Ebola-related guidance to hospitals on July 28, and has since provided six more. The department has also strengthened surveillance and lab testing, as well as advising staff on how to properly screen airline passengers in the U.S.

Monaco stressed that the air screenings have been almost entirely effective in preventing the spread of Ebola onto U.S. soil.

“Dozens and dozens of people have been stopped from getting onto planes,” she said. “We have now seen tens of thousands of people [arrive in the U.S.] since March to the current day, and we now have this one isolated case.”

I feel better already. But let’s hear what the CDC has to say about our “capable” health care system and the “long list” of precautions sent to hospitals:

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Rumors Swirling about Fate of North Korean Leader

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Where is North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un?

The last time Kim was seen in public was precisely a month ago — by far his longest absence from the public eye since he took power. State TV ran a documentary where they mentioned that Kim was not feeling well.

But speculation that there may have been a coup was given credence yesterday by a former propaganda official for the regime who claims that Kim was overthrown in a coup last year and has become a “puppet leader.”

Jang Jin-sung told a security conference in Holland that Kim was deposed by the powerful Organization and Guidance Department in 2013 and that they are pulling the strings at the moment. There has also been a report that the North Korean capital Pyongyang was in “lockdown” with even the elites being unable to enter or exit the city.

The Daily Mail reports:

He told Vice News: ‘On one hand, it’s people who want to maintain a regime monopoly. On the other hand, it’s not like people are fighting against the regime, but in a policy sense they want to take advantage to get influence. It’s not actually consciously civil war, but there are these two incompatible forces at play.’

Remco Breuker, a professor of Korean Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, which hosted the conference, backs-up Jin-sung’s statements.

He told the news site: ‘The real power resides within that one department, the OGD, that was groomed to bureaucratic perfection by Kim Jong-il. It serves him [Kim Jong-Un], but it more serves the legacy of Kim Jong-il. Those don’t always coincide.’

Jin-sung believes that the current North Korean regime will collapse in the near future and that Kim Jong-Un could be replaced by one of his brothers, either Kim Jong-nam, 43, or Kim Jong-chul, 33.

Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University and an authority on North Korean affairs, told The Telegraph that the current lockdown in the capital – revealed by the New Focus International news web site this week – could mean that the regime has become dangerously unstable.

He said: ‘This sort of action suggests there has either been an attempted coup or that the authorities there have uncovered some sort of plot against the leadership.

‘If it is a military-backed coup, then the situation in Pyongyang will be very dangerous and I have heard reports that Kim has been moved out of the capital.’

State media acknowledged for the first time last month that Kim Jong-Un, who assumed power in North Korea when his father died in 2011, was suffering from ‘discomfort’ due to unspecified health reasons, prompting speculation over what ails him.

How much credence should we give this story? North Korea is a wild and wacky place with all sorts of intrigue and factionalism. But the most credible explanation is, as with all things, usually the simplest: Kim is sick.

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Ebola: PJ Media’s J. Christian Adams on The Kelly File

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

PJ Media’s legal editor J. Christian Adams appeared on the Fox News Channel with Megyn Kelly last night. He talked about President Obama’s authority to stop flights from Liberia from coming into the U.S.

Adams referenced his PJ Media column where he makes it plain the president has all the legal authority he needs to act, but has failed to do so:

As the Ebola epidemic has spread through West Africa over the last several months, President Obama has not used legal powers he possesses to help prevent the deadly virus from entering the United States.

Federal law gives the president the power to issue a proclamation to seal the borders to any class of aliens who pose a threat to the United States. The law is broad enough that Obama could have issued a proclamation months ago denying entry to any foreign national from the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria or Liberia. Under the law, such a proclamation could have also included any passport holder who visited those countries as evidenced by visas or entry/exit stamps on the passport.

Section 1182 (f) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act gives the president this power, which the Obama administration has refused to use even as Ebola threatens Americans.

“Why does this president not protect the American people?” asks Adams. So far, no answer has been forthcoming from the White House.


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Obama: U.S. Intelligence Agencies Underestimated ISIS

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Not his fault. How was he supposed to know that ISIS was a growing threat?

In fact, U.S. intelligence agencies received information from Kurdish officials early this year that ISIS was on the march.

Kurdish officials on Tuesday revealed more details about the warnings they gave to U.S. officials about the threat from Sunni militants now rampaging across Iraq with their eyes on Baghdad.

As far back as six months ago, Kurdish intelligence operatives were receiving troubling reports from along the border between Syria and Iraq, officials told NBC News.

There was a suspiciously large amount of men gathering in makeshift camps and staging areas that were accumulating weapons and vehicles. They appeared, according to Kurdish intelligence, to be preparing for battle.

The men were made up of mostly fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), which has taken control of several cities in Iraq in the past couple of weeks — but Kurdish Intelligence operatives also noticed the fighters’ ranks had grown.

Joining were young men from local Iraqi tribes not known to have previous affiliation with ISIS, an organization aimed at establishing an Islamic caliphate militarily and imposing their strict interpretation of Islamic Law, or ‘Sharia’ in Iraq and greater Syria. Kurdish intelligence also learned that former officials from Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party and ex-military officers were communicating with the fighters.

Then, in April, large convoys of vehicles carrying militants were spotted moving across the Syria-Iraq border. Only this time, after years of moving to the Syrian battlefield, they were now returning to Iraq.

The intelligence, according to Kurdish security sources, also revealed that ISIS had shifted its sights away from Syria and onto Iraq to tap into a groundswell of resentment among Sunni communities in the west of the country — who are underrepresented by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad.

As was their job, the intelligence agencies passed this information along to senior officials at the White House:

The U.S. intelligence community warned about the “growing threat” from Sunni militants in Iraq since the beginning of the year, a senior intelligence official said Tuesday — a claim that challenges assertions by top administration officials that they were caught off guard by the capture of key Iraqi cities.

Earlier Tuesday, in an interview with Fox News, Secretary of State John Kerry said “nobody expected” Iraqi security forces to be decisively driven out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, as they were earlier this month in Mosul.

But in a separate briefing with reporters Tuesday afternoon, the senior intelligence official said the intelligence community had warned about the ISIS threat.

“During the past year, the intelligence community has provided strategic warning of Iraq’s deteriorating security situation,” the official said. “We routinely highlighted (ISIS’) growing threat in Iraq, the increasing difficulties Iraq’s security forced faced in combating (ISIS), and the political strains that were contributing to Iraq’s declining stability.”

Asked who failed to act, the official did not explain.

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Former Vatican Archbishop Stored 100,00 Child Porn Videos and Pictures

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The highest-ranking Vatican official ever to be investigated for sex abuse is now accused of storing tens of thousands of child porn videos and images on his computer.

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who served as a papal envoy in the Dominican Republic, had been arrested earlier this week at the Vatican and will be charged with sexually abusing minors and child porn possession. He may spend up to 7 years in the Vatican prison.

International Business Times:

Vatican detectives analysed the PC Wesolowski used in his office in Santo Domingo, where he served as Holy See envoy from 2008 to 2012 as part of an investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of underage boys.

The probe reportedly revealed a collection of horrors. The Polish native held more than 100,000 sexually-explicit files, Il Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.

ome 160 videos showing teenage boys forced to perform sexual acts on themselves and on adults and more than 86,000 pornographic photos were meticulously archived in several category-based folders, the paper said.

Investigators said that at least another 45,000 pictures were deleted, while a second stash of material was found on a laptop Wesolowski used during his trips abroad.

The former clergyman was placed under house arrest in a pre-trial detention at the Vatican earlier this week. He has been detained in a small room in the basement of the Collegio dei Penitenzieri, a convent located in the same building hosting the Vatican’s court and military police in the famous Santa Marta square.

Investigators are also probing whether there was a network of people who helped him to set up sexual encounters and if he committed other abuse during his previous posts around the world.

Before arriving in Santo Domingo, Wesolowski served as apostolic nuncio in Bolivia and Central Asia – covering Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan and Uzbekistan – after holding less prominent roles in Southern African, Costa Rica, Japan, Switzerland, India and Denmark.

He was recalled to Rome last year, after Dominican Republic media alleged he hired “rent boys” and was subsequently banished from the clergy, after a canonical court found him guilty of sex abuse.

His trial is expected to start in January.

This may be the apex of the sex scandals that have done so much to damage the Catholic Church. The loss of trust among ordinary Catholics because of an organized effort at the highest levels of the church hierarchy to sweep even the most egregious sex abuse cases by priests under the rug has angered and saddened tens of millions around the globe.

It may be that only 3% or so of priests are guilty, although how many priests have gotten away with their crimes is unknown. But beyond the numbers of abused children, there stands the dioceses, the archdioceses, and the Holy See itself who knew of the abuse and quietly paid off victims and covered up the criminal activity by transferring offending priests from parish to parish, thus giving them new children to victimize.

Many Catholics have left the church in disgust over the sex scandals. Many others have had their faith tested. Pope Francis appears to acknowledge the errors, but it will take more than one good-hearted pope to restore the people’s faith in this 2000 year old institution.

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Calling Hillary Clinton: Russia Says It’s Time for Another Reset

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Russian Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov was present at the first “reset” between the US and Russia when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously presented him with a button that said “Reset” in English but something less friendly in Russian:

Clinton presented Lavrov with a gift-wrapped red button, which said “Reset” in English and “Peregruzka” in Russian. The problem was, “peregruzka” doesn’t mean reset. It means overcharged, or overloaded.

And Lavrov called her out on it.

“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton asked Lavrov.

“You got it wrong,” Lavrov said. “This says ‘peregruzka,’ which means overcharged.”

There’s a YouTube clip of this unforced error. Do you think the GOP will use it against her in 2016?

Not likely. Hillary got a pass from the media then for this towering stupidity in 2009 and the entire incident has gone down the rabbit hole never to be brought up again.

But Lavrov may be tweaking Hillary a bit with this call for a “reset” of US-Russia relations, putting the onus squarely on the United States to improve ties.

BBC:

Sergei Lavrov, who was minister during the 2010 “reset” of relations, said the current US administration had “wrecked much of the co-operation structures”.

“It is absolutely in our interests to normalise relations but we didn’t wreck them,” he told a Russian TV channel.

The US led sanctions against Russia this year over its actions in Ukraine.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March and has since been accused of fuelling the bloody insurrection in its eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, a charge it denies.

It has also differed sharply with the US and its Western allies over the conflict in Syria.
Reset ‘likely’

In June 2010, US President Barack Obama cemented the original “reset” at a summit when the then Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, visited the White House.

That initiative came after years of poor relations, notably after Russia’s summer war with Georgia, an aspiring Nato member, in 2008, when George W Bush was president.

“Now there’s a need for what the Americans might call a ‘reset’,” Mr Lavrov told Russia’s Channel Five (in Russian).

“The current US administration is today wrecking much of the co-operation structures that it created itself along with us. Most likely, something more will come up – a reset No 2 or a reset 2.0.”

Mr Lavrov said the situation was improving on the ground in Ukraine, where a shaky ceasefire has been in place for several weeks.

Nato reported this week that there had been a significant withdrawal of Russian conventional troops from inside eastern Ukraine, although many thousands remained just over the border.

Moscow has never acknowledged the presence of any Russian troops in Ukraine.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, President Obama accused Russia of pouring arms into the region but he also praised the recent ceasefire agreement between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels.

He promised to lift sanctions if Moscow worked through diplomatic means to secure a lasting peace.

It’s clear the Russians have given up on Obama. He never panned out to be quite the pushover they hoped and expected — and probably would have been if they hadn’t gone off half cocked and annexed Crimea. Their naked aggression forced Obama to reluctantly cancel the reset and treat them as an opponent rather than a partner.

That “reset” gimmick was probably forced on Hillary. She’s one of the few Democrats who never had any illusions about Putin or the Russians. What worries Lavrov — and American liberals — is that Clinton possesses a harder edge to her foreign policy outlook than most leftists, and that a Clinton presidency wouldn’t be burdened by Obama’s nonsensical naivete that led to the belief that America’s enemies can be our friends.

Clinton will almost certainly position herself to the right of Obama on foreign policy if she runs. Lavrov’s offer of a “reset” can be seen in the context that the next American president won’t have much of an opportunity to improve relations unless they accept the new Russian sphere of influence that includes the Ukraine as well as the Baltic states and former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe.

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Latest from the Fever Swamps: U.S. Defense Department Responsible for Ebola Outbreak

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

An article appearing in a Liberian newspaper by an American professor teaching at a taxpayer-funded university accuses the U.S. Department of Defense of deliberately infecting Africans with the Ebola virus.

Cyril Broderick, a Liberian-born professor teaching at Delaware State University, believes that the Ebola outbreak was an international plot that included the injection of the Ebola virus into human test subjects just weeks before the outbreak began in Africa.

The Daily Caller reports:

Broderick’s conspiracy-laden Sept. 9 article is entitled “Ebola, AIDS Manufactured By Western Pharmaceuticals, US DoD?”

“Reports narrate stories of the US Department of Defense (DoD) funding Ebola trials on humans, trials which started just weeks before the Ebola outbreak in Guinea and Sierra Leone,” Broderick claims. “The reports continue and state that the DoD gave a contract worth $140 million dollars to Tekmira, a Canadian pharmaceutical company, to conduct Ebola research. This research work involved injecting and infusing healthy humans with the deadly Ebola virus.”

In addition to the American military and the Canadian pharmaceutical industry, the nutty professor also implicates the United Kingdom, France, Tulane University, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders.

Richard Preston’s epidemiological thriller “The Hot Zone” rates a mention in Broderick’s rant as well.

The Washington Post describes the professor’s potboiler of an article as “semi-intelligible” and interviewed Broderick.

“There are many references to what was contained in my letter,” Broderick told the Post. “You may read the letter and double-check the sources listed. They are available and legitimate.”

ut actually the sources are questionable. They include several conspiracy websites such as Global Research, which seeks to counter “media disinformation” with “unspoken truth.”

As the Post also notes, Western government leaders, philanthropic givers and medical professionals who seek to fight against Ebola face a massive obstacle in the pervasive amount of misinformation that continues to spread in West African communities ravaged by (and soon-to-be ravaged by) the virus.

Bizarro rumors “become strengthened through mass dissemination and the credibility gained through publication,” explained international affairs blog Ramen IR, according to the Post.

Many conspiracy-loving readers who have found Broderick’s article believe the nonsense, at least to judge from the over 500 comments below it.

A fairly representative commenter charges that AIDS and Ebola are “biological weapons designed to ‘cull’ Africa’s populations.”

Meanwhile, the Post also notes that administrators at Delaware State have no plans to restrict Broderick’s ability to spew crackpot theories using his job as a credential.

“The university is not going to abridge his First Amendment rights to give his opinion about the issues of the day,” Carlos Holmes, a spokesman for the school, told the paper.

Broderick could be dismissed as a kook — except he won’t be by far too many people in Africa and here at home. For Africans, it’s much easier to accept the “hidden hand” theory of history that takes away their free will and mysteriously controls their lives. This way, nothing is ever their fault. They can blame anything and everything from natural disasters to political oppression on forces they can’t control.

There are plenty of Americans who suffer from the same paranoia. The black community seems particularly susceptible to these wild conspiracy theories, largely because there have been real conspiracies carried out against them over the centuries. The government really did carry out experiments with syphilis on poor blacks in Mississippi, deliberately not treating infected patients to measure the progress of the disease over 40 years. There really was a conspiracy by the FBI to not only monitor civil rights leaders, but place them in compromising positions to discredit them.

Perhaps the most pervasive conspiracy — supported by notable blacks like Dick Gregory and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — is that the U.S. government created the AIDS virus to kill black people. Given the impossibility of any lab in the world creating a retrovirus — especially in the late 1970s when the disease first presented –i t’s amazing that this theory is still being touted.

Sadly, Broderick is only contributing to the spread of the disease in Africa. And the fact that his university won’t shut him up in the interest of saving lives makes his transgressions against rationality all the more tragic.

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Still No Statement from White House on First Islamic Terrorist Beheading in U.S.

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

It’s been 48 hours since Jah’Keem Yisrael — AKA Alton Noel — perpetrated a horrific terrorist attack on 54 year old co-worker Colleen Hufford, stabbing her repeatedly and then sawing her head off with a knife, and we have yet to hear any acknowledgment from President Obama of this worrisome incident.

Why not? All the elements of an Islamic act of terror are present: the savagery, the shouting of Islamic verses during the act, the stated determination to carry out jihad, and a fanatical belief in Islam that, in his mind, justified everything.

From a political standpoint, it’s a bad idea to bring attention to the attack. But we don’t pay presidents to do what is politically expedient. We pay them to lead. And leadership — so sorely lacking in this and many other incidences — is what President Obama is unable to give.

Instead, our president could be found, for the 198th time, playing golf today.

Keith Koffler:

Sometimes President Obama makes the right choice, and I think we try to note that here at White House Dossier.

Today was one of those times.

Obama analyzed the facts – 80 degrees, no humidity, and endless sunshine – and made the decision to go golfing.

He’s playing today at Fort Belvoir in Virginia with two junior White House aides and sports columnist Tony Kornheiser. It’s the 198th time he’s played as president and his 41st trip to the links this year.

Meanwhile, authorities continue to insist there is “no connection” to terrorism. It’s a useful fiction, but hardly the point.

Fox News:

Colin Clarke, a Rand Corp. terrorism expert, told Fox & Friends Saturday that the beheading was an act of terrorism and should be characterized as such.

“Calling it workplace violence is counterproductive,” he said.

Chad Sweet, CEO of the Chertoff Group and a former Department of Homeland Security Chief of Staff and CIA official, also appeared on Saturday’s Fox & Friends program. He said he expected the Obama administration to change its tune quickly and call it terrorism.

“You’ll see this change very shortly,” he said Saturday. “The only thing that is causing a pause I think is the fact that the triggering event was the termination of his employment.”

The police department issued a statement saying, “After conducting interviews with Nolen’s co-workers, information was obtained that he recently started trying to convert several employees to the Muslim religion. Due to the manner of death and the initial statements of co-workers and other initial information, the Moore Police Department requested the assistance of the FBI in conducting a background investigation on Nolan.”

Nolen, according to state corrections records, was convicted in January 2011 of multiple felony drug offenses, assault and battery on a police officer and escape from detention. He was released from prison in March 2013.

Incredibly, the FBI is refusing to call this terrorist act an act of terror, and they also say that there is “no indication that Nolen was copying the beheadings of journalists in Syria by the Islamic State,” and “that they are treating this as an incident of workplace violence.”

Where else would Yisrael have gotten the idea to behead people? And “workplace violence”? I suppose if a Christian beheads a Muslim, we’ll get around to calling it “terrorism.”

It’s this kind of politically correct obtuseness that will only get more Americans killed. Trying to spare the sensibilities of American Muslims by refusing to state the obvious and connect this terror attack to the thousands of others carried out by Islamic terrorists since 9/11 is dangerous myopia.

No doubt authorities worry about a violent response against Muslims for this act of terror. And this is an excuse to hide the truth from the American people? We are not to be treated as frightened children, with adults telling us soothing fairy tales to mask the horrors of the world. If we are really going to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, it’s not going to be accomplished by sticking our head in the sand and ignoring the reality of what’s happening in the world.

How many more of these lone wolf terrorist attacks will occur before our leaders begin to treat Islamic terrorism with the seriousness it deserves?

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Flight Delays Continue After Bizarre Fire at Chicago Air Traffic Control Center

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

More than 2,000 flights across the country were canceled on Friday and another 700 on Saturday after a contractor set a busy air traffic control center outside of Chicago on fire and tried to take his own life.

Brian Howard, a 36 year old resident of Naperville, IL left his intentions on his Facebook page:

“Take a hard look in the mirror, I have. And this is why I am about to take out ZAU and my life,” Howard posted, using the call letters for the Aurora center, the FBI said. “April, Pop, love you guys and I am sorry. Leaving you with a big mess. Do your best to move on quickly from me please. Feel like I give (expletive) for the first time in a long time again … but not for too long (haha!) So I’m gonna smoke this blunt and move on, take care everyone.”

That was posted at 5:36 a.m. Friday, about 30 minutes after Howard entered the center, the FBI said.

At 5:42 a.m., a control center employee called 911 to say the center was on fire.

It was the responding paramedics from the Aurora Fire Department who found Howard, the FBI said.

After sabotaging the center, Howard tried to slit his own throat:

In federal court documents, investigators say they found Howard at the Aurora center Friday morning, not far from a gas can and lighter, burned towels and exposed telecommunications cables and wires that had been set on fire.

A floor panel had been pulled away to reach the wires, officials said.

Paramedics followed a blood trail near the fire and found a knife and a lighter on the floor. Another knife was found on the blood trail — and then a pair of feet were seen sticking out from under a table, authorities said.

It was Howard, they alleged, in the process of slitting his throat with another knife. He also had knife wounds on his arms, authorities said.

A paramedic pulled the knife away from him and set it on the table. Howard told the paramedics to “leave me alone,” the FBI said.

The FBI said the investigation revealed Howard posted to Facebook just before the fire was set:

Since Chicago is a major air hub, the flight disruptions rippled across the country on Friday, bringing some airports to a standstill:

Lines remained long on Saturday at O’Hare, a major hub for the nation’s air network. Many travelers stranded overnight slept on cots provided by the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration facility in Aurora, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago, handles planes cruising at high altitudes through the airspace as well as those just beginning to approach or completing a departure from airports in the Chicago area. During the shutdown, its responsibilities have been transferred to centers in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Minneapolis.

The widespread disruption left some aviation analysts, travelers and politicians calling for a smoother backup plan and wondering how one person could be in a position to wreak so much havoc.

“As the busiest airport in the world, Chicago O’Hare International Airport cannot be brought to a screeching halt,” said Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, of Illinois. “I want to see not only an immediate review by the FAA of the screening process at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, but also a report within 30 days outlining changes the FAA will make to prevent any one individual from having this type of impact on the heart of the United States economy.”

An FAA spokeswoman didn’t immediately have a response, but an agency statement on Friday’s fire emphasized that airspace management was immediately transferred to other facilities.

It’s not like these air traffic control sites are top secret. You can probably find the address in the phone book. Unless you believe terrorists like ISIS are complete idiots, you have to wonder what lessons were drawn from Howard’s sabotage by those who seek to strike America any way they can.

Imagine if the entire facility had been blown up or a better job done of destroying equipment? Then imagine multiple similar targets all attacked at the same time. How long would air travel be disrupted? The 9/11 attacks forced the closure of US airspace for 2 days, with the fallout from the hijackings costing the industry $22 billion in lost revenue. It’s easy to see what would happen if several of these FAA facilities were to go offline at the same time; mass cancellations and chaos.

While we have no idea how secure these facilities were before the fire, you would hope that they will be improved in the aftermath.

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More Information Emerging About Oklahoma Terrorist

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Both authorities in More, Oklahoma, and legions of social media watchers have been busy ferreting out information on the man accused of stabbing and beheading Colleen Hufford, a 54-year-old grandmother, at a food distribution warehouse.

The picture that is emerging of Alton Noel, who took the Islamic name Jah’Keem Yisrael, is of a violent criminal with no history of mental illness, who converted to Islam in prison and wished to bring Sharia law to America.

The American Thinker’s Jeannie DeAngelis looked at Yisrael’s Facebook page:

Judging from things he says on his Facebook page, Jah’Keem Yisrael was raised in a Christian home where, while getting ready to go to church, his mama sang along with the O’Jays to “Stairway to Heaven” (no, not that “Stairway to Heaven”).

Since coming out of prison, he spent his time offering Dawah to kids in Old Navy t-shirts and proselytizing on behalf of Islam while working at Vaughan Foods.

Nolen’s Facebook rants include preaching against non-Muslims, especially Jews, and features gun-toting Taliban fighters as his cover photo and a picture justifying beheading infidels, complete with a severed head. In addition, Jah’Keem lauds Osama Bin Laden, displays the smoking Twin Towers, and has numerous photos starring himself as was a proud member of the Islamic Mosque community in Oklahoma City.

According to Breitbart, that Oklahoma City mosque attended by Yisrael had connections to terrorist imam Anwar al-Awlaki, a former leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula:

Suhaib Webb, an Imam with ties to former Al Qaeda mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki, had also previously been the leader of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, which had been attended by Alton Nolen — the man who on Thursday beheaded a former coworker after recently converting to Islam, Breitbart News has learned. Webb now serves as Imam of the sister organization of the mosque attended by Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Imam Suhaib Webb has a history of ties to radicalism. FBI surveillance documents found that he was a known confidant of Al Qaeda mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki. Just two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks on America, Webb spoke at a fundraiser with Awlaki with hopes to raise funds for Atlanta-based H. Rap Brown, a man that shot and killed two police officers. The FBI documents also found that “Webb and Awlaki may be associated with the Muslim American Society,” which is a group described by the Investigative Project on Terrorism as being “founded as the United States Chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Nolen took a picture of himself (above) September 5th, just three weeks before he brutally murdered an innocent woman, standing in front of the gates of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City.

The caption read: “At The Masjid (Mosque)Today For Jumar 9/5/2014 & Peforming Wudu!!!”

[...]

Writing in the Jewish Advocate last year, columnist Charles Jacobs described Imam Webb as someone who “teaches vicious hatred and calls for young Muslims to engage in Jihad against non-Muslims in order to establish a global Islamic state.”

Ben Shapiro’s Truth Revolt blog has been extensively reporting on Yisrael, and tracked down a story in the terrorist’s hometown newspaper (no online edition) that sheds more light on his termination from Vaughan Foods:

A classmate of Nolen’s, who didn’t wish to be identified, told this newspaper that he spoke to a close family member of Nolen’s today.

He told this newspaper that according to the family member, Nolen was telling coworkers Thursday of an Islamic teaching that said women should be stoned for an offense, and that an argument followed the mark, Nolen was later fired and returned later Thursday, when he beheaded Colleen Hufford, the family member said.

Truth Revolt also delved into Yisrael’s police record:

The Gazette reports that Nolen has a long history with the local police department. He has been arrested at least 10 times by Idabel police between 2004 and 2009, on “allegations ranging from assault, burglary, obstructing an officer, resisting arrest, drug possession, and larceny,” among other unlisted charges.

Nolan’s classmates state that he converted to Islam while in prison in 2011. Records indicate he was incarcerated for, among other things, assaulting a police officer.

The website also reports on the violent friends Yisrael hung out with growing up:

Tucker points out that Nolen is not the only person accused of murder from their childhood circle of friends. Mutual friend Eric Blandon was found guilty of murder in 2013, having killed his boss at a Sonic restaurant in nearby Broken Bow. He shot her multiple times, starting with a point blank shot to the back of her head, and then stole the day’s deposits she was carrying with her. He plead guilty and was sentenced to life.

Tucker saw Blandon after he was convicted, when Tucker was working as a corrections officer at the country jail in Idabel, where they reminisced about their childhood days playing football and baseball together in the neighborhood.

Another mutual friend, Corey Lewis, murdered a woman in her bathtub. He and an accomplice stabbed her multiple times. Tucker reports that Lewis, too, was from the same neighborhood and grew up in the same situation.

Members of Yisrael’s mosque say that the recent convert apparently was fairly ignorant of some Islamic protocols:

A man accused of beheading a woman and stabbing another after he was fired from a food-processing plant “exhibited odd and bizarre behaviour” at a local mosque, according to a religious leader.

Imad Enchassi, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, told local media that Alton Nolen’s conduct had raised eyebrows among worshippers.

He said the 30-year-old had improperly handled Islam’s holy book, the Quran, slept on the prayer floor, and worshipped in an unconventional manner.

The imam said mosque members had been shocked by Thursday’s attack at Vaughan Foods.

Mr Enchassi told the Oklahoman newspaper: “He’s as far away from Islam as he could be.”

Yisrael was yelled at by several worshipers when he placed the Koran on his prayer rug. Muslims believe that to be a serious transgression against the sacredness of the Koran.

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Mystery Virus Causing Paralysis in Children Has CDC Stumped

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Nine Colorado children have experienced “muscle weakness” and paralysis after becoming ill with a mystery virus that may be connected to a respiratory infection that has been detected in 19 states. The paralyzed children all carry the enterovirus 68 — a virus first detected in 1962 — and experienced respiratory sickness within a couple of weeks of falling victim to the paralyzing disease. The CDC is investigating the virus, but doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Associated Press:

The virus can cause paralysis but other germs can, too. Health officials don’t know whether the virus caused any of the children’s arm and leg weaknesses or whether it’s just a germ they coincidentally picked up. “That’s why we want more information,” and for doctors to report similar cases, said the CDC’s Dr. Jane Seward. The cases occurred within the last two months. All nine children are being treated at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, and most are from the Denver area. A hospital spokeswoman said the patients’ families didn’t want to talk to the media. The nine children had fever and respiratory illness about two weeks before developing varying degrees of limb weakness. None seems to have a weak immune system or other conditions that might predispose them to severe illness, but the cases are still being investigated, Seward said. Investigators don’t think it’s polio – eight of the nine children are up to date on polio vaccinations. It’s not known whether the limb weakness or paralysis is temporary or will be long-lasting. The cases come amid an unusual wave of severe respiratory illness from enterovirus 68. The germ is not new – it was first identified in 1962 and has caused clusters of illness before, including in Georgia and Pennsylvania in 2009 and Arizona in 2010. Because it’s not routinely tested for, it’s possible the bug spread in previous years but was never distinguished from colds caused by other germs. This year, the virus has gotten more attention because it has been linked to hundreds of severe illnesses. Beginning last month, a flood of sick children began to hit hospitals in Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago – kids with trouble breathing, some needing oxygen or more extreme care such as a breathing machine. Many – but not all – had asthma before the infection. The CDC has been testing a limited number of specimens from very sick children around the country, and as of Thursday reported 277 people in 40 states and the District of Columbia with enterovirus 68. So far no deaths have been attributed to the virus, but Seward said 15 still are being investigated.

There have been efforts to tie the virus to illegal aliens flowing into the country from Central America, but that’s clearly not the case. Since the virus has been in the US since 1962, it may be that better detection methods are responsible for the spike in cases this year. The CDC also points to similar outbreaks in the past. As for the paralysis, the CDC says that enterovirus 68 has been the suspected culprit in other cases of limb weakness and paralysis. What they don’t know is why there has been an apparent increase in the number of cases involving paralyzed children. The CDC’s medical detectives are the best in the world, so they are likely to eventually come up with some answers.

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Chinese Response to Obama Climate Speech: Go Climb a Tree

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Speaking at the UN Climate Summit, President Obama made it clear he expected China to help the US lead the way on fighting global warming:

Just a few minutes ago, I met with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, and reiterated my belief that as the two largest economies and emitters in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead. That’s what big nations have to do. (Applause.)

And today, I call on all countries to join us -– not next year, or the year after, but right now, because no nation can meet this global threat alone.

Today, China gave their response to the president. It came in the form of a paper submitted to the Geneva-based U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance of a planned meeting next month.

Basically, the Chinese took 9 pages to tell the president to stuff it.

Fox News:

Carbon emission cutbacks by China and other developing countries, the document says, will be “dependent on the adequate finance and technology support provided by developed country parties” to any new climate accord.

In other words, only if Western nations pay for it.

More specifically, only if Western taxpayers ante up. Among other things, the Chinese communist regime insists that the incentive payments it demands must come from “new, additional, adequate, predictable and sustained public funds” — rather than mostly private financing, as the U.S. hopes.

In addition, the Chinese state:

– A promised $100 billion in annual climate financing that Western nations have already pledged to developing countries for carbon emission control and other actions by 2020 is only the “starting point” for additional Western financial commitments that must be laid out in a “clear road map,” which includes “specific targets, timelines and identified sources;”

–In the longer run, developed countries should be committing “at least 1 percent” of their Gross Domestic Product — much more than they spend on easing global poverty” into a U.N.-administered Green Carbon Fund to pay for the developing country changes;

–In the meantime, the $100 billion pledge to the same fund should be reached by $10 billion increments, starting from a $40 billion floor this year;

–Western countries also need to remove “obstacles such as IPRs [intellectual property rights]” to “promote, facilitate and finance the transfer” of “technologies and know-how” to developing countries in advance of any future climate deal;

China will fight climate change to the very last American taxpayer dollar.

Chinese recalcitrance to participate in a global climate convention is matched by India, whose new Prime Minister Narendra Modi just announced a major new campaign to bring massive numbers of factories to his country. Both countries rely on coal for a large percentage of their power generation and neither country is willing to stifle its economic growth when most countries in the west failed to reach the emission goals spelled out in the Kyoto accord.

Kyoto’s strictures expire in 2020, but there is already a move to replace it with even more draconian protocols. How about a climate mitigation fund — opening amount to be $100 billion — to be made available to some of the biggest kleptocrats in the third world? I’m sure bankers in Switzerland and the Caymans are salivating at the ill gotten gains that will be flowing into their coffers from various presidents-for-life in Africa and Asia.

Meanwhile, China’s communist dictatorship continues to build coal fired electric plants, whose particulate emissions are suffocating millions of people.

Photographs of a smog-wreathed Tiananmen Square and the iconic headquarters of China Central Television dominated reports of Chinese pollution last year, but analysis shows nine other Chinese cities suffered more days of severe smog than the capital in 2013.

The worst was Xingtai, a city of more than 7 million people south-west of Beijing, which was hit by 129 days of “unhealthy air” or worse – the threshold at which pollution is considered at emergency levels – and more than twice as many days as the capital experienced.

Beijing suffered 60 days of pollution above emergency levels, sparking reports of an “airpocalypse”, a boom in sales of air purifiers and masks and measures to tackle the problem including the destruction of open-air barbecues and a crackdown on fireworks for Chinese new year.

Last week, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, “declared war” on pollution, saying it was “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”

Do the Chinese really need a “red-light warning” from nature?

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China is now the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Coal is the culprit and the Chinese burn almost 3 times as much as the US.

A few more stats on Chinese coal use:

Coal, the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels, accounts for 70 percent of energy used in China today and is responsible for about three quarters of electricity generation.

  • In just 5 years, from 2005 through 2009, China added the equivalent of the entire U.S. fleet of coal-fired power plants, or 510 new 600-megawatt coal plants.
  • From 2010 through 2013, it added half the coal generation of the entire U.S. again.
  • At the peak, from 2005 through 2011, China added roughly two 600-megawatt coal plants a week, for 7 straight years.
  • And according to U.S. government projections, China will add yet another U.S. worth of coal plants over the next 10 years, or the equivalent of a new 600-megawatt plant every 10 days for 10 years.

China also leads the world in the production of renewable energy. But despite fantastic growth in that energy sector, the Chinese use of coal will continue to skyrocket. Filling the boilers of 3 new coal fired electric plants a month will increase China’s coal use by up to 15% by 2020.

All of this means that any reduction in emissions by western industrialized nations will be futile. It won’t reduce worldwide CO2 emissions by one, single, molecule.

All of the speechifying by Obama and the other delegates to the climate summit amounted to a lot of unnecessary CO2 being emitted by blowhards who care less about saving the world than they do enhancing their power over the citizens of the world.

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IRS Surprise for Some Obamacare Subsidy Recipients Next Year

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

USA Today sums up the situation for hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who may owe the IRS for overpayment of subsidies for Obamacare policies: “Sadly, it’s fair to say some people will see some unexpected, unpleasant surprises on their tax returns next year.”

If you’re receiving an Obamacare subsidy and you had certain “life changes” over the past year — marriage, divorce, a raise, a new child — chances are, you are going to owe Uncle Sam some cash.

When you file that 2014 tax return next year, the Internal Revenue Service will compare your actual income for the year with the amount you estimated when applying for exchange-based health insurance under the health insurance law.

The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15. But notices were sent this week to some consumers whose incomes don’t match up to such things as 2012 tax return information.

On Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said at least 279,000 households reported incomes that still don’t match what the government has on record. Supporting documents are needed by Sept. 30.

What can you do to avoid tax-time problems?

Experts say people need to realize early on that they should report changes in income and other changes in one’s life, such as a marriage, throughout the year. See HealthCare.gov to report “income and life changes.”

Of course, many people may have no idea that they’d need to report changes.

The IRS put out some more details on the issue mid-month.

What should you report? A move, an increase or decrease in income, a marriage or divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, whether you started a job that offers health insurance and whether you gained or lost eligibility for other health care coverage.

Best spots for information: HealthCare.gov and IRS.gov/aca.

Karen Pollitz, senior fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation, said many people who qualify for these tax credits aren’t working 9-to-5 jobs with regular salaries. So guesstimating one’s income for the coming year can be very tough.

“It’s people in transition. Maybe they’re in and out of work,” she said. Or maybe they’re self-employed.

People who lose a job would want to report that change during the year, as well, because that change can lead to a higher advance payment for the credit.

“Life changes can drive tax changes,” said Mark Steber, chief tax officer for Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.

Steber stressed that people need to make sure to update information via HealthCare.gov or their state insurance exchanges.

If your income ends up below 400% of the poverty line, you would owe a maximum of $600 for a single filer, and $2500 for a family.

But if your income is over 400% of the poverty line, there is no limit. You will have to repay the entire amount of the difference between what you received as a subsidy and what you actually deserved.

There are already going to be millions of taxpayers who get a nasty surprise when the IRS withholds part or all of their refund to pay the fine for not having insurance — and then bills them if that’s not enough.

Welcome to the Brave New Tax World of Obamacare.

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A Lap Dance in the ‘Wrong Place at the Wrong Time’

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Many politicians have a gift for understatement. So it’s not surprising that Kansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis would describe being caught getting a lap dance in a strip club in the late 1990s when police raided the joint looking for drugs as being in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”

Got that right, dog.

Politico reports:

In the late 1990s the Democratic candidate for governor of Kansas was getting a lap dance at a strip club when cops raided it in search of drugs, a situation Paul Davis on Saturday described as being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Davis was not charged with any crime, but a police chief involved in the raid wrote afterward that he had been drinking and was found “in a somewhat compromising position … in a back room of the club.”

According to police reports, he was alone with a topless stripper who was wearing only a G-string.

Davis, who was unmarried at the time, identified himself as an attorney for the owner of the strip club after an officer ordered him at gunpoint to lie on the floor during the raid for methamphetamine.

That’s one lap dance Davis won’t forget.

“When I was 26 years old, I was taken to a club by my boss – the club owner was one of our legal clients,” said Davis, a state representative. “While we were in the building, the police showed up. I was never accused of having done anything wrong, but rather I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

This news comes amid recent polling that shows Davis with a slight lead over Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, the former U.S. senator who is seeking a second term.

How many points in the polls is a lap dance worth to Brownback? Kansas is a very conservative state — as culturally conservative as they come. I suppose it will depend on how many voters believe that Davis having a mostly naked woman writhing on his lap constituted “the wrong place.”

A few minutes after midnight on Aug. 5, 1998, a group of officers executed a search warrant after an informant said he bought drugs from the owner of the club.

One of Davis’s “legal clients.” Sheesh. The owner was later arrested for selling drugs and the strip club was closed.

For those of you not familiar with strip-club nomenclature, a “lap dance” can take many forms, but is usually performed as a clothed sex act. I’ve never had the pleasure, but I am told by reliable sources that a good lap dance can really curl your toes.

In Davis’s case, it appears that the poor guy suffered the ultimate indignity and had his ego — or something — deflated in the most humiliating way.

Like any good politician, Davis used the revelation to turn the tables on his opponent and attack:

Responding to the strip club story Saturday, Davis pointed to press reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating whether confidants of Brownback were involved in an influence-peddling scheme around the governor’s attempt to privatize the state’s Medicaid program.

Brownback has denied any wrongdoing, and his team questions the political motivations behind leaks to the Topeka Capital-Journal this spring. The governor declined to say in a July interview whether he’s been in contact with the FBI.

Is one lap dance worth one FBI investigation? Not when you consider no one would pay an FBI agent to walk around in a G-string.

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Thousands March in New York to End Industrialized Civilization

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Well, maybe they’re not really marching to end industrialized civilization. But given all the monumental exaggeration and hyperbole of which they are guilty, perhaps I can be excused a few small liberties while describing their goals.

Tens of thousands of marchers from all over the world came to New York City to protest inaction on climate change. A “wake up call” they are calling it. In fact, at 12:58 Eastern time, there was to be a moment of silence followed by “a blare of noise — a symbolic sounding of the alarm on climate change — from horns, whistles and cellphone alarms. More than 20 marching bands and tolling church bells were expected contribute to the cacophony.”

A perfect way to sum up the march: a lot of noise signifying nothing.

As might be expected, the New York Times is all over the story:

With drums and tubas, banners and floats, the People’s Climate March turned Columbus Circle, where the march began just before 11:30 a.m., into a colorful tableau. The demonstrators represented a broad coalition of ages, races, geographic locales and interests, with union members, religious leaders, scientists, politicians and students joining the procession.

“I’m here because I really feel that every major social movement in this country has come when people get together,” said Carol Sutton of Norwalk, Conn., the president of a teachers’ union. “It begins in the streets.”

With world leaders gathering at the United Nations on Tuesday for a climate summit, marchers said the timing was right for the populist message in support of limits on carbon emissions. The signs marchers held were as varied as the movement: “There is No PlanetB,” “Forests Not for Sale” and “Jobs, Justice, Clean Energy.”

The description of the tableau was accurate. The colors reminded me of a tie my little niece bought me a few years ago.

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Truth be told, if things are as dire as the marchers believe, it’s already too late. That’s the problem with the hysterical wing of climate change advocacy. Cutting emissions of greenhouse gases won’t do the trick if we are on the edge of the climate precipice. We would have to halt all human activity that contributes to global warming and then hope nature can reverse the process.

And if this movement was really about “climate change,” they might be forgiven their hysteria. But as world leaders gather at the UN beginning Tuesday, it will become clear that, at least for the politicians of the world, it’s not about climate change at all. It’s about power, control, and money.

If history is any guide, the rich countries of the world will say how concerned they are about the damage their emissions of heat-trapping gases are causing. The poor countries — whose people have done little to contribute to global warming but stand to suffer the most from it because of their vulnerability to rising seas and weather extremes — will point out that this professed concern never seems to translate into sufficient action.

“We’re saying to the U.S. and the developed world, ‘You’re responsible for this,’ ” said Ronald Jean Jumeau — the ambassador to the United Nations for the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles, off the coast of Africa — in a preview of his country’s remarks. “Don’t tell us you can’t cut emissions, you can’t give money, while you bask in the rich way of life you enjoy now. You know your emissions are damaging us. Help us out here.”

People like Mr. Jumeau have been pleading for help for years, and they have heard many promises that help will come. The latest attempt to make good on those pledges is the Green Climate Fund, a financing vehicle that is eventually supposed to funnel as much as $100 billion a year to poor countries.

The fund, which struggled for four years to get off the ground and opened its doors only recently, has received just one large donation to date: $1 billion from Germany. More are expected this week.

Notably absent from the summit will be the leaders of China and India — the two nations that make any effort to cut CO2 emissions a waste of time.

China is building three coal-fired power plants a month. India isn’t far behind. And neither country seems interested in anything the rest of the world wants to do about global warming. The fact is, any schemes the nations come up with to reduce their emissions won’t matter a fig if China and India refuses to cooperate.

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ISIS Forces Sweeping Through Northern Syria as Thousands Flee

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Forces of the Islamic State in Syria have mounted a huge offensive with columns of heavy armor  sweeping through the Kurdish region of northern Syria near the Turkish border.

Their goal is apparently capturing the strategic border town of Ayn al-Arab, and more than 60 towns and villages in the region have fallen to ISIS forces in the past few days.

This has unleashed a nearly unprecedented wave of refugees streaming into Turkey. More than 60,00 women, children, and old people crossed the border into Turkey in the 24-hour period from Friday to Saturday, overwhelming aid resources.

Kurdish forces in the region are falling back while others are making their way to the front from Turkey to join their comrades.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Since Thursday, Islamic State rebels, backed by tanks and other heavy armor, have seized control of more than 60 villages near the regional capital of Ayn al-Arab, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group. The extremist insurgents, also known as ISIS or ISIL have also forced the evacuation of about 100 other villages, Kurdish field commanders and Turkish officials said.

Turkish television on Sunday continued to broadcast footage of thousands of Kurds, many on foot, crossing the border into Turkey to escape Islamic State. The U.N. refugee agency said most of the refugees were Kurdish women, children and the elderly. Hundreds of Kurdish fighters and volunteers were traveling in the other direction to Syria to shore up their brethren’s defenses, Turkish media reported.

Kurdish militia in Syria, under the banner of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defense Units, or YPG, said dozens of Kurds had been killed in fighting to defend Ayn al-Arab, called Kobani in Kurdish. They said the jihadists had advanced to within 9 kilometers of Kobani and appealed for international intervention to help their outgunned forces.

The call was joined by one from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a rebel group closely affiliated with the YPG, for the youth of Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast to rise up and rush to save Kobani. The PKK, listed as a terror organization by Washington and Turkey, has spent three decades fighting for autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds.

“Supporting this heroic resistance is not just a debt of honor of the Kurds but all Middle East people. Just giving support is not enough, the criterion must be taking part in the resistance,” the PKK said on its website. “ISIL fascism must drown in the blood it spills…The youth of north Kurdistan (southeast Turkey) must flow in waves to Kobani.”

Islamic State’s progress toward the Turkish border again showed the group’s military strength. It seized Kurdish territory in Syria even as French warplanes launched their first attacks Friday against the group’s positions hundreds of miles away in northeastern Iraq.

The move on Ayn al-Arab follows the seizure by Islamic State insurgents this past week of a strategic bridge over the Euphrates River. The capture enabled the rebels to march on the city from the west and rain down artillery shells on the city’s streets, said Khaled Issa, a representative of the Syrian Kurdish administration in Paris.

The timing is almost too coincidental, as I’ll explore after the page break.

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Dem Lawmakers: ‘And I’m Proud to Serve Under President…What’s His Name?’

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Hey, Democrats! How about giving some props to your party leader, your president, by talking about him on the House or Senate floor?

What’s that? President “who”? My, how the worm has turned.

Washington Post:

When President Obama took office in 2009, congressional Democrats were euphoric. With control of the House, Senate and the White House, and high public approval for their new party standard bearer, Democrats eagerly embraced Obama and all the long-awaited policy initiatives he’d surely help them achieve.

In that first month, congressional Democrats mentioned Obama during floor speeches 200 or so more times than Republicans. In the next year and a half, the parties referred to the president at similar rates, sometimes with the Republicans having more to say, other times the Democrats.

One can reasonably assume that when the Democrats speak of the president publicly it’s in a favorable way and when Republicans do it’s, well, not quite as glowing. As positive public opinion of Obama began to dip after his first year, the spread between how often Republicans and the Democrats invoked Obama grew wider. Put simply, the Democrats weren’t mentioning Obama by name nearly as much as Republicans.

This chart from the Sunshine Foundation tells the tale at a glance. The Democrats have almost stopped mentioning the president in public debates, according to the Congressional Record.

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The gap between how many times the Republicans anhd Democrats have mentioned Obama has considerably widened in the last year.

Much has been written this election cycle about the Democrats distancing themselves from Obama ahead of the midterm elections. Some Democratic candidates in tough races regularly emphasize their differences with the president. And Obama is persona non grata on the campaign trail (unless it’s inside private high-dollar fundraiser dinners).

If the number of times they bring him up in front of the C-SPAN cameras is a measure, the Democrats detachment from the president is even evident on Capitol Hill – where every spoken word is recorded forever, so it’s especially crucial to choose them carefully.

Politicians are feral when it comes to their survival, so it’s not surprising that Democrats would have stopped talking about an unpopular leader. The problem is that history shows it won’t matter. Trying to run away from your party leader is a futile strategy and Democrats are likely to find that out in November.

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What Did Turkey Trade for Hostages?

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Turkey is celebrating the return of 49 of their citizens held for 101 days by Islamic State. The hostages were captured when the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to the terrorists.

Turkey’s state run news agency Anadolu reported that “no ransom had been paid and “no conditions were accepted in return for their release.”

But many observers weren’t buying that explanation.

The official explanation “sounds a bit too good to be true,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who chairs the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies. “There are some very legitimate and unanswered questions about how this happened.”

The hostages — whose number included two small children — were seized from the Turkish Consulate in Mosul after the Islamic State group overran the Iraqi city on June 11. Turkish leaders gave only the broadest outlines of their rescue Saturday.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the release was the work of the country’s intelligence agency rather than a special forces operation.

“After intense efforts that lasted days and weeks, in the early hours our citizens were handed over to us and we brought them back,” Davutoglu said.

Davutoglu was the star of the homecoming ceremony Saturday, flying the hostages back to Ankara on his plane and delivering an impassioned address to the crowd. Families rushed the aircraft to greet their returning loved ones. The ex-hostages emerged wearing clean dresses and suits and showed little sign of having been held captive by fanatical militants for more than three months.

The hostages’ joyous reunion at the airport came as an enormous relief after the recent beheadings of other hostages — two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker — by the Islamic State group. The gruesome deaths briefly reignited a debate over whether the U.S. or British government should pay ransoms to free hostages.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported no ransom had been paid and “no conditions were accepted in return for their release,” although it didn’t cite any source for its reporting.

The agency said the hostages had been held at eight separate addresses in Mosul and their whereabouts were monitored by drones and other means.

The Iraqi government said it had no information about the rescue.

The hostages declined to answer all but the most general questions, although a couple hinted at ill treatment or death threats.

While the Turkish government broadly hints at some kind of cloak and dagger operation, the truth may be as simple as the government of Prime Minister Erdogan trading their pledge not to allow anti-ISIS forces uses of their bases and not joining the coalition for their prisoners.

What is certain is that the release of the hostages hasn’t changed Turkey’s mind about the coalition:

Turkey had been reluctant to join a coalition to defeat the Islamic State group, citing the safety of its 49 kidnapped citizens, but Stein said he doubted Turkey would suddenly adopt a much more muscular attitude toward the organization. Turkey might feel freer to advertise its existing efforts against the group, he said, citing its efforts to control oil smuggling across the border. But he said Turkey would not open its air bases to U.S. aircraft operating against the group.

“There will some changes, but not as much as people hope,” he said.

ISIS has hardly been restrained from killing fellow Muslims so there has to be another reason the hostages lives were spared. Whatever that reason was, Turkey — a member of NATO at present — still won’t allow their allies to press the fight against ISIS from their soil.

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Pope Francis Selects Spokane Bishop to Head Up Chicago Archdiocese

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In the first big move by Pope Francis to put his imprint on the American Catholic church, the pontiff named Blase Cupich, the Bishop of the diocese of Spokane, to lead the 2.2 million Catholics of the archdiocese of Chicago.

Cardinal Francis George, the current archbishop, announced he was stepping down last May after he was diagnosed with cancer for the third time since 2005. Since then, George has said that he believes the cancer will take his life.

Bishop Cupich is considered a “moderate” in church circles and is said to mirror the opinions of the pope about de-emphasizing issues like abortion and gay marriage. While Cupich is said to be opposed to both, he is expected to bring a different style of advocacy to the debate.

Chicago is the third largest diocese in America and is considered one of the most influential in the nation, with innovative lay outreach programs and the largest private school system in the country.

Associated Press:

Cupich, 65, is a native of Omaha, Nebraska, where he was ordained a priest. He holds degrees from the Pontifical Gregorian University and The Catholic University of America. He was appointed bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1998, and served there until 2010, when he was appointed to Spokane.

In a 2012 essay in the Jesuit magazine America, Cupich said the U.S. bishops “rightly objected” to the original narrow religious exemption in President Barack Obama’s requirement that employers provide health insurance that covers contraception. But Cupich called for a “return to civility” in conversations about religious liberty and society.

Cupich also served as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ child protection committee at the height of the clergy sex abuse crisis and as church leaders were putting in place a toughened policy on disciplining guilty priests.

“While the outrage to the (government) decision was understandable, in the long run threats and condemnations have a limited impact,” Cupich said. “We should never stop talking to one another.”

Cupich has also defended Francis’ views on the economy and emphasis on fighting poverty, which some Catholics and others have criticized as naive and against capitalism.

“Instead of approaching life from the 30-thousand-feet level of ideas, he challenges policymakers and elected officials — indeed all of us — to experience the life of everyday and real people,” Cupich said at a conference last June on the Catholic case against libertarianism. “Much like he told religious leaders, Francis is saying that politicians and policymakers need to know the smell of the sheep.”

A Francis clone in the 3rd largest diocese in America would certainly have an impact on the hierarchy. Catholic bishops tend to be more liberal than their leaders both in the US and Rome and the notion that a more pastoral archbishop will have such a high profile position can only encourage the bishops in their attacks on wealth and capitalism.

But there is no difference of opinion regarding the contraceptive controversy, except perhaps in the manner in which Cubich will approach the administration.

In a letter last year on the Obama administration’s birth-control coverage rule for employers, Bishop Cupich said faith-affiliated groups should never be forced to provide services that the church considers morally objectionable. However, he condemned threats by some U.S. church leaders that they would shut down social-service agencies over the Affordable Care Act.

“These kind of scare tactics and worse-case scenario predictions are uncalled for,” he wrote in a letter to diocesan employees. “I am confident we can find a way to move forward.”

Is Pope Francis sending a message to the American Catholic church? “I think he sent a pastor, not a message,” Cupich says. Nice thought, but irrelevant. Of course popes send messages. But what kind of message he is passing along won’t be known until Archbishop Cubich has a chance to place his own stamp on the Chicago Catholic church.

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Defense Secretary Hagel to Review Pentagon-NFL Ties

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has asked for a Pentagon review of the military’s involvement in the National Football League. The review comes in the wake of several domestic violence complaints against NFL players.

The connection between the NFL and the military goes back decades, and the connections are considerable.

CNN reports:

The Army alone spends some $10 million a year buying advertising from television networks broadcasting NFL games. Games are also broadcast by the Armed Forces Network to troops deployed overseas.

Military support for the NFL games includes: providing ceremonial units at games for colors ceremonies; military personnel singing the national anthem, and other units providing drill teams or flyovers. Military personnel, including wounded warriors, often appear at NFL events honoring those who serve.

The Army and the NFL also have a agreement to share information and resources to better understand traumatic brain injury, which is a major medical issue both for wounded troops and football players. They are working together on awareness of TBI as well as research into treatment. The military has been sharing some of the lessons learned on TBI from the last 13 years of war, specifically.

Another program, NFL Play 60, has seen players visit military bases to encourage children to be more active as least 60 minutes a day to help prevent childhood obesity.

It is clear the White House is also closely monitoring the NFL controversy, with one senior administration official calling recent abuse allegations “deeply troubling” and stressing the league’s obligation to “(get) control of the situation.”

“Many of these professional athletes are marketed as role models to young people,” the official said. “So their behavior does have the potential to influence these young people. So that’s one of the many reasons it’s important the league gets a handle on this and have zero tolerance.”

Just how is the NFL supposed to “get control” of the domestic violence committed by their players? There are more than 1300 NFL players on 30 rosters across the league. Six players have been accused of domestic violence in recent months. While that is six too many, the question has to be asked: is domestic violence in the NFL so serious and so widespresd that it must become a federal issue?

No doubt women’s advocates would love to make it one. Already several big money advertisers like Anheuser-Busch and Nike are looking closely at their relationship with the NFL. A pullout by those two giants would hit the league where it hurts the most: advertising dollars.

There are legitimate questions about how the league has handled specific cases — most notably, the Ray Rice clocking of his girlfriend in an elevator. But how can you blame anyone, especially Commissioner Roger Goodell, for the actions of players off the football field? The only way this campaign against the NFL makes sense is if you consider the enormous amount of money at stake, and the high-profile nature of the crimes, which aids women’s groups in fundraising and marketing.

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Catalonia Parliament Approves Independence Referendum

Friday, September 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Prior to the independence vote in Scotland, there were predictions that, win or lose, the vote would encourage other regions of Europe and around the world to seek independence in order to fulfill the national aspirations of their people.

Several European enclaves have been agitating for independence for decades — even centuries. Many of them have their own history, culture, and language that predate their assimilation. The Basque may be the most notorious of these independence seekers since the armed wing of their revolutionary party — the ETA — used to routinely carry out terrorist attacks. The ETA laid down their arms in 2011, but the desire for independence has not lessened.

Italy’s South Tyrol and Sardinia, Belgium’s Flanders, France’s Corsica, the United Kingdom’s Wales and Northern Ireland — all of these and a dozen more have expressed an interest in gaining independence.

And that’s just Europe. There are dozens of separatist movements in Africa and Asia that also have been cheered by events in Scotland. While independence may have lost, the fact that a vote was held in the first place has leaders of separatist movements around the world hopeful that they can be more successful.

The next turn of the screw for Europe will apparently be in Catalonia, the richest and most productive area of Spain. Within hours of knowing the outcome of the Scottish vote on independence, the Catalonian parliament voted to hold their own referendum on independence in November, thus directly defying the national government in Madrid which has threatened to take legal action against the autonomous region.

Wall Street Journal:

A day after a majority of Scots voted against secession from the U.K., the parliament in the wealthy, industrial Spanish region of Catalonia approved a law to allow for its own, albeit nonbinding, referendum on independence.

The 106-28 vote Friday set Spain on a path toward a legal and political crisis. The central government in Madrid has vowed to block the referendum, which it says is unconstitutional.

After the law is published in the coming days, Catalonia’s regional president, Artur Mas, is expected to sign a decree formally convoking the referendum for Nov. 9. At the Spanish government’s request, the Constitutional Court is then expected to issue an injunction to halt the vote.

Mr. Mas has expressed misgivings about going ahead with the referendum in violation of Spanish law because the vote might lack international credibility. Another way for him to satisfy pro-independence groups clamoring to cast ballots would be by calling early regional elections as a proxy vote.

During the Catalan parliament’s 2½-hour debate, many speakers took note of the historic nature of the proceedings.

“Democracy without liberty is a sham and we want to vote—not a sham,” said pro-referendum congresswoman Dolors Camats.

Albert Rivera, leader of the Citizens’ Party and an opponent of the referendum, said that those advocating it were being irresponsible. “This isn’t a day of celebration, but of worry because these separatist movements have a sword over Europe’s head,” he said.

Catalan separatists complain that the government in Madrid drains the region of tax revenue without offering sufficient respect for its language and culture. Spanish government officials maintain that Catalonia receives economic benefits from being part of Spain and has plenty of autonomy under the constitution.

While there is certainly resentment against the perception that Madrid is stifling their national character, Catalans have an economic bone to pick with the Spanish government — especially after the last few years of “austerity” budgets that put most of the burden on the region:

The pro-independence forces claim that Catalonia’s fiscal imbalance with Spain’s national budget amounts to $20 billion (US dollars) per year, according to figures from the Catalan government’s finance minister. This office claims that Catalonia—origin of a quarter of Spain’s exports—suffers an insufficient investment and financial disadvantage since it generates nineteen percent of Spain’s GDP and receives back eleven percent in expenditure from the central government. Indeed, with a population of 7.5 million out of 46 million, Catalonia is, after Madrid, the second-wealthiest of Spain’s seventeen so-called autonomous communities, as stated in the last available Spanish government’s National Statistics Institute account, which excludes the Basque Country and Navarre because they benefit from a special fiscal regime due to their historic “foral” tradition. However, Catalonia is also the most indebted autonomous community among the communities.

Madrid responds to Catalan complaints by claiming that Catalonia receives special assistance from the Spanish government, outside of money from the national budget, in the form of ad hoc loans to make payments not previously planned for. (The central government is in fact its only lender, since Spanish law blocks access by the autonomous communities to shop for loans on international markets.) Spain also insists that solidarity must be at the core of relations among its regional governments. But this has proven a double-edged sword since the separatists claim that Catalonia is discriminated against within this community, noting that Spanish investment in Catalonia (i.e., annual government budgeting for the region) will drop twenty-five percent compared to an average decrease of 7.2 percent for the nation as a whole during the current belt-tightening effort to stop the country’s economic free fall. Catalan nationalists refer to this imbalance as “plunder.”

With Barcelona, one of the jewel cities of Europe and a vital hub of finance and commerce as Catalonia’s capital, it is not likely that the Spanish government will allow independence for the region even if a vote for independence is successful.

Besides, it appears likely that the Catalans themselves are wary of even holding a vote if it contravenes Spanish law:

Just 23 percent of those surveyed in a Metroscopia poll published in El Pais said Catalonia should press ahead with the referendum, even if it is declared illegal. This is the stance of Mas’s coalition partner, the separatist party ERC.

The poll showed 45 percent of those surveyed believed Catalonia should respect the decision of the court and 25 percent said the region should look for other legal ways to redraw its relationship with Spain.

A NC Report poll, published in La Razon newspaper, showed 55 percent of Catalans would not support the referendum if declared illegal. Both polls surveyed 1,000 people.

The wealthy region of 7 million people has its own language and cultural identity and has long sought greater self-rule. Central government spending cuts during a deep recession have helped fuel independence sentiment.

The Metroscopia poll found just 27 percent of those polled wanted full independence from Spain, with 42 percent wanting Catalonia to form a part of Spain but under new terms. Many Catalans want more power over taxes and welfare spending.

The Catalonian people share a common dream with other small European enclaves of distinct ethnic minorities: they want their culture and history back, as well as some sense that they have their hands on the levers of economic and political power to help direct their national destiny. If this can be accomplished within the framework of remaining attached to their current parent country, that would probably be satisfactory to the majority.

If not, we are going to see more votes like the one in Scotland.

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GOP Favorable Rating Inches Up, Matches Democrats

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Voters still show a negative view toward both parties, but favorable ratings for Republicans have rebounded since the low in October, 2013 following the government shut down.

Gallup reports nearly identical favorable numbers for both parties; 40/57 favorable/unfavorable for Republicans and 42/54 for Democrats.

There are encouraging and discouraging signs for both parties in the latest poll, conducted Sept. 4-7, just two months before the important midterm elections.

Americans have typically rated the Democratic Party more positively than the Republican Party since the question was first asked in 1992, so the current parity between the two is a positive sign for the GOP and a negative one for the Democratic Party. Indeed, current opinions of the Democratic Party are among the worst Gallup has measured in the past 20 years. The only time Gallup measured a lower favorable rating for the Democrats was 41% in late March 2010, just after Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

At the same time, Democrats can take some solace in the fact that Americans are not rating the GOP any more positively than they rate the Democratic Party, even at a time when Americans believe the Republican Party is better than the Democratic Party both at keeping the U.S. prosperous and at keeping the U.S. secure from international threats.

The situation is similar to what occurred in 2010. Even as Republicans were making large gains in federal and state offices nationwide, Americans did not view the GOP any more positively than the Democratic Party. As such, the Republicans may have merely benefited from public frustration with Obama and the Democrats in 2010, rather than having been truly embraced by Americans. Thus, if Republicans do well on Election Day this year it does not necessarily equate to a voter mandate for the party and its policies.

All Partisan Groups More Positive toward GOP

The gains, or perhaps recovery, in the GOP’s image over the past year are evident among Democrats, independents, and Republicans. Notably, Republicans’ favorable views of their own party are still not back to pre-shutdown levels.

As would be expected given the stability in overall views of the Democratic Party, the ratings of it by respondents’ political identity are also generally steady over the past 12 months. However, Democrats and independents are less positive toward the Democratic Party than they were in late 2012, after Obama’s re-election.

That “public frustration” of voters in 2010 with Democrats may have turned into something even more dangerous for Democratic prospects in November; fear. The threats we face around the world are causing a lot of concern among voters and given the Republican edge in which party can keep America safer, that may play a significant role when voters make up their mind.

Peter Beinart of the Atlantic writes of the return of the “security moms” and how that favors the GOP:

In August, white women favored a Democratic Congress by four points. Now they favor a Republican Congress by eight.

As in 2002, Democrats are responding by becoming more hawkish. In October 2002, most Democrats in competitive Senate races voted to authorize the Iraq War. Last week, Obama announced a multi-year air campaign against ISIS.

But it doesn’t work. Almost all the imperiled Democrats in 2002 lost anyway. And there’s no evidence that Obama’s new hawkishness is helping him politically either. One reason is that although women are more worried about terrorism than men, they’re actually less supportive of responding with military action. In 2002, women were somewhat more skeptical of invading Iraq. Today, they’re more wary of going after ISIS.

Fundamentally, the Democrats’ terrorism problem with women—especially married white women—isn’t about policy. It’s about trust. In 2002, at a time of heightened anxiety, women trusted a Republican president to keep them safe. In 2014, with that anxiety heightened again, they don’t trust a Democratic president to do the same.

Rather than wondering if “foreign policy” will play a larger role in the campaign, perhaps it’s more accurate to talk about “security” as a general issue where Republicans appear to have the advantage.

In as many close Senate races as we are likely to have, the security issue may be a difference maker in at least some of them.

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John Barleycorn is Fretting Over Scottish Independence

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

It’s known colloquially as “Who Hit John,” “The ‘Crature’,” and “John Barleycorn.” It’s name is derived from the Gaelic for “Water of Life” — for which those of us who imbibe the elixir from time to time (or more often) heartily agree.

Whatever you want to call it, Scotch Whiskey is Scotland’s proudest achievement. In a nation of 5 million people, $6.5 billion in Scotch is exported annually. That accounts for fully 20% of all exports in the country. It’s the third biggest industry in Scotland behind financial services and oil.

But the industry operates in a global marketplace where more mundane concerns than achingly smooth taste and a complex bouquet are of paramount importance. Cheap credit, trade barriers, and a reliance on the UK to help promote their product have most distilleries in Scotland worried about the vote on independence.

NBC News:

Members of Scotland’s best-known industry are watching the vote for independence with serious trepidation.

Lack of certainty about Scotland’s currency, interest rate levels and membership in the European Union—which eliminates trade barriers in its largest market—all compete for the top of the list of worries.

Mike Younger, one of the few Scotch executives who will speak to the media, is finance director for Macleod Distillers, makers of Glengoyne Single Malt. He is solidly in the “no” camp. “I’m nervous,” he said, “because the results could be quite difficult for business.”

Scotch whisky is the third-largest contributor to Scotland’s GDP after the oil industry and financial services. And it acts as perhaps the No. 1 ambassador for Scottish culture. Nine out of 10 bottles are sent overseas.

Scotch can only be made in Scotland, just as Champagne can only be made in the Champagne region of France. In Scotland, it’s officially called Scotch Whisky (no “e” at the end!).

[...]

And precisely because it is an export, Scotch is particularly vulnerable to the unknowns that will come about if the Scots vote yes for independence.

David Williamson is the spokesperson for the Scotch Whisky Association. Officially, the group is not taking a side, but Williamson said that “At the moment, the consensus within the Scotch industry is that the potential risks outweigh the advantages.”

Back on the factory floor of Macleod, Younger said he’s worried because he thinks credit will become less available, and more expensive, in what will be a much smaller country, “simply because the full scale of the Scottish banking system at that point will be much smaller and less well defined and less capable than the much richer system that we have across the UK in its entirety.”

The potential rise of trade barriers is another concern. Currently, Scotland, as part of the United Kingdom, is part of the European Union, and faces no trade barriers in member states. The leaders of the “Yes” campaign have promised that Scotland would remain in the European Union, but just today, Spain said it would block Scotland’s membership.

The US imbibes more than twice as much Scotch as any other nation — $1.32 billion to France’s $600 million. If the distilleries are worried, so should be Scotch drinkers. There’s not much danger of an interruption in supply, as much as there may be significant price increases and availability issues for some of the more popular brands.

The Drinks Business:

In its latest report, “Going Scot-free”, the bank notes that while many have argued independence has the “potential” to boost sales of Scotch, it believes the “overall short-term impact on the industry will be negative.”

The bank highlighted five key areas which will be impacted, one of which would be the industry’s ability to access EU export markets, which currently account for 37% of Scotch sales, as a result of its temporary loss of EU membership and free trade agreement with member states.

While Scotland would be expected to re-apply for EU membership, the country would likely to shut out until at least 2018, leaving the Scotch sector at risk of seeing higher import tariffs in its core markets for at least two years, competition from other spirits categories and its competitiveness in key EU markets.

“The Scottish government would also have a mountainous task in procuring new trade agreements with non EU export markets following independence,” warned the bank.

It has been suggested that Scotland could instead join the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), giving it full access to the EU market without required membership to the EU, however foregoing any influence on it which could prove uncomfortable for a newly independent country.

The loss of the British pound would also raise uncertainly with a change in currency likely to lead to an “increase in foreign exchange risk for Scotch exports”, according to the bank.

Should independence be established, the Rabobank warned it was likely interest rates would rise which could create a “serious challenge” within an industry built on inventories stored up for decades with smaller companies likely to be hit hardest.

The pro-independence leaders have dismissed the concerns of the distilleries, saying that Scotch has been around for at least 800 years and it’s not going anywhere. That may be true. But it looks like Scotch makers are in for a rough ride if the “yes” vote wins tomorrow.

 

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Looking for Mr. ‘Moderate Syrian Rebel’

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In the end, I suspect they will be able to hold a convention of “moderate Syrian rebels” in a space larger than a phone booth but smaller than a room at the Holiday Inn.

But the New York Times is, forever, hopeful:

Groups identified by Western intelligence agencies as the moderate opposition — those that might support democracy and respect human rights — have been weak, divided and without coherent plans or sustained command structures capable of toppling the Assad regime. Today, those so-called moderates are even weaker and more divided; in some cases, their best fighters are hard-line Islamists.

Get that? There, indeed, are moderate rebels — except when they’re hardline Islamists. The Times is turning itself inside out trying to make sense of Obama’s policy and ends up twisted into a pretzel.

In April 2013, Mr. Obama authorized the C.I.A. to begin a secret mission to train Syrian rebels in Jordan. The total number trained so far is between 2,000 and 3,000. Last September, the C.I.A. began delivering light weapons like rifles and ammunition to a rebel faction commanded by Gen. Salim Idriss, whom Americans considered a competent leader and whose forces were not connected to terrorist groups. But since then, the Supreme Military Council, which General Idriss headed, has broken apart, and he has been sidelined. Its weapons and supply storerooms have been looted by Islamist groups or stolen by its members.

Don’t worry — we are in the very best of hands.

As the ISIS threat became clearer, Mr. Obama announced a plan in June to spend up to $500 million to send some American Special Forces troops to train as many as 3,000 rebels over the next year, but it stalled in Congress. Now the administration proposes training twice that number of fighters in neighboring countries in the Middle East, including a facility that Saudi Arabia has agreed to host.

One complication is the federal ban on sending military aid to people with a history of human rights abuses. The C.I.A. has been working for some time to vet the Syrian rebels, but on a limited scale; the expanded mission, which would include more fighters, is likely to make vetting even more difficult.

Beyond that, there are bigger questions. The main target of the United States right now is ISIS, but for the mainstream rebel groups, getting rid of Mr. Assad is the main goal. How do you reconcile those competing goals? How do you avoid a flare-up of anti-American sentiment? The Assad government and its allies Russia and Iran have condemned Mr. Obama’s plans, but how will they react when the military campaign begins? And how can weapons shipped to rebel fighters be kept out of the hands of ISIS?

There is no reconciling the twin goals of getting rid of Assad and ISIS. There is no uniting the various factions — at least under the rubric of a secular, “democratic” opposition. There’s nothing we can do to stop Russia and Iran from giving arms to Assad, or running diplomatic interference for him at the UN.

One week, the president admits he has no policy to deal with ISIS and the next, presto! A policy magically appears. Does anyone else get the feeling that this “policy” has been thrown together haphazardly and without careful thought as to the consequences?

About what we’ve come to expect with our new and improved “smart” foreign policy.

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Is it Time to Retire the Star Spangled Banner as our National Anthem?

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Today is the 200th anniversary of the writing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” an event commemorated in Baltimore this weekend — the site of Fort McHenry whose defense against a pitiless British bombardment inspired Francis Scott Key to write the stirring words that eventually became our National Anthem.

Every school child in America knows the story — or, at least, they used to. Today, I’m not so sure. With such short shrift given to the uplifting parts of our national narrative, Key’s remarkable, emotional story may have become something less than a footnote in history books.

Key was on a mission approved by President Madison to negotiate an exchange of prisoners with British Admiral Alexander Cochrane, including a good friend of Keys who had been captured a few days earlier. The attack began on the morning of September 13, with the British launching huge mortar shells and Congreve rockets against the fort. The rockets were more of a psychological weapon at that time as they were very loud but not very destructive. Not so the mortars that arched over the walls of the fort causing few casualties but wreaking havoc on the fort’s infrastructure.

The British plan was to silence the fort’s big guns that would have made any attempt to sail past McHenry into the harbor a suicide mission. Once in the harbor, the ships would then support a ground force whose job was to take the city of Baltimore.

It was a good plan, but dependent on the ability of Cochrane’s ships to either so demoralize the Americans that they surrendered, or cause so much damage that the the fort could not effectively resist. Cochrane believed Key would be useful to negotiate the fort’s surrender so he allowed him to reboard the sloop that brought him to the admiral’s flagship and join the fleet that was bombarding McHenry.

Key had a birdseye view of the bombardment. By all accounts an emotional man, Key watched and fretted while the fort took a pounding for more than 24 hours, as nearly 2000 shells and 1000 rockets pummeled the works. Toward morning, the fort’s defenders replaced the storm flag that had flown throughout the battle with the huge 46′ by 32′ flag that now resides in the Smithsonian.

But Key couldn’t see in the dim light and because smoke obscured his view. Finally, as dawn broke, Key caught sight of the huge flag and was so filled with gratitude and patriotism, that he wrote the poem “Defence of Fort M’Henry” which was later put to music — “Anacreon in Heaven” – and the rest is history. The “Star Spangled Banner” become the official anthem of the US in 1931.

There have been numerous complaints through the years about the anthem; it’s too “martial”; it’s hard to sing; the song is inappropriate because it was originally a drinking song (not true, but it’s a good story); the lyrics are overwrought.

Steve Vogel, author of “Through the Perilous Fight: From the Burning of Washington to the Star-Spangled Banner: The Six Weeks That Saved the Nation”, debunks several myths about the anthem in a recent column for the Washington Post:

Rather than martial chest-thumping, Key’s first verse is a long question, wondering not just whether the flag still flew over the fort but whether the young nation would survive. In the dark hours before dawn, the guns fell quiet. For Key, the silence was dreadful, a sign that the fort may have fallen. The second verse captures Key’s relief at spotting the American flag “in full glory reflected” at first light.

The rarely sung third verse is angry and vengeful, rejoicing that the enemy’s “blood has washed out their foul footstep’s pollution.” Perhaps the lyrics reflect Key’s emotion after watching the British attempt to incinerate Baltimore. Key takes a more pious tone in the fourth and final verse, celebrating the return of peace and the end of “war’s desolation.”

The man who wrote this most patriotic of American songs in fact deeply opposed the war. Key had been dismayed by the U.S. declaration of war in 1812, considering it foolhardy for the young nation to take on one of the most powerful militaries on Earth.

Politico’s Ted Widmer wonders if it isn’t time to replace the “Star Spangled Banner” with a song that’s easier to sing, and with a less problematic history. Apparently, Key owned slaves and was a vigorous defender of the abomination. Should this disqualify him and his creation?

Two hundred years after that long night in Baltimore, is it time to rethink the Star-Spangled Banner? It has its merits—to drown out bad news with bluster, brass and percussion worked in 1814, and the song continues to radiate personality, even as most of us try and fail to sing along with its awkward leaps over one-and-half octaves. It feels right that the city that gave us Hairspray also surrendered this essential bit of national theater. The music has entered so deeply into our consciousness that even its parodies can seem beautiful—much as the Jimi Hendrix version, inflammatory at the time, has acquired a great dignity of its own.

But the story of Key’s nearness to slavery cannot easily be forgotten, especially in an era that demands more accountability, and offers to tools to find it. Critics over the years—I am hardly the first—have been brutal about the Star-Spangled Banner’s many shortcomings. The New York Herald Tribune dismissed it as “words that nobody can remember [set] to a tune that nobody can sing.” In 1918, a woman named Kitty Cheatham denounced the words as “German propaganda” (because they undermined the Anglo-American alliance), and saw the music as a product of “darkness,” “degeneracy,” and “the carnal mind.” Christian Science leader Augusta Stetson called it a “barroom ballad composed by a foreigner.” A 1965 writer thought it “as singable as Die Walkure, as American as ‘God Save the Queen’”; the columnist Michael Kinsley has ripped its “empty bravado” and “mindless nonsense about rockets and bombs.”

Perhaps—like Old Glory herself—the unsingable song is here to stay. But if not, we have a worthy contender waiting in the wings: “America the Beautiful,” a stirring piece of music, easily sung and irrefutably composed by U.S. citizens.

Like all of us, Key was a product of his times. The fact that he supported slavery is only one aspect of his character, and to condemn him unmercifully for a sin shared by tens of millions of Americans north and south seems harsh and arbitrary. Using that logic, no American born before 1865 deserves recognition for anything. It cost the US 600,000 lives to wrench the institution of slavery from our midst — a horrible price to pay and illustrative of just how difficult it was to escape the institution’s historical trap.

Certainly Key should be criticized for his views on slavery, especially when you consider the growing abolitionist movement in America during his lifetime. He could have changed but he didn’t. That’s a black mark on his character that history will not wash away.

But why besmirch his heartfelt patriotism and sheer relief that Baltimore was saved and possibly, the war with it? The emotional lyrics to the “Star Spangled Banner” are a celebration of American values and a demonstration of the American character. It is as much a part of American history as any icon we possess.

Surely we can find room for Francis Scott Key in the pantheon of American heroes despite his flaws, and celebrate his creation no matter how hard it is to sing. For the sake of our children, we have to.

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Poll: Obama’s Black Supporters Abandoning Him

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

President Barack Obama’s approval numbers appear to be in freefall across the board as his most vigorous supporters in the past are now abandoning him

The Washington Examiner reports:

President Obama, plagued by growing disapproval ratings, is now losing support from his liberal base as the country appears to have given up on his administration and Washington, according new polling data.

Once their hero, now only three-quarters of African Americans and Democrats support the president.

One reason, according to Zogby Analytics: Jimmy Carter-style malaise is settling in.

“There is clearly a growing amount of angst and malaise and it appears to be nonpartisan,” said pollster John Zogby, who provides the weekly Secrets report card on the president.

In a new poll, he said that if the 2012 election were held today, Obama would tie Republican Mitt Romney at 40 percent. Zogby noted that both men have lost support among allies.

For Obama it’s obviously worse because he has the Oval Office and needs public support to push through a new anti-terrorism policy, a developing plan to grant amnesty to illegals and continued efforts to bolster the sour economy and employment.

Zogby reported that Obama “is losing, at this point in time, significant chunks of his base. He won 61 percent of the vote of 18-29 year olds in 2012 but now has only 47 percent of their support. He is down nine points among Democrats (from 82 percent to 73 percent), 12 points among moderates (54 percent to 42 percent), 11 points among Hispanics (71 percent to 60 percent), and 13 points among African Americans (91 percent to 78 percent),” said Zogby on his company’s blog.

This news doesn’t necessarily work in the GOP’s favor. Republican candidates are not going to pick up 25% of the black vote, or 50% of the youth vote. The GOP may see marginal improvements in gaining votes from Obama’s base across the board, but it’s probably not going to be a difference maker.

Turnout among most of those groups is historically low in off-year elections anyway. What is worrying Republicans, though, is the same turnout machine that brought the president victory in 2012 will increase the historical share of the vote among youth, minorities, and fervid Obama supporters.The same social networking infrastructure is in place from 2012 and even a small increase in votes among the Democrats’ base supporters might save one or two vulnerable Democratic senators.

But if Zogby is right and many in the president’s base have given up on him, all the social network goosing in the world won’t matter in the end.

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Charges of Democratic Voter Fraud in Georgia

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The New Georgia Project, an independent group set up by a major donor and adviser to the campaign of Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn, is under investigation by the state’s attorney general for voter fraud.

We know this is impossible because there is no such thing as voter fraud, right? So, the story is either a hoax, or a very bad joke.

The Hill:

Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) said in a memo, reported by WSB-TV, that his office has “received numerous complaints about voter applications submitted by the New Georgia Project,” an organization launched to register and turn out voters to the polls.

“Preliminary investigation has revealed significant illegal activities, including forged voter registration applications, forged signatures on releases, and applications with false or inaccurate information,” Kemp wrote in the memo.

Nunn is running against Republican David Perdue for a Senate seat left open by the retirement of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). Democrats see the race as a pick-up opportunity in a year where they are largely playing defense.

Most polls have shown a close race, with Perdue leading Nunn by three points in the most recent survey, conducted earlier this month.

Republicans are seizing on the allegations against the New Georgia Project to tarnish Nunn, suggesting the group was part of a larger effort by Democrats to “expand the electorate by any means necessary.”

“The serious allegations of illegal activities and potential fraud from liberal voter registration groups are outrageous and should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law,” said Perdue spokeswoman Megan Whittemore.

The New Georgia Project and its parent organization, Third Sector Development, were issued subpoenas this week demanding documents relating to the allegations be turned over to the Georgia Election Board by Sept. 19.

Third Sector Development is run by Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D), who has contributed to Nunn’s campaign and was listed on an official campaign strategy document as a proposed member of a group of potential policy advisers.

Abrams said in a statement she was “saddened” by the subpoenas, and that the group is working to comply with them.

“The abrupt release of this subpoena saddens me as I know the efforts of this organization have been done with the mission of increasing voter registration and engagement in the most disadvantaged and underserved groups in the state,” she said.

Democrats are framing the illegal activity as part of the process to register poor people and minorities. Apparently, we are supposed to put up with a little fraud in order to “enfranchise” more people.

Beyond that, the New Georgia Project is a shadowy organization. When they first appeared, even the NAACP was worried about them — with good reason:

Is the New Georgia Project a legitimate organization? That’s the question NAACP leaders have, saying the organization is under investigation by state election officials. The group has been going door-to-door offering to register voters, but they’re not registered with the state.

NAACP leaders spoke out at Franklin Square to remind people to be cautious with their personal information. “If you see a volunteer with those five letters, NAACP, you can count that they are well trained and they can hold voter registration information in strict compliance with the law and they can assist every citizen with the right to vote,” said Francys Johnson, Georgia NAACP President.

The New Georgia Project claims to be helping register voters. They set up in an office building off Skidaway Road. We went there Friday, but no one was there. Representatives of the group told employees it’s a non-profit organization.

“I truly am worried about some of the people whose information we’ve collected,” said Brad Jones, a Savannah State student recruited to register voters at $11 per hour. Jones says he was instructed to collect full names, social security numbers, birth dates and more. “I’m really not sure what’s happening to this information. That’s what I really want to know because I really don’t think this is a legitimate business.”

Jones says he was instructed to tell people to vote at their polling station at Roosevelt School. But voter registration officials say that place doesn’t exist. When going door-to-door, people are supposed to be given the option to mail the form themselves so strangers don’t get their information. Jones says he was not instructed to give that option.

That was back in June. Now, the NAACP is asking the Georgia secretary of state to drop the subpoenas and halt the investigations. Apparently, giving away your social security number to a total stranger doesn’t bother them very much anymore.

So far, 12 counties have reported voter fraud from the New Georgia Project. Democrats are charging a conspiracy to suppress minority voters. Rational people are wondering what took the secretary of state so long to investigate.

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