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Seth Meyers Isn’t Funny

When I’m watching late night talk shows, it’s generally Conan or Jimmy Kimmel. Fallon strikes me as lazy but he’s growing on me.

I caught last night’s Late Night with Seth Meyers show and, frankly, I wish I hadn’t. He’s terrible.

 

He should’ve lost me with the monologue, which was full of weak obviousness. He led with an Earth Day joke in which a guy scolded him about throwing away a banana peel.

Banana peels are biodegradable, but whatever. He did a joke about AOL, meatballs, the shrinking middle class, and a bunch of other totally forgettable one-liners. I challenge you to laugh at just one of his monologue jokes.

He did some canned bit about 1980s NFL pencils. I used to have several of those pencils, so I could identify with collecting them when you were a kid. But the bit was just bad.

He did a “Deep Google” bit which could’ve very been funny, but wasn’t funny at all. It came off as embarrassingly contrived. Maybe that’s his schtick?

He did a bit in which he got romantic with planet earth because of Earth Day. It was awful. Painfully unfunny. Here, watch it if you want to, but it’s 3:30 you’ll never get back.

Then he had Sofia Vergara on. She can light up a black hole, but Meyers’ segment with her — bad. No chemistry.

Then he had Natalie Dormer on. She’s on Game of Thrones and is now filming the next Hunger Games movie. Dormer has been on everything, from The Tudors to Elementary and now the most talked-about show on earth.

Meyers mostly talked with her about running.

So, Meyers had two gorgeous actresses who are at the top of their games on his set, one right after the other, and he still managed to not be very interesting. The show would have flowed better if he had been cut out of both of those interviews entirely.

I didn’t stick around after the Dormer interview.

Posted at 3:56 pm on April 23rd, 2014 by

38 Lawmakers Challenge Obamacare’s Subsidies for Their Staffs

Another legal challenge to Obamacare:

Thirty-eight Republican lawmakers are backing a lawsuit filed by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., challenging health insurance subsidies provided to lawmakers and their staffers who are required to obtain coverage under ObamaCare.

Johnson filed the lawsuit in January challenging a ruling by the Office of Personnel Management. The agency ruled that lawmakers and their staffs should continue to receive health care benefits covering about 75 percent of their premium costs after leaving the health insurance program for federal workers.

According to the lawsuit, the OPM ruling “does not treat members of Congress and their staffs like members’ constituents. Instead, it puts them in a better position by providing them with a continuing tax-free subsidy.”

On Tuesday, 38 Republicans filed an amicus brief accusing the Obama administration of attempting to “rewrite the Affordable Care Act.”

There are a couple of issues here, unequal treatment under the law, and whether the president can re-write laws once they are passed. To answer the latter, he can’t, but so far no court has stopped him so he has changed Obamacare 36 times or so. To answer the latter, Obamacare seems to be the only law that really matters to Democrats, and any means of propping it up is perfectly fine. Even though it’s likely to cost them the Senate this fall.

Johnson told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren on Tuesday that the subsidy gives members of Congress and their staff “special treatment” that ordinary Americans forced to purchase health insurance under the law are unable to obtain.

“It’s unfair, it’s unfair treatment,” Johnson said on “On the Record.” “It’s special treatment, and by the way the president has no legal authority to change the law the way it did, and that’s really at the heart of this lawsuit is the doctrine and separation of powers and the fact that this president has exceeded his legal authority.”

Johnson said some of his colleagues signed onto the brief despite receiving pushback from staff members who oppose the removal of the subsidy.

Supporters of the suit include: Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Tex.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; and Tim Scott, R-S.C. and Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; David Jolly, R-Fla.; Thomas Massie, R-Ky.; and Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.

Posted at 3:16 pm on April 23rd, 2014 by

Putin’s Allies Just Seized Control of Russia’s Largest Social Networking Site

The Beeb reports:

The founder of Russia’s most popular social network site says he has been fired and that allies of President Putin have taken over his site.

Pavel Durov who ran VKontakte had previously announced he was leaving the company but said he had withdrawn his resignation.

The company denied it had been withdrawn.

Mr Durov had previously refused requests from the Russian government to censor posts on his site.

In a statement Mr Durov said that he only found out about the loss of his job from press reports: “Today I was fired as general director of VKontakte. It’s interesting that the shareholders didn’t have the bravery to do this directly, and that I learned about my firing from the press.

“Today VKontakte goes under the complete control of Igor Sechin and Alisher Usmanov. Probably, in the Russian context, something like this was inevitable, but I’m happy we lasted seven and a half years. We did a lot. And part of what’s been done can’t be turned back.”

Sechin is Putin’s former chief of staff, and he currently runs state-owned oil company Rosneft. Now he runs a more or less state-owned social network, too. Usmanov is Russia’s richest man, with iron and steel and English football’s Arsenal among the things he has at least partial ownership of. He is one of Russia’s oligarchs.

I’m sure Edward Snowden will rush out to denounce the seizure of VKontakte any…second…now.

Posted at 1:28 pm on April 23rd, 2014 by

College Hipsters Face a Coffee Crunch Dilemma

Starbucks Coffee, favorite of hipster coffee drinkers from coast to coast, is reportedly about to buy a stake in SodaStream.

SodaStream International stocks took their biggest leap in two years after daily newspaper Globesreported Starbucks Corp. is in talks to buy a 10 percent stake in the maker of home soda machines.

Shares of SodaStream soared 14 percent to $46 in New York, in a rally that cut SodaStream’s loss this year to 7.6 percent.

Starbucks, the world’s biggest coffee chain, is in advanced talks to acquire the stake at a company value of $1.1 billion, Globes reported, citing unidentified sources. An official announcement will be made soon, the paper said. Another economic newspaper, Calcalist, reported a week ago that SodaStream, which has a market value of $960 million according to data compiled by Bloomberg, was in talks to sell a stake of the company.

Problem: SodaStream is based in Israel. In the last few years, it has become fashionable to boycott Israel, and products made there, on college campuses. Scarlett Johannsen faced hipster wrath when she starred in ads for SodaStream a few months ago.

If Starbucks buys into SodaStream, will the boycotters turn on their favorite coffee corporation?

 

 

Posted at 1:09 pm on April 23rd, 2014 by

The Faux Conservative Evangelicals Fighting for Immigration Reform

wallis-rodriguez

 

This past week, a group of evangelicals met once again with Obama, urging swift action on immigration. This comes on the heels of Jeb Bush’s recent interview:

Earlier in April, former Florida governor Jeb Bush suggested that illegal immigrants are not committing a felony, but are breaking the law out of love and commitment to family.
“It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family,” Bush said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

Although the article simply refers to them as “faith leaders,” they are all part of the same group that has been working with Jim Wallis for some time, allegedly funded with Soros money. Soros is making a habit of using evangelicals, as he did with the funding of Telos, an outreach to convince evangelicals to be pro-Palestinian. Among those on the Telos advisory board, we find  Dr. Joel Hunter, Obama spiritual advisor (more about him below); Lynne Hybels (Willow Creek Church); and Samah Norquist, wife of Grover Norquist.

The immigration group Soros funds is known as the Evangelical Immigration Table and is made up of a wide array of “social justice” evangelicals who have been criticized previously for their approach to the immigration issue.

The main leadership of the group consists of the following:

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals
Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief
David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association
Luis Cortés, President, Esperanza
Russell D. Moore, President, Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Mathew Staver, Chairman and Founder, Liberty Counsel
Richard Stearns, President, World Vision U.S.
Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners

Of particular interest is the ongoing relationship between Samuel Rodriguez, Noel Castellanos and Jim Wallis. They appear to have worked together for quite awhile. Both were part of the Two Futures Project, a group of Christians working to abolish all nuclear weapons worldwide. Endorsers include Pastor Joel Hunter (seen below), Sam Rodriguez, Jim Wallis, Noel Castellanos and more.  This group was started by progressive Pastor Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, who Brian Auten describes this way:

Not only is he familiar with the policy landscape, but I would argue that Wigg-Stevenson has extraordinary insight into how recent shifts within American evangelicalism have created an environment within which 2FP’s nuclear abolitionist message can ripen and flourish. During the second Bush administration, arguments about the end of Christendom and the captivity of the American evangelicals to the culture war—familiar in evangelical left circles and, since the late 1990s, also oft-cited in so-called third-way, emerging and/or missional church conversations—began to circulate among more “traditional” evangelical audiences, particularly among the late-20- to early-40-somethings which make up the bulk of 2FP’s target audience. This disillusionment with the culture war, coupled with what might be thought of as an attendant “neo-Anabaptist turn,” has provoked in younger evangelicals an exploding interest in more communitarian aspects of church life and the integration of the gospel with what might be labeled “progressive” social justice concerns.

Samuel Rodriguez was part of the Evangelicals for Human Rights group along with progressive Wigg-Stevenson as well. Among their agenda items was to “secure an independent Commission of Inquiry that will investigate and disclose the torture policies and practices of the U.S. government since September 11, 2001.”

Jim Wallis has even written a forward for one of Sam Rodriguez’s books and they are seen here together at a course taught by Jim Wallis at Georgetown University. “I love Jim Wallis. I am here because of my commitment to a dear friend…” Rodriguez began. They appeared at the Center for American Progress back in 2007, asking “Who Would Jesus Deport?” Jim Wallis, Pastor Joel Hunter and Sam Rodriguez were all part of the “Come Let Us Reason Together” Third Way communitarian “governing agenda” between evangelicals and progressives. Third Way has an interesting group of trustees, including William Daley (former Obama COS), Susan McCue (former Harry Reid COS), Thurgood Marshall Jr., and Peter Lewis, Chairman of Progressive Insurance. Honorary Co-Chairs include James Clyburn, Claire McCaskill, Gabrielle Giffords and Kathleen Sebelius.

It appears that many of the same participants have also been active together as members of the Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, once again including Samuel Rodriguez, Richard Land, Noel Castellanos and Juan Hernandez. They composed an open letter to Mitt Romney at the time.

Social justice Pastor Joel Hunter’s site published the 2010 phone event, Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CFCIR), featuring many of the same people (Land, Rodriguez, Castellanos) as well as “conservative” Juan Hernandez, who appeared to be coordinating the event.  A similar phone event was held on a different date that year, again with Hernandez, Rodriguez and Castellanos as well as Jeb Bush. This one was posted online by José Artemio Arreola of the Illinois Coalition For Immigrant And Refugee Rights (ICIRR), with links to CAIR, Amnesty International, SEIU and more. Phone-in sessions such as these, organized by Juan Hernandez, do not ring true as “conservative”. Neither does Juan Hernandez:

He considers Canada, the U.S., and Mexico “a bloc, not one nation.” He puts “Mexico first.” He doesn’t believe there are any criminals among the 12-20 million illegal aliens he thinks should be legalized. He’s been saying all of this for a long time.

Despite the feud between Jim Wallis and Glenn Beck, and despite The Blaze story on Soros ties to the Evangelical Immigration Table, and despite Rodriguez’s participation in the Third way communitarian “Come Let Us Reason Together”,  James Robison included him as a featured speaker at the “Under God: Indivisible” event in conjunction with Beck’s Restoring Love weekend. The Blaze even featured part of Rodriguez’s speech as a highlight of the weekend. Seems a very odd choice for anyone who knows much about Samuel Rodriguez.

Not only does the Evangelical Immigration Table have extremely questionable ties and funding, but they also sponsor a youth training program called G92.org, their “culture shaping movement”, which appears to be more propaganda than Christian compassion. The presentation video on their home page shows a “typical” law-breaking American citizen, giving no thought to their everyday petty acts like failing to scoop up doggy doo. They give the impression that these innocent immigrants are breaking no law any more harmful than what we do every day, yet they are ostracized. (Are you breaking laws every day? Not sure who the audience is supposed to be for this.) This is not teaching compassion. It is pure propaganda. Rightly calling their immigration “illegal” does not mean you have no sympathy for their plight and no desire to see a broken system fixed. It simply means you would like to see the rule of law followed and a solution put in place that works for everyone.

It is rare to find someone who does not want a fair and just solution to the immigration issue, but finding trustworthy representation is an uphill battle. It appears that the current ploy is to “shame” Christians into going along with their game plan to prove your compassion and Biblical direction. The problem is, some of them seem to have left out the part about the many illegal visitors who have come to commit crimes, the already high unemployment rate and the overwhelming cost of social services that is stretching us beyond our ability to pay. Is it being a good steward to give away things that you don’t have to give? To put others in harm’s way in order to force your agenda? To refuse to enforce laws that are already on the books, while you lobby for reform? Even Cesar Chavez saw the problems associated with this, as he grappled with illegals taking jobs from his unionized workers.

Rather than being resentful and angry at those who are taking advantage of free benefits and porous borders, we need to be angry with Progressives in sheep’s clothing who are using us and using these immigrants for their own agenda.

 

Posted at 11:41 am on April 23rd, 2014 by

Why Shouldn’t These Three Ladies Be Allowed to Marry Each Other if They Want?

Doll, Brynn and Kitten (their real names as far as I know) live in Massachusetts. Despite the fact that Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage via court edict years ago, it still oppresses those who wish for something more.

Brynn and Doll dated for eight months before moving in together. Two years later, they purchased a house together. 

Having both enjoyed polygamous relationships before, Doll and Brynn looked for a third woman to join them. After a few failed liaisons, Doll and Brynn created an OKCupid couple’s profile. Eventually, they received a message from Kitten.

Good ol’ OkCupid, flinging the arrows of love hither and yon. Except when it’s flinging hate at Brendan Eich, anyway.

Doll, Brynn and Kitten went for dinner at a Chinese Restaurant for their first date and immediately liked each other. 

Doll says: ‘There was an instant attraction with Kitten but I think we all really bonded when we baked cookies together on our fourth date. I didn’t know what love was until the three of us clicked like that.’

Brynn adds: ‘With Doll and Kitten, things finally made sense. It was as if the puzzle was finally complete with all three pieces.’

Within a few months, Kitten moved in with Doll and Brynn. Two years later, they decided to get married after Kitten proposed the idea to them.

Kitten says: ‘I had always wanted to get married and I guess Doll and Brynn indulged my wishes! I had a very traditional upbringing and marriage had always been an important symbol of commitment for me. We wanted to celebrate our love in a wedding like everyone else.’

Well, of course. The heart wants what the heart wants.

The threesome spent several date nights planning their dream wedding – making decorations and shopping for matching traditional, white gowns.

Brynn says: ‘Planning our wedding was hectic. It took a lot more organizing because there were three brides involved. 

Kitten, Brynn and Doll had to work with the legalities of the state to get married to each other. As being married to more than one person is not currently legal, they had to combine handfasting, legally binding documents and legal marriage.

Well, why isn’t being married to more than one person legal? What’s the rationale behind that? They’re consenting adults, so what’s the big deal? It must be equal parts hatred and intolerance. That’s what the courts keep saying in their rulings on marriage. You may have a problem with the throuple, but who are you to draw the line?

They should sue. They’ll win.

Read the rest. The trio plan to use science and/or adoption to obtain children. It’s a good thing no Catholic will be involved if they go the adoption route.

Posted at 11:25 am on April 23rd, 2014 by

Are We On a Slow Roll to War with Russia?

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist on June 28th, 1914. The wheels of war didn’t get around to produce an actual major powers clash until August 23rd, when Germany invaded France. It took a couple of months for all the alliances to shake out and for tensions to build up to the point that the great powers were committed, and World War I kicked off in earnest.

Russia invaded Crimea on February 28, 2014. It formally annexed Crimea, against the objections of the United States, Ukraine, the EU and NATO, on March 18. Russia did these things in the name of “protecting” the ethnic Russians who live in Crimea, despite the fact that they were not under any threat.

The next question is whether Russia has designs on seizing other Ukraine territory where ethnic Russians live (and under which, there are significant energy resources). And beyond that, whether Russia has designs on territories outside Ukraine in which ethnic Russians live, and might need “protection,” independent nations that were once satellites of the Soviet empire that Putin appears intent on reassembling. Some of those nations are now NATO members.

The United States has sent troops to Poland, a NATO member that has a long and bloody history with its neighbor, Russia.

WASHINGTON –  U.S. Army paratroopers are arriving in Poland on Wednesday as part of a wave of U.S. troops heading to shore up America’s Eastern European allies in the face of Russian meddling in Ukraine.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said an initial contingent of about 600 troops will head to four countries across Eastern Europe for military exercises over the next month.

First, about 150 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy, are arriving in Poland.

Additional Army companies will head to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and are expected to arrive by Monday for similar land-based exercises in those countries.

The show of strength comes as the United States, European allies and Ukraine try to ease tensions with Russia and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. All sides struck a diplomatic agreement last week, but it remains unclear whether pro-Russian demonstrators, who took over a series of government buildings in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, will back down.

That diplomatic agreement was nullified today, and Russia stepped up its threat to invade eastern Ukraine.

Russia vowed to defend its citizens in neighboring Ukraine after the government in Kiev said it’s resuming operations to oust militants from eastern cities.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country would retaliate if its “legitimate interests” are “attacked directly,” drawing a parallel with its actions in a 2008 war over Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia region. After a pause for the Easter holiday, a military operation is under way to eliminate militias in Kramatorsk, Slovyansk and other cities, Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister Vitali Yarema said today.

“Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said in aninterview today with the state-run television broadcaster RT. “If we are attacked, we would certainly respond.”

The Ukraine’s attacks on those “separatist groups” may literally be attacks on the Russian Federation. Some of those “separatists” may actually be Russian military special forces sent to Ukraine to provoke and provide justification for Russia to invade.

A token number of our own forces are now scattered across Putin’s potential targets. He seems to have a plan driving his actions. The Obama administration is in reaction mode without any evident strategy in mind.

Well, other than Obama’s plan to slash American military forces to the bone.

Posted at 10:48 am on April 23rd, 2014 by

‘Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent’ is a Nice Sentiment, But It’s Unrealistic

A worthy group of same-sex marriage supporters have penned and signed a gracious letter in which they all allow that Americans ought to have the right to object to same-sex marriage and not lose their jobs and livelihoods over it.

They write that the case of Brendan Eich motivated them to step forward. Eich was ousted as CEO of Mozilla because he donated $1000 to support California’s Prop 8 in 2008. He was targeted by dating site OkCupid’s leadership, and eliminated from his job. Eich got their attention because his case became famous. They fail to address less famous, yet even more pernicious, cases of intolerance for those who object to re-defining marriage. In those cases, same-sex marriage opponents were taken to court, and courts ruled against them. The full force of government now threatens their livelihoods.

The authors write that persuasion, not coercion, is the best way to achieve their aims.

Is opposition to same-sex marriage by itself, expressed in a political campaign, beyond the pale of tolerable discourse in a free society? We cannot wish away the objections of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions, or browbeat them into submission. Even in our constitutional system, persuasion is a minority’s first and best strategy. It has served us well and we should not be done with it.

It’s fine to acknowledge that Americans retain the right to defend an institution that goes back thousands of years and comes from a power far higher than Washington, but the authors of the letter never once acknowledge the fact that same-sex marriage’s recent progress is not owed as much to persuasion, but to coercive court decisions, intimidation and media bullying. Those court decisions go against votes held in states as diverse as Texas, North Carolina and California. Whenever Americans have had the chance to vote on whether to preserve the definition of marriage or to change it, they have voted to preserve it.

But the courts and those pushing the court cases lack respect for those votes. Soon enough courts will impose a re-definition of marriage on every single state. The court decisions combined with the prevailing media winds, hurricane force in favor of re-defining marriage over the past few years, have surely intimidated many Americans into telling pollsters that they support same-sex marriage now, when in their hearts they are at least skeptical. They no longer feel free to voice their opinion. City ordinances like the ones recently adopted in San Antonio, Texas further chill free speech on the marriage issue. The authors acknowledge none of this.

So the proverbial train has already left the station. Persuasion was jettisoned years ago. Coercion will win. The lesson that others will learn from this is a dangerous one for the principle of self-governance.

The authors of “Freedom to marry” do not acknowledge any of this.

They also do not acknowledge the pernicious use of courts to target individual business owners who object to performing services related to same-sex weddings. Why not? Surely they are all familiar with the photographer and the baker whose livelihoods are now threatened because they took their religious beliefs concerning marriage seriously. Why did the authors run away from those cases? Is it mere convenience, or cowardice?

The authors write:

The gay rights struggle is about freedom and equality for all. The best and most free society is one that allows the largest number to live true to their core beliefs and identities. It is a society that allows its members to speak their minds and shape their own aspirations.

For all? Do they really believe this? The majority of this country remain Christian. That majority played by the rules and has had its votes concerning marriage canceled. Eich was ousted at the company he co-founded because he played by the rules. What was done to him was evil. The lesson that his case ultimately teaches is that if you play by the rules, you’re a sucker and you will lose. That lesson is reinforced in the cases of the baker and the photographer.

Christians who object to re-defining marriage find themselves targeted via lawfare. When they step up and attempt to pass reasonable laws to defend religious conscience, they get compared to the racists who erected Jim Crow laws. They are no longer allowed to defend themselves via the ordinary means available to a self-governing people, either in court or through legislation. This is also dangerous, and evil.

The “both/and” nature of the letter is nice, but ultimately unrealistic and sentimental. The hard left that has always been behind the re-define and ultimately destroy marriage movement does not do “both.” It forces and enforces either/or. It bullies. It coerces. It is openly dishonest, hateful and intolerant. It knows no limits to what is acceptable and what is not, in debating in a pluralistic society. It is ruthless, and it is winning.

Now that courts are imposing re-definitions of marriage, there is no stopping further re-definitions to the point that marriage loses all meaning. Some have called for “government to get out of the marriage business” to settle the same-sex marriage debate amicably. How naive. The totalitarian left wants a massive government, and diluting marriage and the family provide a clear means to break one of the strongest buffers between the individual and the state — especially in our formative, childhood years. Eventually, the threat of lawsuits and the probability of losing livelihoods will force Christian religious groups and their leaders and supporters to abandon any involvement in marriages, at least in a public sense, as they have already been driven out of involvement in adoptions and other services. Driving religion out of marriage will have consequences.

The “freedom to marry” letter will not even slow any of this down.

 

Posted at 9:49 am on April 23rd, 2014 by

DOJ Launching Effort to Put ‘Substantial Number’ of Inmates Before Obama for Clemency

The Justice Department this morning announced a new initiative “to encourage qualified federal inmates to petition to have their sentences commuted or reduced by the president of the United States.”

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said in a news conference that the latest effort is part of Attorney General Eric Holder’s “Smart on Crime” initiative, which “was conceived with an eye towards addressing the crisis caused by a vastly overcrowded prison population, and with a goal of redirecting some of the dollars we spend on prisons to prosecutors and law enforcement agents working to keep our streets safer.”

“The fundamental American concept, equal justice under law, requires that our laws be enforced fairly, and not just going forward. It is equally important that we extend this fairness to those who are already serving prison sentences for their crimes,” Cole said.

He noted that last December President Obama commuted the sentences of eight men and women who had each served more than 15 years in prison for crack cocaine offenses under mandatory sentencing guidelines.

“Since that time, the president has indicated that he wants to be able to consider additional, similar applications for commutation of sentence, to restore a degree of fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals,” Cole added. “The department is committed to responding to the president’s directive by finding additional candidates who are similarly situated to those granted clemency last year, and recommending qualified applicants for reduced sentences.”

“We are launching this clemency initiative in order to quickly and effectively identify appropriate candidates. Candidates who have a clean prison record do not present a threat to public safety and were sentenced under out-of-date laws that have since been changed and are no longer seen as appropriate.”

The initiative is not limited to crack laws and those eligible must meet six conditions, he said: be currently serving a federal sentence in prison “and by operation of law, likely would’ve received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense today,” be a nonviolent offender without cartel ties, have served at least 10 years behind bars, “do not have a significant criminal history,” have a good conduct record in prison, and “have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.”

“Identifying worthy candidates within our large prison population will be no easy feat. A good number of inmates will not meet these six criteria,” Cole conceded. “But we are dedicating significant time and resources to ensure that all potentially eligible petitions are reviewed and then processed quickly to ensure timely justice.”

Next week, the Bureau of Prisons will begin notifying inmates of the program. Inmates can then fill out an electronic survey, and those who meet the eligibility requirements “will be offered the assistance of an experienced pro bono attorney in preparing his or her application for clemency.”

These attorneys who have volunteered are calling themselves the Clemency Project 2014.

Cole added that the DOJ is “taking the unusual step of working with the federal Public Defender Service to try to get some of their attorneys detailed to the pardon attorney’s office to support this initiative.”

“Once we have made a preliminary determination that a petition is worthy of serious consideration, we will consult with both the United States attorney’s office and the trial judge that handled the case to get their views on the propriety of granting the application,” he said.

The deputy attorney general stressed that “this clemency initiative should not be understood to minimize the seriousness of our federal criminal law, and is designed first and foremost with public safety in mind. Even low-level offenders cause harm to people through their criminal actions, and many need to be incarcerated.”

“…In the same vein, it’s important to remember that commutations are not pardons. They are not exonerations. They are not expressions of forgiveness. Rather, as the president said, they are, quote, ‘an important step towards restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness.’ He noted that many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society had they been sentenced under current law.”

Posted at 8:44 am on April 23rd, 2014 by

Caption Contest Winner: Hillary’s New Book, ‘Hard Choices,’ Now has a Subtitle

Hillary book cover

Photo Credit: Simon & Schuster

 

Thanks to all who entered our latest contest.

As we have come to expect from our brilliant PJM readers, the subtitles were clever, funny and politically astute.

The judges are now pleased to announce one grand prize winner and a host of honorable mentions.

The winner of our grand prize receives a discount coupon to The Gap, where, in case you forgot, Monica purchased her infamous blue dress.

The winning subtitle submitted by our “Caption King emeritus” cfbleachers is:

Hard Choices: But The Truth Was Not Among Them

Now we can all rest easy because Hillary’s new book title is complete.

Here are the honorable mentions that are VERY honorable.

joethefatman gave us:  Hard Choices: Sex, Lies, and Benghazi

Walterc won with: Hard Choices: Pantsuit or Blue dress?

JRSWINE wrote: Hard Choices-Benghazi, Whitewater or Travelgate

David77 had several winners:

Hard Choices: Which right-wing conspiracy to dismiss

Hard Choices: Which reset button to press.

Hard Choices: Photoshop or Makeup for my book cover

Hard Choices: Elizabeth Warren or Sandra Fluke for my VP.

Hard Choices: Which American Ally to ignore

RockThisTown entertained with these clever titles:

Hard Choices: Solid color or pattern drapes for the White House.

Hard Choices: Bitterly clinging to power or divorcing it.

Hard Choices: Baking pies or making up lies.

Hard Choices: Which dish to throw at Bill.

Hard Choices: Save many lives or my one political life.

Our grand prize winner cfbleachers also had many more winners:

Hard Choices: Made Much Easier If You Have No Conscience

Hard Choices: Between Evil And Incompetence

Hard Choices: Pantsuit or Burqa

Hard Choices: Arrest and Jail An Innocent Videographer, or Just Kill Him

Hard Choices: MSNBC Or CNN Or NYT Better For My Propaganda?

Hard Choices: Use The IRS, the DOJ, or The EPA to punish The Enemies Listees

Finally, here is a photo that accompanies a piece today on The Daily Beast with the title: Hopelessly Devoted to Hillary The piece is about Hillary groupies and I am not joking.  The photo is worthy of a caption contest but you will all agree that we are suffering from Hillary fatigue at this moment.

Feel free to caption it anyway and see you next time a photo is worthy of a PJM caption contest.

Credit: Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty

Credit: Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty

 

Posted at 8:32 am on April 23rd, 2014 by

Senator Says Congressional Staff a Roadblock in Getting Support for Obamacare Lawsuit

A Wisconsin senator said he felt some staff of GOP House members were standing in the way of getting more support for his lawsuit against President Obama’s executive overreach.

On Monday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) filed an answer to the government’s motion to dismiss his lawsuit over the Obama administration’s special Obamacare treatment of Congress and its staff.

“The Office of Personnel Management’s rule restoring tax preferred congressional health care subsidies that the Affordable Care Act eliminated reflects a stunning disregard for the law. On Jan. 6, 2014, I filed suit to overturn this executive overreach and uphold the rule of law. This is just one example of the more than 20 unilateral changes made by the president to his own signature piece of legislation, but it was the one opportunity where I believe I had standing to challenge,” he said in a statement. “The administration does not want this case to have its day in court, and as a result, asked the court on March 17 to dismiss my case due to lack of standing.”

Johnson told Fox last night that the OPM “basically did the president’s bidding, really the Senate Democrats’ bidding, in making sure that the federal government, contrary to the stated purpose, stated law, that is Obamacare, could make a tax-deferred employer contribution when they had to purchase their insurance through the exchanges. It’s unfair, it’s unfair treatment, its special treatment, and by the way, the president has no legal authority to change the law the way it did. But that’s really at the heart of this lawsuit. It is the doctrine and separation of powers and the fact that this president has exceeded his legal authority.”

Also filed Monday was an amicus brief signed by 12 senators and 26 House representatives in support of Johnson’s lawsuit against OPM.

Johnson called this “a pretty good job of uniting the Republican Party.”

“Even though this will be contrary to their own financial best interest and the financial best interest of their staff, realize what is at stake here is literally the constitutional balance, the constitutional framework of this nation,” he said of those who signed on to the suit.

But he said there was a reason why he thinks more lawmakers didn’t hop on board.

“I think we had a real problem getting my emails past staff. I know in one case there was actually a House member who agreed to be part of the amicus brief, who when we went to the staff said we can’t sign the authorization form. Had to make call to that member of Congress and make sure he overrode his staff,” Johnson said.

The senator said he’s hoping the case comes before Judge Griesbach in the Eastern District Federal Court in Green Bay for a ruling “within the next three or four months.”

Posted at 8:13 am on April 23rd, 2014 by

Report: Benghazi Could Have Been Prevented if the US Hadn’t ‘Switched Sides in the War on Terror’

A group called the Citizens Commission on Benghazi has come out with a damning report on events and decisions that led up to the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead. The commission, which is made up of former high-ranking US military officers, CIA insiders and think-tank fellows, gathered information on Benghazi across seven months. Their investigation included 85 Freedom of Information Act requests as well as contact with current officials who have direct knowledge of US actions during the months prior to the attack.

‘The United States switched sides in the war on terror with what we did in Libya, knowingly facilitating the provision of weapons to known al-Qaeda militias and figures,’ Clare Lopez, a member of the commission and a former CIA officer, told MailOnline.

She blamed the Obama administration for failing to stop half of a $1 billion United Arab Emirates arms shipment from reaching al-Qaeda-linked militants.

‘Remember, these weapons that came into Benghazi were permitted to enter by our armed forces who were blockading the approaches from air and sea,’ Lopez claimed. ‘They were permitted to come in. … [They] knew these weapons were coming in, and that was allowed..

‘The intelligence community was part of that, the Department of State was part of that, and certainly that means that the top leadership of the United States, our national security leadership, and potentially Congress – if they were briefed on this – also knew about this.’

The weapons were intended for Gaddafi but allowed by the U.S. to flow to his Islamist opposition.

The commission also says that Islamists attacked the US facility in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, not intending to kill US Ambassador Christopher Steven, but to kidnap him. The attackers intended to grab him and use him to bargain for the release of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul Rahman, the mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

There is evidence to back up that claim. In the days prior to the attack in Benghazi, unrest rose up in Cairo, Egypt. While the US embassy in Cairo blamed the uprising on a YouTube movie, the real driver behind it was a coalition of Islamist groups. Those groups were not protesting a movie at all. According to the warning they published in Egyptian media, they had a specific demand:

“The group, which consists of many members from al-Qaeda, called [especially] for the quick release of the jihadi [mujahid] sheikh, Omar Abdul Rahman [the "Blind Sheikh"], whom they described as a scholar and jihadi who sacrificed his life for the Egyptian Umma, who was ignored by the Mubarak regime, and [President] Morsi is refusing to intervene on his behalf and release him, despite promising that he would. The Islamic Group has threatened to burn the U.S. Embassy in Cairo with those in it, and taking hostage those who remain [alive], unless the Blind Sheikh is immediately released.”

Islamists did attack the US embassy in Cairo on September 11, 2012 — the same day of the attack in Benghazi, Libya. The attackers breached the embassy’s walls and replaced the American flag with the black flag of Islam.

The citizens’ Benghazi commission, which is supported by Accuracy in Media, also criticizes the Obama administration for its handling of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. According to the commission, Gaddafi offered to abdicate shortly after the Islamist uprising against him began. He had two conditions: Permission to continue fighting al Qaeda in Libya, and a lifting of sanctions against him and his family. The Obama administration, according to the commission, was unwilling to help broker a peaceful exit, and instead allowed $500 million of weapons intended for Gaddafi to make its way into the hands of the Islamists. Those Islamists toppled Gaddafi and later, assaulted the US facility in Benghazi.

The Obama administration insists that no US forces could have responded to the assault in Benghazi in time to save the Americans there. The commission says that that is untrue.

[Commission member, Admiral James] Lyons also said U.S. claims that it lacked the resources to mount a counterattack in time to save lives is false.

‘I’m going to tell you that’s not true,’ he said. ‘We had a 130-man unit of forces at Sigonella [AFB in Italy]. They were ready to go.’

‘The flight time from Sigonella to Benghazi is roughly an hour.’

Perhaps most explosively, the commission alleges that the Obama administration’s attempt to blame the attack on a YouTube movie was coordinated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which was coordinating Islamist action in Egypt and Libya.

The commission wants a congressional select committee appointed to investigate the Benghazi attack.

Posted at 8:10 am on April 23rd, 2014 by

Paul in Chicago: Street Violence ‘Just Sort of a Thuggishness That’s Out of Control’

On a recess trip to Chicago to promote school choice, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said the “horrific” scourge of street violence there is “more of a sickness of the spirit than it is actually ownership of guns.”

“In fact, if you look at the rules and the laws, the cities that have the most significant gun control seem to still have the highest violence. So, yes, there is a problem. There is mental illness with some of these shootings. There is also just sort of a thuggishness that’s out of control that no longer knows right from wrong,” Paul told Fox last night.

“But it’s something really maybe even beyond government. It’s spiritual. People need to be taught right and wrong, there needs to be an influence in their lives and there has to be a police presence. You know, it’s not as simple as banning guns. Because they have tried that in Chicago, and they have tried that in D.C. and frankly, it hasn’t worked.”

Paul said the “complicated” problem involves poverty and unemployment. “But it also involves lack parental guidance, lack of church guidance, lack of pastoral guidance,” he added.

That rolls into the issue of school choice, he stressed.

“And, you know, that’s one of the things about the school of choice event that I went to. It was an all girls’ school. But the thing is, is that there is really hope. And you can just see in the eyes of these young ladies that they’re going to be the leaders of the next generation. And there is hope for them. It’s hard for me to imagine how people can oppose charter schools, can oppose school choice. I just can’t imagine the people on the other side of this equation,” he said.

“…In Chicago and in Illinois, we have been trying to get scholarships passed by the state legislature. But the Democrats have uniformly opposed scholarships for poor children to go to both public and private schools and for charter schools. And this is all being opposed. And that’s the real answer. You want equality, education is the great equalizer. But you have to start at a young age. And you have to be for innovation. And so many of these people are so beholden to the establishment that they are opposed to it.”

Posted at 7:51 am on April 23rd, 2014 by

Warren: Things Were Great Until the 1980s

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a potential dark horse challenger to Hillary Clinton in 2016, writes in her new book, A Fighting Chance, that the political system is “rigged to work for those who have money and power” in Washington.

“Big corporations, hire armies of lobbyists to get billion dollar loopholes into the tax system and persuade their friends in Congress to support laws that keep the playing field tilted in their favor,” she writes.

On MSNBC last night, she argued that America was able to “build a strong and robust middle class, really basically from the Great Depression until about the 1980s.”

“And then you hit the 1980s. And instead it starts to shift. The Republicans say, you know, what we really have to do is we’ve got to open up a bunch of tax loopholes and the way we’re going to pay for that is we’re going to cut back on what we spend on educating our kids. We’re going to cut back on funding basic infrastructure, those roads and bridges and power grids that let businesses get started and move forward. We’re going to cut back on funding basic research in this country, that great pipeline of ideas that had built so much innovation and creation,” Warren said.

“…So, what happens? The American government says we’re going to lend you the money to go to college, but they don’t actually spell out what’s going to happen next. You’re going to pay back the cost of the funds. You’re going to pay back the bad debts, covering that, the administrative costs.”

The senator said the student loan system is set up “so that the United States government can make tens of billions of dollars in profits off the backs of our kids. That is obscene.”

Warren said she wants to pay down student loan debt by passing the Buffett Rule. “The United States government can invest, it can invest in billionaires by saying keep those big tax loopholes. Or it can invest in people who are frying trying to get an education,” she added.

Student loan legislation was her first bill since coming to the Senate, but she said she’ll introduce a tweaked version next time around to try to make it more palatable and increase its chance of passage — at least in the upper chamber.

Posted at 7:29 am on April 23rd, 2014 by

Man Plans Obnoxious ‘BundyFest’ to Mock the Nevada Rancher

Raw Story reports that Sean Sealy plans to put a 24-hour music festival just outside the Cliven Bundy ranch in Nevada in September. The anarchic “BundyFest” will be a pro-government, anti-individualist snark-fest aimed at annoying and unsettling the Nevada rancher, who remains in a stand-off with the federal Bureau of Land Management.

“For years, we paid permitting fees to hold Burning Man on the beautiful Playa in Northern Nevada,” said the event’s organizers on a Facebook page. “But now, Cliven Bundy has shown us a NEW WAY! ABSOLUTE FREEDOM! Bundy has declared the entire area surrounding Bundy Ranch as a TOTALLY RULES-FREE ZONE! ANYTHING GOES! WOO-HOO!!!”

Progressive activist Sean Shealy said Bundyfest, which will be held across the road from Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, for one month starting on Sept. 5.

“Some people have asked me, where will we camp, where will we park?” Shealy said. “Anywhere, really. It’s f*cking anarchy.”

The Facebook page for the event promises no permits will be required, full nudity will be permitted, and the atmosphere will be gay-friendly.

However, Shealy warned, no bathroom facilities would be provided.

“You’re free to let it all hang out right there, just like Bundy’s cattle, right there in the Virgin River, if you want to,” Shealy said.

Organizers also plan a “penis erection contest,” where participants will be awarded prizes for the largest phallic structure built in the desert.

Raw Story reported that Shealy is the organizer behind the Burning Man festival, which will take place this year just a few days before the BundyFest, but on the event’s Facebook page, Shealy says that he is not affiliated with organizing Burning Man.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has consistently criticized Bundy and his supporters, even calling them “domestic terrorists” several times during a recent interview. Reid also darkly warned that “something will happen” to them. “BundyFest” might be that something, and given the provocative nature in which Shealy is announcing that event, it could turn ugly and even violent. Reid himself is mixed up in issues related to using the disputed land.

Bundy’s issues with the BLM go back a couple of decades, and he and his family have grazed cattle on the disputed land since at least the end of World War II. The Daily Caller reported that environmentalists pushed the BLM to act against Bundy over a species of endangered tortoise, the Mojave desert tortoise. “BundyFest” stands a chance of increasing the danger to that tortoise.

Posted at 7:21 am on April 23rd, 2014 by

Pentagon Sending Paratrooper Companies to Poland, Baltic States

The Pentagon announced today that a company of paratroopers arrives in Poland on Wednesday to begin exercises, underscoring the department’s assertion that “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has renewed our resolve to strengthening NATO’s defense plans and capabilities, and to demonstrate our continued commitment to collective defense in reinforcing our NATO allies in Central and Eastern Europe.”

Defense Department press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the paratroopers come from the U.S. Army Europe’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Airborne, based in Vicenza, Italy.

“This new exercise is the first in a series of expanded U.S. land force training activities in Poland and the Baltic region that are scheduled to take place for the next few months and beyond. Additional companies from the 173rd will move in the coming days to Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia for similar exercises,” Kirby said.

The company-sized contingents will number about 150 soldiers each, which could vary according to the exercise, he added, but will “roughly” total 600 personnel for the four countries.

“And what we’re after here is a persistent presence, a persistent rotational presence in these exercises,” Kirby continued. “So, we’re going to start, the troops will be in place in all four countries, probably by the end of this weekend, maybe Monday. As we get into all four countries, the exercises will last about a month or so. But then we will rotate fresh troops in for more exercises.”

“How far this will go? I can’t give you a specific, you know, deadline or timeline on it, but we’re looking at trying to keep this rotational presence persistent throughout the rest of this year. But beyond that, it could go beyond the end of this year. We just don’t know. We’re just going to have to see how it goes.”

Kirby acknowledged that the exercises — “real infantry training…that’s not insignificant” — could expand to other countries in the region.

“And we’re in discussions with our NATO allies and partners right now. It very well could, but right now it’s going to start with those four countries,” he said, adding that “these particular exercises were additive” since the Ukraine crisis came to a head and the U.S. sought ways “to reassure our allies and partners.”

“I think the message is to the people of Poland and Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, that the United States takes seriously our obligations under article 5 of the NATO alliance, even though these aren’t NATO exercises. It’s a very tangible representation of our commitment to our security obligations in Europe, and the message is to the people of those countries and to the alliance that we do take it seriously. And we encourage our NATO partners to likewise look for opportunities of their own to do this same kind of thing for one another. And I think if there’s a message to Moscow, it is the same exact message that we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe.”

Kirby stressed that the Pentagon is under no obligation to inform Russia of the exercises.

He said the exercises swung into motion after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “was pretty clear with the military leadership that he wanted to look for a wide range of opportunities through which we could continue to reassure our partners in Europe.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) noted today, though, that the administration thumbed its nose at Poland long ago.

“We should have set up a deal where our energy over time could be supplied to them to eliminate over time their reliance. We should take them into NATO,” McCain said on Don Imus’ show when asked about how to handle Ukraine. “We should restore the missile defense systems that we canceled in the Czech Republic and Poland.”

“There’s a broad variety of things that we can do… What we do is wag our finger at [Russia] and then they do it and then we wag our finger at them again. The United States of America has lost credibility and that credibility has affected all over — all over the world and it really is — it’s the worst I’ve ever seen.”

The Navy is moving another warship, USS Taylor, to the Black Sea in the coming days. Kirby said today that there have been no more Russian warplane flyovers of the USS Donald Cook since the incident two weeks ago.

Posted at 6:57 pm on April 22nd, 2014 by

Ryan Meeting with Black Caucus Next Week on Poverty Comments

A Democratic congresswoman from Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) home state said that the Congressional Black Caucus is eager to meet with the House Budget Committee chairman on Wednesday to discuss his comments on inner-city poverty.

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” Ryan said last month on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America when talking about welfare-to-work requirements.

The CBC sent Ryan a letter calling the original comments “highly offensive.” Ryan said his comments had “nothing to do whatsoever with race.”

“After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make,” he said in a statement. “I was not implicating the culture of one community — but of society as a whole. We have allowed our society to isolate or quarantine the poor rather than integrate people into our communities.” The CBC invited Ryan to come to one of their weekly meetings to talk about poverty.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) told reporters on a House Democratic caucus call today that they see the meeting, scheduled to take place after Ryan’s committee holds a hearing titled “A Progress Report on the War on Poverty: Lessons from the Frontlines,” as an “opportunity.”

“You know, Congressman Ryan is a nice guy. And, as such, you know, he has tried to frame the comments that he made about inner-city folks as just sort of inarticulate ways of communicating,” Moore said. “We’re gonna challenge his assumptions about that, and really raise with him a couple of very specific proposals.”

“One is to really focus and target in on job opportunities for inner city and rural men. There is a program that was modeled in the stimulus package called the 10-20-30 program. And it was to target 10 percent of economic resources in those communities where 20 percent of the population lived in poverty for over 30 years,” she continued.

“And when you look at it, this is not a partisan thing. It’s not a racial thing. It’s not an urban or a rural thing. If we were to implement that, it would touch Republicans, like 50/50 Democrats-Republicans, rural areas and urban communities.”

Moore said they really hope to bend Ryan’s ear during the meeting.

“He says that he wants to, you know, his take on talking about poverty is to say, ‘We’ve spent billions or trillions of dollars on poverty programs and poverty won.’ And we see that essentially as just a sort of playing with statistics or numbers, because in fact these poverty programs have helped raise people into the middle class by giving them job experience,” she said.

“And it has literally been a lifeline to millions of people, and not just people of color, but seniors. We all know, for example, that the Medicare and Medicaid programs, Social Security, literally lifted seniors out of poverty. And so, we are happy that Representative Ryan wants to engage in this conversation and we’re not going to let him get away with sort of a, you know, a sleight-of-hand on this. We know how to crunch numbers as well.”

Posted at 5:01 pm on April 22nd, 2014 by

What’s More Popular: A Once-In-A-Lifetime Trip to Meet President Barack Obama, or a Pair of Edible Breadshoes?

In the left corner, we have the President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, Barack Obama. He’s a youthful 52 years old, clearly up on the latest music and cultural trends, does his NCAA March Madness brackets with an amazing consistency, and weighs in on just about every issue there is. The man knows Beyoncé, fercryinoutloud.

In the right corner, a pair of size 12 (approximate) hand-made, sesame Italian loaf breadshoes. They’re edible, so I suppose you could stuff condiments and lunch meat into them and turn them into a sammich. Or wear them around the house, as long as you don’t have cats or dogs around.

This (minus the celebrity soccer player on the right).

showbiz_obama_beckham

Versus this.

breadshoe

 

Well, the team behind a secretive but cool-sounding, yet-to-be-launched app called Ratify is running a contest.

On the first day of the contest, the team announced that it was giving away a trip for two to Silicon Valley to meet President Barack Obama on May 8th.

On the second day, the team announced that it was throwing a curve: The winner could pick the trip to meet the president, or they could opt for a pair of breadshoes.

Promo for the contest has been minimal, according to an insider at Ratify: “I paid a guy $5 to tweet about it yesterday,” the insider told me in email.

Our source’s numbers reveal a couple of bad omens for Obama and the Democrats. Day one of the contest saw little interest and very few sign-ups — just 20 sign-ups to meet POTUS from 500 visitors.

Day two, though, after breadshoes became a possible prize, traffic took off. Of the approximately 2,000 visitors who took at look at the contest on the second day, 100 signed up.

“That gives us 5x conversions and 4x audience multipliers, due solely to breadshoes!” our insider noted.

The insider also notes that Ratify has seen a 300% increase in sign-ups from San Francisco, not exactly GOP territory. They’re going for the breadshoes, too.

And now, I’m hungry.

Posted at 3:47 pm on April 22nd, 2014 by

Reporter Asks State Dept for One Accomplishment from Hillary Clinton’s Big Review Process. Let’s See What Happens.

When she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton instituted a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. The first one was completed in December 2010.

Nearly four years later, AP reporter Matt Lee asked State Department Jen Psaki to name one thing that Clinton’s QDDR accomplished. Just one.

She can’t.

LEE: “Off the top of your head, can you name one tangible achievement that the last QDDR resulted in?”
PSAKI: “Well Matt, obviously it’s in an extensive, expansive process.”
LEE: “So no.”
PSAKI: “We’re looking at how it was done last time.”
LEE: “Just one.”
PSAKI: “I know, I’m making an important point here.”
LEE: “OK.”
PSAKI: “The secretary wants it to be focused on a more narrow range of issues. It’s always looking at how we can improve things and we’ll see where we come out at the end.”
LEE: “So off the top of your head can you identify one tangible achievement that resulted from the last QDDR?”
PSAKI: “I am certain that those who were here at the time, who worked hard on that effort –”
LEE: “One –”
[CROSSTALK]
PSAKI: “Could point out one.”
LEE: “Since you’ve come on board that you’ve noticed that you can point back to and say wow, the first QDDR identified this as a problem and dealt with it?”
PSAKI: “Well as you know, I’ve only been here since it concluded.”
LEE: “OK”
PSAKI: “So I’m sure there were a range of things that were put into place that I’m not even sure were a result.”
LEE: “I won’t hold my breath.”
PSAKI: “OK.”

Psaki has been at the State Department since February 2013. She’s part of the revolving door from lobbying and campaigns to government — Psaki came to State from the 2012 Obama campaign, a perch from which she attacked Mitt Romney’s foreign policy chops.

Romney turns out to have been right when he called Russia America’s number one geostrategic foe, while Psaki’s boss, Obama, has been proved wrong.

Unfortunately, to most Democrat voters, accomplishments don’t matter and they will support Hillary in 2016 anyway.

Posted at 3:00 pm on April 22nd, 2014 by

Paul: Western Land Ownership Should be Addressed, Not Corrected Through ‘Armed Standoff’

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) needs to “tone down the rhetoric a little bit” on calling the militia members at the Bundy Ranch “domestic terrorists.”

“I do think that the federal government, through the Endangered Species Act, has overstepped. I think the fact that 80 percent of the land is owned by the federal government in Nevada, these are things we could correct,” Paul told Fox. “But I don’t think they ought to be corrected in a standoff or an armed standoff or in violence.”

“I have legislation to try to fix some of this. I would send the Endangered Species Act back to the states and let the governors and state legislature oversee this,” he added. “I have had this in the hopper for a year. And if Senator Reid wants to have constructive dialogue on the problem, I would love to have a floor debate and a vote on my bill.”

The senator said that within the dispute over grazing fees, “there is real debate where whether this land should be owned by the federal government or state government.”

“With regard to his specifics, I’m for obeying the law and I’m not for a violent outcome. But with regard to the general question, should the states have some prerogative in this, I think so,” Paul continued. “I would like to see the land owned by individuals, either privately or, at the very most, the state government, but not the federal government. And I would like to see the Endangered Species Act administered with a little more sense of what people need as well as what animals need.”

It’s the “absurdity coming from the federal government” that is making people angry in cases such as this, he said.

“They charge homeowners or property owners in Kentucky money to chop down our trees if they find a bat on the land. So really, this needs to be administered closer to home so we wouldn’t have, I think, such outrageous overstepping by authorities.”

Reid told KSNV-TV “it’s obvious that you can’t just walk away from this.”

“And we can speculate all we want to speculate to what’s going to happen next. But I don’t think it’s going to be tomorrow that something is going to happen, but something will happen. We are a nation of laws, not of men and women,” he said.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), though, told the Nevada station that he takes “more issues with the BLM coming in with a paramilitary army of individuals with snipers.”

“I’m talking to people and groups that are there at the event. Your own government with sniper lenses on you. It made a lot of people very uncomfortable,” he said.

Posted at 2:38 pm on April 22nd, 2014 by

Kerry: Climate Change ‘Forcing Farmers Out of Business and Driving Up Grocery Bills’

Secretary of State John Kerry called Earth Day today “proof that the steadfast determination of millions is powerful enough to change the course of history.”

“I still remember participating in the very first Earth Day back in 1970,” Kerry said in a statement this afternoon. “It helped to unleash a wave of grassroots activism that ultimately led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and landmark laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. This Earth Day we need to consider new ways to unleash a new wave of activism to tackle today’s long list of environmental challenges from the existential threat of climate change to the cause of the oceans.”

Kerry stressed that “climate change’s impacts aren’t far off in the future – they are here and now,” adding in bold type, “We’re increasingly seeing events like those that scientists have long predicted.

“Extreme droughts are hammering crop production, forcing farmers out of business and driving up grocery bills. More intense floods and storm surges are causing billions in property damage. The coasts are swiftly eroding, rendering home after home uninhabitable or uninsurable. We still have a short window of time to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, but the science tells us that window is closing,” he said.

This year’s Earth Day focus is cities, “and the fact is, how the world’s cities respond to our climate change challenge will make a huge difference.”

“Roughly 5.2 billion people are projected to live in the world’s urban communities by 2050. Building codes and electricity requirements, public transportation systems, and land management will help determine whether we meet this global challenge. The Department of State is committed to doing our part to help bring about greener cities around the world. We are working to deploy renewable energy technologies; build recycling infrastructure; safeguard wildlife, forests and wetlands; and help communities better protect their water resources,” Kerry continued.

“There is another issue that demands our attention this Earth Day: the state of our oceans. We can’t care for the Earth without protecting the ocean that covers nearly three-quarters of it. With global overfishing, record pollution, and ocean acidification, our oceans are in trouble. That’s why I am convening an international ocean conference at the State Department in June to leverage the shared efforts of governments, the private sector, civil society leaders, and global stakeholders.”

Kerry added “we have our own history to write together, cleaning up global communities and protecting natural resources for generations to come.”

Posted at 2:09 pm on April 22nd, 2014 by

Congrats, Bronies, You’ve Made Hasbro Profitable

The Fox Business story about Hasbro’s turn of fortunes uses gender-normative terminology that, after a tween stared down McDonald’s over its scandalous Happy Meals toys, is no longer politically correct.

Toymaker Hasbro Inc. on Monday said it swung to a profit from a year-ago loss, boosted by strong sales in its girls toys category. Hasbro reported a first-quarter profit of $32.1 billion, or 24 cents a share, versus a loss of $6.7 billion, or 5 cents a share, in the same period a year earlier. (emphasis added, offense unintended)

We can’t call them “girls toys” anymore, for two reasons. In the case of My Little Pony toys, even though they’re intended for girls age 8 and under, adult men are actually buying them and watching the TV show. I wish I was kidding, but I am not. Bronies are a thing, as Ronan Farrow helpfully reported in-depth for MSNBC not long ago.

The second reason that we cannot call girls toys girls toys is because of the courage and forward thinking of Antonia Ayres-Brown. The teen slatepitched McDonald’s out of using gender-normative terminology to describe the toys it puts in its Happy Meals.

In the fall of 2008, when I was 11 years old, I wrote to the CEO of McDonald’s and asked him to change the way his stores sold Happy Meals. I expressed my frustration that McDonald’s always asked if my family preferred a “girl toy” or a “boy toy” when we ordered a Happy Meal at the drive-through. My letter asked if it would be legal for McDonald’s “to ask at a job interview whether someone wanted a man’s job or a woman’s job?”

A few weeks later, I received a short response from a McDonald’s customer satisfaction representative claiming that McDonald’s doesn’t train their employees to ask whether Happy Meal customers want boys’ or girls’ toys, and my experiences were not the norm.

This response was unsatisfying, so I began visiting more than a dozen local McDonald’s locations with my father to collect data. Ultimately, we brought a complaint to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities against McDonald’s for discriminating on the basis of sex. Despite our evidence showing that, in our test, McDonald’s employees described the toys in gendered terms more than 79 percent of the time, the commission dismissed our allegations as “absurd” and solely for the purposes of “titilation [sic] and sociological experimentation.” All in all, this was a pretty humiliating defeat.

She goes on, and on, and on, from there. Seriously. She and her parents whittled off years of their lives pushing McDonald’s into a position where it is not allowed to speak clearly about an obvious and harmless thing.

The ending of it all is that McDonald’s will now confuse the life out of anyone who asks for the boys toy or the girls toy, until they go away angry that they ever bothered to order the Happy Meal.

Next, one supposes that Ayres-Brown will demand that McDonald’s create Happy Meal toys for each of Facebook’s 50 gender options.

That could take a while.

Posted at 1:48 pm on April 22nd, 2014 by

Biden to Ukrainians: ‘Thank You for Making Me Feel Relevant Again’

Vice President Joe Biden introduced himself at a meeting with Ukrainian legislators in Kiev today as someone who has “someone who has held high public office in my country for now 40 years.”

Biden became the junior senator from Delaware in 1973.

“For 36 years I sat in our legislature, and I used to actually have this seat in our — I was the chairman of our committee.  Thank you for making me feel relevant again, back in a legislative body,” he told the Rada, adding that he’d signed the guest book at his hotel “Ukraine united, Joe Biden.”

“Just because I’ve been around, literally met every major leader in the world in the last 40 years, I don’t — I want you to know I do not underestimate the incredible pressure you all are under.  I do not underestimate the challenge that you all face. And I do not underestimate the frustration you must feel when someone like me comes along and says this is a great opportunity for you. As my mother would say, but for the honor, I’d just as soon as pass the opportunity,” he quipped.

“…I hope none of you have to appear in the first edition of the ‘Profiles in Courage in Ukraine,’ but my expectation is some of you are going to have to make some really difficult, difficult personal decisions,” he added, referencing JFK’s book.

Biden told the lawmakers that there’s “an expression in English, it says, an expert is anyone from out of town with a briefcase.”

“Well, I don’t have a briefcase, and I’m not an expert. But I have an opinion, and I speak for the president of the United States, and he shares the same opinion. And that is that this is a second opportunity to make good on the original promise made by the Orange Revolution. This is a genuine opportunity to get right what is always difficult to do the first time when coming out from under the oppression or control of another power,” he said.

“…I have an expression I use as I’ve gone around the world through my career is you never tell another man or woman what’s in their interest. They know their interest better than you know their interest. And so I want you to know that we are not suggesting we have the answers for you, but we’re merely suggesting that we stand ready to stand with you in every endeavor that you undertake to generate the united prosperous and coherent Ukraine you’re all fighting for.”

The veep told the Ukrainians to “imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: Keep your gas.”

“…And you may have different traditions. It’s not quite the same, but we understand different traditions in our country — not as deeply as you do, but we are the most heterogeneous democracy in the world. We’re soon going to get the point where over 50 percent of the United States of America is made up of people of non-European stock; the majority of the American people are not of European origin in 2020. We understand. We have millions of Muslims. We have hundreds — but it’s not quite the same. We’re not up against a border. We’re not sitting against a border of another powerful nation.”

Posted at 1:39 pm on April 22nd, 2014 by

Congressman Slams NYT for Piece Linking Veterans and White Supremacy

A congressional Marine vet slammed a New York Times op-ed for linking veterans and white supremacy, saying “if we target specific groups like Muslims as opposed to veterans, the outcry across this country would be outrageous.”

Kathleen Belew, a postdoctoral fellow in history at Northwestern University who is working on a book on Vietnam veterans and the radical right, wrote that Overland Park Jewish center shooter Frazier Glenn Miller killed three people as “a soldier of the white power movement: a groundswell that united Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other fringe elements after the Vietnam War, crested with the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, and remains a diminished but potent threat today.”

“Vietnam veterans forged the first links between Klansmen and Nazis since World War II. They were central in leading Klan and neo-Nazi groups past the anti-civil rights backlash of the 1960s and toward paramilitary violence. The white power movement they forged had strongholds not only in the South, but also in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, California and Pennsylvania,” Belew continued. “Its members carried weapons like those they had used in Vietnam, and used boot-camp rhetoric to frame their pursuit of domestic enemies. They condoned violence against innocent people and, eventually, the state itself.”

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) asked on Fox “how can someone that is apparently so well-educated be so darn ignorant?”

“This is one of the most outrageous, and ignorant things I’ve ever seen written. Even for the New York Times, which nothing, you know, surprises me with what they write, but this — you shouldn’t even be able allowed to use this under your bird cage. It is disgraceful. It is shameful. And I’ll tell you what, if Ms. Belew has such a problem with our veterans, maybe she should live in a country that doesn’t provide the security and the liberty and the freedom that each and every one of our veterans provide, each and everyday. And maybe that’s what she should do,” said Grimm, a veteran of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Belew’s piece argued “it would be irresponsible to overlook the high rates of combat trauma among the 2.4 million Americans who have served in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the full impact of which has not yet materialized. Veterans of those conflicts represent just 10 percent of those getting mental health services through the Department of Veterans Affairs, where the overwhelming majority of those in treatment are still Vietnam veterans.”

Grimm said that considering there was a draft in the Vietnam war, it’s possible “that we drafted one or two that were hate martyrs.”

In the Marine Corps he knew, the congressman added, “the last thing we wanna be is hate martyrs because the — when I was trained with blacks, Latins, everything you can ever imagine, and we put our faith and our lives in each other’s hands. We developed such a respect for each other, there is no hatred at least in the Marine Corps I served in.”

Grimm said if Belew had written an article saying Muslims needed greater scrutiny, “the left, you know, the far left would be putting together marches and they would be out protesting everywhere you can imagine but because it’s our men and women in uniform, the New York Times can get away with it. And it’s again — it’s shameful.”

He added that such attitudes would serve to “dissuade” veterans suffering from PTSD and other conditions “from seeking the treatment that they need.”

Posted at 1:16 pm on April 22nd, 2014 by

This Is An Actual, Serious CNN Headline

It’s nice to see that the Clinton News Network has taken a break from Ancient Aliens Meets Flight 370 to cover Justin Bieber and the urgent stories of our day.

cnn-bieber

Posted at 1:15 pm on April 22nd, 2014 by