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China Will Become the Most Christian Nation in the World in 15 Years

China? The boom in Christian conversions has tracked the booming economy as people seek meaning in their lives that neither Communism or capitalism can provide.

The Telegraph:

Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an atheist country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied.

Christian congregations in particular have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 signalled the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world’s number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule.

“It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.”

China’s Protestant community, which had just one million members in 1949, has already overtaken those of countries more commonly associated with an evangelical boom. In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, according to the Pew Research Centre’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Prof Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline.

By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted.

“Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this,” Prof Yang said. “It’s ironic – they didn’t. They actually failed completely.”

Interesting to see how the growing embrace of Christianity changes China. Would the government crack down if Christians begin to demonstrate a little too much independence? I think it a certainty. A totalitarian regime only tolerates religion if it is channeled to support it. The Greek Orthodox church and the Soviet Union, or the Catholic Church and Franco — both instances of the state using the church to keep the faithful in line.

The Communist government may eventually find Christians more troublesome than other dissenters and look to limit the growth of the Church even more. But Christianity has proven itself incredibly resilient in China and any move to stifle its growth may have the opposite effect and lead to an increase in converts.

Posted at 4:38 pm on April 20th, 2014 by

GOP Senate Candidates in Georgia Make Their Case

Seven candidates vying for the Republican nomination for Senator shared the stage in Augusta, trying to separate themselves from the pack and polish their conservative credentials.

It was the sixth of seven scheduled debates, and turned out to be a fairly sedate affair, reports the Savannah Morning News:

In a debate here Saturday, most of the leading contenders jumped over one another to highlight their conservative credentials on issues from spending, environmental regulation and immigration to guns and abortion, even as they agreed the party must reach beyond its base if it wants to win more nationally.

Proposals ranged from scrapping the Environmental Protection Agency to repealing the constitutional amendment that allows an income tax.

The debate highlighted the eventual nominee’s challenge in the race, despite Georgia leaning to Republicans in recent federal elections. The May 20 primary electorate — and a likely July 22 runoff — will be decided by the state’s most conservative voters. Democrats want to frame the eventual GOP nominee as too extreme in a state where Obama got as much as 47 percent of the vote with little effort.

The winner will succeed retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss. Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to regain control of the Senate, but that would be extremely difficult if they lose a Georgia seat they already have.

Rep. Paul Broun, a favorite of conservative activists, used his signature critique of “an out of control federal government” several times Saturday. In a discussion of Obama administration rules capping carbon emissions, he argued that “there’s no scientific consensus on man-made global warming.”

Phil Gingrey, another House member and a physician like Broun, said he doesn’t agree with the administration that “carbon dioxide is definitely a greenhouse gas.”

“You might say that a preponderance of scientists believe that CO2 is a greenhouse that contributes to global warming,” but then he quickly doubled-down on his critique.

Their congressional colleague, Jack Kingston, meanwhile, peppered his answers with references to his sterling ratings from groups such as the American Conservatives Union, National Rifle Association and National Right to Life. He also boasted of an endorsement won Friday from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has kept its promise to engage more directly in 2014 Republican primaries in an effort to subdue tea party influences.

Kingston’s recitations reflected his strategy to appeal both to archconservatives and establishment Republicans, without alienating either camp in the internal struggle that has gripped Republicans since Obama’s election.

Kingston sits in second in the most recent polls, trailing David Perdue and ahead of former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. But with Kingston’s 15% of the vote, 19% for Perdue, and 13% for Handel, it seems certain that no candidate will receive the necessary 50% of the vote in the May 20 primary, which will force a July runoff between the top two vote getters.

Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey are within striking distance of second place, with 11% and 9% of the vote respectively. This should make the last month of the campaign very interesting.

Any of the top 5 candidates will do well against the expected Democratic nominee, Michelle Nunn, daughter of a Georgia political legend former Senator Sam Nunn. In head to head matchups with the top 5 GOP candidates, Nunn is within one or two points of all except Perdue who is ahead by 5.

Posted at 2:32 pm on April 20th, 2014 by

Supreme Court to Hear Aereo Case on Tuesday

Oral arguments for a case that could have far reaching effects on how people receive television programming will be heard by the Supreme Court on Tuesday. It’s the four major over the air TV networks vs. the upstart Aereo Corporation in a case that, depending on who you listen to, could either destroy over the air TV for the 60 million Americans who still get their signals via an antenna, or initiate a consumer paradise of options and choices on what to watch, when to watch it, and what to watch it on.

Is this a classic American business success story complete with heroes (media mogul Barry Diller), villains (huge media conglomerates), and plenty of drama (Supreme Court decides the fate of TV viewing)? Or is Diller & Co. a bunch of charlatans, raking in cash by pirating the work of others without paying for it?

Here’s the guts of the dispute:

Aereo subscribers can stream live broadcasts of TV channels on mobile devices using miniature antennas, each assigned to one subscriber. The service was launched in March 2012 in the New York area. The company has since expanded to about 10 cities and plans to enter several more.

The broadcasters claim the service violates their copyrights on the television programs and represents a threat to their ability to control subscription fees and generate advertising. Among those filing court papers in support of the broadcasts are the National Football League, Major League Baseball and various media companies, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

CBS said in a statement on Friday that Aereo’s business model is “built on stealing the creative content of others.”

Aereo counters that its service does nothing more than provide users what they could obtain with a personal television antenna.”We believe that consumers have a right to use an antenna to access over-the-air television and to make personal recordings of those broadcasts,” Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia said in a statement.

Aereo has won every legal battle it’s been in, including an appeals court ruling late last year. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in January.

But in a dissent from the majority, Justice Denny Chin offered a scathing observation about Aereo, saying Aereo’s platform is a “sham”:

Aereo uses a farm of time antennas, one for each subscriber, “but there is no technologically sound reason to use a multitude of tiny individual antennas rather than one central antenna,” Chin wrote. “[I]ndeed, the system is a Rube Goldberg-like contrivance, over-engineered in an attempt to avoid the reach of the Copyright Act and to take advantage of a perceived loophole in the law.”

Chin is referring to a precedent set in a 2009 case where Supreme Court decided it would be acceptable for Cablevision to store consumers’ DVR content at its own sites, instead of requiring customers to have their own DVRs.

The bottom line is that media companies believe Aereo is stealing content and they want it stopped.

The Hill:

The head of CBS has threatened to cut off its broadcast signal and switch to an Internet-based service if broadcasters lose their bid to get Aereo taken down.

Cable and satellite companies are also keeping track of the case. Those companies, which currently pay broadcasters millions to retransmit their content, could have the incentive to develop a system similar to Aereo’s to cut down on their fees.

Broadcasters are growing increasingly reliant on those retransmission fees, especially as more and more people watch TV on DVR and skip commercials, the other main moneymaker for the stations.

“This is aimed right at the heart of part of their business model, but part of the business that by the way supports local broadcasters and affiliates and also is likely to be increasingly important in the future,” said Mark Schultz, the co-director of academic programs at George Mason University’s Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property.

A broad ruling could also have repercussions for Google, Dropbox and other services that rely on the “cloud” for storing information.

Kanojia has said his company has no Plan B in case the high court rules against him. But a victory would likely lead to a rapid expansion beyond the 11 cities where it currently operates.

A win for Aereo could also spur action in Congress, where broadcasters have a number of allies who will be pressed to crack down on the service.

“If Aereo were to win, I think that Congress would be under some pressure to at least do some partial copyright reform and close the loophole,” DiCola said.

Some analysts believe the likeliest outcome is some kind of compromise ruling where Aereo is allowed to continue with its business but forced to pay something to broadcast companies. Few expect CBS to follow through on its threat to yank its channels, although there is a chance that all broadcast TV companies will cut back on content if, as expected, an Aereo win allows cable companies to stop paying transmission fees to the media giants.

Whatever SCOTUS rules is bound to have far reaching, and perhaps revolutionary effects on how we watch TV.

Posted at 12:35 pm on April 20th, 2014 by

Forget ‘You Can Keep Your Doctor’: Try Finding One First

It’s called “Medical Homelessness” and its just the latest Obamacare SNAFU to make anyone who purchased a policy from healthcare.gov or the state exchanges wonder about the sanity of lawmakers who voted for this monstrosity.

As was pointed out at the time Obamacare was passed, the United States currently has a shortage of primary care physicians — and it’s getting worse. By 2020, there will be 45,000 fewer primary care physicians than are needed — a problem exacerbated by the fact that most physicians do not accept Medicaid patients because of low reimbursement levels.

As Californians are discovering, thousands of doctors aren’t accepting any patients with an Obamacare policy.

KPIX reports:

While open enrollment for coverage under the Affordable Care Act is closed, many of the newly insured are finding they can’t find doctors, landing them into a state described as “medical homelessness.”

Rotacare, a free clinic for the uninsured in Mountain View, is dealing with the problem firsthand.

Mirella Nguyen works at the clinic said staffers dutifully helped uninsured clients sign up for Obamacare so they would no longer need the free clinic.

But months later, the clinic’s former patients are coming back to the clinic begging for help. “They’re coming back to us now and saying I can’t find a doctor, “said Nguyen.

Thinn Ong was thrilled to qualify for a subsidy on the health care exchange. She is paying $200 a month in premiums. But the single mother of two is asking, what for?

“Yeah, I sign it. I got it. But where’s my doctor? Who’s my doctor? I don’t know,” said a frustrated Ong.

Nguyen said the newly insured patients checked the physicians’ lists they were provided and were told they weren’t accepting new patients or they did not participate in the plan.

And Nguyen says – while the free clinic isn’t technically supposed to be treating former patents they signed up for insurance, they can’t in good faith turn them away.

Dr. Kevin Grumbach of UCSF called the phenomenon “medical homelessness,” where patients are caught adrift in a system woefully short of primary care doctors.

“Insurance coverage is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to assure that people get access to care when they need it,” Grumbach said.

Those who can’t find a doctor are supposed to lodge a complaint with state regulators, who have been denying the existence of a doctor shortage for months.

Meanwhile, the sick and insured can’t get appointments.

“What good is coverage if you can’t use it?” Nguyen said.

Ms. Nguyen has discovered the secret of Big Government. Obamacare is a Potemkin Village, all pretty and enticing on the outside, but look behind it and you find nothing except high deductibles, bad coverage, and bewildering requirements.

And it’s only going to get worse, says Kaiser:

There are various reasons for the shortages. Certainly a big contributor is the aging of the baby boomers, who may still love rock ‘n roll but increasingly need hearing aids to enjoy it. The growing medical needs of that large age group are creating a huge burden for the existing health care workforce. The retirement of many doctors in the boomer cohort is compounding the problem.

The federal government estimates the physician supply will increase by 7 percent in the next 10 years. But the number of Americans over 65 will grow by about 36 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Money also is a factor in the shortages. During the course of their careers, primary care physicians earn around $3 million less than their colleagues in specialty fields, which makes primary care a less appealing path for many medical students.

In mental health, the problem is that much of the work is in the public sector, where the pay is far less than it is for providers in other medical specialties, who tend to work in the private sector. As an example, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health, a registered nurse working in mental health earns $42,987 as compared to the national average for nurses of $66,530.
Valuing Work-Life Balance

But financial factors are not the leading reason that medical students are avoiding primary care, Mitchell said. In surveys of medical students conducted by AAMC, students valued “work-life balance” more than money when they were choosing their specialties. Because primary care often involves long hours and night and weekend calls, it is far less desirable to this generation of students.

“Half of the physicians in training are women,” Mitchell said. “You find more of them are looking for a career that might be compatible with part-time hours, that don’t involve being on call. Men are more engaged in child care today, and they have similar concerns as they consider their career choices.”

Even before Obamacare was implemented, the statistics were grim for the newly insured:

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, the federal agency charged with improving access to health care, nearly 20 percent of Americans live in areas with an insufficient number of primary care doctors. Sixteen percent live in areas with too few dentists and a whopping 30 percent are in areas that are short of mental health providers. Under federal guidelines, there should be no more than 3,500 people for each primary care provider; no more than 5,000 people for each dental provider; and no more than 30,000 people for each mental health provider.

So even if you’re lucky enough to find a doctor that treats those with Obamacare policies, chances are good to excellent you will wait forever for routine exams and services.

Posted at 10:49 am on April 20th, 2014 by

Obama’s Evolving Policy Toward Russia Promises a New Cold War

Oh yes, they’re the great pretenders! Though seemingly at odds, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have much more in common than it appears, both having become lost in a world of self-delusion.  Putin pretends he hasn’t alienated the entire civilized world with his barbaric aggression against smaller neighbors, and Obama pretends his failed policies haven’t been key in giving Putin the chance to do so.

A remarkable report in the New York Times reveals that Obama has now decided to “write off” America’s relationship with Russia and embark upon a new cold war, focusing on the time-honored principle of containment to guide it.

It states that the next U.S. ambassador to Russia will be John F. Tefft, who previously served as ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania and who served as deputy head of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in the 1990s under Bill Clinton.

The Times reports:

When the search began months ago, administration officials were leery of sending Mr. Tefft because of concern that his experience in former Soviet republics that have flouted Moscow’s influence would irritate Russia. Now, officials said, there is no reluctance to offend the Kremlin.

Indeed, Tefft was given the 2012 Diplomacy in Human Rights Award for his work in standing up to the pro-Russia Yanukovich regime before it was toppled this year, including lobbying hard for the release of Yanukovich’s leading political foe, Yulia Tymoshenko, from prison. He’s directly linked to the pro-West movement in Ukraine which has caused Putin to panic.  Tefft’s appointment is a direct poke in the eye of Putin, and there’s no mistaking it.

The Times calls this a “remarkable turnaround” for Obama. That’s putting it mildly.

What’s actually happened is that circumstances have forced Obama to admit that the foreign policy he has pursued for the last six years towards Russia, a policy of appeasement, has crashed and burned. John McCain warned from the start that pursuing such a policy would give Putin the chance to consolidate his power and move aggressively against his neighbors, and that is exactly what has happened. It’s one of the most spectacular foreign policy debacles in U.S. history.

Obama promised us that in return for appeasement we’d get a reliable nuclear arms treaty with Russia. What we actually got was shameless Soviet-style cheating and treaty violations.

Obama promised us that in exchange for appeasement we’d get Russian help reining in Iran. What we actually got was Russian opposition to U.S. interests, not just in Iran but throughout the Middle East, from Libya to Syria.

And on top of it all, we got Russian tanks in Ukraine.  As a headline in Stars and Stripes declared,  Obama wrapped up a “terrific, triumphant, all good, totally awesome year” and delivered it to Putin with a big red bow on top.

As Senator Bob Corker told the Times:

They’re playing us. We continue to watch what they’re doing and try to respond to that. But it seems that in doing so, we create a policy that’s always a day late and a dollar short.

Indeed, Putin is far out ahead of Obama in weaponizing information surrounding the barbaric aggression against Ukraine, and Obama has consistently failed to implement the type of economic sanctions that might prevent Putin from moving deeper into Ukraine.

Alexander Dugin, Putin’s Goebbels, recently declared  that

the territorial integrity of Armenia and Karabakh will not be guaranteed to the extent that Russia is a proportional power and naturally countries adjoining Russia can preserve their territorial integrity exclusively by maintaining good relations with Russia.

Vyacheslav Nikonov, a leader of Putin’s party of power in parliament, echoed  Dugin, directly threatening Ukraine:  “There are very few things the Ukrainian government can do now to keep their country together.”

Russia is, in other words, boldly threatening every neighbor, not just Ukraine, and is far from content with Crimea where Ukraine is concerned.

Posted at 6:46 am on April 20th, 2014 by

Western Lawmakers Gather to Discuss Reclaiming Federal Lands

The meeting, held in Salt Lake City with 50 lawmakers from 9 states, was in the works long before Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the BLM last week. But it points to a growing movement out west that is advocating a return of extremely valuable, oil and mineral rich lands currently under federal management to state control.

It’s time for Western states to take control of federal lands within their borders, lawmakers and county commissioners from Western states said at Utah’s Capitol on Friday.

More than 50 political leaders from nine states convened for the first time to talk about their joint goal: wresting control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands away from the feds.

“It’s simply time,” said Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, who organized the Legislative Summit on the Transfer for Public Lands along with Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder. “The urgency is now.”

Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, was flanked by a dozen participants, including her counterparts from Idaho and Montana, during a press conference after the daylong closed-door summit. U.S. Sen. Mike Lee addressed the group over lunch, Ivory said. New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington also were represented.

The summit was in the works before this month’s tense standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management over cattle grazing, Lockhart said.

“What’s happened in Nevada is really just a symptom of a much larger problem,” Lockhart said.

Fielder, who described herself as “just a person who lives in the woods,” said federal land management is hamstrung by bad policies, politicized science and severe federal budget cuts.

“Those of us who live in the rural areas know how to take care of lands,” Fielder said, who lives in the northwestern Montana town of Thompson Falls.

“We have to start managing these lands. It’s the right thing to do for our people, for our environment, for our economy and for our freedoms,” Fielder said.

Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said Idaho forests and rangeland managed by the state have suffered less damage and watershed degradation from wildfire than have lands managed by federal agencies.

Heer’s a listing of the percentage of state land owned by the feds.

This map details the percentage of state territory owned by the federal government. The top 10 list of states with the highest percentage of federally owned land looks like this:

Nevada 84.5%
Alaska 69.1%
Utah 57.4%
Oregon 53.1%
Idaho 50.2%
Arizona 48.1%
California 45.3%
Wyoming 42.3%
New Mexico 41.8%
Colorado 36.6%

Notable is that all these states are in the West (except Alaska, which strictly speaking is also a western state, albeit northwestern). Also notable is the contrast between the highest and the lowest percentages of federal land ownership. The US government owns a whopping 84.5% of Nevada, but only a puny 0.4% of Rhode Island and Connecticut. The lowest-percentage states are mainly in the East, but some are also in the Midwest and in the South:

Connecticut 0.4%
Rhode Island 0.4%
Iowa 0.8%
New York 0.8%
Maine 1.1%
Kansas 1.2%
Nebraska 1.4%
Alabama 1.6%
Ohio 1.7%
Illinois 1.8%

Even the 10th place is still below the two percent mark. One territory is not specified on the map: Washington D.C. It could be argued that this is the only main administrative division of US territory to be fully owned by the federal government. It could, but that would be wrong – and upsetting to those private citizens who own part of the nation’s capital in the form of their real estate. It would be more correct to state that the District of Columbia by default falls under the direct tutelage of the Federal Government.

Here are the primary federal land holders:

Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
National Park Service
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Bureau of Reclamation
Department of Agriculture
United States Forest Service
United States Department of Defense
United States Army Corps of Engineers
Tennessee Valley Authority

A short legislative historyof how the government came to own half of the western United States:

It is sort of an accident of history and because of the whims of Congress that the federal government controls all that land. In the mid-1800s, lawmakers passed laws encouraging settlers to colonize the West, with the idea of carving up the new U.S. territories into privately held parcels. Starting with Theodore Roosevelt, though, U.S. lawmakers started to conserve public lands for the public with the creation of the national parks.

In 1934, Congress created the U.S. Grazing Service to manage cattle and sheep grazing on public lands, and in 1946 the Grazing Service was combined with the General Land Office to create the BLM. In 1976, Congress passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, formally setting aside federal public lands for multiple public uses, including recreation, ranching, and mining. The BLM, Forest Service, and National Park Service have been juggling those competing interests ever since.

The argument isn’t over federal control and management of national parks, although some would argue national park land is far too expansive and includes land that could be put to better use than what is now. More controversial are “wilderness” areas on which little or no development at all is allowed — not even roads.

Clearly, the real beef is with the feds owning large swaths of land that, if managed properly, would yield a lot of revenue for states from the granting of oil and mineral rights. So what’s the problem? There’s a belief among some in Washington that the states would allow developers to run wild. This is ridiculous, as is the idea that states don’t have the competency to manage their own lands. Many western states have been managing lands the size of small countries. And perhaps more than bureaucrats in Washington, the people out west have a profound respect for the land — and for nature. It seems silly to think they would suddenly allow developers to rape the land, stripping it willy nilly.

As usual, this is about power and control. Land is wealth, and the question of whether that wealth should be in the hands of the states or Washington needs to be addressed.

Posted at 4:06 pm on April 19th, 2014 by

Liberal Bias in College Commencement Speakers? Surely, You Jest

We’re shocked, shocked I tell you, that Democratic commencement speakers outnumber Republican speakers 2-1.

Washington Times:

In what critics describe as another example of liberal bias on campus, 56 Democratic officeholders, appointees and operatives are slated to speak this spring at university graduation ceremonies.

Only 26 Republicans are scheduled to deliver college commencement addresses, the study found.

“This proves how liberal our nation’s universities are. There is a severe bias against conservative viewpoints and an unwillingness to offer true diversity of thought,” said Caleb Bonham, editor-in-chief of Campus Reform, which pushes for greater conservative representation at universities.

Part of the discrepancy can be explained by having a Democrat in the White House. Cabinet officers tend to be popular graduation speakers, and 10 of the 16 secretaries are slated to speak at commencement ceremonies, including Secretary of State John Kerry at Yale University and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at Dartmouth University.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden is scheduled to deliver the addresses at the University of South Carolina and the University of Delaware.

Past presidents are often sought-after speakers, but as Campus Reform points out, neither of the surviving two former Republican presidents — George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush — are slated to deliver addresses this year.

Meanwhile, President Clinton will speak at New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, while his vice president, Al Gore, is scheduled to deliver remarks at Princeton University.

Democrats control the Senate by a margin of 53 to 45, but they outnumber Republican graduation speakers by more than 2 to 1. Of the 13 senators scheduled to give speeches, nine are Democrats and four are Republicans.

“Surprisingly, Senators Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) remain absent from all commencement ceremony lineups,” said the Campus Reform press release.

Republicans control the House, but Democratic representatives are considerably more popular on the graduation circuit, with eight Democrats and five Republicans now booked for speeches. As for governors, nine Democrats and six Republicans are slated to deliver remarks.

“While Republican governors outnumber Democrats 29 to 21 nationally, Democrats have managed to nearly double the number of Republican governors speaking on campus,” said the Campus Reform release.

Not mentioned are some Republican speakers every year who draw protests from campus liberals for one reason or another. Or who are booed. Or have some students stand and turn their backs on them. The hollow boasts about campuses glorifying diversity certainly doesn’t extend to diversity of opinions — which is far more important than counting the melanin content in the skin of students and faculty.

Posted at 1:51 pm on April 19th, 2014 by

The One Word Democrats May Not Utter During the Campaign

And it’s not “Obamacare.”

As important as Obamacare is to the Republicans in the midterm elections, the economy still tops everyone’s list as the number one issue facing the country.

Some Democratic political consultants are advising candidates to avoid using the term “recovery” when describing the economy — for obvious reasons. This Fox News poll from January shows that 74% of Americans still think we’re in a recession. Any Democrat uttering the word “recovery” is likely to get a shoe thrown at them.

From the Associated Press:

Election-year memo to Democratic candidates: Don’t talk about the economic recovery. It’s a political loser.

So say Democratic strategists in a blunt declaration that such talk skips over “how much trouble people are in, and doesn’t convince them that policymakers really understand or are even focusing on the problems they continue to face.”

In addition, Stan Greenberg, James Carville and others wrote that in head-to-head polling tests the mere mention of the word “recovery” is trumped by a Republican assertion that the Obama administration has had six years to get the economy moving and its policies haven’t worked.

Coincidentally or not, Democrats have largely shelved the “R” word.

President Barack Obama’s only utterance of it in recent weeks was on April 8, and it was in the context of accusing Republicans of blocking progress on issues that “would help with the economic recovery and help us grow faster.”

Additionally, at a news conference on March 26 where they announced a campaign-season agenda, neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., nor most of the other five lawmakers present uttered the word “recovery.”

The strategic advice comes at a time Democrats are working to maximize turnout, particularly among women, for the fall elections, when they face a determined challenge from Republicans vying to add control of the Senate to their seemingly secure House majority.

Simultaneously, Democrats are struggling to respond effectively to persistent Republican attacks on the nation’s health care law.

[...]

In their memo for Democracy Corps and the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, the authors propose that to boost turnout among their target groups Democrats should back an economic agenda that “puts working women first,” and says that incomes are soaring only for CEOs and the top 1 percent of the country.

“As a start, Democrats should bury any mention of the recovery. That message was tested … and it lost to the Republican message championed by Karl Rove,” they wrote.

Of course, GOP candidates will have little trouble mentioning the “recovery” since for large numbers of Americans, it still hasn’t happened. With 8 million people working part-time who want and need full-time jobs, millions who have dropped out of the workforce altogether, and many millions more facing an uncertain future of reduced hours or even termination due to Obamacare, Republicans will have little trouble reminding people who’s been in charge for the last six years.

I don’t think this is a rational strategy. If Democrats can only talk about “income inequality” and the “war on women” as they relate to the economy, this is a losing proposition. Americans want jobs and economic growth. If the Democrats won’t talk about that, they deserve the shellacking they’re going to get.

Posted at 11:26 am on April 19th, 2014 by

How to Reduce Europe’s Energy Reliance on Russia

A Russian pundit recently argued that NATO should build a monument honoring the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin for reviving its potency. But even more eager to do so should be the U.S. coal and nuclear energy industries.  Benighted Republicans, however, are missing a golden opportunity to spearhead a drive on these issues, which face considerable opposition from the American President.

Writing in the Moscow Times, the brilliant and courageous Russian defense industry analyst Alexander Golts opines that Putin has “given NATO functionaries and military personnel plenty of work for what I am afraid might be a very long time to come.”  Golts notes that NATO had an “identity crisis” that Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine has instantly rectified.

Indeed, NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, recently tweeted a brutal shot across Putin’s bow, stating: “Russians keep making stuff up.” Among other things, Vershbow openly accuses the Putin regime of lying about an alleged pledge not to expand NATO.  We haven’t seen this kind of fortitude and vigor from NATO in many a moon. And we have Mr. Putin to thank for it!

NATO is not the only one, of course, experiencing an “identity crisis.”  The coal and nuclear industries have one too. Due to alleged environmental risks, coal and nuclear power have been losing traction for some time, to such “cleaner” alternatives as natural gas, which Russia has in abundance.

But in light of Russian aggression in Ukraine, it’s pretty easy now to see that coal and nuclear power have many points in their favor. Unfortunately, this isn’t an area where NATO’s military resolve means much.  Political will is required to bring coal and nuclear power to the playing field in order to roll back Europe’s reliance on Russian oil.

In fact, energy analyst Joe Parson thinks that acquiring Ukraine’s vast eastern coal fields is an important reason why Putin is menacing his smaller neighbor.  Putin would kill two birds by doing so:  First he would significantly increase Ukraine’s dependence on Russian gas and oil, and second he would acquire stockpiles of coal that could be used to offset a Western effort to use coal as a bulwark against Russian oil and gas.

William B. Reed, founder and chairman of System Controls Inc., believes that coal and nuclear power could be “huge assets in demonstrating U.S. resolve to limit Russian ambitions.” He writes: “Coal can substitute for natural gas in electricity production, and it will continue to play a large and indispensable role in Europe under any scenario. Ramping up U.S. coal exports to Europe could make a real difference in countries like Poland, Hungary and Ukraine that are heavily dependent on Russian gas.”  The U.S. can do the same thing, he says, in regard to providing nuclear power.

What’s more, Reed argues, as the world’s leading producer of gas and oil the U.S. can help take up the slack in Europe should Russia seek to weaponize such resources.

But when we turn to the White House, we see that Barack Obama is once again a toxic presence. Not only has Obama shown no backbone at all in dealing with Putin’s initial wave of aggression in Ukraine, his administration’s hostility to coal and nuclear power place further roadblocks in the path of any opposition to further aggression by Putin.

This gives Republicans a brilliant opportunity to both support the coal and nuclear power industries and hit Obama with criticism that will bite, while simultaneously seizing the leadership role on opposition to Russian aggression.

But will they be able to see and act upon this opportunity?

Recent events don’t seem encouraging. Republicans have not done a good job calling Obama on the carpet for his feckless dithering on Ukraine.  He has made no military response, provided hardly any economic support, and imposed only the most limp-wristed of sanctions.  Worse still, he hasn’t even had the courage to engage in a real rhetorical battle with Putin, nor has he put much effort into galvanizing Europe.

But the Republican response has been disorganized, muted and not much more inspiring.   The GOP doesn’t appear to have a leading figure on the foreign policy front, even though the Russian analysis of John McCain, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney has been vindicated by recent events.

Republicans should be forcefully moving forward with specific plans to help the U.S. coal and nuclear industries become major players in the European pushback against Putin.  No thinking person can dispute that Europe must wean itself away from Russian gas and oil, or that Ukraine must be made energy independent of Russia as a matter of global priority.

Achieving this will dramatically curtail Putin’s power both directly and indirectly. Firstly he’ll no longer be able to directly threaten Ukraine and Europe with energy blackmail, and secondly he’ll see the price of oil and gas fall as demand is reduced, thereby significantly cutting into Russian budgetary revenues and reserves.  This will put massive pressure on him domestically, and he’ll be forced to turn inward, away from Europe and Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the income of American companies will rise, jobs will be created and tax revenues added to Washington’s coffers.  And at the same time, Republicans will gain significantly in credibility with voters.

It’s a win-win-win situation, in other words, and its time for Republican leaders to wake up and do their jobs.

Posted at 9:19 am on April 19th, 2014 by

Harry Reid: Yes, Protestors at Bundy Ranch Were ‘Domestic Terrorists’

Senator Harry Reid has made a habit of saying stuff with no basis in fact and then repeating it, as if by sheer repetition the lie will become truth.

Remember his lie that “an anonymous source” told him Mitt Romney paid no income taxes for 10 years? Tax experts and fact checkers called this a load of codswallop. But Reid continued to make the charge on the Senate floor, thus assuring that the lie would have plenty of exposure.

Now comes Reid’s willfully exaggerated and hysterical claim that protestors on the Bundy Ranch were “domestic terrorists” – apparently because some of them were armed. No shots were fired.  The only violence occurred when the feds confronted peaceful, apparently unarmed protestors.

In for a penny, in for a pound, says Reid. The majority leader doubled down on his “domestic terrorist” smear on CNN:

In a blunt exchange that hit on a major American divide, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, stood by his comments that militia groups involved in a ranch standoff are “domestic terrorists,” while the state’s Republican senator, Dean Heller, replied that he considers them “patriots.”

The two men appeared Friday afternoon on KSNV’s “What’s Your Point?” question-and-answer show.

The first question went to Reid, about his comments that a few hundred people protesting and blocking federal action against rancher Cliven Bundy are “domestic terrorists.”

“What did you mean by that?” co-host Amy Tarkanian asked.

“Just what I said,” Reid responded.

The Democrat later clarified that he was not talking about Bundy himself necessarily, but about outside individuals who traveled to the area in the recent days.

[...]

Bundy has continued grazing anyway, insisting he is within his rights. Last week the issue hit a new hot point when hundreds of self-described militia groups came to Bundy’s land to protest federal action and help him defend his grazing ability.

That’s who Reid described as “domestic terrorists”.

“600 people came armed, they had practiced, they had maneuvered… they set up snipers in strategic locations… they had automatic weapon,” the leading Democrat said Friday. “And they boasted about the fact they put women and children… so they would get hit first.”

“If there were ever an example of people who were domestic violent terrorist wannabes, these are the guys,” Reid concluded.

I’ll take the last lie first. There was no “violence,” so how could he describe the protestors as “violent”? And “violent terrorist wannabes” is a climb-down from calling the protestors out and out “domestic terrorists.” Harry is lying so much he can’t keep track of the untruths he’s uttered.

Were there 600 people who came armed? Um, no — not even close. No one knows how many “militia” members actually showed up. It certainly wasn’t 600. Many of the protestors appeared to be along these lines:

“This is a better education than being in school! I’m glad I brought you. I’m a good mom,” said Ilona Ence, a 49-year-old mother from St. George and Bundy relative who brought her four teenage kids to the ranch. “They’re learning about the Constitution.”

… Jack Faught, Bundy’s first cousin, drove his forest green 1929 Chevy truck from Mesquite loaded with water and Gatorade.

“It’s not about the cows,” he said. “It’s about the freedom to make our own choices close to home.”

Polo Parra, a 27-year-old tattoo artist from Las Vegas, even showed up with two of his friends to support the rancher. Dressed in baggy clothes and covered in tattoos, the group carried signs that read “TYRANNY IS ALIVE” and “WHERE’S THE JUSTICE?” in red spray-painted letters.

One of Parra’s friends, who would not share his name, had a pistol tucked in his waistband.

“I think it’s bull, and it really made me mad,” said Parra, who decided to make the trip when he heard about the violence that broke out on the ranch. “This isn’t about no turtles or cows.”

One ex-sheriff from Arizona told a reporter that the militias had been “strategizing” about putting women and children up front so they would become casualties in any confrontation. He’s the only person quoted saying that, and it is not even clear he was speaking for anyone but himself. For Reid (or anyone) to make that claim, you would have to believe that the militias were not only well-armed, but working closely together. Again, codswallop.

No doubt there were hotheads among the protestors. But the question must be asked of Reid and others — which came first? Armed militiamen or 200 armed federal agents surrounding the ranch? After Ruby Ridge and Waco, thoughts of a government willing to kill those with unconventional views are not farfetched or paranoid. The government obviously learned nothing from those confrontations and a repeat seemed possible at the Bundy Ranch.

The only violence that has occurred so far has been federal agents tasering Bundy’s son and protestors being pushed around. On the next page is a video of the incident. You tell me who the aggressor is here.

Posted at 7:21 am on April 19th, 2014 by

Obama’s Easter Sermon Calls on Americans to ‘Rededicate’ to ‘Universal Mission’

President Obama used his weekly address to extend Easter and Passover wishes, expounding upon the time of year with “great meaning.”

He noted the week’s Seder held at the White House, at which he and Michelle Obama “joined Jewish families around the world in their retellings of the story of the Exodus and the victory of faith over oppression.”

“And this Sunday, Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and I will join our fellow Christians around the world in celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, the salvation he offered the world, and the hope that comes with the Easter season,” the president added.

It’s not known if the first family will attend church, as it isn’t on the president’s weekend schedule. He spontaneously attended a service in October, but skipped church on Christmas.

“These holy days have their roots in miracles that took place long ago. And yet, they still inspire us, guide us, and strengthen us today. They remind us of our responsibilities to God and, as God’s children, our responsibilities to one another,” Obama continued.

“For me, and for countless other Christians, Holy Week and Easter are times for reflection and renewal. We remember the grace of an awesome God, who loves us so deeply that He gave us his only Son, so that we might live through Him. We recall all that Jesus endured for us – the scorn of the crowds, the agony of the cross – all so that we might be forgiven our sins and granted everlasting life. And we recommit ourselves to following His example, to love and serve one another, particularly ‘the least of these’ among us, just as He loves every one of us.”

Obama called on Americans to join a “universal mission” this holiday.

“The common thread of humanity that connects us all – not just Christians and Jews, but Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs – is our shared commitment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. To remember, I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper. Whatever your faith, believer or nonbeliever, there’s no better time to rededicate ourselves to that universal mission,” he said. “For me, Easter is a story of hope – a belief in a better day to come, just around the bend.”

On Monday, the White House hosts the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn, which under Obama has integrated the first lady’s Let’s Move! campaign. This year’s theme is “Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape.” Most of the personalities appearing at the event are professional athletes; actor Jim Carrey will be reading stories to kids.

Republicans dedicated their weekly address to “Republican Enablers vs. Democrat Mandators.”

“Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina would allow federal dollars to follow a child with Down syndrome or another disability to the school the parents choose. Democrat mandators say, no—government knows best. Last year, Republican senators proposed legislation to give back to states control over whether teachers and schools are succeeding or failing. Democrat mandators proposed, in effect, a national school board,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

“Health care provides the most glaring difference between Republican enablers and Democrat mandators. Too often, Obamacare cancels the policy you want to keep and tells you what policy to buy, even if it costs more and restricts your choices of doctors and hospitals… Republicans want to enable and empower you. We want to be the iPhone party. We believe government ought to be a platform that gives you opportunity and freedom to create a happier, more prosperous, and safer life.”

Posted at 3:00 am on April 19th, 2014 by

Iowa Rep. King Hits at Facebook Founder Over Immigration Ad

YouTube Preview Image

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) slammed the founder of Facebook for going after him on immigration reform, saying the CEO just wants to pad his profits with more legalized workers.

The advocacy group co-founded by Mark Zuckerberg, FWD.us, released an ad in Iowa featuring Alejandro Morales, who wants to serve in the Marine Corps but can’t because he entered the country illegally at 7 months old.

Morales stands gazing up at the Iwo Jima Memorial in the ad as the music swells. “I believe 100 percent what this country stands for. Let me earn it. Let me serve.”

Imposed over a shot of the memorial are quotes from King, including, “We’re not going to take your oath into the military, but we’re going to take your deposition and have a bus for you to Tijuana.”

Another ad states that instead of supporting the military, King “insults the brave soldiers who are immigrants and those who would proudly serve.”

“I am under attack by billionaire Mark Zuckerberg because I am one of the few who will stand up and tell the truth about amnesty,” King responded in a statement. “He wants amnesty because it would benefit his multi-billion dollar corporation, but I’m fighting to preserve the Rule of Law. Why would we reward people for breaking our laws? Rewarding law breakers produces more law breakers.”

“Our Nation’s military is full of dedicated men and women and to disrespect them by rewarding illegal aliens with citizenship is an insult,” King added. “I ask that everyone who agrees that illegal immigrants should not be rewarded for having broken the law stand with me.”

Posted at 5:03 pm on April 18th, 2014 by

Obama Executive Order Makes Foreign Armies Eligible for DoD Medal

President Obama signed an executive order today extending eligibility for the third-highest Defense Department recognition to foreign armies.

“Executive Order 12019 of November 3, 1977 (Establishing the Defense Meritorious Service Medal), is amended by inserting, ‘or to any member of the armed forces of a friendly foreign nation,’ after ‘any member of the Armed Forces of the United States,’” said the short order.

Worn between the Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal is awarded to military personnel “serving with or assigned to a number of joint activities including the Secretary of Defense, organizations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and headquarters of joint commands,” according to an Air Force fact sheet. “Other joint activities and specified commands such as military assistance advisory groups and joint missions; and jointly manned staffs within Allied Command Europe, Allied Command Atlantic, the NATO Military Committee, and military agencies associated with functions of the military or other joint activities as may be designated by the secretary are also included.”

The medal is awarded for “non-combat meritorious achievement or service that is incontestably exceptional and of magnitude that clearly places the individual above his peers while serving in one of the assignments for which the medal has been designated.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney did not address the order at today’s daily briefing, focusing instead on Obama’s trip to Tokyo next week.

 

Posted at 4:24 pm on April 18th, 2014 by

Obama Just Set up a Headfake for the Democrats on the Keystone

It’s Good Friday. Time for the leftwing president to do something bad.

Barack Obama just punted on the Keystone Pipeline, again, and some Democrats say they are angry at him.

The Obama administration once again has punted on a final decision for the Keystone XL pipeline, announcing ahead of the holiday weekend it is extending a key review period indefinitely — a move that could push off a determination until after the midterm elections.

Republicans, as well as red-state Democrats who want the proposed Canada-to-Texas pipeline approved, slammed the administration for the delay. Democrats even threatened to find ways to go around the president to get the project approved.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that this well over five year long process is continuing for an undetermined amount of time,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in a statement.

Republican Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry called the decision “shameful,” noting that another spring construction season will come and go without the project.

Do ya think Obama knows or cares about that? Has he ever shown that he cares about jobs? Obama doesn’t govern; he agitates, he positions, and he tees up issues.

Obama doesn’t care about jobs, but he does care some about Democrats keeping the Senate. Eleven Democrats recently wrote him a letter urging approval of the Keystone. They’re all vulnerable senators. If they lose, the Democrats lose the Senate and Obama will find himself cornered during the last two years of his presidency. He doesn’t want the Keystone, but he doesn’t want to be cornered more.

Obama’s heart is clearly with the anti-science environmental radicals who oppose the Keystone. But he doesn’t want to lose the Senate.

My guess is, Obama made this extension indefinite to give himself control over when to end it and announce approval. He’ll do that once he has handed the environmental radicals who oppose it something in return, so they don’t abandon Democrats this fall. They will get some nasty new spin on EPA regulations, another turtle that needs protecting from ranchers, whatever. Around August or September, Obama will announce a change of heart, approve the Keystone, and give vulnerable Democrats something positive to crow about at home close to the elections.

Posted at 2:41 pm on April 18th, 2014 by

Caption Contest: ‘Hard Choices’ is the name of Hillary’s new book but it needs a subtitle

Hillary book cover

Photo Credit: Simon & Schuster

 

To be released on June 10,  Hillary’s new book entitled Hard Choices is crying out for a subtitle.

Here is the opening paragraph from the promo page:

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON’S INSIDE ACCOUNT OF THE CRISES, CHOICES, AND CHALLENGES SHE FACED DURING HER FOUR YEARS AS AMERICA’S 67TH SECRETARY OF STATE, AND HOW THOSE EXPERIENCES DRIVE HER VIEW OF THE FUTURE.

Since our readers did such a terrific job with our last contest  suggesting titles for Hillary’s then untitled book (all ignored however) here is your chance to write a subtitle.

To start things off here is mine:

Hard Choices: Does Bill use Viagra or Cialis?  

Have fun but PLEASE keep it clean on this Holy Friday.

 

Posted at 2:12 pm on April 18th, 2014 by

LA County Sheriff’s Department Hid Massive Surveillance System From the Public, Because they Suspected that the Public Wouldn’t Like It

Maybe it’s the fact that a corrupt county sheriff just pleaded guilty to the least of the crimes he committed, but the idea of a law enforcement agency having the power of persistent surveillance over huge swaths of land and population is extremely disturbing. In the case of Hidalgo County, I’ve only reported a small part of the full story here. My source received credible threats over the course of about three years. On one trip to the county, we were tailed. I was driving a rental car on an unannounced trip — we were tailed because someone was keeping tabs on my source. This was all done, as far as we can tell, by people who answered to Sheriff Trevino, for the purpose of intimidating citizens to keep them quiet.

Now, imagine what he could have done with a system like the LA County surveillance system.

The system, known as wide-area surveillance, is something of a time machine – the entire city is filmed and recorded in real time. Imagine Google Earth with a rewind button and the ability to play back the movement of cars and people as they scurry about the city.

“We literally watched all of Compton during the time that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,” [Ross] McNutt [owner of Persistent Surveillance Systems] said. “Our goal was to basically jump to where reported crimes occurred and see what information we could generate that would help investigators solve the crimes.”

Right. And in the wrong hands, that system is not a crime fighter. It’s a tool of serious oppression.

The LA County Sheriff’s Department may or not be the wrong hands as in Hidalgo County, but they behaved as if they can’t and shouldn’t be trusted.

“The system was kind of kept confidential from everybody in the public,” (LASD Sgt.) Iketani said. “A lot of people do have a problem with the eye in the sky, the Big Brother, so in order to mitigate any of those kinds of complaints, we basically kept it pretty hush-hush.”

That’s just great.

h/t Instapundit, Ace

Posted at 12:33 pm on April 18th, 2014 by

Here’s a Mayor Who Should be Impeached

Peoria, IL’s mayor sent the police after someone who parodied him on Twitter, according to Reason.

Jim Ardis, mayor of Peoria, Illinois, ordered police to track down whoever was responsible for a parody Twitter account mocking him.

As a result, police raided a West Bluff home, seized property, and detained three people for questioning. The Twitter account, @PeoriaMayor, has been suspended. According to the Journal Star, the account had all of 50 posts and an equal number of followers. The Twitter profile apparently did not initially indicate that it was a parody account, but added that label in early March.

The label was hardly necessary, though, to prevent reader confusion. The Journal Starexplains that “police were informed of the account by Ardis on March 12. The tweets implied ‘Mayor Ardis utilizes illegal drugs, associates with prostitutes and utilized offensive inappropriate language,’ according to an affidavit filed for the warrant.” Who would actually believe such tweets were coming from the mayor? Well, maybe residents of Toronto.

Well, yeah.

Still, it’s not a crime to be a pest on Twitter.

Check out the update:

Over at Vice, Justin Glawe knows the people involved in the parody account andreports on their fears. He also highlights some of the problems with the police department there. It’s worth a read.

The police seem to have treated the parodist as if he’s the kingpin of an international drug cartel.

Jon Daniel woke up on Thursday morning to a news crew in his living room, which was a welcome change from the company he had on Tuesday night, when the Peoria, Illinois, police came crashing through the door. The officers tore the 28-year-old’s home apart, seizing electronics and taking several of his roommates in for questioning; one woman who lived there spent three hours in an interrogation room. All for a parody Twitter account.

If someone is not suspected of a violent crime — in this case, not a crime at all — what’s the justification for police going all SWAT on them?

After the military-style arrest, Daniel may rack up enough lawyer fees defending himself that he’ll end up bankrupt.

For not committing any crime…

Posted at 11:24 am on April 18th, 2014 by

IRS Scandal: One-Way Civility in Academia

Yesterday, I posted this piece about how the IRS scandal has evolved into something far more sinister than Tea Party groups having their tax exempt applications delayed. Judicial Watch had found emails that show officials at the IRS and DOJ as well as outside left-wing lawyers were tossing around ideas to criminally charge someone to make an example that would frighten other groups from engaging in speech. I also alluded to the fact that many posters (though apparently not all) at Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog are deliberately ignored if they do not agree with the orthodoxy of the left.

That’s fact. In fact, nobody disputed the facts in my piece.

What some didn’t like is the fact that I mentioned Rick Hasen’s blog, and how it is used to advance the left-wing narrative on election law. As one professor told me by email:

One of the Left’s tricks is to make calling them out seem like a breach of etiquette.

Yesterday, instead of joining in the rightful criticism of what occurred at the IRS, Hasen spent his energy rounding up notes of support from a smattering of conservatives who use his blog.

I don’t suspect we’ll see too much criticism of the IRS emails describing Larry Noble’s plot to have some people made an example of by having criminal charges brought against them. Calling Hasen’s blog out seems to be a bigger breach of etiquette than the IRS abusing the power of the state.

As I promised yesterday, below are some of the cross posts. Hasen leads with a post from Rob Kelner of Covington and Burling:

Rick Hasen’s listserv is an institution. A valuable one. Attacks on Rick are unfounded. Civility is the glue that holds democracy together.

I wasn’t sure if Kelner was trying to be funny. Civility and Hasen in the same sentence? Hasen hardly practices what Kelner preaches. Hasen’s blog and his writings have become a forum for repeated personal attacks on people — people who are my friends.  He accuses them of deliberate deception, attaching derogatory names to them as a group — the “Fraudulent Fraud Squad.”

Here’s a sample about Thor Hearne, which Mr. Kelner could be forgiven for not having read, as it appeared at Slate. But Hasen didn’t stop with Hearne back in 2007. He repeatedly labels those with whom he disagrees part of the “fraudulent fraud squad.” If “civility is the glue that holds democracy together,” then his blog needs some glue.

Professor Jeff Milyo latched onto civility also:

You consistently achieve a balance between the goals of civility and open participation (a task none of us envy!).

I’ll give Milyo the benefit of the doubt and assume he is unaware of the very uncivil repetitious attacks by Professor Hasen on certain conservatives, questioning their truthfulness. But would it make a difference to the blog participants if they were fully schooled in Professor Hasen’s incivility and name-calling? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Posted at 10:51 am on April 18th, 2014 by

Wendy Davis Deals Are the Subject of an FBI Corruption Investigation

The Texas Democrats’ great hyped hope has another, very large, problem on her hands. Travis County officials have revealed that state Sen. Davis’ lawyer work with the North Texas Tollway Authority is part of FBI investigation.

The Dallas Morning News has the bombshell.

The Travis County district attorney’s office said last month that details from its review of a 2012 complaint that a rival filed about Davis’ legal and political activities were “the subject of an open investigation” by the FBI. The district attorney’s office closed its review last year without taking any action.

Davis, the Democratic nominee for governor, has said her legal work for the agency posed no conflicts with her legislative duties.

Zac Petkanas, a Davis spokesman, said the FBI has not questioned her. He said Davis was told in August by her legal counsel that others were interested in the information gathered in the Travis County investigation, but she didn’t know it was the FBI until this month when contacted by The Dallas Morning News.

“We are not aware that Wendy Davis is the subject or target of any investigation,” he said.

Travis County is notoriously political, biased toward Democrats since the days of District Attorney Ronnie Earle. That’s not my opinion. It’s a fact.

Travis County prosecutors, in a March 24 letter, told the attorney general’s office that the FBI had informed them that release of files from the district attorney’s now-completed 2013 review of Davis’ legal work for the agency “would interfere with the FBI’s prosecution of the crime underlying the information.”

The county’s letter came in response to The News’ open-records request for the files. The county cited several potential justifications for withholding the files, including the ongoing federal inquiry.

Read the rest.

The complaint against Davis stems from her 2012 run for re-election to the Texas Senate. Her Republican opponent, state Rep. Mark Shelton, filed a complaint with Travis County, which looked into the matter but concluded that since Davis’ actions mostly took place in Tarrant County, Travis authorities lacked jurisdiction. That did not stop them from going after Tom DeLay a few years back, even charging him with actions that were not illegal when they occurred (DeLay’s convictions were overturned on appeal in 2013 — he was fully acquitted). So it’s no surprise that Travis decided not to prosecute Davis, a Democrat.

Posted at 10:22 am on April 18th, 2014 by

Iranian Parents Remove Noose from Neck of Son’s Killer

Balal execution

Under its implementation of Sharia law, the Iranian regime has turned the justice system into a grotesque theater of public executions after often sketchy trials and dubious charges.

One Iranian couple who held no doubt about who killed their son, though, weren’t going to let that happen.

From UAE newspaper The National:

The dramatic climax followed a rare public campaign to save the life of Balal, who at 19 killed another young man, Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, in a street fight with a knife back in 2007.

Shargh newspaper said police officers led Balal to a public execution site in the northern city of Nowshahr as a large crowd gathering on Tuesday morning.

Samereh Alinejad, mother of the victim who lost another son in a motorbike accident four years ago, asked the crowd whether they know “how difficult it is to live in an empty house”.

Balal, black-hooded and standing on a chair before a makeshift gallows, had the noose around his neck when Ms Alinejad approached.

She slapped him in the face and removed the rope from his neck assisted by her husband, Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh, a former professional footballer.

“I am a believer. I had a dream in which my son told me that he was at peace and in a good place … After that, all my relatives, even my mother, put pressure on me to pardon the killer,” Ms Alinejad told Shargh.

“The murderer was crying, asking for forgiveness. I slapped him in the face. That slap helped to calm me down,” she said. “Now that I’ve forgiven him, I feel relieved.”

Balal’s mother, who had been sitting on the ground in a daze among the crowd waiting to see the hanging, tearfully embraced Alinejad after they removed the noose.

Posted at 6:25 am on April 18th, 2014 by

Snowden: I’ve ‘Sworn No Allegiance’ to Russia, Had No ‘Ulterior Motive’ in Putin Show Appearance

Former NSA contractor and leaker Edward Snowden, who asked a staged question of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a TV show yesterday, defended his actions in a Guardian op-ed.

Putin was addressing the nation in a four-hour television appearance in which he took a handful of questions, including from a 6-year-old boy who asked Putin if he thought President Obama would save him from drowning.

When told by host Anna Pavlova that he had a “surprise” video call from Snowden, who has been granted indefinite asylum in Russia to escape prosecution in the U.S., Putin said, “Do I really?”

“Does Russia intercept, store, or analyse in any way the communications of millions of individuals, and do you believe that simply increasing the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations can justify placing societies – rather than subjects – under surveillance?” Snowden asked.

Putin addressed Snowden as “a former intelligence officer, and I have worked for an intelligence agency, too.”

“Russia has laws that strictly regulate the use of special equipment by security services, including for the tapping of private conversations and for the surveillance of online communications. They need to receive a court warrant to be able to use this equipment in each particular case. So there is no, and cannot be any, indiscriminate mass surveillance under Russian law,” he said. “Since criminals, including terrorists, use these modern communication systems for their criminal activity, security services should be able to respond accordingly and use modern equipment to combat crime, including terrorism.”

“Yes, we do this, but not on such a large scale and not arbitrarily,” Putin continued. “Hopefully – I hope very much – we will never act in this manner. Besides, we do not have such technical capabilities and funds as the United States. But the main thing is that, happily, our security services are strictly controlled by the state and society and their operation is strictly regulated by law.”

Snowden wrote that his questions were  ”intended to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion.”

“Clapper’s lie – to the Senate and to the public – was a major motivating force behind my decision to go public, and a historic example of the importance of official accountability,” Snowden claimed, adding that Putin “denied” and “dodged” in his answer in a way “remarkably similar” to Obama.

“I was surprised that people who witnessed me risk my life to expose the surveillance practices of my own country could not believe that I might also criticise the surveillance policies of Russia, a country to which I have sworn no allegiance, without ulterior motive. I regret that my question could be misinterpreted, and that it enabled many to ignore the substance of the question – and Putin’s evasive response – in order to speculate, wildly and incorrectly, about my motives for asking it,” the former Booz Allen Hamilton contractor continued.

“…So why all the criticism? I expected that some would object to my participation in an annual forum that is largely comprised of softball questions to a leader unaccustomed to being challenged. But to me, the rare opportunity to lift a taboo on discussion of state surveillance before an audience that primarily views state media outweighed that risk. Moreover, I hoped that Putin’s answer – whatever it was – would provide opportunities for serious journalists and civil society to push the discussion further.”

Posted at 6:07 am on April 18th, 2014 by

U.S. Government Tells Wiesenthal Center ‘We Don’t Know’ Who’s Behind Anti-Semitic Flier

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said that they asked the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who is behind the fliers ordering Jews to register with regional pro-Russia authorities in Donetsk, and received a succinct answer: “We don’t know who.”

The fliers, which were handed out by masked, armed men as eastern Ukrainian Jews left a Passover synagogue service, demanded that all Jews register and list their property, paying a $50 fee to do so, or else face deportation and revocation of citizenship. Some people who received the fliers sent images to relatives in Israel, where the story spread quickly in the media.

In response to an email query, Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt told the Wiesenthal Center that the fliers were “clearly part of a general effort to sow fear among Ukrainian Jews.” Beyond that, the U.S. doesn’t know much.

“The Wiesenthal Center denounces this grotesque action that is clearly designed to spread more fear among the Jewish community, already reeling from the increased instability that has racked the region for the past few months, “said Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper in a statement released in Los Angeles. “We urge authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of Jewish communal institutions.”

The Anti-Defamation League noted that the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, whose name appeared in the document’s signature, has publicly disavowed the flier.

“We are skeptical about the flier’s authenticity, but the instructions clearly recall the Nazi era and have the effect of intimidating the local Jewish community,” said ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman. “We have seen a series of cynical and politically manipulative uses and accusations of anti-Semitism in Ukraine over the past year. The perpetrators and their targets are opposing politicians and political movements, but the true victims are the Jewish communities. We strongly condemn the anti-Semitic content, but also all attempts to use anti-Semitism for political purposes.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said it’s critical that the international monitors from the Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe deploying to Ukraine as part of yesterday’s Geneva agreement “examine this issue closely to ensure that religious and ethnic minorities do not become targets.”

“This sort of intimidation and persecution is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in the 21st century,” he said.

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) stressed that “the world has seen this before and it cannot be tolerated.”

“This act of hate is atrocious and must be brought to a halt immediately,” the congressman said. “I call on President Obama to ensure that this movement is dismantled without delay.”

Secretary of State John Kerry called the fliers “grotesque.” A State Department spokeswoman said they were investigating the pamphlets’ origin but felt that Russia opposes anti-Semitism.

Posted at 5:51 am on April 18th, 2014 by

Grandpa Bill and Grandma Hill: Chelsea Expecting First Child

The Clintons announced today that they’re adding a new member to their clan:

 

 

Chelsea, 34, married investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, son of former Dem Rep. Ed Mezvinsky (Iowa), in 2010. She said last October that 2014 would be their “year of the baby.”

“And please, call my mother and tell her that. She asks us about it every single day,” Chelsea added then.

She bought a $10 million condo in Manhattan last year and works at her family’s foundation.

Posted at 3:10 pm on April 17th, 2014 by

Even Hillary Clinton Isn’t Sure What We Should Like About Hillary Clinton

The first step is admitting…

It was a simple question to someone accustomed to much tougher ones: What was her proudest achievement as secretary of state? But for a moment, Hillary Rodham Clinton, appearing recently before a friendly audience at a women’s forum in Manhattan, seemed flustered.

Mrs. Clinton played an energetic role in virtually every foreign policy issue of President Obama’s first term, advocating generally hawkish views internally while using her celebrity to try to restore America’s global standing after the hit it took during the George W. Bush administration.

But her halting answer suggests a problem that Mrs. Clinton could confront as she recounts her record in Mr. Obama’s cabinet before a possible run for president in 2016: Much of what she labored over so conscientiously is either unfinished business or has gone awry in his second term.

So…no definitive successes and some clear-cut failures. And that’s the generous New York Times assessment.

The Democrat fantasy story about Mrs. Clinton paints her as strong and accomplished on her own. In reality, this is a woman who is professionally defined almost entirely by two men in her life, both of whom happen to have been two-term presidents. Throw into the mix the fact that her relationship with both is uneasy at best and some vulnerabilities which can be exploited by opponents begin to appear.

The Hillary that both Republicans and Democrats talk about as being dynamic, formidable and inevitable doesn’t really seem to exist in the real world under close examination. She got where she is seemingly by making some uncomfortable compromises with two men she doesn’t seem to like very much. Her greatest electoral victory came because her opponent got cancer.

This Times piece tries to portray her as rather hawkish. Where does that fit in with a constituency that twice propelled President Obama to victory? Does she get a gender free pass from the hopeychangeys?

I know that she is supposed to be a juggernaut because pretty much everyone who isn’t me says she is, but I still don’t see it.

Apparently, neither does she.

Posted at 3:06 pm on April 17th, 2014 by

Obama: No Fixes to Obamacare Until GOP has ‘Change in Attitude’

President Obama stepped out at the White House daily briefing today to again berate Republicans for challenging Obamacare — in what appeared to be an attempt to get politicians to stop talking about the law’s negative effects before midterm elections.

Obama announced “as more data comes in, we now know that the number of Americans who’ve signed up for private insurance in the marketplaces has grown to 8 million people.”

“Before this law added new transparency and competition to the individual market, folks who’ve bought insurance on their own regularly saw double-digit increases in their premiums. That was the norm. And while we suspect that premiums will keep rising, as they have for decades, we also know that, since the law took effect, health care spending has risen more slowly than at any time in the past 50 years,” he said.

“…And this thing is working. I’ve said before, this law won’t solve all the problems in our healthcare system. We know we’ve got more work to do. But we now know for a fact that repealing the Affordable Care Act would increase the deficit, raise premiums for millions of Americans, and take insurance away from millions more, which is why, as I’ve said before, I find it strange that the Republican position on this law is still stuck in the same place that it has always been.”

Republicans, he charged, “still can’t bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working. They said nobody would sign up; they were wrong about that. They said it would be unaffordable for the country; they were wrong about that. They were wrong to keep trying to repeal a law that is working when they have no alternative answer for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions who’d be denied coverage again or every woman who’d be charged more for just being a woman again.”

“I know every American isn’t going to agree with this law, but I think we can agree that it’s well past time to move on as a country and refocus our energy on the issues that the American people are most concerned about, and that continues to be the economy, because these endless, fruitless repeal efforts come at a cost.”

Instead of taking dozens of votes to repeal, replace or otherwise fix Obamacare, Obama said, lawmakers could have taken votes “to create jobs by investing in things like infrastructure or innovation, or 50 votes to make it easier for middle-class families to send their kids to college, or 50 votes to raise the minimum wage or restore unemployment insurance that they let expire for folks working hard to find a new job.”

“The point is, the repeal debate is and should be over,” he added. “The Affordable Care Act is working. And I know the American people don’t want us spending the next two-and-a-half years re-fighting the settled political battles of the last five years. They sent us here to repair our economy, to rebuild our middle class, and to restore our founding promise of opportunity, not just for a few, but for all. And as president, that’s exactly what I intend to keep doing as long as I’m in this office.”

On House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) charge that Obama is without cause attacking the GOP on immigration reform, the president slightly smirked and said he “actually had a very pleasant conversation with Mr. Cantor yesterday.”

“I wished him happy Passover. And what I said to him privately is something that I would share with him — that I’ve said publicly, which is, there is bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform,” Obama added. “…I know there are Republicans in the House, as there are Republicans in the Senate, who know this is the right thing to do. I also know it’s hard politics for Republicans, because there are some in their base that are very opposed to this.”

Posted at 2:27 pm on April 17th, 2014 by