George Lucas says the motion picture business is “more and more circus without any substance behind it.”
George Lucas offered a bleak assessment of the current state of the film business during a panel discussion with Robert Redford at the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday, saying that the movies are “more and more circus without any substance behind it.”
However, the “Star Wars” director hit back at critics who said his role in kicking off the blockbuster film business has watered down cinematic storytelling. “If you go into ‘Star Wars’ and see what’s going on there, there’s a lot more substance than circus,” he argued.
In its day, “Star Wars” represented a major breakthrough in technology, and it’s easy to discern a throughline from the galaxy far, far away to the comic book movies and special-effects driven productions that dominate today’s movie screens. The tools he helped popularize were all in the service of plot, he argued.“All art is technology,” said Lucas. “That’s the one thing that separates us from animals.”
Well, one of the things, anyway. Meanwhile, there is still the little matter of Jar Jar Binks, not to mention the Ewoks. In fact, when you stop to think about it, Star Wars is pretty terrible, with the exception of the first two films. But since Lucas was also the unsung-ish hero of the Indiana Jones saga, which made Harrison Ford a major star, perhaps we can forgive him. Perhaps.
One thing he did get right, however:
Lucas seemed more puzzled by the current state of culture. The man who took bigscreen fantasies to bold new worlds said he never could have predicted the smallness of popular entertainment options on platforms such as YouTube.
“I would never guess people would watch cats do stupid things all day long,” said Lucas.
I guess there really is a sucker born every minute.
Saudi Arabia has yet to release the body of a U.S. defense subcontractor who was working for Israel’s Elbit Systems when he died under mysterious circumstances after being sent to the country to help complete a weapons deal.
Christopher Cramer was working for Kollsman Inc., a firm that subcontracted for the Israeli defense electronics company, when he was found dead last month on the ground outside his third-floor hotel room in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia.
“We received a message from Kollsman Inc., Elbit Systems’ subcontractor in America, saying its employee Chris Cramer passed away during a work trip,” said a spokesperson for Elbit Systems.
“The circumstances of his death are being investigated by the American State Department. We have no further details at this stage and we are waiting for the State Department to update our American subcontractor. Cramer worked for the company for 12 years. We cannot provide details on the project he was working on, but this is a Kollsman product, an American product with no Israeli technologies involved in its production.”
According to the family attorney, Noah Mandell, the Saudi Arabian company that bought the equipment claimed it wasn’t working correctly. Cramer’s job was to investigate in order to make sure the Saudis were operating the equipment correctly and not trying to pull a fast one on Kollsman:
Mandell and a nephew of Cramer’s, Christopher Arsenault, suspect that Cramer was killed because his presence threatened to reveal the fact that Global Defense Systems, a Saudi company involved in the deal, was intent on sabotaging equipment that Cramer was sent to fix.
Cramer sent footage to his superiors showing that the equipment was working correctly. Shortly afterward, he sent text messages to his attorney begging him to get in touch with the State Department, explaining, “I think something bad is going to happen to me tonight. Please contact State Dept. ASAP. Bad things were said.”
The Saudis are holding Cramer’s body pending an investigation seemingly designed to prove their foregone conclusion that the American committed suicide. Despite protests from doubtful family and friends who anxiously await an autopsy on American soil the State Department is backing the Saudis, referring inquiries to the local police department in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told NBC in an interview aired this morning that the U.S. is currently not winning against the Islamic State.
“I think that we have made some steps to contain it, but at the same time in a way ISIS has sort of reached the natural limits of where they would have sympathetic people, the Sunni areas of northern and western Iraq in particular,” Gates said. “But I think that the air strikes have contributed to containing them, but we’re a long way in my view from being in a position to roll them back or push them out of Iraq.”
He called the choice between the current administration strategy and a large-scale ground invasion of Iraq “a false set of options.”
“I think that there are other options, and I think that it will be very difficult to roll ISIS back without forward air controllers and spotters without embedded trainers with the Sunni tribes, with the Iraq army, with the Peshmerga, the Kurds. And I think some limited use of Special Forces,” Gates said.
“But what I’m talking about here is potentially a few hundred troops, not thousands of tens of thousands. And I think that the president has set an ambitious and I think undercurrent circumstances unrealistic goal when he talks about our intent being to destroy ISIS. With the means that he has approved so far, I think that’s an unattainable.”
The onetime secretary in the Bush and Obama administrations added “we’ve set unrealistic goals for ourselves when we say we’re going to destroy the Taliban, we’re going to destroy al-Qaeda.”
“I mean, we have been after al-Qaeda with all of the resources of the American military and intelligence community for 14 years now. And we haven’t destroyed. So I think a different kind of strategy in terms of how do we — first of all how do we contain them and then how do we limit their ability to carry out these attacks and these atrocities and to occupy territory. It seems to me that particularly with respect to ISIS our objective should be to deny them the ability to hang on to territory because that gives them a base from which potentially to plot against us and against Western Europe,” he said.
Gates recommended that everybody take “a step back and realize the complexity and historical magnitude of the challenge that we’re facing.”
“You have what appears to be the beginnings of the falling apart of the entire state system in the Middle East,” he said. “…We have a half different countries including major ones like Iraq and Libya where the central government does not control the country.”
Aka Bill de Blasio, who’s already bidding fair to go down in New York City as one of the worst mayors ever, which is really saying something:
For Mayor de Blasio, last week was one he’d like to forget. It started with brickbats over a botched plan for a blizzard that fizzled, and it was all downhill from there. By the end, he was battling something more pernicious than either Mother Nature or Gov. Cuomo. That would be political allies whose actions point up once again the dangers of his radical anti-police agenda.
In a decision that earned City Hall and its lawyers a rare but justified outburst from top cop Bill Bratton, de Blasio’s team wrote a check to a machete-wielding thug who was shot by cops after he threatened them. The payoff to Ruhim Ullah to drop his lawsuit was only $5,000 but the principle it represented — that cops who shot him did something wrong — sent Bratton into orbit.
“It’s outrageous that the city Law Department is continuing to not support the men and women of this department as they go about their duties,” he thundered. “Our cops work very hard trying to keep this city safe, and if they’re not going to be backed up by the city law office, we need to do something about this.”
De Blasio is a good example of the Leftist project in action: publicly claim to be on the side of law and order, but do everything you can behind the scenes to undermine it — something Barack Obama has perfected on the national level. It’s crucial, however, to have most of the media on your side, so nobody can blow an effective whistle and alert the public to the scam.
For de Blasio, both incidents meant he had to call fouls on his own team. “There can be nothing that suggests any violence towards officers,” de Blasio said of the Bronx Defenders. “That’s absolutely unacceptable, it’s heinous, it’s reprehensible, it can’t happen.”
But it did happen, and the mayor should look in the mirror if he wants to know why. The video emerged during the turmoil of anti-police protests over the Eric Garner case, and de Blasio was defending and even encouraging the crowds right up to the point where two officers were assassinated.
Nice. The Upper West Side always seems to think there’s no downside to electing a red-diaper baby (i.e., one of their own), until things to smash and it’s time to call in Kojak or Popeye Doyle. For reference, here’s what a picture of a real New York City mayor looks like: Seth Low.
President Obama will release his ten year budget projection tomorrow that envisions budget deficits rising to $687 billion by 2025 while adding $6 trillion to the national debt. The White House will project a budget deficit of $474 billion for this fiscal year which is 2.5% of GDP. The deficit is supposed to increase but the percentage of the deficit relative to GDP is predicted to remain fairly stable.
This is a political document, not a serious economic statement. The Congressional Budget Office, which is not usually given to flights of political fancy, had an entirely different outlook on the next ten years of budgeting:
In CBO’s projections, outlays rise from a little more than 20 percent of GDP this year (which is about what federal spending has averaged over the past 50 years) to a little more than 22 percent in 2025. Four key factors underlie that increase:
The retirement of the baby-boom generation,
The expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance,
Increasing health care costs per beneficiary, and
Rising interest rates on federal debt.
Consequently, under current law, spending will grow faster than the economy for Social Security; the major health care programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and subsidies offered through insurance exchanges; and net interest costs. In contrast, mandatory spending other than that for Social Security and health care, as well as both defense and nondefense discretionary spending, will shrink relative to the size of the economy. By 2019, outlays in those three categories taken together will fall below the percentage of GDP they were from 1998 through 2001, when such spending was the lowest since at least 1940 (the earliest year for which comparable data have been reported).
Where the White House sees deficits rising gently through 2025, the CBO sees a massive increase in the deficit by 2025 with red ink climbing to more than $1 trillion.
The budget outlook by CBO envisions more than a trillion dollars in increased revenue by 2025 — every single dime spent by government and then some.
The New York Times explains why we needn’t worry about deficits or the national debt; they aren’t as important as income inequality:
The central question Mr. Obama’s budget will pose to Congress is this: Should Washington worry about what may be the defining economic issue of the era — the rising gap between the rich and everyone else — or should policy makers primarily seek to address a mountain of debt that the White House hopes to control but only marginally reduce as a share of the economy?
The president’s budget — thicker than a phone book in multiple volumes — will be just the starting point for that discussion with the newly elected Republican Congress, a document representing Mr. Obama’s aspirations, not the final word. Criticism of the president’s intentions arrived even before the budget was presented.
“We’re six years into the Obama economic policies, and he’s proposing more of the same, more tax increases that kill investment and jobs, and policies which are hardly aspirational,” said Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, in an interview this weekend.
The idea that these pinpricks will reduce the gap between rich and poor is a study in delusional thinking. It’s political chicanery. The gap is so massive that only out and out confiscation of wealth would make a dent in the gap. The president and liberals know this, which is why they don’t dare suggest it. Instead, they demagogue the issue and propose miniscule “solutions” that don’t even move a decimal point on the balance sheet.
And that’s if you believe income inequality is “the defining economic issue of the era” as the Times suggests. Rather than confiscate property, perhaps the president could concentrate on creating lots of high paying jobs so the Middle Class can recover the ground they’ve lost in the economy over these last three decades. Creating wealth is always preferable to stealing it, and the reason that liberals blanch at the thought of actually helping the Middle Class in ways that would empower them and give them dignity is that they have no faith in the capitalist system. The faith of their fathers and grandfathers in that system created the most astonishing engine for wealth and job creation in the history of human civilization. But that faith has been tossed aside by their offspring in favor of a redistributive philosophy that creates nothing, secures nothing, and cynically exploits class differences for political and financial gain.
The CBO’s projections take into account a modest rise in interest rates that the Fed is promising to begin later this year. But what if the increase in interest rates isn’t “modest”? What if inflation becomes a problem? Then both the CBO and Obama administration estimates for budget deficits go out the window and the cost to service the debt on a yearly basis will skyrocket.
No entitlement reform, no serious attempt to balance the budget, no end in sight to an ever-rising national debt — this is not serious governance. The president has prioritized the wrong issue and we will probably pay for it before too long.
Buzz Killington reporting for duty on Super Bowl Sunday. Here’s your high-level, unapologetic trolling for the day:
The Super Bowl is a neo-pagan celebration of sex and death. In the future our children and grandchildren will look back on our nation’s annual secular holiday with the same incredulity as they will the recent bi-partisan celebration of the new “king” of the Sharia slave state we dignify with the name “Saudi Arabia.” It’ll be just one more sign of our age’s cultural confusion and primitivism.
One of my last memories of my maternal grandfather before he died was a visit where we sat around the table as he recounted various adventures from his cock-fighting days. Grandpa did all kinds of jobs to hustle money and using the roosters from the family hen house for gambling was one of them. Of course we regard such a practice today as barbaric, and cruel — I remember seeing it portrayed in one of my favorite childhood books on medieval castles.
But isn’t that kind of bloodsport less cruel than what we celebrate as a culture today? Grandpa wasn’t doing much worse than KFC — and he wasn’t teaching teenagers how to smash their skulls together and dedicate their lives to a silly sport. Yet what he was doing is now illegal and the NFL today is a billion dollar industry.
And what’s the deal with the annual discussions about whether football players should miss the Super Bowl for their children’s births?
How much more obvious does it need to be that football appreciation in its extreme forms has become an idol in America today? How much life is worth being sacrificed and risked for a game where a pigskin ball is thrown around a field?
And I’m sorry, but I’ll go a step further: can someone explain to me why it’s moral to ever encourage a child to dedicate their lives to playing sports full-time? Isn’t encouraging a boy to aspire to be a professional football player akin to pushing a little girl to be a pole dancer? That they are essentially told to sacrifice themselves as individuals and dedicate their lives to creating and maintaining some body at the supposed pinnacle of masculine or feminine perfection?
I don’t dispute that sports can be fun to play with others and can foster an understanding of teamwork, etc. Games are good — but we don’t make the country’s top dart-throwing, bowling, or even baseball or basketball games the kind of cultural secular holiday we do with the Super Bowl. What’s the difference?
Does it have to be a bloodsport like football where life is actually on the line to really reach into people’s soul and get them to find something that feels meaningful?
Isn’t there something better to do with one’s life? Aren’t there individuals in our culture more worthy of being celebrated than a bunch of millionaires who play sports on TV?
The tease for this article by Emily Shire in the Daily Beast headlined “The Five Most Sexist Super Bowl Ads Ever” is revealing:
Sexism, misogyny, burgers and boobs. These Super Bowl ads are some of the worst in history.
Actually, no. And this becomes apparent early in the article as Shire tears into the “objectification” of women:
Super Bowl commercials generally serve as an irritating reminder to Americans feminists that somewhere on the to-do list below ensuring girls in Third World countries can safely get an education, we need to get corporations to stop depicting women as only sex objects, out-of-touch morons, or shrill mothers.
While the NFL’s disturbing and commendably nuanced domestic violence PSA encourages viewers to protect and support women, the commercials that fill the most coveted timeslot on the television calendar have historically objectified them and reinforced negative stereotypes. It’s unclear whether 2015’s full crop of Super Bowl commercials will be a welcome departure—could we possibly see a woman who doesn’t seem irrationally judgmental of her husband/boyfriend, doesn’t have Kate Upton’s body or a sexually obsequious demeanor?
There’s more than sufficient evidence to make even milquetoast feminists throw their hands in the air, but below are some of most egregious examples.
Are the ads “egregious” examples of female objectification? Or are they so over-the-top in portraying women as sex objects that they mock and parody that notion?
Or maybe, they do both.
There is oversensitivity to the issue of female objectification. A pretty face (or body) is sometimes exactly as it appears — a pretty face. There is nothing subtle about using sex to sell ads, but why does showing a scantily clad beautiful woman necessarily mean objectification? With that logic, we should put women in burqas and ban bikinis at the beach.
Sorry ladies, but if you can’t see how the raunch in this ad for Carl’s Jr. to be shown at this year’s Super Bowl doesn’t hilariously skewer how women are, indeed, sometimes objectified in our culture, then you are so besotted with ideological fanaticism that you’ve completely lost your sense of humor.
Similarly, this Miller Lite “Tastes Good/Less Filling” catfight commercial from 2003 takes male fantasies about two women going at it to ridiculous — and clever — lengths.
Other ads mentioned by Shire include the Danica Patrick/Jillian Michaels ad for GoDaddy.com where the PR flunkies convince both to do the ad naked. Not too obviously an objectification parody, huh?
And there’s a somewhat misogynistic ad for Chrysler — “Man’s Last Stand” — where a voice-over lists all the things the husband will do for his wife (put up the toilet seat, pick up underwear, etc.) in exchange for being able to buy a Charger.
Shire believes this is “stereotyping” women as “demanding, cruel, shrill creatures who suck the joy out of men’s lives—all for the purpose of selling cars.” Again, the listing of every cliched complaint by women against men is not meant as a serious critique of male cuckholdness. In fact, the list is so long and so obviously cliched that anyone who believes there is any kind of message in the spot — subliminal or otherwise — probably doesn’t laugh at anything even when they inhale nitrous oxide.
The last ad features Victoria’s Secret angel Adriana Lima getting all dolled up for Valentine’s Day date and suggesting flowers from Teleflora will lead to sex that night. Duh. Men have been giving flowers, candy, jewelry, and yachts to women for centuries hoping to get some that night. This one comes closest to objectifying Ms. Lima because of the suggestive way she got dressed for the date. But compared to porn magazines? Really, now.
Shire and her fanatical feminist sisters take these ads far too seriously. But that’s one of the problems with seeing the world through a prism of extreme ideology — you end up having the sense of humor of a marmoset.
There are clearly more subtle ads that objectify women. Most Calvin Klein ads fit that bill, as do those ridiculous Axe male beauty products commercials.
But there’s nothing subtle about the examples above. Perhaps Ms. Shire should relax, have a beer, and enjoy the game. I’m sure there are other issues far more pressing and important to women than complaining that advertisers use sex to sell their products.
I would love to play poker with this president. He’s predictable, he can’t bluff, and he’s got a major league tell; you know he’s lying when his mouth moves.
The president used his weekly radio address to tout his new spending package for FY 2016. To do so, he channeled Obi-Wan Kenobi:
You don’t need to look at our $18 Trillion national debt.
This isn’t the deficit you’re looking for.
You can go about your business without worrying about the deficit.
Move along. Move along.
Indeed, the president said we can “afford” that extra spending — despite the deficit still hovering at well over $400 billion.
It’s a Jedi mind trick. He’s not serious in a policy way about this proposal. He knows there isn’t a ghost of a chance in passing it. His purpose is to pick a fight with Republicans — not very ennobling of our president, but then, who ever accused the president of being anything close to noble?
“We’ll help working families’ paychecks go farther by treating things like paid leave and child care like the economic priorities that they are. We’ll offer Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, with plans like making two years of community college free for every responsible student. And we’ll keep building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, infrastructure, manufacturing, and expanded access to faster internet and new markets,” Mr. Obama said Saturday, previewing his budget. “We can afford to make these investments. Since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds — the fastest sustained deficit reduction since just after the end of World War II.”
Deficits have indeed dropped considerably over the past several years, but the national debt continues to rise. It stood at $10.6 trillion when Mr. Obama came into office.
It now is over $18 trillion.
Meanwhile, Republicans are countering Mr. Obama’s message of so-called “middle-class economics” by pushing their own measures aimed at helping working families. House GOP leaders have proposed a plan to expand the 529 college savings accounts, which allow families to save for college and withdraw the money tax free.
The White House had sought to tax 529s but withdrew the plan after heavy public criticism and private pressure from prominent Democrats.
“It was a terribly misguided idea, but it took a public outcry for the president to realize it … But with hardworking families struggling, abandoning his proposal is not enough,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins, Kansas Republican, said in the weekly GOP address. “First, the president should put his full weight behind our plan to expand and strengthen 529 accounts. We can remove common paperwork problems, empower students to use the money to pay for computers, and make it easier for families to send their kids to the college of their choice. Because we should be rewarding people who work hard and play by the rules — not punishing them.”
Ms. Jenkins also urged the president to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. A measure approving the project cleared the Senate this week but Mr. Obama has vowed to veto it.
It should be noted that just about all of the reduction in the deficit has come about because of increased economic activity over the last 2 years. The American economy is quite resilient and even with the regulatory and fiscal burdens placed on it by this administration, the recovery has added tens of billions in revenue to federal coffers.
Of course, this only encourages liberals to spend the windfall. If the president truly wanted to help the Middle Class, he would cut spending to pay for his tax schemes, rather than raise taxes for some in order to cut taxes for others.
With the 529 tax proposal removed from the spending package, there is no way the White House can claim that the spending will be revenue neutral. This is reason enough to ignore the president’s proposals while the GOP advances a few of their own ideas.
A Japanese man held by Islamic State has been executed, according to an online video release from a media source that terrorists have used in the past.
The headless body of journalist Kenji Goto was displayed in a short video which was accompanied by English language commentary from “Jihadi John,” a British terrorist who has appeared in several of the execution videos.
The Japanese had been locked in desperate negotiations with the terrorists, hoping that they would accept a prisoner exchange of an Iraqi female terrorist held by Jordan for Goto and a Jordanian air force pilot shot down in December. But the Jordanians wouldn’t release the woman until they had proof of life for their pilot and a guarantee that he and Goto would be released. They received neither from Islamic State.
“We are deeply saddened by this despicable and horrendous act of terrorism and we denounce it in the strongest terms,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in Tokyo, according to broadcaster NHK. “To the terrorists, we will never, never forgive them for this act.”
He said that Japan will continue to provide monetary aid to countries affected by the bloody fight against ISIS.
The video opens with a black slate that reads, “A Message to Japan.” The video then shows a kneeling Goto wearing an orange outfit. The man known as “Jihadi John” is standing behind him.
The terrorist speaks while holding a knife in his left hand.
“Abe, because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin,” the man says.
The video cuts to black as the militant puts the knife to Goto’s throat. It then shows the apparent result of the decapitation. It’s not clear who conducted the apparent killing.
The knife-wielding masked man with a London accent, nicknamed “Jihadi John,” has issued threats and overseen the beheadings of other captives. He has appeared in at least six videos with hostages.
The fate of a Jordanian pilot captured by ISIS in Syria, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, was unclear. He is not mentioned in the video.
ISIS had been demanding that Jordan exchange a convicted terrorist, Sajida al-Rishawi, for the pilot. If there was no swap, ISIS said it would kill al-Kaseasbeh first, then Goto.
There was a lot of self restraint shown in Japanese media during the hostage crisis, which is typical in a society that values other people’s feelings so highly:
The restraint shown by broadcasters and other media during the unfolding hostage drama has spilled over into politics as opposition lawmakers, mindful of the crisis, toned down their criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his team. When dozens of lawmakers appeared in their traditional kimonos this week to mark the opening of the annual session, they were attacked on blogs and social networks for looking too festive and insensitive.
The hostage crisis broke out on Jan. 20, with the release of an online video showing the two hostages with a black masked man wielding a knife, demanding $200 million ransom in exchange for their lives.
Not wanting to be seen as insensitive — a huge faux pas in a society that holds consideration for others in high esteem — Japanese broadcasters quickly screened out any buzzwords and related images, all in the name of “jishuku,” or self-imposed control.
In the latest example of self-censorship, a production team for an animation comedy “Detective Opera Milky Holmes TD” said Friday that it has decided to suspend its fifth episode for being “inappropriate.” The episode was entitled “Carol’s ransom.”
The popular male pop group KAT-TUN was supposed to sing its new song “Dead or Alive” on TV Asahi’s Music Station show on Jan. 23, but instead performed “White Lovers.” Another band, “Ling tosite sigure,” altered lyrics that included the words “knife” and “blood.”
Would that western media outlets were at least partly as restrained.
No one knows how many more hostages are held by Islamic State, but it’s a safe bet that future execution dramas will be even more drawn out and agonizing. IS has developed a taste for teasing the western media with the possibility that the hostage will return home safe and sound, only to brutally behead them. The end result is giving the terrorist exactly what they want: a platform to recruit new members while making the western powers look impotent.
Dear Supreme Court — and yes, I’m, talking to you, John Roberts — please put this Frankenstein monster out of its misery asap:
Obama administration officials and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act say they worry that the tax-filing season will generate new anger as uninsured consumers learn that they must pay tax penalties and as many people struggle with complex forms needed to justify tax credits they received in 2014 to pay for health insurance.
The White House has already granted some exemptions and is considering more to avoid a political firestorm.
Mark J. Mazur, the assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy, said up to six million taxpayers would have to “pay a fee this year because they made a choice not to obtain health care coverage that they could have afforded.” But Christine Speidel, a tax lawyer at Vermont Legal Aid, said: “A lot of people do not feel that health insurance plans in the marketplace were affordable to them, even with subsidies. Some went without coverage and will therefore be subject to penalties.”
I’ve already called this mess the greatest scam in American history and believe me, folks, it’s only going to get worse once the Emperor Hussein and his court eunuchs start fiddling with it again — unconstitutionally, I might add.
The penalties, approaching 1 percent of income for some households, are supposed to be paid with income taxes due April 15. In addition, officials said, many people with subsidized coverage purchased through the new public insurance exchanges will need to repay some of the subsidies because they received more than they were entitled to.
More than 6.5 million people had insurance through the exchanges at some point last year, and 85 percent of them qualified for financial assistance, in the form of tax credits, to lower their premiums.
You read that right: 85 percent of the newly insured qualified for subsidies. In other words, it’s a welfare program. Not medical insurance. And damn sure not “health care.” Designed with deception and malevolence aforethought, foisted upon taxpayer and meant to scam idiots in exchange for votes:
“If the advanced premium tax credit amount is too high, the taxpayer could have an unwelcome surprise and owe money,” said Nina E. Olson, the national taxpayer advocate at the Internal Revenue Service. Many people awarded insurance subsidies for 2014 did not realize that the amount would be reviewed and recalculated at tax time in 2015.
Consumers are sure to have questions, but cannot expect much help from the tax agency, where officials said customer service had been curtailed because of budget cuts. The 2015 filing season could be the most difficult in decades, officials said. Ms. Olson said new paperwork resulting from the Affordable Care Act would probably exacerbate problems with customer service, which “has reached unacceptably low levels and is getting worse.”
Just when you think the worst administration in history can’t sink any lower… What a nightmare. If the GOP can’t make this an issue, then there is no hope for America. And you know they won’t.
Fearing outrage on the part of taxpayers who are flummoxed by the Obamacare tax rules, the Obama administration will once again seek to change the law to protect their political arses.
Up to 20 million taxpayers are already exempt from the Obamacare penalty for not carrying mandated health insurance. They include low-income taxpayers living in states that did not expand Medicaid and those with hardship exemptions like a death in the family or divorce.
But for the estimated 8 million taxpayers who are expected to be charged the penalty, there is no relief. These are the people who are likely to get an unwelcome communication from the IRS in the mail informing them that the penalty will be deducted from their refund or that they owe the IRS.
There are also expected to be 3-4.5 million taxpayers who owe the IRS for overpayment of subsidies. This explanation from Timothy Jost, health care expert, is the stuff of nightmares:
Timothy S. Jost, an expert on health law at the Washington and Lee University School of Law who supports the Affordable Care Act, said: “It will be very easy to find people who are unhappy with the new tax obligations — people who have to pay a penalty, who have to wait forever to get through to somebody at the I.R.S. or have to pay back a lot of money because of overpayments of premium tax credits.”
Taxpayers normally report income and compute taxes annually. But the health care law is different. Consumers may be subject to tax penalties for any month in which they had neither insurance coverage nor an exemption.
The calculations will be relatively simple if all members of a household had coverage for every month of 2014. They can simply check a box on their tax return. But lower-income people often have changes in employment, income and insurance. If any members of a household were uninsured in 2014, they must fill out a work sheet showing coverage month by month, and they may owe penalties.
To claim tax credits, consumers need to fill out I.R.S. Form 8962, which includes a matrix with 12 rows and six columns — a total of 72 boxes, to compute subsidies for each month of the year.
Federal officials have authorized more than 30 types of exemptions from the penalty for not having insurance. One is available to low-income people who live in states that did not expand Medicaid. Another is available to people who would have to pay premiums amounting to more than 8 percent of their household income. The government will also allow a variety of hardship exemptions and in most cases will require taxpayers to send in documents as evidence of hardship.
And getting that exemption to avoid paying the penalty will be no picnic either:
Health plans are classified in five categories, such as gold, silver and bronze, based on how comprehensive the coverage is. To calculate their tax credits, consumers need to know the cost of their own health insurance policies, but must also know the cost of a benchmark plan, the second-lowest-cost silver plan. To claim an exemption if the available coverage was unaffordable, they also need to know the premium for the lowest-cost bronze plan in the area in 2014.
The only way to fix this is to scrap all 20,000 pages of IRS Obamacare regulations and start over using someone who has to fill out their own tax forms to write new ones. What a godsend to the tax prep companies! Millions of people will be unable to figure out what they owe or if they owe money to the IRS, driving them into the warm embrace of H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and other tax preparation companies.
How can anyone defend this? The complexity, the unilateral and capricious changes to the law in order to avoid political blowback, and the simple unfairness to all Americans who are subjected to this nightmare — what will it take to get people so enraged at this law that they demand that most of it be scrapped and the rest radically altered?
I am reminded, after watching the excellent, but flawed mini-series Sons of Liberty this past week, of something Sam Adams once wrote:
If you love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.
Hey, krack kadres of GOP kampaign konsultants — you’re supposed to have this stuff nailed down before your Official Scion of the Bush Dynasty gets on the trail:
A gay couple have bought the web domain for JebBushForPresident.com and refuse to give it up, in a bid to raise awareness of issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the son of former President George Bush senior, last month said he was considering running for president.
In 2008, CJ Phillips and Charlie Rainwater from Portland, Oregon, who described themselves as high-tech, nerdy bears, bought the domain which Bush will likely need to run his campaign. Phillips told Business Insider the couple plan to blog about national and international legislation which affects the LGBT community.
Needless to say, Jeb’s views on the matter have become more “nuanced” over the past few decades, a windmill turning with the prevailing winds:
As Bush is a favourite to become Republican presidential candidate, its likely the pair will receive a fair few hits on their website. But he’s also an apt choice for the couple’s project, because of his previous views of LGBT people.
In 1994, Bush was staunchly opposed to gay rights, and argued that gay men and lesbians did not deserve special legal protection, and that “sodomy” should not be “elevated to the same constitutional status as race and religion.” This week, he said people should accept court rulings that legalise same-sex marriage and “show respect” for gay and lesbians in committed relationships, while reiterating his long-held belief that “marriage is a sacrament”, according to the Washington Post.
This family has been in our national politics at least since 1980, and unfortunately shows no signs of going away soon.
There was another green on blue attack in Afghanistan on Friday as a terrorist dressed in the uniform of the Afghan security forces gunned down three American civilian contractors and wounded one. The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that the gunman was “martyred by return fire.”
An open and shut case of terrorism committed against Americans? Not according to State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki:
The Obama administration continues to play verbal gymnastics by refusing to call the Taliban the terrorist organization it is, insisting it’s merely an “armed insurgency.”
And yet a 2002 executive order including the Taliban on a list of “specially designated global terrorists” is still in effect, Fox News reported.
After the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing three U.S. civilians Thursday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki shied away from calling their deaths the result of terrorism.
“Obviously, any attack that kills contractors, that kills individuals who are working there in harm’s way, is horrific and a tragedy, but I’m not going to put new labels on it today,” Psaki told CNS News.
It didn’t help the administration that the attack came one day after White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz insisted yet again that the Taliban is a not a terrorist group.
“I’m just not sure why you wouldn’t just say, ‘Of course, it’s a terrorist attack,’” Associated Press reporter Matt Lee told Psaki, according to CNS News.
“It’s an act of terror when American citizens are, individuals are killed, like contractors, absolutely,” she replied.
Can this dodge get any more painfully awkward?
As National Review points out, we are currently engaged in on-again, off-again peace talks with the Afghan Taliban — the “good” Taliban, as the administration coyly calls them. It just wouldn’t do for the US to be seen negotiating with terrorists. So we play a game of “pretend” and reject reality in favor of the semantic fig leaf of “armed insurgency.”
A serious question is who are we fooling with this nonsense? Certainly not the Taliban, who might not like being called “terrorists” but are smart enough to know our definition. They’re not fooling the Afghan government, who has to deal with these murderous thugs, and the aftermath of their suicide attacks that have killed hundreds. They’re not fooling the American people who know a terrorist when they see one.
It appears that the only ones being fooled by refusing to call a spade a spade and a terrorist a terrorist is the administration itself. If they can kid themselves into believing terrorists aren’t terrorists, they will believe anything, including the Muslim Brotherhood are “moderates,” Iran can bring stability to the Middle East, and Israel is an oppressor state.
Another example of our “smart” foreign policy in action.
With Mitt Romney out of the 2016 Republican presidential race, the left has switched targets and is now going full bore after the presumed front runner, Jeb Bush.
The line of attack hasn’t changed much since the 1950′s; the Republican frontrunner is always portrayed as stupid, or a hypocrite, or a rich dilettante, or unfit to be president in some other way. Every wart, every indiscretion — no matter how long ago it occurred — is resurrected in order to “explain” why a current candidate is too dangerous, or too unstable to occupy the highest office in the land.
Oppo research is one thing; all campaigns on both sides have extensive files on the opposition candidate. But in recent election cycles, we’ve seen a highly coordinated effort to define the Republican candidate early in the race by left wing pundits, publications, and columnists. First, it was the notorious “JournoList” email list that linked more than 150 liberal writers and politicos in efforts to smear the opposition and develop coherent themes and narratives to use in defense of their causes.
Today, “JournoList 2.0″ is apparently much smaller, more secretive, but apparently even more effective. Immediately following Mitt Romney’s withdrawal from the race, two articles appeared taking a bite out of Jeb Bush. First, from the Boston Globe, a profile of Jeb from his years at the exclusive boys boarding school, Phillips Academy in Andover, MA just outside of Boston:
“The first time I really got stoned was in Jeb’s room,” Tibbetts said. “He had a portable stereo with removable speakers. He put on Steppenwolf for me.” As the rock group’s signature song, Magic Carpet Ride, blared from the speakers, Tibbetts said he smoked hash with Bush. He said he once bought hashish from Bush but stressed, in a follow-up e-mail, “Please bear in mind that I was seeking the hash, it wasn’t as if he was a dealer; though he did suggest I take up cigarettes so that I could hold my hits better, after that 1st joint.”
Bush previously has acknowledged what he called his “stupid” and “wrong” use of marijuana. In the years since, he has opposed efforts to legalize marijuana for medicinal or recreational use.
Tibbetts, who was eventually forced to leave Andover in the spring of 1970 after school officials accused him of using drugs, said his one regret about his relationship with Bush is that he agreed to participate with him in the bullying of a student in the dormitory. Their target was a short classmate whom they taunted, and then sewed his pajama bottoms so that they were impossible to put on. The act was particularly embarrassing, said Tibbetts, who said he felt remorse for joining in with “kids being cruel.”
Bush said in the interview that he has no recollection of this or other bullying incidents raised by classmates. He said he never viewed himself as a bully. “I don’t believe that is true,” he said, referring to classmates’ recollections of specific incidents. “It was 44 years ago and it is not possible for me to remember.”
Bush, who would eventually grow to nearly 6-foot-4, stood out as one of the tallest boys on campus, which made him admired by some and feared by others, according to Gregg Hamilton, who was at Pemberton Cottage with Bush. To Hamilton, who would weigh 98 pounds on graduation day, Bush was initially not a friendly presence.
“Jeb Bush was large, physically imposing, and traveled in a crowd that was I guess somewhat threatening to an outsider like myself. I saw him as a cigarette smoker and ‘toker’ and someone that was comfortable being in charge of a group,” Hamilton said. “I was small physically, and small at an all-male boarding school [that], at that time, was a bit of a hostile environment for the kids — sort of a ‘Lord of the Flies’ situation, at least as I saw it.”
Jeb, the pot smoking, hash toking, big, bad, savage bully. Oh, and he was a stuck up rich boy too:
Sylvester said “the thing that really struck me about Jeb more than anyone I ever met, is he understood that he was from the world that really counted and the rest of us weren’t. It really was quite a waste of his time to engage us. This was kind of his family high school. There wasn’t anything he could do to be kicked out so he was relaxed about rules, doing the work. This was just his family’s place.”
Not to be outdone, Politico is running a hit piece that tells the Terry Schiavo drama through the eyes of her husband Michael. The tag line for the article is revealing: “Michael Schiavo knows as well as anyone what Jeb Bush can do with executive power. He thinks you ought to know too.”
Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.
For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.
“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”
For Michael Schiavo, though, the importance of the episode—Bush’s involvement from 2003 to 2005, and what it might mean now for his almost certain candidacy—is even more viscerally obvious.
“He should be ashamed,” he said. “And I think people really need to know what type of person he is. To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.”
The case showed he “will pursue whatever he thinks is right, virtually forever,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. “It’s a theme of Jeb’s governorship: He really pushed executive power to the limits.”
“If you want to understand Jeb Bush, he’s guided by principle over convenience,” said Dennis Baxley, a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives during Bush’s governorship and still. “He may be wrong about something, but he knows what he believes.”
And what he believed in this case, and what he did, said Miami’s Dan Gelber, a Democratic member of the state House during Bush’s governorship, “probably was more defining than I suspect Jeb would like.”
What follows is about 7,000 words of anti-Jeb copy that portrays him as a power hungry, vindictive man who would obviously be a danger to liberty if he were elected president. But a lot of Bush’s actions in the Schiavo case were taken because of the unprecedented interference of outside groups looking to either pull the plug on the comatose woman, or save her life. It was impossible for Bush to remain on the sidelines and, after taking the side of the parents who believed Terry Schiavo should not be starved to death, he was committed to use all the powers of his office to protect the helpless.
Even many conservatives believed Bush went too far. Indeed, the autopsy revealed that Terry Schiavo’s brain damage was so extensive, that there was never a chance she would recover. But to describe his actions as “grasping for power” is to wildly overstate the case. And Michael Schiavo, one of the least lovable characters in this drama who clearly had an interest in seeing his wife dead, is hardly the best subject to use to comment on the behavior of the Florida governor.
We can expect many more of these hit pieces as the left seeks to tear down a dangerous opponent.
Here’s the script for the “Scott Ott Thought” video above.
SCOTT OTT: I’m Scott Ott, and here’s a thought.
People often ask me, “Scott Ott how can anyone be miserable during the greatest era of health and opportunity that America has ever seen?”
Well, it really isn’t very difficult. In fact, I can teach you how in fewer than 5 minutes. Here are Scott Ott’s seven secrets for getting, and staying miserable in the midst of joy and plenty.
First, read the New York Times.
You know, many of the secrets of success — like diligence, hard work, and honesty — are necessary, but not sufficient, to produce prosperity.
However, to achieve misery, The New York Times, is, in fact, sufficient.
It’ll have you fondling a revolver within just a few paragraphs.
This kind of misery-inducing work doesn’t just flow from the facts and the news. It takes the efforts of hundreds of reporters and editors in order to look at the numbers in a way that makes you wonder whether that ceiling fan can support your full weight.
Number two, replace the word “description” with the word “destiny.”
You see The New York Times describes what’s happening in the economy — for example, the middle class is shrinking. But you’ll fail miserably at being miserable if you don’t manage to translate that news into a personal belief that you are destined to fall from the middle class into poverty.
If you’re already in poverty, the key to getting and remaining miserable in the midst of it is to believe that the middle class is now squeezed so tight that you can’t get in. Misery is your destiny.
Third, you must control your mental focus.
You know, it’s so easy to slip out of that misery-thinking and into the belief that the plenty that you see around you could be yours. Don’t do it, my friend. You’ll never achieve sustainable misery if you start believing that you could change your current circumstances.
If you find your mind wandering toward opportunity, or goal-setting, or even enjoying the situation that you’re currently in, you must take immediate action. First, read The New York Times.
Fourth, it’s important to believe that the way you perceive things to be now, is the way they really are, the way they’ve always been and always will be.
If you even start to think that there’s a sunny side of the street, it’s a slippery slope, my friend.
Next thing you know, you’ll start to fantasize that life could be better than it is now, and then you’ll start to plan for that better future life, and you know what that will lead to?
I guarantee you, it won’t smell like misery.
You run the very real risk of rushing headlong into opportunity. Then you just might find out that all your preparation has primed you for a time such as this. And then, how are you going to remain miserable?
Fifth, if you have a job, hate your job.
O, you don’t have to go out and get a terrible job. You can start right here, right now, by simply hating the job you already have.
It doesn’t matter how much money you make at that job — I know folks making minimum wage who hate their jobs, and I know people earning six figures who don’t like what they do. The content of the work is irrelevant.
I’ll admit that hating your job is difficult, because it’s an intentional decision, but you have to make it seem like a natural consequence of your birth.
Number six: Worry. [SING] “Don’t happy. Be worry.”
Worry is easy because there are only two things to worry about:
1) things you can change, and
2) things you can’t change.
You see, there are problems and there are facts of life. Problems can be fixed. Facts of life can’t be fixed but they can be worked around. But the secret to a worriful life is to see problems as facts of life, and facts of life as problems.
This will help you worry about the problems you might otherwise solve, and it will worry the quinoa out of you as you try to fix human nature.
Hey, did you notice: We’re not even done this course yet, and I bet already you’re beginning to feel a little miserable. Good for you.
Finally, number seven: Demand that government make you happy.
Whether it’s money, or health insurance, child care or child disposal, or the need to make something legal that was illegal when you did it — put your hopes in government and politicians.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican who wants smaller government, lower taxes and fewer Democrats, or a Democrat, who wants larger government, higher taxes on Republicans, and larger government.
Hoping that politicians and government will change the world in ways that make you happy is, perhaps, the most foolproof way to getting and staying miserable in the midst of joy and plenty.
According to a Honey Maid commercial, divorce is now “wholesome.”
“You know, I never thought I’d get divorced,” says a dad, as pictures of a smiling, blended family flit across the screen. “But the way I look at it, there are just more of us to love the kids now,” he says.
“This is who we are, as perfect as we’re supposed to be,” a woman adds.
The narrator joins in as two men are shown cooing over a baby: “No matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will. Honey Maid. This is wholesome.”
The description below the video of the ad on Honey Maid’s YouTube channel explains, “In our 2015 anthem spot we recognize wholesome modern day families of all types. Because no matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will.”
What is it that makes us wholesome? We’re not told, except for the claptrap about being “as perfect as we’re supposed to be,” whatever that means.
Researchers found children from divorced families were “significantly more likely to have behavioral, internalizing, social, and academic problems” when compared with children from continuously married families (at least twice that of children in continuously married families). Children from broken homes also had increased conduct disorders, antisocial behaviors, and problems with authority figures and parents.
Another study found that “between 18 and 25 percent of children have no contact with their fathers 2-3 years after divorce” and that “20-25 percent of children in divorced families, compared to 10 percent of children in non-divorced families, demonstrate severe emotional and behavioral problems.”
I’m not sure what Honey Maid’s angle is on this. Are they merely trying to sell graham crackers to divorced parents or are they trying to push a social agenda that undermines traditional marriage?
I suspect it’s both.
And while Honey Maid is celebrating adults who are focused on their own happiness and personal fulfillment, millions of kids are growing up in broken homes, missing their mom or their dad. There’s nothing “wholesome” in the deal for them.
Attkisson spoke on the topic of “Investigative Journalism and the Obama Administration” and was asked during the Q & A about Obama’s GloZell interview. “The president did an interview with an online blogger — a young woman with bright green lipstick,” an audience member said. “It was heralded by some as a new era of journalism. What do you think this administration’s target audiences are for their release of information?” he asked.
Attkisson said she doesn’t have a problem with Obama “doing that sort of thing.” But she said the administration has “perfected the idea of going around neutral news reporters who would ask critical questions.”
“My only problem would be if they do that instead of also being answerable to those who could ask the tough and probing and challenging questions and hold them accountable on behalf of the public,” she said. “And I think sometimes they do more of that social media and fun stuff and entertainment and celebrity stuff.”
She noted that the “fun stuff” does reach a certain audience “because that’s how some people get their news,” but said that the Obama administration is not asked critical questions on controversial topics during these interviews, which are not conducted by “informed interviewers.” Attkisson said, “Doing that instead of doing more of the other kind I see as a problem because I’m a traditional journalist. But I don’t have a problem with them doing that if they want to do it — in addition to.”
You can watch Attkisson’s speech in its entirety below:
An ad produced by the Department of Health and Human Services tells the story of Elena Miller-TerKuile, who is “pursuing her dream to farm” in Colorado thanks to Obamacare.
“The Marketplace is probably the only reason I have health insurance right now,” the Columbia University grad says in the ad. She said, “It’s been my dream for a while to come back to the farm and work with my dad.”
In a blog post at HHS Miller-TerKuile explains, “It was a hard dream to pursue without health insurance. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I was able to stay on my parents’ plan until I turned 26, but when I aged off the plan, I took a ‘town’ job that came with health benefits.”
Miller-TerKuile was previously employed as an advocate for healthcare in her position as a service learning coordinator at the San Luis Valley Health Project. The website says their mission is to teach youth to advocate “for increased access to health in their community.” In one activity promoted by the group, students play a board game that highlights all the benefits and none of the negative aspects of the ACA.
“Today, I’m proud to work alongside my family, as generations before me have done. Having health insurance has given me the freedom to decide what I want to do with my life. Why not find out where that freedom can take you?” Miller-TerKuile said in the HHS blog post.
“Emily,” another farmer featured in the ad, said that apprentices at the farm where she works in Hustontown, Pennsylvania, “are very well compensated” but her employers did not provide health insurance. “With the financial assistance I found the Silver-level plan with a $100 deductible.”
“Having the coverage I do allows me to do what I want to be doing, which is farming,” Emily says in the ad.
In 2012 House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) famously predicted that Americans soon would be hearing stories of “liberation” as people followed their dreams, free from worries about healthcare costs.
“This is what our founders had in mind–ever expanding opportunity for people,” Pelosi said at a Capitol Hill news conference in March of 2012.
“You want to be a photographer or a writer or a musician, whatever — an artist, you want to be self-employed, if you want to start a business, you want to change jobs, you no longer are prohibited from doing that because you can’t have access to health care, especially because you do not want to put your family at risk,” she said.
What the cheery “follow your dreams” ad doesn’t talk about (and what Pelosi doesn’t mention when she gushes about the “liberation” of the American worker) is that on the other end of all this dream business you find other hardworking taxpayers who are providing the “financial assistance” required for the Obamacare subsidies. Some other middle class family has to make do with less — driving a car with 100,000 miles, purchasing school clothes at the thrift store, skipping family vacations — so they can pay for Emily and Elena to follow their dreams of farming.
Even worse, those hardworking taxpayers on the other end of the “liberation” could become victims of the 30-hour work week or lose their jobs when their employers decide it’s too costly to pay for Obamacare’s health insurance mandates. Then those families will join the ranks of those “living the dream” on Medicaid. Just “what our founders had in mind,” according to Pelosi.
Considering that he has given our enemy Iran 80% of what they want in negotiations that were supposed to curtail their nuclear enrichment program, you bet I would. The guy is a pushover and if I played my cards right, I might end up walking off the lot with a free car.
According to Channel 10 in Israel, Israeli officials believe that the American president is so desperate for a deal, he will give away the store — and American and Israeli security — in his quest to “make history” with the Iranians.
Israeli officials told Channel 10 on Friday that they are convinced the Obama administration has already agreed to most of Iran’s demands in the P5+1 negotiations over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
According to unnamed officials, Washington “has given the Iranians 80 percent of what they want” out of the negotiations, Channel 10 is reporting.
Jerusalem officials appear alarmed at the prospect that the United States will soon strike a deal with the Iranian regime that will leave it with a “breakout capacity” of months during which it can gallop toward a nuclear bomb.
The practical significance of the American compromises in the talks is that Iran will be permitted to keep over 7,000 centrifuges, enough for the Iranians to produce enough enriched material to sprint toward the bomb within a matter of months.
These developments have apparently fueled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sense of urgency in traveling to Washington and addressing Congress in hopes of lobbying American lawmakers to pass tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Channel 10 reported that Netanyahu spoke to a number of Democratic lawmakers in Congress. The premier sought to assuage their concerns that the Israeli leader was using his speech before a joint session of the house in order to undermine Obama’s foreign policy.
Netanyahu’s scheduled speech sparked an uproar in Washington, with Democrats accusing House speaker John Boehner of inviting the premier to speak before Congress as a means of whipping up opposition to the Obama administration’s talks with Iran.
Sources in Jerusalem told Channel 10 that the prime minister views the Iranian nuclear issue as one of paramount importance for Israel’s security. The urgency of the matter – and not partisan politics – is what motivated Netanyahu to violate diplomatic protocol and accept the Republican leadership’s invitation to address the Congress on the need for more sanctions against Iran, Channel 10 quotes officials as saying.
After expressing due skepticism at the claim that the administration has tanked the negotiations and given the Iranians almost everything they want, we should look very closely at that 7,000 centrifuge number and understand exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu is so concerned about.
As a courtesy, the administration has been updating the Israeli government on certain aspects of the negotiations. This is not to give the Israelis a veto, but rather allow them a heads up if they feel they have to respond to a changed situation.
The centrifuge question is of critical importance because Iran is on the verge of modernizing those machines that separate the U-238 and create low enriched uranium. The modernization program is what most concerns Netanyahu.
This article therefore suggests that, during the next five years, Iran should modernize its enrichment facilities and in doing so, keep its operating capacity at about the current level rather than begin to operate the many thousands of first-generation machines that it already has installed and continue setting up more. During this period, Iran could phase out its first-generation machines in favor of the second-generation centrifuges it already has installed but has not yet operated. At the same time, it could develop, produce, and store components for a future generation of centrifuges that would be suitable for commercial-scale deployment. These later-generation centrifuges would not need to be assembled, except for test machines, until at least 2019.
To maintain the confidence of the international community that there will be no diversion of centrifuge components to a secret enrichment plant, the current transparency measures that Iran has undertaken for its centrifuge program would continue. These transparency measures should become the standard for transparency for centrifuge production worldwide.
Iran currently operates about 20,000 of these first generation centrifuges, which are relatively inefficient and unreliable. But the next generation machines would probably double the production capacity of their program — even with only 7,000 machines. As the Israelis point out, this would telescope the time frame for Iran to gear up to produce bomb grade uranium.
Netanyahu is hearing a lot of criticism from both US and Israeli officials for his planned speech to Congress in March. But perhaps he’s willing to sacrifice his standing because he knows instinctively that only a direct, emotional appeal to Israel’s friends in the US can avoid the catastrophic outcome of these one-sided negotiations.
The deadline has passed for the hostage exchange deal that would have seen a Jordanian air force pilot and Japanese hostage exchanged for an Iraqi female terrorist jailed in Jordan who Islamic State says they want freed.
The Jordanians have adopted a unique negotiating position — a position that puts the “hard” in “hard ball.”
Jordan has threatened to fast-track the execution of a would-be suicide bomber the Islamic State is trying to free if the terror group kills its captured pilot, it was reported today.
The government has apparently warned that Sajida al-Rishawi and other jailed ISIS commanders would be ‘quickly judged and sentenced’ in revenge for Muath al-Kaseasbeh’s death.
It comes after a deadline for a possible prisoner swap allegedly set by ISIS passed yesterday with no clue over the fate of al-Kaseasbeh or fellow Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.
Intelligence sources said ISIS’s refusal to prove that al-Kaseasbeh was alive meant any deal with the militants was doomed.
Now Jordan has reportedly stepped up its rhetoric by warning of its intent to retaliate if the negotiations end in bloodshed.
Elijah Magnier, chief international correspondent for Kuwait’s Al Rai newspaper, told MailOnline: ‘I have reliable contact in the Jordanian government who says a message has been passed to ISIS.
‘It warns that if they kill the pilot they will implement the death sentences for Sajida and other ISIS prisoners as soon as possible.
‘There are other prisoners in Jordan that ISIS would like to free.’
MailOnline has attempted to contact the Jordanian government for comment, but a spokesman has not yet responded.
Shortly after reports of the ultimatum emerged, Jordan issued a statement saying they were still waiting for proof that the captured F-16 pilot was still alive.
Jordan had agreed to an ISIS demand to free al-Rishawi who failed to fulfil her Al Qaeda mission as a suicide bomber.
In return, ISIS said it would not execute the 26-year-old pilot, who was seized in December after crashing near its HQ in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
In its latest audio recording, ISIS threatened to kill al-Kaseasbeh if a deadline was not kept for the release of al-Rishawi by dusk Iraq time yesterday – around 5.30pm (2.30pm GMT).
But it appeared to make no promises to release him, another condition the Jordanian government is demanding.
It was not clear from the recording what would happen to Mr Goto if the deadline was missed.
Jordan was correct in asking for proof of life before releasing a terrorist. But what about the threat to execute en masse IS terrorists if their pilot is, as expected, beheaded?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to see how a group that places such little value on human life caring about their comrades, who they have probably already given up for dead. Islamic State is dragging the situation out, getting maximum terror and maximum publicity for their miserable cause. If that cause can be served by asking for more concessions from Jordan or Japan, they will do it. If the cause can be served by making the Jordanian government appear to dance to their tune, they will continue to play the music.
But as soon as the hostages have no more value to them, they will make their gruesome execution video and laugh as the world is outraged at their barbarity once again.
Jordan may get emotional satisfaction in executing their IS prisoners. But as a negotiating strategy with Islamic State, nothing they do really matters.
The US Department of Defense is sponsoring an essay contest to honor the Saudi King. Here is mine:
It is sad that you died of natural causes. I had an appointment in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It was cancelled at the last minute. If only you could have been there in my place. How much you could have learned. Or perhaps you could have been a passenger in one of the planes that hit it. No doubt you would have had a first class seat, right at the front of the plane. After all, great men like you don’t sit with the college kids and nursing mothers in the back. What joy you would have had, seeing New York from the air, at closer range than any has ever had, or at least had since Solomon Andrews buzzed 5th Avenue in a gliding balloon in 1866. Then you could have been among the first to enter the building, and gone out in a flash as you experienced the true glory of the cult you had done so much to promote.
Just think, if you had been on that plane, you might have displaced a standby passenger, who did not deserve to be on it, as you so richly did.
But I understand that you may have had other engagements. Perhaps you were at home, whipping one of your approximately 35 wives (your laws prescribe a limit of 4, but laws, like terrorist suicide bombings and beheadings, are for the little people). Or perhaps you were in Kabul, in the soccer stadium, honoring the crowd, as you shared the joy of the event as together you cheered the sequential execution of terrified women, heads blown out from behind, one after the other, for the crime of teaching girls to read. Clearly you had a right to be there, as it was you that paid for the education of the fans.
And now you have gone to the other world, where we are all equal. I appreciate the indignity you must be suffering as a result. There you are, together with the women in the stadium, the economy class passengers, the secretaries and mail room boys dispatched from their 84th story offices, and the NYPD cops who died trying to rescue them. None of these people appreciate you, at least not the way your would-be peers from around the world, weeping sincerely at the side of your casket evidently do.
Perhaps you can take up the matter with the King. I’m sure he will set things right.
“American Sniper” has overtaken “Saving Private Ryan” as the top domestic grossing war movie of all time. The Clint Eastwood drama starring Bradley Cooper has so far earned $217.1 million at the U.S. box office, surpassing Spielberg’s film, which earned $216.5 million in 1998.
The Eastwood drama added 180 theaters in its third week of release, with “Sniper” now playing in 3,885 theaters. It overtook “Saving Private Ryan” on Thursday, and is on track to earn another $35 million to finish No. 1 at the box office for the third week in a row.
This should cause some in-between-sandwiches weeping and gnashing of teeth at Michael Moore’s house.
After complaining for a couple of weeks that “Sniper” glorifies war and seeing it become even more popular, the leftmedia hit the bandwagon has spent the last few days trying to claim that it is in fact an anti-war movie.
Sadly, the whining from the people who were never going to like the film will probably have an effect on its Academy Awards chances.
How exactly does a 1911 work? To fully answer that question, one used to have to get a set of punches, a hammer, a set of gunsmithing screwdrivers, a parts list, a 1911 of course, and a couple of hours of time. However, animation takes this one step further, and Jacob O’Neal has created one of the most thorough pieces of gun-related informative animation I’ve yet seen.
At today’s press briefing, Earnest said the following regarding Israel’s announced building of additional housing units in the West Bank. Note that Earnest is not speaking off the cuff, but is reading from a prepared statement:
Our position is that we believe that settlements are illegitimate and counterproductive to achieving a two-state outcome. We have deep concern about these highly contentious settlement construction announcements. They will have detrimental impacts on the ground, inflame already heightened tensions with the Palestinians, and further isolate the Israelis internationally. The United States, as a close ally of Israel, uses our diplomatic influence around the globe to try to build support for Israel, and an announcement like this only serves to further isolate them. I can tell you that issuing tenders like this does nothing to bolster Israel’s security, does not increase its prosperity, and it does not further the cause for peace. In fact it does precisely the opposite.
Recall, the White House just sent a huge contingent to Saudi Arabia to honor the achievements of the deceased King, a remarkably accomplished human rights violator. He was honored, not rebuked for his atrocious treatment of women and of anyone else not Muslim. Israel is being rebuked by the White House for building homes.
If the settlements — in their entirety and not just in their expansion, as Earnest clearly states — are “illegitimate,” than the White House’s official position is that the West Bank is to be Judenrein.