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The Fall of Atlantic City

In the next two weeks, 3 of Atlantic City’s premier casinos will close with the loss of nearly 8,000 jobs — a quarter of the city’s entire casino workforce.

The loss of The Revel, The Showboat, and Trump Towers Casinos follows the closing of The Atlantic Club earlier this year. That makes 4 of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos going out of business in less than a year.

The Christian Science Monitor explains what happened:

New casinos popping up in an already saturated Northeastern U.S. gambling market aren’t expanding the overall pie but are slicing it into ever-smaller pieces. Fewer casinos could mean better financial performance for the survivors.

Resorts Casino Hotel, which was on the verge of closing a few years ago, completed a remarkable turnaround in the second quarter of this year, swinging from a $1.3 million loss last year to a $1.9 million profit this year.

“I truly believe that eight remaining casinos can all do very well when the gambling market is right-sized,” said Resorts president Mark Giannantonio.

That may be true, but it is little comfort to workers who are losing their jobs. By the time Trump Plaza shuts down in two weeks, nearly 8,000 jobs — or a quarter of Atlantic City’s casino workforce — will be unemployed. A mass unemployment filing due to begin Wednesday is so large it has been booked into the city’s convention center.

When casino gambling was approved by New Jersey voters in 1976, it was billed as a way to revitalize Atlantic City and provide stable, lasting jobs. The first casino, Resorts, opened in 1978, kicking off three decades of soaring revenue and employment.

But the Great Recession hit just as new casinos were popping up in neighboring Pennsylvania and New York, cutting deeply into Atlantic City’s customer base.

“There was a promise when casinos came in here that these would be good, viable jobs, something you could raise your family on and have a decent life with,” said Paul Smith, a cook at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. “I feel so bad for all these people losing their jobs. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

It’s not just Atlantic City casinos that are taking a hit. Nevada casinos have lost money for 5 straight years as states across the US approve various kinds of gambling venues. Slot parlors, off track betting, video poker houses, and online gambling give players plenty of options to gamble besides casinos. Indian nations are long time players in the gaming industry and many are also reporting declining revenue.

States see gambling as a mostly painless way to part their citizens from their hard earned cash. But the social costs of gambling addiction are an expensive consequence of legalizing casino gaming. And if you look at gambling as something of a tax, it is a regressive revenue raiser. The poor are far more likely to become compulsive gamblers, and lose a larger percentage of their income than the middle or upper classes.

But few states are even contemplating giving it up. There’s a ballot measure in Massachusetts this November that would repeal the 2011 law that legalized casino gaming before a single casino opens.

New York Times:

With the casino industry showing signs of retrenchment, voters in Massachusetts may do something that voters nowhere else have done, at least in the last century: slam on the brakes on casino gambling.

Massachusetts was one of the last states to climb aboard the casino craze, approving legislation in 2011 to allow three casinos and a slots parlor. Now it may be the first to reverse itself, with voters deciding in November whether to repeal the law before a single casino has been built.

The stage is set for a multimillion-dollar campaign pitting the casino industry and its allies in organized labor against a coalition of grass-roots activists, religious leaders and mom-and-pop businesses. The two sides have already squared off in several town-by-town referendums across much of Massachusetts over the last year, fighting each other to a near draw. Now they are laying the groundwork for an all-out, statewide donnybrook that will burst into public view in September in television ads and on doorsteps as both sides try to secure support, house by house.

Atlantic City’s problems are twofold: a) Two dozen casinos have opened in the densely populated northeast in the last few years; and b) the recession has made all but the wealthiest customers cut back on their casino visits.

Philly.com:

“This is a massive economic body blow to Atlantic City on par with the hit to the national economy during the Great Recession,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester.

Beyond the thousands of job losses, which will spread into related industries and the general economy, Atlantic City will soon be left with four empty buildings (including the shuttered Atlantic Club) that have no clear future.

“What we’ve got in Atlantic City is unprecedented. It hasn’t happened before in this type of context, where they are going to shutter them up and literally can’t give them away for pennies on the dollar, like Revel,” said Alan Silver, a former casino-industry executive who teaches at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

Silver and other casino-industry experts said there was little precedent for reusing casinos for anything other than hotels.

David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, could point to only one former casino in the United States – the Golden Phoenix in Reno – which was turned into condominiums.

In addition to condominiums and time-shares, experts are quick to mention boutique hotels, which have become increasingly popular in Las Vegas and other cities.

“It’s nice to do all these things, but you’ve got to have supply and demand and you’ve got to have the various attractions there to get people to come to Atlantic City,” Silver said.

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, who has adopted a salesman-in-chief attitude since taking office in January, spoke optimistically last week of openings expected next year, including a Bass Pro Shops location and Harrah’s Conference Center, that could create 1,300 jobs in the city.

Guardian expressed confidence Friday that Revel would be resurrected as a casino under a new name, projecting that it would sell for $25 million to $50 million. That would also reduce the job losses.

“At $50 million, it’s certainly a bargain-basement price for a brand-new facility. It’s finding the right buyer, meaning having the financial wherewithal, and then that buyer finding the right brand to come in and run it,” he said.

Fitch Ratings estimated Friday that $280 million of the $457 million gamblers lost during the last 12 months at the casinos that are closing would be captured by the survivors. That will help boost profits, and perhaps add some jobs at those properties.

The hope that the casinos would revitalize Atlantic City as a playground was always misplaced. While the hotel towers gleamed in the sunlight, much of the rest of the city remained a grimy, crime-ridden mess. The fact is, there are only so many dollars available for casinos to take. And with so many options available to the gambling consumer, Atlantic City no longer holds the attention — or loyalty — of tri-state residents.

Posted at 11:15 am on August 31st, 2014 by

U.S. Air Strikes Help Break Siege of Amirli

Iraqi army units, supported by Shiite militiamen, broke the six-week Islamic State siege of the town of Amirli on Sunday with the help of U.S. airstrikes.

The town is home to 20,000 ethnic Turkmen who IS had targeted for destruction. Cut off from food, medicine, water, and ammunition, the townspeople fought off Islamic State forces who had surrounded the town in July.

USA Today:

Iraqi forces entered the town Sunday, Army spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said, adding the military suffered “some casualties.” He said fighting was still ongoing in surrounding villages.

“We thank God for this victory over terrorists,” Nihad al-Bayati, who had taken up arms with fellow residents to defend the town, told The Associated Press by phone from the outskirts of Amirli. “The people of Amirli are very happy to see that their ordeal is over and that the terrorists are being defeated by Iraqi forces. It is a great day in our life.”

The community, located about 105 miles north of Baghdad, initially came under siege in June, but 15,000 Shiite Turkmen were able to hold off militants, who eventually surrounded the village in mid-July.

“Today is a day of victory for Iraq and the resilient people of Amirli,” retired Gen. Khaled al-Amerli, an Amerli resident and member of its self-defense force, told CNN.

Turkmen lawmaker Fawzi Akram al-Tarzi said the military was disturbing aid to residents of Amirli, which is home to the Turkmen, an ethnic minority.

The news comes after U.S. warplanes conducted a fresh round of airstrikes and emergency aid drops in Amirli, the Pentagon announced late Saturday night. The operation was similar to the one mounted at Mount Sinjar, not far away in northern Iraq, to help save Yazidis, a religious minority that militants had also besieged.

“These military operations were conducted under authorization from the commander-in-chief to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and to prevent an (IS) attack on the civilians of Amirli,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement. “The operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli.”

It’s becoming clear that no matter if it’s the Peshmerga or Iraqi troops, U.S. air power closely coordinated with ground assaults is an irresistible force. Our air force is making the Iraqi army look competent.

But the Amirli operation brings into focus something that should be on the minds of both military and civilian leaders in Washington.

We can’t save everybody.

We could save everybody if we radically expanded the mission. But we’re not going to do that. The humanitarian crisis that’s sweeping across the Levant is the worst in a century. There are more than 3 million external refugees in Syria with another 3 million internally displaced. There are a million more people on the move in Iraq. The world hasn’t even begun to address the basic needs of these people and we are likely to see a catastrophe if the nations don’t get their act together and supply the refugees with food, clean water, medicine, and decent shelter.

The Yazidi and Amirli operations were carried out because they had become hot stories in the news — humanitarian crises which the U.S. felt compelled to respond to. The Mosul Dam was retaken for the same reason, although the thought of IS blowing it up and killing half a million people was also considered.

But there have to be dozens of towns and villages that are suffering a similar fate as Amirli, and the sad truth is, unless we want to jump back into Iraq with both feet, those unfortunate people will be left to their own devices.

No doubt we will be hearing of another tragedy in the making in the next few days. And once again, U.S. fighter jets will plow the way clear for Iraqi forces to relieve the crisis. But unless an overall strategy emerges to roll back IS forces in Iraq and Syria, this piecemeal approach — which looks good in the media — will only serve to delay the time of reckoning when the Iraqi army must take control of the destiny of their country and confront Islamic State forces wherever they are.

Posted at 6:58 am on August 31st, 2014 by

Ted Cruz Hints at What His Presidential Campaign Might Look Like

In a wide-ranging press conference immediately following his enthusiastically received speech at Americans for Prosperity’s “Defending the American Dream” conference in Dallas on Saturday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz hinted at what his path to victory might look like should he decide to run for president. Cruz, who has thus far evaded questions about his intentions to seek the Republican nomination, has recently made non-committal statements like “time will tell,” but on Saturday he offered his vision of a Republican path to victory.

Cruz was asked by a reporter at the press conference whether he had any plans to travel to Scranton, since “every successful candidate who’s run for president since FDR has gone through Scranton, Pennsylvania.”

Cruz said that he has never been to Scranton, but took the opportunity to explain how he won his Senate race in Texas and what he thinks Republicans need to do to win the presidency in 2016.

Cruz said that he is a big believer in examining data and metrics. “For those of y’all from Texas, you’ll remember the Senate race we had here.” He said, “It was a $50 million primary where we were outspent 3-1. We had $35 million in attack ads run against us. When you’re being outspent 3-1 you have to run a very data-driven, metric-driven campaign because every dollar you spend, you’ve got to get 3x bang for the buck. You can’t afford to waste a penny.” Sean Theriault, a University of Texas at Austin political scientist, called Cruz “the Barack Obama of 2012,” for his extraordinary success using data and social media in his underdog win over David Dewhurst in the Republican primary. “It is a great case study of using these tools in politics,” Theriault said.

Cruz conceded that the demographic difference between Republicans and Democrats is significant and said Republicans need to do much better in the minority community. “I was proud here in Texas to do much, much better in the Hispanic community than Mitt Romney did.” But he said the biggest difference is not the demographic shift. “The biggest difference is the millions of conservatives who showed up and voted in 2004 that stayed home in 2008 and 2012. And they fall largely into two categories,” said Cruz. “Number one, evangelical Christians — millions of believers who showed up in ‘04 who didn’t show up in ‘08 and ‘12. And number two, going back to your question [about Scranton], the so-called Reagan Democrats.”

Cruz said the Reagan Democrats up and down the Rust Belt (many of them ethnic Catholics) “tend to be blue collar, union members, gun owners, strong national defense.” According to Cruz, Pennsylvania is right in the heart of Reagan Democrat territory and they showed up to vote in 2004 but stayed home in the next two elections. “If you look in the last 50 years, there is only one Republican who has a group of Democrats named after him: Reagan Democrats. If the Washington consultants were right — that the way you bring people out is moving to the mushy middle, standing for nothing, blurring your distinction with the Democrats — then you’d see all sorts of Democrats named after some of the losing Republican nominees,” Cruz said in an obvious reference to Mitt Romney and John McCain.

In outlining a Republican strategy for victory in the 2016 presidential race, Cruz draws a sharp contrast to Rand Paul, who is courting minorities and young people as he travels the country, testing the waters for a presidential run. Potential contenders Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan have also focused on growing the party by attracting minorities. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could potentially attract Reagan Democrats but has a frigid relationship with the most conservative wing of the party. Texas Governor Rick Perry would likely appeal to a voting bloc similar to Cruz’s. Perry has strong connections to the evangelical community and his success as a job creator in Texas could potentially resonate with the Reagan Democrats Cruz says Republicans need to recapture.

Cruz went on to explain Reagan’s appeal to Democrats. “President Reagan drew a line in the sand. He didn’t say, ‘I’m just like Jimmy Carter,’ he said, ‘This race is about a fundamental choice and president Carter and I have fundamentally different visions for this country.’”

Watch the video on the next page.

Posted at 8:19 pm on August 30th, 2014 by

Notorious Anti-Semitic British MP Attacked on London Street

I know we should be empathetic about British MP George Galloway being assaulted on a London street.

But I hope you’ll forgive me if I reserve my sympathy for those who deserve it — like Israeli civilians who live under constant threat of attack from Hamas rockets and terrorists.

Galloway is a nauseating anti-Semite who once told Saddam Hussein during a speech he gave in Iraq, “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.” He blamed British policy for the 7/7 terrorist attack that killed 52 Britons. He said a suicide attack on then Prime Minister Tony Blair without any other casualties would be “morally justified.” He says that gays and lesbians are not at risk for execution in Iran, “only rapists.” Several more knowledgeable commentators sharply corrected him.

More recently, he walked out of a debate over Israeli policy sponsored by Oxford University because his debate opponent was an Israeli citizen. His explanation:“I don’t recognize Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis.” Even the BDS committee he represents condemned his action.

Yes, we should condemn the attack and the attacker. No matter how vile this man is, no one in a decent society deserves to be beaten up for their political views.

Nor is it proper to say that Galloway brought the attack on himself, even though he declared the North England city he represents an “Israeli-free zone.”

A man has been charged with a religiously-motivated “assault by beating” on British MP George Galloway, police said on Saturday.

Galloway, who recently declared the northern English city he represents an “Israel-free zone”, was attacked on a west London street on Friday night.

Police said Neil Masterson, 39, had been charged with “assault by beating which is religiously aggravated” and would appear in court on Monday.

“It is thought that the attack is connected to Mr Galloway’s support for the Palestinian cause,” his Respect Party said in a statement.

The outspoken Scot, dubbed “Gorgeous George” by the British media, recently made headlines when he declared Bradford to be an Israel-free zone and urged people to reject all Israeli goods, services and tourists.

A Respect spokesman said the incident appeared to be connected with Israel because the attacker had been shouting something about the Holocaust.

Some western  supporters of Hamas and the Palestinians may be sincere when they claim to be anti-Zionists or anti-Israel rather than anti-Semitic. Given Galloway’s appalling record and statements, I don’t see how you can make that claim about him.

Case in point: his statement about making Bradford an “Israeli-free” zone:

We have declared Bradford an Israel-free zone. We don’t want any Israeli goods, we don’t want any Israeli services, we don’t want any Israeli academics coming to the university or the college, we don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford.

His words call to mind the spirit of Nuremberg and the decrees against Jews in Nazi Germany.

Galloway has been released from the hospital, and we should wish him a speedy recovery. We should then destroy him the democratic way: find a good candidate to run against him and bash his brains in at the polls. He’s a disgrace to Great Britain and to decent people everywhere.

Posted at 3:04 pm on August 30th, 2014 by

Florida Reports Huge Drop in Obamacare Enrollment

You will note that after the White House announcement — and victory dance — regarding the 8 million people who signed up for insurance on the Obamacare exchanges, we haven’t heard much from the administration to update us on enrollment numbers.

Could it be that consumers are dropping their Obamacare insurance policies like they had the plague?

Daily Caller:

Florida’s Obamacare enrollment is now over 220,000 lower than the Obama administration’s most recent tally, according to a report from the state insurance department.

The Obama administration hasn’t released updated Obamacare enrollment statistics since May, when the Department of Health and Human Services put the number of Florida sign-ups at 983,775 — but the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation says that now, just 762,723 Floridians have health insurance through the exchange.

The state insurance department issued a report this week including updated exchange enrollment, based on rate filings from state health insurers. By June 2014, the number of Obamacare enrollees in Florida was almost a quarter lower than the Obama administration’s sign-up numbers just one month before.

Insurance department spokesman Harvey Bennett told the South Florida Business Journal that the enrollment numbers are lower than the Obama administrations because some sign-ups never paid their first premiums and others may have dropped out afterwards. A portion of the federal tally could also have been duplicate enrollments, Bennett said.

The 220,000-plus drop in one state is one of the first updates on Obamacare statistics and could have serious national implications. The Obama administration trumpeted an Obamacare victory with 8 million sign-ups, but if other states are undergoing similar enrollment drops the real number of Americans who have bought coverage could be much lower.

Not surprisingly, Republicans are intensely curious about those updated numbers. Where are they? Just this week, two GOP Senators asked HHS Secretary Marilyn Tavenner to release updated enrollee numbers, including those who have cancelled.

That should make for interesting reading.

What we do know is that Aetna, the nation’s third largest insurance company, reported a drop of more than 220,000 insureds — from 720,000 to less than 600,000 according to IDB:

That would leave Aetna’s paid enrollment down as much as 30% from that May sign-up tally.

“I think we will see some attrition … We’re already seeing it. And we expect that to continue through the end of the year,” CEO Mark Bertolini said in a July 29 conference call.

It’s not clear how representative Aetna’s experience is of broader exchange trends, or whether its projection may be too conservative. (If it were representative, a similar 30% decline would drop ObamaCare enrollment to 6 million or less.)

Still, as one of ObamaCare’s largest players, participating in exchanges in 16 states plus D.C., Aetna’s experience provides a pretty good window into what is happening across the country, and there are other indications that enrollment has turned down.

Attrition is to be expected in any normal year, but 30%? That sounds excessive, which could mean other factors are the cause. How many people cancelled their insurance because they didn’t realize what they were buying? Perhaps many consumers found better deals off the exchanges. Whatever the reason, Obamacare is not out of the woods yet, and gloating liberals should keep in mind that much of Obamacare hasn’t even been implemented yet — the result of unilateral, and possibly illegal delays made by the president.

How many workers will have their hours cut to part-time so employers don’t have to pay for their health insurance? How many workers will have their insurance eliminated? How many will be forced to pay more where the employer shares the costs of premiums?

We won’t have any of these questions answered until next year when the employer mandate begins to go into effect. Sooner than that, we will discover how much current Obamacare premiums are going to rise. Indications are that some states will hold the line on increases, but others will see their insurance costs skyrocket.

All of this will happen after the election — just as President Obama planned it. Already, it appears that Obamacare as a campaign issue has lost some of its bite. But because of the delays and other issues — experts are predicting chaos at tax time next year — Obamacare promises to remain near the top as matters of concern to the voter.

 

Posted at 1:06 pm on August 30th, 2014 by

Why War in Europe is Not an Hysterical Idea

Russian troops are advancing in eastern Ukraine. Threats have been made against Baltic countries. Putin seems to be reassembling the old Soviet Union in slow motion. And, as Anne Applebaum reports in the Washington Post, a new country is being openly discussed — and created — in Russia. The new nation, known as Novorossiya, is the “scariest dog whistle of the Ukraine crisis” according to Max Fisher of Vox:

The word literally means “new Russia” — it was an old, imperial-era term for southern Ukraine, when it was part of the Russian Empire, and is now a term used by Russia ultra-nationalists who want to re-conquer the area.

Putin has used the word twice during the crisis. First, he used it in April, about a month after Russia had invaded and annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, subtly suggesting that the annexation was justified because Crimea was in Novorossiya and thus inherently part of Russia.

He used it again on Thursday, in an official presidential statement addressed to the eastern Ukrainian rebels that have seized parts of the country — and whom he addressed as “the militia of Novorossiya.”

Along with other “dog whistles,” Applebaum wonders if there is a real possibility of a general war in Eastern Europe:

Russian soldiers will have to create this state — how many of them depends upon how hard Ukraine fights, and who helps them — but eventually Russia will need more than soldiers to hold this territory. Novorossiya will not be stable as long as it is inhabited by Ukrainians who want it to stay Ukrainian. There is a familiar solution to this, too. A few days ago, Alexander Dugin, an extreme nationalist whose views have helped shape those of the Russian president, issued an extraordinary statement. “Ukraine must be cleansed of idiots,” he wrote — and then called for the “genocide” of the “race of bastards.”

But Novorossiya will also be hard to sustain if it has opponents in the West. Possible solutions to that problem are also under discussion. Not long ago, Vladimir Zhirinovsky — the Russian member of parliament and court jester who sometimes says things that those in power cannot — argued on television that Russia should use nuclear weapons to bomb Poland and the Baltic countries — “dwarf states,” he called them — and show the West who really holds power in Europe: “Nothing threatens America, it’s far away. But Eastern European countries will place themselves under the threat of total annihilation,” he declared. Vladimir Putin indulges these comments: Zhirinovsky’s statements are not official policy, the Russian president says, but he always “gets the party going.”

A far more serious person, the dissident Russian analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, has recently published an article arguing, along lines that echo Zhirinovsky’s threats, that Putin really is weighing the possibility of limited nuclear strikes — perhaps against one of the Baltic capitals, perhaps a Polish city — to prove that NATO is a hollow, meaningless entity that won’t dare strike back for fear of a greater catastrophe. Indeed, in military exercises in 2009 and 2013, the Russian army openly “practiced” a nuclear attack on Warsaw.

Would NATO risk a general nuclear war if Putin was crazy enough to nuke Warsaw? Of course not.  If NATO countries are not going to exert themselves by fighting for Ukraine — through which travels much of their natural gas supply –they are less likely to go to war to save Poland, or any Baltic country. Putin has read the strategic situation correctly, if, indeed, Piontkovsky has read him correctly.

Or has he?

The use of a nuclear weapon would change the game dramatically. It might not precipitate a nuclear exchange, but it would certainly necessitate a rush of men and material to eastern Europe by the US and NATO. Red lines would be drawn and the region would become a tinderbox. Unless Putin has gone totally insane, it’s hard to see him wishing for this situation — especially since he could probably achieve the same ends by being patient and moving slowly enough that he doesn’t provoke the west into responding, as he is doing in Ukraine.

I agree with Applebaum that war in eastern Europe is not an impossibility. But it is also still extremely unlikely. Only blunders comparable to those made 100 years ago in Europe could lead to war.

The fact that it’s happened before should remain uppermost in the minds of American and European policy makers as events continue to unfold in “Novorossiya.”

Posted at 9:55 am on August 30th, 2014 by

Obama: Social Media’s Fault Americans Think the World Is ‘Falling Apart’

Silly Americans. Listen to your president.

Russia invading Ukraine? Barbarity arising in the Levant? More slaughter in South Sudan? Iran on the verge of possessing the ultimate deterrent to making fun of the prophet? Our southern border a sieve? Boko Haram? Civil War in the Congo? China threatening war with its neighbors?

Things are not as bad as all that, says our semi-retired president.

The Hill reports:

President Obama on Friday said social media and the nightly news are partly to blame for the sense that “the world is falling apart.”

“I can see why a lot of folks are troubled,” Obama told a group of donors gathered at a Democratic National Committee barbecue in Purchase, N.Y.

But the president said that current foreign policy crises across the world are not comparable to the challenges the U.S. faced during the Cold War.

Acknowledging “the barbarity” of Islamist militants and Russia “reasserting the notion that might means right,” Obama, though, dismissed the notion that he was facing unprecedented challenges.

“The world’s always been messy … we’re just noticing now in part because of social media,” he said, according to a White House pool report.

Hear that, you twitterers? You’ve already ruined our president’s vacation. Now you want to go and scare people half to death by reporting on events around the world? Shame on you!

If you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart,” said Obama.

The president acknowledged that conflicts in the Middle East posed difficulties, “but it’s been challenging for quite a while,” he said.

“We will get through these challenging times just like we have in the past,” Obama added.

The president, looking to strike a reassuring tone, argued that American military superiority has never been greater and that the U.S. still held advantages over potential international rivals like China.

Obama appears to be channeling another Pollyanna — Kevin Bacon from Animal House

Posted at 7:25 am on August 30th, 2014 by

Rotherham: A Quintessentially Liberal Scandal

Imagine that in some Middle Eastern or African country 1,400 girls, some as young as 11, are abducted, gang-raped, beaten, threatened with death and trafficked by a Muslim gang. Some are doused with petrol, and threatened with being burned to death if they try to escape or tell anyone about their ordeal. They have been targeted because they are members of a different ethnic or religious group.

You don’t have to imagine the outcry that would ensue, because something similar to what I describe above (with the possible exception of the petrol dousing) happened only recently, when hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped by the Islamist Boko Haram group in Nigeria. The international outrage was unanimous, and when the Nigerian authorities appealed for help the response was swift, with President Obama sending troops and drones to hunt for the girls; meanwhile his wife and various celebrities lent their support to a facile and self-indulgent social media campaign to “Bring Back Our Girls.”

In the last few days we’ve learned that something of only a slightly lesser order of magnitude happened not in Africa but in Rotherham, a former steel and mill town in the north of England. The abuse continued for 16 years, and the perpetrators were not some elusive and heavily armed terrorist group who threatened to kill their victims at the first sign of a rescue attempt, but ordinary members of the local Muslim community.

Ending the girls’ ordeal should have been a relatively simple and risk-free matter. But not only did the authorities fail to stop the abuse and prosecute the offenders, they didn’t even try. They ignored pleas for help from the young victims and their families, and covered up their failure to act; and for good measure they arrested some of the victims and their families when they sought help.

Other than the starkly different locations and the fact that Boko Haram is a recognized terrorist group, the notable difference between the two episodes is that the Nigerian schoolgirls were black, and the Rotherham abuse victims were white.

The horrific details of the Rotherham “grooming” scandal were laid out in a report published by Professor Alexis Jay, a former senior social worker. Professor Jay wrote: “It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated.”

Just five men have been jailed for abusing girls in Rotherham; police are currently dealing with 32 investigations into child sexual exploitation in the town.

Rotherham isn’t the UK’s first “grooming” scandal. I wrote about the first major instance to come to light, in Rochdale, around 30 miles from Rotherham, in 2012, and there have been several other cases, predominantly in deprived areas of northern towns where working class whites and immigrants live in close proximity. Rotherham is the most extensive case to emerge, but it’s thought the problem is even more widespread, with perhaps thousands more girls being abused by predominantly Muslim men of Pakistani extraction across Britain.

The main elements are the same in every case. The victims are vulnerable young white girls from poor backgrounds, and their assailants target them because they view them as worthless and immoral, and, in the words of former Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw, “easy meat“ (Straw was vilified by many on the left for speaking out about the extent of “grooming”).

In every case the same explanation for official inaction is offered: no one wanted to look too closely into complaints against “Asian” men because they were afraid of being accused of racism, and because they were concerned about the effect of arrests and prosecutions on “community cohesion.” The fact that most media reports still describe the offenders as “Asian” rather than as Pakistani Muslims is itself a disgraceful evasion, and one which the north of England’s Chinese, Hindu and Sikh communities no doubt resent.

The report, published by Professor Jay, a former senior social worker, says staff at Rotherham Council “described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.”

This isn’t just a problem with political correctness or multiculturalism. It’s a failure of every component of the modern bureaucratic state, and every element of modern liberalism, from an education system that fails many poor youngsters and a welfare state that traps its dependents in poverty (both of which systems the current Conservative-led government are slowly reforming), to inertia and unaccountability of public sector bureaucracies, and the dynastic and often corrupt culture of the “Old Labour” political machines that dominate the UK’s northern cities.

One of the many disturbing aspects of the Rotherham scandal is that virtually no one has been held to account for the multiple failings that allowed the abuse to continue for so long. Many of those responsible have simply disappeared into the public sector morass, with some moving to other councils and some still involved in child “protection,” where they will continue to pull down their six-figure salaries before retiring on six-figure pensions.

The poster boy for these shameless public servants is Shaun Wright, a former Labour councillor who was responsible for children’s services in Rotherham between 2005 and 2010, when hundreds of children were being abused. He resigned from the council, only to continue failing the victims in his new post as police and crime commissioner. Wright has so far refused to resign from that position, insisting that he is “part of the solution.”

Posted at 5:22 am on August 30th, 2014 by

Former High School Basketball Player Sues in Federal Court After Being Cut From Team

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A former Ohio high school basketball player is suing his high school, the athletic director, the school’s principal, and his former basketball coach, alleging they violated his First Amendment right of free speech and his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, resulting in a “loss of liberty” when he was cut from the team.

The suit was originally filed in Medina County Common Pleas Court  [read the complaint here] by Chase Johanson, who graduated from the school  in 2013 and is currently on the track team at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The case was transferred to the U.S. District Court Aug. 27 at the request of the defendants, who said the lawsuit belongs in federal court because the claims involve constitutional issues.

Johanson, who says in an online profile that he was a 6′ 7″ power forward for Medina High School and “my father played basketball at the University of Tennessee,” claims the problems at the school began in December of 2010 during his sophomore year when there was a conflict between a school-sponsored musical performance (in which Johanson participated) and a basketball game. “Following the code of conduct for the school, when such a conflict arises, there was an agreement that he could participate in the musical performance with no clarification of penalty,” the complaint explains.

But Johanson claims that he was forced to sit on the bench for half of the next basketball game as a result of his choosing to attend the musical performance, which ultimately led to two years of conflicts and meetings between Johanson, his mother, the athletic staff, and school administrators. Coaches claim that Johanson’s lackluster athletic performance and bad attitude didn’t warrant being rewarded with much playing time, while Johanson and his mother say that he was being unfairly targeted and punished by a coach who didn’t like him.

Posted at 3:57 pm on August 29th, 2014 by

Islamic State’s English Magazine Published Online; Calls Obama an ‘Apostate’

The Islamic State, like al Qaeda, publishes a slick English-language magazine to justify its actions and exhort jihadists to support it financially, through attacks, and other ways. It also serves as a recruitment tool.

At the same time, it serves as a glimpse into the minds of the terrorist group/growing military threat in Iraq and Syria.

Here is the third edition of Dabiq: A Call to Hijrah, in full. “Hijrah” means “the path to jihad.”

It includes a longer statement from James Foley than was included in the IS execution video. That begins on page 39. The magazine blames that beheading on the US airstrikes that began on August 7. Dabiq calls President Barack Obama an “apostate” and a “crusader.” It depicts its jihadists as happy warriors, and its enemies as dead or shortly to be killed.

Warning: The magazine includes graphic images of dead bodies and other imagery of war and brutality, including a severed head and photos of mass executions.

Posted at 2:46 pm on August 29th, 2014 by

Judicial Watch: A Terrorist Attack On the Texas-Mexico Border is ‘Imminent’ (Updated)

Government watchdog Judicial Watch published a post today that the group says is based on conversations with multiple government officials.

Islamic terrorist groups are operating in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and planning to attack the United States with car bombs or other vehicle born improvised explosive devices (VBIED). High-level federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources have confirmed to Judicial Watch that a warning bulletin for an imminent terrorist attack on the border has been issued.  Agents across a number of Homeland Security, Justice and Defense agencies have all been placed on alert and instructed to aggressively work all possible leads and sources concerning this imminent terrorist threat.

Specifically, Judicial Watch sources reveal that the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is confirmed to now be operating in Juarez, a famously crime-infested narcotics hotbed situated across from El Paso, Texas. Violent crimes are so rampant in Juarez that the U.S. State Department has issued a number of travel warnings for anyone planning to go there. The last one was issued just a few days ago.

El Paso is Texas’ sixth-largest city.

The Texas-Mexico border has been overrun with thousands of illegal aliens, mostly from Central America, over the past several months. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called for the Obama administration to provide more border security. Instead, President Obama is threatening to grant amnesty to about 5 million illegal aliens who are already in the US, a move that is sure to attract even more to cross illegally. If children can cross, so can others.

There have been rumors and suggestions in the past that Islamic terrorist group Hizballah is operating in the border region over the past several years. Hizballah is confirmed to have operations in South America, in the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

A former deputy sheriff in the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department told me in 2012 that captured Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan, where he served in the United States Army, had confessed that they were training operatives from drug cartels in Mexico.

Judicial Watch’s report says that “Intelligence officials have picked up radio talk and chatter indicating that the terrorist groups are going to ‘carry out an attack on the border,’ according to one JW source.  ’It’s coming very soon,’ according to this high-level source, who clearly identified the groups planning the plots as “ISIS and Al Qaeda.” An attack is so imminent that the commanding general at Ft. Bliss, the U.S. Army post in El Paso, is being briefed, another source confirms.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron raised the United Kingdom’s terrorism threat to “severe” earlier today. During a press conference Thursday, President Obama admitted that he has “no strategy yet” for dealing with ISIS in Syria, its home base and where it is establishing a capital city in Raqqa. The president will spend the Labor Day weekend attending Democratic Party fundraisers and a wedding.

Two American citizens have recently been killed fighting with ISIS. They were among the hundreds of ISIS fighters who hold western passports.

Update: Fox reports on a Texas Department of Public Safety bulletin on the threat.

“A review of ISIS social media messaging during the week ending August 26 shows that militants are expressing an increased interest in the notion that they could clandestinely infiltrate the southwest border of US, for terror attack,” warns the Texas Department of Public Safety “situational awareness” bulletin, obtained by FoxNews.com.

“Clandestinely infiltrate..?” They could just walk right across the border. Kids literally do it every day.

“Social media account holders believed to be ISIS militants and propagandists have called for unspecified border operations, or they have sought to raise awareness that illegal entry through Mexico is a viable option,” states the law enforcement bulletin, which is not classified.

It has been a viable option for years. The Texas-Mexico border is 1,200 miles long. Much of it is barely guarded wilderness. The Rio Grande is a large, placid creek in many places.

The Fox and Judicial Watch stories contain far more specific pointers than the pre-9-11 memo that liberals made a huge issue of during the entire Bush presidency. Yet Barack Obama is not only not taking any known action to curb the threat. He is actively making the border less secure with his amnesty threat.

More: A laptop was found in Syria in January. It belonged to an Islamic State operative who had studied physics and chemistry at two Tunisian universities. It contained 146 gigabytes of information, some of that on the subject of creating and deploying biological weapons on the cheap.

ALSO READ: Islamic State’s English Magazine Published Online.

Posted at 11:45 am on August 29th, 2014 by

MSNBC Ditches Interview on ISIS Strategy for a Stupid ‘Surprise Guest’ Schtick While Obama Sings Taylor Swift to the Iraqis

The White House followed up Thursday’s pointless presidential press briefing with two additional pointless briefings Friday, one conducted by White House spokesman Josh Earnest, the other run from the Pentagon by Rear Admiral John Kirby.

The message of all three seemed to be to tell ISIS to relax, because the White House has no strategy to defeat them, and whatever strategy it does come up with will not ever, under any circumstances, involve US ground troops.

They’re the equivalent of Obama serenading the Iraqis with Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together.” Barack Obama is never ever ever putting troops and their boots on the ground in Iraq. Even if ISIS takes over the whole country, snaps up Syria and Jordan, and then announces that it has stolen a nuke from Iran.

Never ever ever getting back together.

So here’s MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, newly appointed master of Meet the Biased Beltway Press, breaking off with Josh Earnest to favor “Mama” Savannah Guthrie.

That’s not insular and idiotic at all!

Transcript:

EARNEST: “Well, Chuck, the thing we wanted to make sure people understood is what the president was trying to communicate. And what he was trying to communicate is that we’re still waiting on some military plans as it relates to what military options are available to the president for hitting ISIL in Syria. But the president has laid out a comprehensive plan for dealing with ISIL in Iraq. It includes American military strikes, but also includes shoring up the Iraqi government to unite that country to face their threat. It includes engaging regional governments, that’s why Secretary Kerry is heading to the region. So the president has laid out a comprehensive strategy for what he thinks we should do for ISIL. How military action in Syria fits into that strategy, is something that remains to be seen.”

TODD: “Do you really believe — is it fair to say, that when it comes to the issue of Syria, the president just — the big question is he doesn’t know what does the day after the bombing look like? Is that his caution? Is that his concern?”

EARNEST: “Well, I think what the president’s concern is that we’ve learned lessons, this country has learned lessons about going into authorizing the use of military force without having a really clear plan about what you’re hoping to accomplish. And the president wants to make sure that he is very conscientious, and he’s determined to think through what our options are, before making the most serious decision that a Commander-in-Chief can make, which is to deploy America’s military might, to put American servicemen and women in harm’s way in the conduct of our foreign relations. So the president is going to be very thoughtful and deliberative about this and he’s going to make sure that he’s very clear, both in terms of his own thinking and in terms of — with the American people about what that strategy is. Chuck, I’m actually told right now your producers are telling me you do have a surprise guest today, that’s not just me.”

TODD: “Oh, so it was a gag!”

EARNEST: “Well, not a gag!”

TODD: “Whoa! Look at this. Now that’s the surprise guest that I expected. No offense, Josh.”

EARNEST: “None taken, none taken.”

TODD: “But you know what? Hurry up. Get off the stage, will ya?”

GUTHRIE: “Hi, guys.”

TODD: “Miss Mama Guthrie. Can I call you Mama Guthrie?”

Dear Lord. These people expect to be taken seriously. Or is MSNBC really just one long punk prank on the left?

Posted at 10:11 am on August 29th, 2014 by

Driver Flying ISIS Flag Makes Bomb Threat in Chicago

For a group that has no ideology beyond violence, as the Obama administration claims, it sure is good at drawing support.

A Chicago man led police on a chase Wednesday morning, while flying the ISIS flag from his car.

Emad Karakrah, 49, was charged with felony counts of disorderly conduct and aggravated fleeing; and a misdemeanor count of driving on a never-issued license, according to Chicago police. He was also issued three traffic citations.

Someone called police after seeing a “suspicious person” driving a silver Pontiac southbound in the 7700 block of South Kedzie at 9:18 a.m. with an ISIS flag waving out the window, according to a police report.

Officers attempted to pull over the vehicle, but the driver took off, according to the report. The officers called for assistance, and another officer pulled the vehicle over after it went through several red lights.

The man told police during his arrest that there was a bomb in the car and he would detonate it if they searched the vehicle, according to the report.

There was no bomb, this time.

Posted at 9:20 am on August 29th, 2014 by

Video Chat App Confirms Authenticity of Ferguson Shooting Audio

The audio recording purported to be of the Ferguson, MO shooting turns out to be real after all. CNN aired it without verifying it, bringing to mind how both NBC and ABC mistreated evidence in the Trayvon Martin shooting. Glide video chat app exonerates CNN in this case.

According to Glide, which bills itself as “The fastest way to send and receive video messages,” the audio was recorded on their service at the time of the shooting. It is timestamped, and the unidentified user who recorded it had no ability to edit it after the fact.

A Glide user living nearby (whose identity is being protected) was simply using the Glide app on their smartphone exactly as it was designed – to instantly communicate with a friend through our real-time video texting service. Simultaneously, they also captured audio in the background of the gunshots allegedly fired at Michael Brown.

Because Glide is the only messaging application using streaming video technology, each message is simultaneously recorded and transmitted, so the exact time can be verified to the second. In this case, the video in question was created at 12:02:14 PM CDT on Saturday, August 9th.

The audio does not settle many questions. The pause and the number of shots — at least 10 — could suggest a few possible scenarios, favorable to either Michael Brown or Officer Darren Wilson.

The audio does not settle one way or the other whether Brown was trying to surrender to Officer Wilson, as some witnesses say, or whether he was attacking the officer, as Wilson claims.

Posted at 8:32 am on August 29th, 2014 by

Brace Yourselves for this Awful News, America: Chelsea Clinton Is Leaving NBC

America is due for some good news, what with the sputtering economy, the border crisis, an abdicating president, Russia going neo-Soviet, the rise of ISIS and the return of retread Jerry Brown to office, but this story will be no solace and, certainly no port in a storm.

Chelsea Clinton, arguably the most brilliant journalists on the planet, is leaving her post at NBC News.

I know, I know. It’s hard to take. The Tatler is here for you.

Journalism’s leading light broke the terrible news in the modern era’s most prestigious news publication, People magazine.

Chelsea Clinton says she’s stepping out of her correspondent job as she looks forward to taking on mom duties

After not quite three years as a special correspondent for NBC News – and with just a little while until she and husband Marc Mezvinsky are expected to become parents – the former first daughter is now leaving that position, she tells PEOPLE in a statement, “to continue focusing on my work at the Clinton Foundation and as Marc and I look forward to welcoming our first child.”

No one will ever forget Chelsea Clinton’s massive contribution to journalism.

Her hard-hitting interview with the Geico gecko for Rock Center will never ever be surpassed. It even left a deceased Dan Rather envious.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Dan Rather isn’t dead yet? Well, whatever. Maybe he’ll fake that too.

Chelsea proved that she has the chops to go toe-to-toe with Putin in that interview. She was a bargain at $600,000 per year to file one or two puff pieces annually. A steal.

She’ll be missed. Terribly.

Posted at 8:13 am on August 29th, 2014 by

Blow For Cameron as Tory MP Defects to UKIP

*Editor’s Note: This article was written prior to Cameron’s press conference Friday morning.

UKIP – the insurgent right-of-center party that has been shaking up the British political scene for the past couple of years, and which won elections for the European Parliament earlier this year, pulled off another coup today when it announced the first defection to its ranks from Prime Minister David Cameron’s governing Conservative Party.

Douglas Carswell, MP for the seat of Clacton in south-east England, said he was leaving the Tories because Cameron was not serious about plans to reform the European Union ahead of an in/out referendum, due to be held in 2017 if the party wins an overall majority in next year’s General Election – it’s currently in a coalition with the center-left Liberal Democrats.

Carswell will now contest a special election for his seat – and if, as expected, he wins he will become UKIP’s first MP in Westminster. His defection is a triumph for UKIP and its leader Nigel Farage, and a major blow to Cameron, who had hoped to patch up splits in his party over Europe in the run-up to the 2015 election.

Announcing his defection, Carswell told a press conference: “The problem is that many of those at the top of the Conservative Party are simply not our side. They aren’t serious about the change that Britain so desperately needs.”

UKIP has pledged to take Britain out of the EU, a policy that increasing numbers of voters support. Cameron has pledged to negotiate with the EU to secure major reforms ahead of the 2017 referendum, but Carswell said he believed the party leadership was not being sincere. He said he had been told by senior advisers to the Prime Minister that voters would be offered “just enough to persuade enough of them to stay in”.

What is particularly damaging for Cameron is that Carswell is not some fringe figure or publicity-seeking opportunist whose defection the Conservatives can easily dismiss. He’s highly principled, and a serious thinker who’s been a leading voice for reform, both in his party and the UK political system in general.

The timing of Carswell’s announcement was particularly unfortunate for Prime Minister Cameron, coinciding as it did with the release of official figures showing net migration to Britain has risen to 250,000 in the past year, despite Cameron’s pledge to reduce the level to “tens of thousands.” The inability of Britain to control immigration from EU countries has been a hugely successful campaigning issue for UKIP.

Friday’s papers are filled with speculation about which other Tories might follow Carswell to UKIP, with claims that as many as eight MPs are in talks with Farage’s party. But while Farage might be celebrating, the real winner from Carswell’s defection may be the left-wing Labour party, which despite its current modest showing in the polls could win next year’s election if UKIP and the Tories split the center-right vote in enough ‘swing’ seats. The pro-Europe Labour party has refused to offer voters a referendum on the European Union, and for all his smiles today Farage must fear that the chances of Britain escaping the EU’s clutches any time soon just got a little slimmer.

Posted at 7:27 am on August 29th, 2014 by

Fort Hood Jihadist Wants to Join ISIS

Nidal Hassan, the Muslim who shouted “Allahu Ackbar!” as he gunned Americans down at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009, has sent a letter to the Islamic State. He wants to join the radical army that is carving a caliphate out of Syria and Iraq.

The Obama administration still classifies Hassan’s nassacre as “workplace violence.” Similarly, the Obama administration claims against all the facts that ISIS has “no ideology.”

The letter, obtained by the Fox News Channel, is a request by Hassan to become a “citizen” of the Islamic State.

In the undated letter, Hasan — who fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 at Fort Hood in 2009 in what the Defense Department called “workplace violence”– tells ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that he wants to join the caliphate.

“I formally and humbly request to be made a citizen of the Islamic State,”Hasan says in the handwritten document addressed to “Ameer, Mujahid Dr. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

“It would be an honor for any believer to be an obedient citizen soldier to a people and its leader who don’t compromise the religion of All-Mighty Allah to get along with the disbelievers.”

The two-page letter includes Hasan’s signature and the abbreviation SoA for Soldier of Allah.

The Islamic State beheaded American journalist James Foley earlier in August.

In response to a question about whether the US government has a strategy for dealing with ISIS in Syria, where the group rules by sharia and is creating a capital city, President Obama admitted Thursday that “We don’t have a strategy yet.”

Hassan does, even though he sits in prison with a death sentence over his head.

h/t Washington Examiner

Posted at 7:15 am on August 29th, 2014 by

Washington Post Covers Voter Fraud Inaccurately and Incompletely

Sometimes voter-fraud deniers are forced to discuss the truth of voter fraud.  This happened today at the Washington Post (“Fairfax officials say some people may have crossed Va.-Md. line to vote twice in 2012“). While the Post deserves credit from emerging from its cocoon of voter-fraud denial, it deserves scorn for bungling the emergence.

Reporter Susan Svrluga notes that “tens of thousands of voters” were registered to cast ballots in both Virginia and Maryland.  That’s true, and it is a big problem nationwide.  Hundreds of thousands of people are registered to vote in multiple states, and many of them have voted.

It wasn’t Eric Holder’s Justice Department that discovered the problem.  That won’t happen because as I reported at PJ Media in 2010, Obama political appointees expressly shut down the efforts at DOJ to detect this sort of fraud and inadequate voter-roll maintenance.

Hans von Spakovsky notes who deserves the credit for detecting the problem:

It was the VVA — along with another citizens’ group dedicated to election integrity, Election Integrity Maryland (EIM) — that did the research on the voter files in Virginia and Maryland to find these illegal voters. And this may be only the tip of the iceberg: VVA and EIM turned the names of 43,893 individuals who appear to be registered in both states over to the State Boards of Elections in Virginia and Maryland. Fairfax County alone has more than 10,000 such duplicate registrations. These 17 voters are only a subset of at least 164 voters their research showed voted in both states in the 2012 election.

Naturally the Washington Post makes no inquiry as to why the Eric Holder Department of Justice has failed to do anything about the scourge of double registration.  It’s in DOJ’s job description.  DOJ isn’t doing the job.  Instead, groups like the American Civil Rights Union, Judicial Watch and True the Vote have had to bring the cases Eric Holder has refused to bring to clean up voter rolls.

Those who create and manage the left-of-center election narrative ignore entirely this DOJ history, as does the Washington Post.

The other key fact ignored by the Washington Post is that in 2013 Virginia Democrats sued to stop election officials from trying to detect and cure this problem!  I know because I, along with Judicial Watch, defended Virginia’s use of the cross-state check program to detect double registrations.  The Post should not have omitted this fact when tracing out the partisan battle lines of the issue.  The Democrats have gone all-in on the side of corrupted voter rolls.

Post Reporter Susan Svrluga

Post Reporter Susan Svrluga

Some newspapers fully informed their readers of this fact, unlike the Post.  The Richmond Times Dispatch:

Purging voter rolls, however, can. Yet when the State Board of Elections took steps last year to clean up the voter rolls and asked localities to remove names of those no longer eligible from the rolls, the state Democratic Party sought an injunction to stop the process, and Chesterfield’s registrar, Lawrence Haake, declined to participate, citing inaccuracies. Haake might have been justified, and the board might have pushed too hard to execute what should be a painstaking process. But when those particular concerns are set aside, the general point stands: Localities should keep their voting rolls as up to date as reasonably possible.

Finally, the Post reporter downsizes the reason states are on the front lines of this issue:

It’s a federalist, states’-rights tradition that leaves a confusing mishmash of laws, rules and records, he said.

The reason states are in charge of their own elections is a “federalist, states-rights tradition that leaves a confusing mishmash of laws”?  Really?

The reason states are in charge of their own elections is the United States Constitution (Article 1, Sec. 4).  The Constitution gives states power over their own elections because it promotes liberty.  The federal government does not have control over state election laws because centralization of power is unhealthy for liberty.

It’s good to see the Washington Post finally report on voter fraud.  It’s not so good to see the predictable sanctuary given to the Democrat Party’s attempted facilitation of the fraud, and the usual criticism of our Constitutional arrangement for running elections.

Posted at 6:39 am on August 29th, 2014 by

Taco Bell Drive-Thru Work of Art Shows Capitalism Is All About Heart

Because this experience is so rare, not only did I visit TellTheBell.com to answer their customer-service survey — something I never do — but I just came in from the mailbox (yes, the snail-mail box) where I placed this letter, and put up the red flag for the postman. I share it with you now, as I would a visit to a fine museum, an inspiring concert, or a thrilling spectator sport.

Taco Bell 022872, 11829 Abrams Rd., Dallas, TX 75243

To the Manager,

I had such an experience at your restaurant drive-through yesterday, I had to take a moment to let you know. Over the years, I have worked in customer service, in restaurants, in sales and in customer-service training. My family frequently visits Taco Bell and other fast-food places.

But yesterday was far and away the finest drive-through experience I have had…even better than Chik-fil-A, which was the previous standard-bearer.

Laquiata H. (as her name appears on my receipt), greeted me through the speaker with a clear and cheerful voice. She immediately let me know that she was ready to serve when I was ready to order, no hurry. This little touch I found immediately endearing and comforting. Drive-throughs always feel rushed, menus are complicated and, if you don’t have perfect vision, difficult to read. (BTW, the small type on yours meant that we had to read the choices aloud to my wife in the passenger seat, inevitably fouling your speed stats.)

Laquiata was an island of peace and happiness in a hectic day. When we got to the window, she greeted us with a smile. When she handed us our food, she repeated the order clearly to eliminate errors. That little gesture made me feel like she really cared about us, and wanted us to have a terrific experience.

I don’t know if you realize how extraordinary this is in your industry. I have come to loathe drive-throughs, with their squawk boxes, fast-talking, inarticulate automatons, and frequent errors. Most folks in this line of work seem more concerned with getting rid of you, than with serving you.

Please convey my gratitude to Laquiata, and the support team that made it possible for her to be the voice and face of joyful welcome.

She singled-handedly turned a commodity into a work of art.

Thank You,

Scott Ott

One of the things that makes America great is folks like Laquiata, who bring this attitude to work each day.

Capitalism, after all, isn’t about prices, and markets, and margins, and finance.

It’s about people, and beauty, and emotion, and excellence, and human need, and joy, and love and liberty.

All of that other stuff is just mechanism.

This is heart.

This is real.

Posted at 6:22 am on August 29th, 2014 by

Support Burger King Against the Soviets

This November will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet, many living among us today would eagerly help rebuild it. Take Fox News’ Howard Kurtz as an example. His Thursday rant against Burger King’s choice to move its corporate headquarters to Canada and benefit from lower taxes brims with Soviet-style angst over escaping slaves. He writes:

70 U.S. companies have engaged in similar maneuvers, known by the stupefyingly boring name of “inversions,” and the media have collectively yawned, relegating the debate to the inside business pages…

Why have journalists and commentators failed to bang the drum over this outrage?

Outrage? What’s so outrageous about people voting with their feet?

The difference between corporate tax inversions and immigration from East to West Berlin is a matter of degree. In either case, those moving have sought escape to freer pastures.

Like a good Soviet, Kurtz longs to erect a legal wall boxing people in. Because nothing conveys the prosperous effect of a nation’s policies like barring folks from leaving.

Despite his portrayal of an ambivalent media and impotent government, Kurtz should recognize that his tyrannical desire to herd people into oppressive jurisdictions retains plenty of support. It wasn’t that long ago that the National Labor Relations Board harassed Boeing for moving part of its operations to a right-to-work state. More recently, Walgreens succumbed to similar pressure applied by the Obama administration and chose not to proceed with a proposed inversion.

This should be remembered come November, when politicians and media figures feign reverent remembrance of the Berlin Wall’s collapse. Unless they fully support the freedom of association, including the freedom to vote with your feet against restrictive regulations or debilitating taxes, they have no business pretending they’re better than Soviets.

Posted at 5:17 am on August 29th, 2014 by

Study: People Less Likely To Discuss Controversial Issues On Social Media

On what planet?

When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, he designed it to be a nicer place than the real world. People you barely know are “friends”; people you have drinks with now and then, “close friends.” You get a notification if someone deems you a friend, but if they later think better of it and delete you, you’ll never know about it. You can approve of anything anyone does with the click of a button, but to register disapproval, you need to resort to words. And so on.

Sanding away the spiky bits of human interaction was a canny way of getting people to do all sorts of things online that they might feel uncomfortable doing in a non-virtual crowd — sharing baby photos, talking about surgeries and deaths in the family, bragging about their charitable work. But it appears not to have been a good method of getting them to have hard conversations about politics.

Earlier this week, the Pew Research Internet Project published a study about the so-called “spiral of silence” as it applies in social media. That terms describes the tendency people have to keep their opinions to themselves when they believe listeners are likely to disagree with them.

This is some alternative universe stuff here. I’m pretty sure the first MySpace user after Tom posted, “The president sucks!” as soon as he or she could. If anything, social media seems to encourage people who have never paid attention to politics between election days to weigh in on everything from the tax code to complex foreign policy issues. True, when I say “weigh in” I mean “belch up a talking point heard on television,” but, still, they’re definitely not shy about it. Actually, I’m still waiting to meet the one person on Twitter or Facebook who shuts up about controversial issues. It’s sort of a personal quest. I may quit the Internet when I do.

Also, the fact that Zuckerberg wanted social media to be nicer than the real world shows that one can become a billionaire even while completely failing at one’s objective.

Because it’s nasty out there.

Posted at 6:35 pm on August 28th, 2014 by

NFL: ‘OK, Maybe Knocking A Woman Out Is Worse Than Smoking Pot’

Oops.

In the wake of criticism over a two-game suspension for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, the NFL has established a six-game unpaid ban for personnel who violate the league’s policy on domestic violence, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday.

A second incident would be punished by a lifetime ban from the league, Goodell said in a letter and memo to the owners of the league’s 32 teams.

Without referring to Rice by name, he acknowledged in his letter that he made the wrong decision in that case.

“I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will,” he wrote.

Goodell has been trying to destroy football with an almost missionary zeal. While busy attempting to remove almost all on-field violence from an inherently violent game, he’s pretty much ignored the off-field variety. When Rice received a two game joke of a suspension in the midst of the league doling out much harsher punishments for substance abuse, even the most devout football fans (“Present.”) were appalled.

Hopefully, the threat of a lifetime ban for a second violation will give this policy some teeth.

Posted at 6:07 pm on August 28th, 2014 by

The Islamic State Is Building a Capital

While President Obama dithers over a strategy and considers cobbling a coalition together to implement it, the Islamist State in Syria is entrenching and enforcing its barbaric law on the local inhabitants, reports Bloomberg.

In the Syrian city of Raqqah on the banks of the Euphrates River, Islamic State militants are busy building a capital fit for their followers.

Human rights observers say they have stoned women to death for adultery, while residents report that religious textbooks have been imported for schools and the market flooded with black cloaks for girls as young as 6 years old. Even as it wages war on multiple fronts, the group has had time to focus on the details, recruit thousands into its forces and celebrate victories by parading the heads of its enemies.

This is not a passage in a history book about some band of savages who pillaged their way across territory a thousand years ago. It’s happening right now.

The local victims mostly dislike the Islamic State’s hyperviolence and radicalism. The Islamic State and its leaders and street thugs don’t care. There is no force nearby that’s capable of overthrowing them.

Mohammad, a Raqqah resident who declined to give his full name because of fear of reprisals, said people are unhappy with the strict social codes imposed by the Islamic State.

Women cannot leave home without a male guardian, shops have to close five times for prayer and people accused of theft have their hands cut off in public, he said. “People yearn for the pre-war days,” he said after arriving in Beirut. “But they’re too intimidated to speak out.”

President Obama and his national security advisers keep insisting that the Islamic State doesn’t have any ideology beyond violence. That’s not correct. The Islamic State has an ideology, based on the Muslim Brotherhood’s desire to return Islam to its roots and the Koran. They are an expression of the Islamic revival that has been underway for about 30 to 40 years now, across the Islamic world. They’re the most radical expression of that revival so far, but they are an expression of it.

By “revival,” I’m using Christian terminology but this is nothing like a Christian revival, except in one sense. Christian revivals are efforts to bring believers back to what the New Testament actually says, about sin, about grace, about living the Christian life, about the Revelation. The New Testament never teaches war against anyone (the Old Testament does in some passages, but Christians revivals are almost always about the New Testament). It teaches peace, submission to even ungodly authorities, and many other things, but not violence.

The Koran teaches violence against non-Muslims, mainly Jews and Christians, in the portions thought to have been written after Mohammed had won secular power in warfare. Therefore an Islamic revival will not bear many similarities with a Christian revival. If both faiths have revivals aimed at getting them back to what their written teachings say, it matters a great deal what those teachings actually say. Contrary to soft beliefs that all religions basically teach the same things, they don’t.

If the Obama administration’s rhetoric that ISIS has no ideology is aimed at creating a split between IS and other Muslims, then it might be worthwhile as public relations. But this administration has had a cozy relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood for years. The Muslim Brotherhood started the Islamic revival. Even if the administration views the IS as too radical to have an ideology, the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology seems to be seeping into the administration’s strategic thinking — to the extent that there is any.

The strongest public relations with the most impact would be to destroy IS root and branch and therefore discredit them. But that doesn’t appear to be the goal, at least not in any meaningful way.

I’ll end this post with this shoutfest between Sean Hannity and terrorist imam Anjem Choudary from Fox Wednesday night. Choudary is an Islamic supremacist who supports terrorism and any other means to further what he sees as Islam’s war against the rest of the world.

Most of the discussion is useless shouting, but near the end, Hannity gets Choudary to admit that the end game for him and al Qaeda and ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood is the same — to impose Islamic sharia law on the whole world.

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That’s an ideology, as extreme an ideology as the world has ever seen. Sharia is the Islamic law behind everything from forcing women to cover themselves head to toe, to forcing all non-Muslims to pay a tax and live under repression, to beheading journalists and selling non-Muslim women into sex slavery. ISIS believes that its actions are in accord with sharia.

Most Muslims do not support the likes of ISIS or Choudary. But millions do support the global imposition of sharia, as part of the overall Islamic revival.

Anjem Choudary doesn’t live in Syria and isn’t taking up a gun to fight for the cause. He lives in London on welfare. He encourages other Muslims to live on welfare in the West and turn it into a “jihadi allowance.” His weapon is his mouth. He may have radicalized the British Muslim rapper who joined ISIS and is believed to have beheaded James Foley.

Does Anjem Choudary have an ideology?

Posted at 3:51 pm on August 28th, 2014 by

Man Loses Half His Skull. 3D Printing Gives Him the Lost Half Back

3D printing is incredibly disruptive technology. It has already impacted the debate over guns. Researchers are using it to recreate antique musical instruments.

At 3DPrint.com, they have the story of a Chinese man who lost half of his skull in a fall. 3D printing will give him that half of his skull back.

The 46-year-old was working at his construction job one day when he fall three stories to the ground. The fall left him disfigured, as if he had a large dent in the side of his head.

Surgion [sic] MaoGuo Shu, of Xijing Hospital, who has seen a vast array of head and skull injuries, says that cases like Hu’s are very rare, and finding a solution to fix the damaged skull is very complex and difficult. To try and come up with a solution, the hospital brought in dozens of experts in the field. What they came up with was an idea for a 3D printed titanium mesh which would cover Hu’s brain and help make his skull look normal again. Thankfully for Hu, he won’t have to pay a dime for the surgery, as the hospital is covering the cost, and an American company, Stryker has agreed to pay for the 3D printing and materials used in the printing process.

The titanium printed mesh should return his skull to his normal shape over time. His brain, which was badly damaged in the fall leaving Hu unable to talk and write, might regenerate itself, according to the doctors.

Posted at 3:17 pm on August 28th, 2014 by

VIDEO — Obama on ISIS: ‘We don’t have a strategy yet.’

President Barack Obama delivered a press conference on foreign policy crises this afternoon. While the president apparently did not have an overarching message in mind for either the crisis in Ukraine or ISIS’ rise in the Middle East, he did make one admission that is bound to be the headline.

“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Obama said. “We don’t have a strategy yet [for dealing with ISIS].”

Obama did allow that he may consult with Congress at some point, and the United States might “cobble together” some kind of coalition to combat ISIS.

Posted at 1:39 pm on August 28th, 2014 by