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Hamas: A Litmus Test for Libertarians

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Recently, while making the libertarian case for support of Israel, I noted that Islamic totalitarianism manifest in the entity of Hamas presents a common enemy to the United States and Israel. Neither nation can suffer a world where the mandates of Islamic totalitarianism are put into practice.

That case was rejected by many professing libertarian associates, who in their response defended Islam and Hamas while demonizing Israel. Their response reminded me that, while professing activists from the various wings of the libertarian movement share many common enemies and many common causes, an important divide remains between objective libertarians (advocates of liberty and its political requirement, proper government) and anarchists who have appropriated the libertarian title.

The distinction is explored in a recent episode of The Peikoff Podcasts by Ayn Rand Institute executive director Yaron Brook. Answering why so many professing libertarians are anti-Israel, Brook explained:

I think that the libertarians who tend to be anti-Israel tend to be in the [Murray Rothbard wing] of the libertarian movement. They tend to be anarchists. They tend to have a deep rooted hatred of government. And it’s interesting [because] they tend to hate free governments more than they hate totalitarian governments. They tend to focus their hatred much more on the American government [and] on the Israeli government than they do on Hamas…

If you’re libertarian, that is if you claim to care about individual liberty, Hamas should be one of the top most hated regimes in the world. You should be celebrating that they are being destroyed and that the Palestinian people might have a chance to be freed from such a totalitarian evil regime like Hamas is.

And yet, libertarians don’t seem to care about the Hamas government, or actually support it, and they focus all their ire [and] all their hatred [and] all their focus on the Israeli government, a government that is in relative terms a rights respecting government, at least as rights respecting as any Western government. Essentially there’s free speech in Israel. There’s freedom of contract. There’s private property, not as much private property as those of us who believe in liberty would like, but much much better than 90% of the countries in the world.

… So I think that this is one of the ugliest manifestations of this fringe element – or not so fringe element – within the libertarian movement, their attitude towards Israel, their attitude towards the United States, their attitude towards foreign policy in general…

Upon further reflection, it occurs to me that advocacy of anarchy requires one to minimize the legitimacy of foreign threats while demonizing any action which government takes to protect citizens. After all, if government can be seen acting properly in defense of liberty, that stands as evidence against anarchism. In this way, anarchists masquerading as libertarians have boxed themselves into a philosophical corner which requires them to become apologists for evil.

(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 16:05 minutes long; 15.51 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)

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Preening Dopes are From Yglesias

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

At Vox.com, Matt Yglesias has one job. He’s the editor. He’s supposed to make sure that whatever goes up on the “explanatory journalism” site, or at least the content that he directly touches, is accurate.

Let’s see how well he does that job.

yglesias-england-provinces

 

Yeah, those aren’t provinces. The United Kingdom only has one of those, Northern Ireland, along with a couple of kingdoms, England and Scotland. What you’re looking at on that map above are England’s and Wales’ counties. Sort of. Since that map is based on 1881 data, the lines on it don’t always line up with the current county lines. I’d explain more than that if I understood it all, but frankly I don’t and neither does the BBC.

It takes all of about 90 seconds Googling about to figure out that those lines are or were county lines, not province borders. Editor Matt Yglesias couldn’t bestir himself to do that much before publishing, on the self-described “explanatory” Vox.com.

The site that sports this self-congratulatory graphic.

vox-graphic

 

Well, his view is unique. So there’s that.

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Sarah Palin Does Not Give Up; Her New Web Channel Has More Potential than Political Post

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

The Sarah Palin Channel

PJ Media’s Susan Goldberg is dead wrong about Sarah Palin’s new project.

Sarah Palin has officially given up on her political career. Launching the Sarah Palin Channel, the former Alaskan governor has apparently decided to follow in Oprah’s footsteps and impact the voters where it counts: paid Internet TV. Palin isn’t the first conservative to move into the media subscription fray (Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh both beat her to it) and, thank God, unlike Kim Kardashian she isn’t establishing her solo career on a sex tape.  But, at the very moment when Obama’s presidency is taking a nosedive off of the cliff of no return, do conservatives really need just another pretty face?

Au contraire, ma soeur!

Beyond Goldberg’s ribald remarks treating the former governor like a piece of meat (moose, no doubt), she needs to consider who holds more influence in the country: Beck or Boehner? Rush or Ryan (not Seacrest, Rep. Paul)? Katy Perry or Rick Perry? Palin pioneers a path I pray others will pursue. (And as a PJTV.com personality, I welcome Sarah Palin to the subscriber-based internet realm.) 

Picking up where TLC’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska left off, the Sarah Palin Channel will feature videos of the Palin family enjoying the bounties of the Alaskan wilderness. It was charming for a season, but really, is anyone going to pay ten bucks a month to watch even more reality TV?

We’ll find out. I wouldn’t bet a nickel against Palin’s channel. And this move does not mean she’s “given up on her political career,” for the following reasons…

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Obama’s ‘Religious Freedom Ambassador’ Doesn’t Support Religious Freedom

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

I’m unable to feign surprise at LifeNews’ story about the latest from the provocateur in chief.

President Barack Obama has nominated a new “Religious Freedom Ambassador,” but his nominee opposes protecting the religious freedoms of the owners of Hobby Lobby, who don’t want to be forced to pay for drugs for their employees that cause abortions.

Obama announced that he will nominate Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom at the State Department. Saperstein is a longtime pro-abortion advocate whose group has opposed pro-life legislation.

Secretary of John Kerry also introduced him at a press briefing late Monday morning, saying that religious freedom is an “integral part of our global diplomatic engagement.”

However, Saperstein is strongly opposed to the Supreme Court’s decision protecting Hobby Lobby’s religious freedoms and, in an interview, Saperstein called the decision “deeply troubling.”

The Hobby Lobby case turned on whether owners of closely held corporations can object to government forcing them provide four drugs deemed to cause abortions, against their religious beliefs. Sapperstein believes that the government does have that right and can force family business owners to have to choose between their livelihoods and their faith.

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Chamber of Commerce May Back Landreiu for Senate in Louisiana

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In recent election cycles, the US Chamber of Commerce has backed Republicans almost exclusively. In 2012, that proved to be a disastrous strategy as 13 of the 15 Republican Senate candidates they supported lost, and they won only 4 of 22 House races.

Now, according to Joe Nocera of the New York Times, the Chamber’s National Political Director Rob Engstrom has suggested that the organization support incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu in her race against GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy.

For the Chamber, finding pro-business Democrats to back is a tough job. But Landrieu has a better pro-business voting record than Senator Ted Cruz, according to the Wall Street Journal. And Nocera points out that as the GOP becomes more populist, it’s support for government programs like the Export-Import bank and immigration reform has died off.

What brings this to mind is the continuing fight over the Export-Import Bank. It is the classic kind of issue that used to unite the Republican Party and the Chamber of Commerce, pre-Tea Party: backing a government agency that supports trade by helping to finance deals that involve American exports. That is also the kind of issue that is anathema to Tea Party ideologues, who view it as corporate welfare. The chamber has vowed a “full-court press” to save the Ex-Im Bank, but so far at least, the House is indifferent to its entreaties.

And it’s not just the Ex-Im Bank. As Edward Luce noted this week in The Financial Times, this Congress won’t countenance any of the things that business — and the chamber — care about. Immigration reform is dead. Congress won’t raise the gas tax to fund the Highway Trust Fund. Revamping the corporate tax rate can’t even get a hearing. And on, and on.

It is possible that the chamber didn’t quite realize what it was getting when it helped elect those Tea Party freshmen in 2010 — few people did until they began to flex their muscles. But it is equally possible that it didn’t care. (“The chamber is not an arm of either party and is not ‘aligned’ with either party,” a spokesman told me in an email.)

In the 16 years he has run the Chamber of Commerce, Donohue has turned it into a potent force, in no small part by making it more partisan. But by being so blindly pro-Republican, the chamber “unleashed a Frankenstein that has spun out of control,” said Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, which monitors the Chamber of Commerce. That became most clear during the debt ceiling and deficit fights of the last few years — when the Tea Party Republicans seemed so determined to shrink government that they were even willing to default on the government’s debt. The chamber reacted in horror.

A Chamber spokesman denies that any decision has been made on who to support for the Senate in Louisiana. But the organization’s determination to support Republicans in primaries who reflect the Chamber’s point of view and oppose Tea Party candidates is a clear signal that they are more open to backing candidates who share their philosophy regardless of party affiliation.

In the old days when there were actually a lot of Democrats who had strong, pro-business credentials, the Chamber routinely supported both sides, although their preference was always for moderate Republicans. If the Chamber is not only going to back more moderate Republicans, but return to supporting pro-business Democrats, it would be a troubling development for the Republican party. This is especially true in Louisiana where defeating Landreiu is of paramount importance if Republicans want to win back the Senate.

Money spent backing Democrats also means less money for the GOP. That’s the last thing that Republicans need during these last crucial weeks before the election.

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Obama Admin Launches War of Words Against Israel

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Is this more of that “smart diplomacy” we’ve heard so much about?

The Obama administration pushed back strongly Monday at a torrent of Israeli criticism over Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest bid to secure a cease-fire with Hamas, accusing some in Israel of launching a “misinformation campaign” against the top American diplomat.

“It’s simply not the way partners and allies treat each other,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Her comments were echoed by the White House, where officials said they were disappointed by Israeli reports that cast Kerry’s efforts to negotiate a cease-fire as more favorable to Hamas.

“Israel has no better friend, no stronger defender than John Kerry,” said Tony Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser. He said the criticism of Kerry was based on “people leaking things that are either misinformed or attempting to misinform.”

Does an ally try to impose a cease-fire when its friend is making good progress in defeating terrorists? That’s what the U.S. is doing to Israel right now. Does an ally try to force its friend back to indefensible borders? That’s what President Obama has been doing to Israel for years.

The U.S. is angry over reports that are being written in Israeli media. Would the U.S. want Israel’s government to stifle the independent media?

As Kerry returned from the region over the weekend, Israeli media commentators leveled almost nonstop criticism of his attempts to bring Qatar and Turkey — two countries viewed by Israel as strong Hamas supporters — into the cease-fire negotiations. Kerry was also accused of abandoning some of Israel’s key demands during the negotiations, including demilitarizing Gaza.

In trying to implement the cease-fire over the weekend, “U.S. Secretary of State of State John Kerry ruined everything,” wrote columnist Ari Shavit in Monday’s Haaretz, Israel’s leading liberal newspaper. “Very senior officials in Jerusalem described the proposal that Kerry put on the table as a ‘strategic terrorist attack.’”

Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman of “promise of hashtag” infamy, doesn’t seem to understand how real diplomacy works.

U.S. officials disputed the notion that Kerry had formally presented a proposal and cast the document in question as a draft given to the Israelis as part of an effort to gain their input in seeking a weeklong cessation of hostilities. Officials said the draft was based on an earlier Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Israel had accepted but Hamas had rejected.

Psaki said the U.S. was “surprised and obviously disappointed” to see the draft proposal made public. She also argued that there was a difference between the characterization of Kerry’s handling of the negotiations by Israeli media and what government officials were telling the U.S. privately.

“No one is calling to complain about the secretary’s handling of the situation,” Psaki said.

Right. They’re showing the world what you’d planned as a way of protesting it without having to call you up and directly, formally protest it. That’s a mild protest that signals displeasure but does not put the alliance itself at risk. Israel will call up a few steps from now, if it sees Kerry continuing to act against Israel’s interests.

Psaki and her sidekick, Marie Harf, continue to show why it’s inadvisable to put campaign operatives in charge of diplomacy. Their attack and respond style just is not suitable to the job of managing America’s alliances and less amicable relationships around the world.

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Pelosi: Qatar Tells Me that ‘Hamas Is a Humanitarian Organization’ (Update: Pelosi’s Hamas Connection)

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The Democrats’ leader in the House wants to “have a discussion” over whether Hamas is a terrorist or a humanitarian organization.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi appeared on CNN Sunday and commented on the ongoing war in Gaza. While defending Israel’s right to defend itself and stating that the US must support Iron Dome, Pelosi also noted that many Palestinians live in her district, and “We have to support the Palestinians and what they need.” She also made a strange comment on the nature of Hamas.

“We have to confer with the Qataris,” Pelosi told CNN’s Candy Crowley, “who have told me over and over again that Hamas is a humanitarian organization.” She added her hope that the Qataris could use their “influence” over Hamas to “calm” the situation.

“The US thinks they’re [Hamas] a terrorist organization, though.” Crowley responded, then asked “Correct? Do you?”

Pelosi reluctantly managed to say “Mmhmm.”

Watch the video of Pelosi’s remarks.

Qatar, a US ally, also is one of a handful of countries that publicly supports Hamas with words and money. Israel has singled Qatar out as a state sponsor of Hamas terrorism. Qatar is also a longstanding supporter of the radical Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot.

Update: In May 2012, Pelosi had a secret fundraiser with Hamas-linked groups and figures.

The donors at the undisclosed May 16 event included Nihad Awad, the co-founder of the Council on American Islamic Relations, according to data provided by the nonpartisan Investigative Project on Terrorism.

The CAIR group was named an unindicted conspirator in a 2007 trial of a Hamas money-smuggling group.

A covertly-taken photograph provided by the IPT shows Pelosi standing near Awad at the fundraiser. Roughly 30 people attended the fundraiser, according to the IPT.

The cheapest tickets cost $5,000, and the most expensive were $30,800 per couple, according to the event invite from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which used the cash to fund Democratic candidates. (View the invite here)

The hosts of the event were DCCC chairman Rep. Steve Israel and two Muslim representatives, Rep. Keith Ellison and Rep. Andre Carson.

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Going Oprah: Sarah Palin Gives Up

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

YouTube Preview Image

Sarah Palin has officially given up on her political career. Launching The Sarah Palin Channel, the former Alaskan Governor has apparently decided to follow in Oprah’s footsteps and impact the voters where it counts: paid Internet TV. Palin isn’t the first conservative to move into the media subscription fray (Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh both beat her to it) and, thank God, unlike Kim Kardashian she isn’t establishing her solo career on a sex tape. But, at the very moment when Obama’s presidency is taking a nosedive off of the cliff of no return, do conservatives really need just another pretty face?

In truth, the blame for Palin’s turn from politics to niche media darling should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the Republican Party. Hillary Clinton managed to make it to Secretary of State despite being the Liberal’s whipping post. In hindsight it would seem that the Republican establishment only “allowed” Palin to come on the scene so they could make it clear to the public that RINOs and conservatives are two very different animals, indeed. In a sense their strategy backfired; Palin became the face of the Tea Party movement and, for a while anyway, appeared to be one of the few female Republican politicians with serious career potential.

Now, it appears as if she’s squandering her fame on a mixture of political rants and human interest. Her premiere video was a late-in-the-game demand to impeach Obama. As if that would matter, anyway, RINOs chide. Impeachment means nothing, just ask Bill Clinton. To Palin, impeachment would mean something if Americans knew exactly what it was, just like America would mean something if we saw it the way Sarah did, a concept at the core of her programming. Picking up where TLC’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska left off, the Sarah Palin Channel will feature videos of the Palin family enjoying the bounties of the Alaskan wilderness. It was charming for a season, but really, is anyone going to pay ten bucks a month to watch even more reality TV?

Ronald Reagan transitioned from actor to politician. Today, those who admire him the most are leaving politics for the media spotlight. Palin and her counterparts hook their audience with equal parts nostalgia and outrage. Whether they’re looking to fuel grassroots political activism or line their own coffers is up for serious debate. In the end, they wind up becoming a series of Oprahs, creating armchair revolutionaries with no real power beyond walking into a voting booth. The right wing doesn’t need another pretty face, it needs women in places of real political power. By creating her Internet TV channel, Sarah Palin gave the RINOs exactly what they wanted: Another conservative woman barefoot with children behind a television screen.

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Mashable Reports on Gaza War ‘…According the Palestinian Health Officials…’

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Last week we took a look at how tech and culture site Mashable.com is reporting the war in Gaza. Hamas terrorists started that war with kidnappings, murders, and then by launching rockets from Palestinian civilian areas into Israeli civilian areas.

Mashable has reported the war almost entirely from the Hamas/Palestinian point of view, refusing to label Hamas as terrorists, and playing up civilian casualties in Palestinian areas while failing to report on the fact that Hamas’ tactics constitute war crimes.

Today, Mashable runs a story on how Hamas is “showing off” an armed drone that it claims is an Israeli craft that it shot down. While casting some doubt on the overall story, here is how Mashable reports casualty figures in the ongoing war.

The drone war between Hamas and Israel is playing out against a bloody conflict on the ground. The Israeli military has killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in the last three weeks, according to Palestinian health officials. During the same period, 44 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have died.

“…according to Palestinian health officials.”

That’s a key caveat, but Mashable fails to delve into it at all.

According to Hamas videos translated by MEMRI, the group instructs social media to report casualties in certain ways. Mashable appears to be following at least some of Hamas’ guidelines.

Following are excerpts from the guidelines:

“Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don’t forget to always add ‘innocent civilian’ or ‘innocent citizen’ in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.

“Beware of spreading rumors from Israeli spokesmen, particularly those that harm the home front. Be wary regarding accepting the occupation’s version [of events]. You must always cast doubts on this [version], disprove it, and treat it as false.

“Avoid publishing pictures of rockets fired into Israel from [Gaza] city centers. This [would] provide a pretext for attacking residential areas in the Gaza Strip. Do not publish or share photos or video clips showing rocket launching sites or the movement of resistance [forces] in Gaza.

Mashable, like most of the Western media, makes little to no distinction in its reporting between the number of Hamas operatives killed and true civilians killed. The Israeli point of view gets no pixels at Mashable.

Hamas also instructs its social media advocates to “Avoid entering into a political argument with a Westerner aimed at convincing him that the Holocaust is a lie and deceit; instead, equate it with Israel’s crimes against Palestinian civilians.” Shorter Hamas: Stay away from Holocaust denial!

Hamas wants its social media advocates to emphasize Palestinian casualties in human terms.

“The narrative of life vs. the narrative of blood: [When speaking] to an Arab friend, start with the number of martyrs. [But when speaking] to a Western friend, start with the number of wounded and dead. Be sure to humanize the Palestinian suffering. Try to paint a picture of the suffering of the civilians in Gaza and the West Bank during the occupation’s operations and its bombings of cities and villages.

That instruction in mind, take a look at this Mashable piece by Jon Snow, which we dissected last week. It is written entirely from the point of view of Palestinians, and especially Palestinian children. Any piece on Palestinian children should note what that society teaches them — namely, that killing Jews is their duty. Mashable never reports on videos like this, from Palestinian media, and it never reports that Hamas continues to publicly advocate for the total destruction of Israel.

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Mashable appears to be following much of the Hamas social media playbook, including how it portrays pro-Palestinian protests in the West. Mashable reports on them with a neutral to positive take, ignoring or downplaying the strong evidence of ant-Semitism that pervades the protests.

Update: Mashable’s editorial position has consistently been anti-Russia in the Ukraine crisis. The site evidently doesn’t see all intolerant autocracies as equal.

Its man in Gaza, Jon Snow, had this bizarre take after the shootdown of MH17, which involved Russian technology and training.

In addition to reporting for Mashable, Snow reports for the UK’s Channel 4. He has two large platforms from which to push pro-Hamas storylines.

Update: Apparently Jon Snow knows nothing about Hamas’ abuse of journalists who report the truth.

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Audit Finds Poor Tracking of Weapons, Excess Arms Given to Afghans by Pentagon

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) audit found that “poor record keeping” has resulted in a sea of unaccounted weapons given to Afghan forces by the U.S. government.

Thanks to Pentagon efforts to train and supply the Afghan National Security Forces, the country’s military is now swimming in some $624 million in military equipment provided since 2004, including more than 747,000 weapons and pieces of auxiliary equipment. The total includes 465,000 small arms, such as AKs and M16s.

However, inventory inspections at depots found missing weapons and more weapons than the military needed, increasing the likelihood that U.S.-provided arms would fall into the hands of the Taliban and other jihadists.

The Defense Department uses two systems to track the weapons: the Security Cooperation Information Portal (SCIP), which tracks the exporting end, and the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database (OVERLORD), which tracks the receipt of weapons in Afghanistan.

“Errors and discrepancies often occur because these two systems are not linked to each other and require manual data entry. When SIGAR compared the data in the two systems, it found that the databases did not always match; some records were duplicated, and some records were incomplete,” states the report.

“Of the 474,823 total serial numbers recorded in OVERLORD, 43 percent, or 203,888 weapons, had missing information and/or duplication,” auditors found. “24,520 serial numbers in OVERLORD and 22,806 weapon serial numbers in SCIP were repeated two or three times, meaning that there are duplicate records of weapons shipped and received. OVERLORD contained 50,304 serial numbers with no shipping or receiving dates, and SCIP contained 59,938 serial numbers with no shipping or receiving dates.”

At a Kandahar training center SIGAR auditors couldn’t even get a complete inventory report, while at the Central Supply Deport for the ANSF they found that 551 weapons on the books were not reflected in a hand count of inventory.

Investigators also found that their stock was more than 112,000 weapons over what was needed.

“For example, the ANA has 83,184 more AK-47s than needed because, prior to 2010, DOD issued both NATO-standard weapons, such as M-16s, and non-standard weapons, such as AK-47s. After 2010, DOD and the Afghan Ministry of Defense determined that interoperability and logistics would be enhanced if the ANA used only NATO standard weapons. Subsequently, the requirement was changed. However, no provision was made to return or destroy non-standard weapons, such as AK-47s, that were no longer needed. DOD officials told SIGAR that they do not currently have the authority to recapture or remove weapons that have already been provided to the ANSF,” states the report.

“This issue will be compounded as the number of ANSF personnel decreases to lower levels in the coming years. Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons, SIGAR is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to Afghan civilians and the ANSF.”

SIGAR recommended that the OVERLORD and SCIP systems be reconciled within six months, that commanders work with the Afghans to complete a 100 percent inventory check, and that the Pentagon work on a plan to recover or destroy excess arms in the hands of the Afghans.

In commenting on a draft of the report, “DOD concurred with SIGAR’s first recommendation and partially concurred with the second and third recommendations.” Specifically, the Defense Department said it doesn’t have the authority to direct Afghan forces to complete the inventory, and that it’s the Afghan government’s responsibility to decided if they have too many weapons.

The 2010 defense bill required that the Pentagon “establish a program for registering and monitoring the use of weapons transferred to the ANSF.”

“The lack of adherence to these procedures, along with the lack of reliable weapons inventories, limits monitoring of weapons under Afghan control and reduces the ability to identify missing and unaccounted for weapons that could be used by insurgents to harm U.S., coalition, and ANSF personnel,” says the audit.

“The scheduled reduction in ANSF personnel to 228,500 by 2017 is likely to result in an even greater number of excess weapons. Yet, DOD continues to provide ANSF with weapons based on the ANSF force strength of 352,000 and has no plans to stop providing weapons to the ANSF. Given the Afghan government’s limited ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons, there is a real potential for these weapons to fall into the hands of insurgents, which will pose additional risks to U.S. personnel, the ANSF, and Afghan civilians.”

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‘What Is Happening to the Christian Community in Iraq Is Genocide’

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) urged President Obama to immediately sign legislation passed by Congress to create a special envoy post to focus on the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.

The House on Friday sent to Obama’s desk a bill, originally introduced in the Senate by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and passed July 10, to encourage the appointment a special envoy to promote religious freedom among religious minorities in the Middle East.

“Time is of the essence,” Wolf said.  “Christianity as we know it is being wiped out right before our eyes in Iraq.”

The bill that was passed is modeled on legislation Wolf and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the only Assyrian in Congress and a Chaldean Catholic, first introduced in 2011. The two are co-chairs of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, and led an effort a month ago to pressure Obama to do more to help Christians coming under attack in Iraq.

“Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries,” wrote the lawmakers, joined by 53 bipartisan colleagues.

Wolf gave three speeches on the House floor last week to raise awareness about the plight of Christians in Iraq, and plans to do the same every day this week.

On Friday, Wolf read a statement from Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, on the crisis unfolding in Mosul.

“We are currently witnessing an unacceptable widespread implementation of extremist religious ideology that threatens the lives of all Iraqi’s who do not fit within its ever-narrowing perspective. While this situation stands to eradicate centuries of co-existence and culture in the region it also threatens to significantly and negatively impact these communities for generations to come,” the bishop said. “If left unchallenged, it is not Iraq alone that is at risk, but the potential is intensified for the replication of this ideology as a viable and legitimate model for others across the Middle East.”

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) has given Christians in the region an ultimatum to convert, leave, or pay hefty taxes.

“I believe what is happening to the Christian community in Iraq is genocide,” Wolf said.  “I also believe it is a crime against humanity. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – more commonly referred to as ISIS – is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.”

“Where is the Obama administration?” Wolf continued.  “Where is the Congress? Where is the West? More people need to speak out.  More should be done before it is too late.”

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Australian, Dutch Investigators Denied Access Yet Again to MH17 Crash Site

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A team of investigators from Australia and the Netherlands, determined to process the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine, was turned back for the second day in a row today.

The flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down July 17, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.

Michael Bociurkiw, the spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told CNN that teams “had traveled a fair distance to the crash site, probably a little over halfway there” with “the biggest ever contingent of experts attempting to get up there.”

“We had secured overnight, or at least we thought, assurances from both sides, the Ukrainian side and the rebel side, that we would have safe and unimpeded access. And then what happened near the town on the rebel side, there was quite loud shelling nearby. We took the decision ourselves, consulting with our Dutch and Australian friends, to turn the convoy around. It just didn’t seem safe to proceed,” Bociurkiw said.

“And we can’t say this enough. It’s unacceptable what happened. The site is vulnerable, as you know, to natural and manmade factors, and we’re really sick and tired of being delayed. This is the second day in a row now.”

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin spoke two days ago with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as Australia’s request.

“The two leaders continued to exchange views on various aspects of the organization of a fair and independent international investigation of the Malaysian jet crash in Ukraine,” the Kremlin said. “They noted the need to consistently implement Security Council Resolution 2166, primarily the clause dealing with the termination of military actions by all parties as a prerequisite for ensuring the unhampered work of international experts in the catastrophe area.”

Bociurkiw said the team of experts on the ground “have been preparing for two days to get to work, to really actually accelerate their work, because everyone knows that time is of the essence.”

“We all know there are still human remains out there exposed to the elements, number one,” he said. “Secondly, it is one of the biggest open crime scenes in the world as we speak, and it is not secured. There’s no security perimeter around the 30 or 35 square kilometer site. So it is, again, vulnerable to many different factors. The experts are more than prepared to go there and resume that collection, retrieval of human remains, and also to examine the debris and then prepare it for probably transfer elsewhere.”

“We will keep trying every day. We will try again tomorrow. I’m sure in between now and then there will be very stern talks with both sides that we need to get there as soon as possible and unimpeded, because, again, it’s in nobody’s interest that these visits do not take place… We had thought that, for at least a few hours today the guns will be put down, the checkpoints will disappear, but that obviously did not happen.”

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Obama Tries to Lobby Netanyahu on ‘Unconditional Humanitarian Ceasefire’

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday to press him to accept Secretary of State John Kerry’s cease-fire plan as Netanyahu ordered operations to continue “against the Hamas terrorists who violated the humanitarian truce which the UN requested for the residents of Gaza.”

“Yet again Hamas is cynically exploiting the residents of Gaza in order to use them as human shields. Hamas first rejected the Egyptian ceasefire initiative and afterwards violated last week’s UN humanitarian truce. It later violated the Red Cross humanitarian truce and has rebuffed the UN request for a humanitarian truce in order to allow the residents of Gaza to prepare for Eid al-Fitr,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. “The IDF targets terrorist centers but if residents are inadvertently hit, it is Hamas which is responsible given that it has – again – violated the humanitarian truce that Israel acceded to.”

The White House said Obama “reiterated the United States’ serious and growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives, as well as the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

“Building on Secretary Kerry’s efforts, the President made clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement. The President reaffirmed the United States’ support for Egypt’s initiative, as well as regional and international coordination to end hostilities,” continued the readout of the call. “The President underscored the enduring importance of ensuring Israel’s security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza’s long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority.”

“The President stressed the U.S. view that, ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza.”

Netanyahu’s office didn’t give any special mention to the call with Obama, but did release the prime minister’s reaction today to a call with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the UN Security Council called for “an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.”

“The Security Council Presidential Statement relates to the needs of a murderous terrorist organization that is attacking Israeli civilians and does not address Israel’s security needs, including the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip according to the principle laid down in the interim agreements with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said. “The statement does not refer to attacks on Israeli civilians, or to the fact that Hamas has turned the residents of Gaza into human shields and uses UN facilities to attack Israeli civilians.”

“Israel accepted three UN proposals for humanitarian truces, and Hamas violated them all. Even now they are continuing to fire at Israeli civilians,” he continued. “Israel will continue to deal with the terrorist tunnels, and this is only the first step in the demilitarization. Instead of the funds of the international community serving the construction of terrorist tunnels for perpetrating large-scale attacks against Israeli civilians, the international community needs to act toward the demilitarization of Gaza.”

 

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“Angry Black Woman” Schools Students for Justice in Palestine

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

AfricanSlaves

Chloe Valdary, the self-titled “Lioness of Zion” wrote a public letter to the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) movement, published today in Tablet magazine. Valdary addresses the letter “from an Angry Black Woman” and delineates the student group’s hypocrisies, noting their nefarious misappropriation of African American history:

You do not get to pretend as though you and Rosa Parks would have been great buddies in the 1960s. Rosa Parks was a real Freedom Fighter. Rosa Parks was a Zionist.

Coretta Scott King was a Zionist.

A. Phillip Randolph was a Zionist.

Bayard Rustin was a Zionist.

Count Basie was a Zionist.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Zionist.

Indeed, they and many more men and women signed a letter in 1975 that stated: “We condemn the anti-Jewish blacklist. We have fought too long and too hard to root out discrimination from our land to sit idly while foreign interests import bigotry to America. Having suffered so greatly from such prejudice, we consider most repugnant the efforts by Arab states to use the economic power of their newly-acquired oil wealth to boycott business firms that deal with Israel or that have Jewish owners, directors, or executives, and to impose anti-Jewish preconditions for investments in this country.”

You see, my people have always been Zionists because my people have always stood for the freedom of the oppressed. So, you most certainly do not get to culturally appropriate my people’s history for your own. You do not have the right to invoke my people’s struggle for your shoddy purposes and you do not get to feign victimhood in our name. You do not have the right to slander my people’s good name and link your cause to that of Dr. King’s. Our two causes are diametrically opposed to each other.

Known for going against the grain, Valdary’s statement cuts to the core of the Pro-Palestinian movement’s attempts to draw a correlation between the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and America’s civil rights movement. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, whose member groups include chapters of national organizations CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) and Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as SJP, devotes an entire section of their website to “Black America and Palestine Resources“. A quote from Palestinian American academic Edward Said motivates their campaign:

The late Edward Said wrote in the year 2000 that, to understand US policy towards the Middle East, “one must pay close attention to an aspect of America’s history mostly ignored by or unknown to educated Arabs … the contemporary treatment of the African American people, who constitute roughly 20 per cent of the population, a not insignificant number”.

Said co-founded the field of critical theory known as postcolonialism, a racist school of thought “…that interprets history, politics, and culture in the context of [white] Western domination and oppression.” The roots of postcolonial theory influenced the racist and anti-Semitic Black Nationalism of the 1960′s. Instead of campaigning for civil rights, the movement focused on “elevat[ing] racial separatism into a religious doctrine and declar[ing] that whites were doomed to destruction.”

Postcolonialism is a defense of human shields, of schools and hospitals being used as terrorist launching pads, of children growing up only to strap bombs to their chest in order to destroy the “white” menace. Valdary’s letter is a clarion call to renew the civil rights movement championed by both blacks and Jews that was so grossly distorted by racist theorists like Malcolm X and Edward Said. All those who “stand for the freedom of the oppressed” must confront and correct the racist lie that defends slaveholders like Hamas based on the color of their skin.

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Lindsey Graham Still Doesn’t Get It

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) described President Barack Obama as “AWOL.”

Graham said “I said last week, America is the glue that holds the free world together. When you see us missing our AWOL, as President Obama’s been, you see fracturing on multiple fronts. Russia is more aggressive, not less. The sanctions clearly are not working. Hamas is demanding open borders. Show me a statement by Hamas leadership that recognizes the right for Israel to resist, then I would consider their request. These are stark contrast and we’re not responding. Passive responses to naked aggression all over the world is our foreign policy. Look what ISIS has been able to do in Syria and Iraq. Without American leadership, the world gets to be a very dangerous place and our allies, like Israel and Ukraine, suffer.”

How can Sen. Graham have spent the past six years dealing with Barack Obama and not know who the man really is? Graham still doesn’t understand the kind of man he is dealing with, and why the president does what he does.

Crises — serious, consequential crises — are building from the Texas-Mexico border, to Libya, to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, to Israel, to Iraq, to Ukraine and Russia. With these crises building, an American president ought to be reaching out to Congress and reaching across the aisle to build national unity. Instead, this president is stirring up anger, picking fights over contraception, and doing nothing useful to the nation.

President Obama’s response to the crises themselves is mostly to appear to ignore them, while he golfs, fundraises for the Democratic Party, and launches mischief domestically. And by mischief, I actually mean constitutional crises over the separation of powers.

President Obama is not only not truly interested in stemming the tide of illegal aliens at the border, to pick just one of the crises for detailing, he is about to go out of his way to make it worse. The LA Times reports that he is about to use executive authority to lawlessly grant legal status to about 5 million illegal aliens who are already here.

The president has every intention, according to his own advisers, of creating yet another crisis with this move. The president has shirked his role as commander in chief to become the provocateur in chief.

That move will come by the end of the summer, White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer told reporters Friday. Some officials had advocated waiting until after the November midterm election.

Any such move would prompt a major clash with congressional Republicans, and at least some White House officials appeared to relish the prospect that the GOP might overreach in its response and act in a politically self-destructive manner.

When the decision is announced, it will “increase the angry reactions from Republicans,” Pfeiffer said.

“I would not discount the possibility” that Republicans would seek to impeach Obama over his next immigration moves, he said, adding that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) had “opened the door to impeachment” by his plans to sue Obama for allegedly exceeding his executive authority.

Not only does Obama not fear impeachment, he is actively courting it. The Democrats are fundraising off of impeachment. Obama has his advisers out stoking impeachment, an idea that the majority of Republicans in office have no interest in pursuing. Sen. Graham, for one, was a central figure in the impeachment of Bill Clinton and has no interest in launching another one against Obama, whether the president deserves it or not.

None of this is out of character or outside Barack Obama’s playbook. Obama began his presidency by appointing policy czar after policy czar in order to bypass Congress and create a cabinet within the cabinet that would answer to him alone and would be in power without having to submit to the Senate’s approval. That was when the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate with supermajorities. Now, with Republicans poised to control both the House and the Senate, Obama is gearing up to spend the final two years of his presidency doing everything he can possibly do to demonize Republicans, gather as much power to himself as he possibly can, and render Congress entirely irrelevant.

None of this is accidental. Barack Obama is not AWOL. He has not checked out of the responsibilities of his office. He intends to play down every overseas crisis as much as he possibly can, knowing full well that his low-information voter base doesn’t care about those crises and the rest of America does not vote on foreign policy, while he stokes domestic crises to maneuver Republicans and Congress into a kind of checkmate.

Barack Obama wants Republicans overreacting usefully to his provocations. He wants division and he wants to and will intentionally stoke rage. He wants Americans divided and hating each other, and he wants American power overseas diminished. He doesn’t view any of this as failure in any way. Because these crises are not failures, from his point of view. They are crises he does intend to allow to go to waste.

Even if the Democrats lose the Senate 99 days from now, as seems likely, Obama will still have two years to cause problems. He will use every second of that time as mischievously as he possibly can.

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Obama’s Eid Message: Muslim Americans ‘Strengthen the Core of Our Democracy’

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama marked the end of Ramadan by crediting Muslims with strengthening the democratic fiber of the United States.

Eid al-Fitr will be marked today in Muslim communities with food and family celebrations, ending the month of fasting.

“This last month has been a time of fasting, reflection, spiritual renewal, and service to the less fortunate. While Eid marks the completion of Ramadan, it also celebrates the common values that unite us in our humanity and reinforces the obligations that people of all faiths have to each other, especially those impacted by poverty, conflict, and disease,” Obama said in a statement.

“In the United States, Eid also reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy. That is why we stand with people of all faiths, here at home and around the world, to protect and advance their rights to prosper, and we welcome their commitment to giving back to their communities,” the president continued.

“On behalf of the Administration, we wish Muslims in the United States and around the world a blessed and joyous celebration. Eid Mubarak.”

Obama doesn’t have any Eid events on his schedule today; he’ll be participating in the Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

Two weeks ago, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee encouraged Muslims to boycott Obama’s Iftar dinner at the White House in celebration of Ramadan, citing the administration’s support for Israel.

In a statement, the committee aid the “deplorable situation” in Gaza, “brought on by Israel’s U.S.-sanctioned illegal occupation of Palestine, has received no direct action from President Obama.”

“The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) will not be attending this year’s government iftars and calls upon members of the Arab and Muslim communities to join us in the boycott, including tonight’s White House Iftar hosted by President Barack Obama, given the government’s condoning of the current slaughter of Palestinians in Palestine and the spying of American Arabs and Muslims domestically,” the group said in a statement.

“In the government’s silence, Israel is committing a massacre in Palestine with the possibility of an all-out ground assault. Our American tax dollars have contributed to over 100 civilian casualties as of Monday morning, of which 70% are estimated by the United Nations to be women and children,” continued the statement.

The ADC cited recent reporting from Glenn Greenwald that revealed “the government’s indiscriminate and ongoing criminalization of the community” through NSA spying on some Arab and Muslim community leaders.

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Pelosi: Americans Should Welcome Illegals Because Jesus, or Something

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Nancy Pelosi has build a reputation for saying the darndest things. She added to that brand late last week, as Breitbart reports:

[The House Minority Leader] doubled down on her comments that Americans should view the flood of children crossing the border while claiming refugee status just like baby Jesus.

“You could even speak about, if it’s your tradition, Moses,” she said. “What would we do if Moses had not been accepted by the pharaoh’s family? We wouldn’t have the Ten Commandments for starters.”

Pelosi expounded, claiming that “we have [biblical] examples of humanitarian assistance that should guide us in all this.” It leaves you to wonder whether Pelosi has actually read a bible, or if she’s just patching together random word pictures snatched from vaguely recalled references.

If you’re having trouble recalling how the stories of the infants Jesus and Moses apply to immigration policy, it’s because they don’t. If anything, both tales highlight the malevolence of a lawless state.

If Pelosi really thinks the bible calls us to take in tens of thousands of children in need, she won’t mind them settling down in her neighborhood. Surely, the radical voters who continue electing her would be more than willing to put their money where their elected mouthpiece is.

(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 7:25 minutes long; 7.18 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)

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WR Mead at His Best: ‘Smart Diplomacy’ Becoming a Punchline

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Walter Russel Mead writing in The American Interest:

The reckless and thoughtless Libya intervention just keeps looking worse. But don’t read the critics to see how horrible things are: as the government announces that the U.S. has officially evacuated its embassy in Tripoli this morning, the latest State Department travel advisory for the country says it all.

The advisory reads like a nightmare-vacation brochure:

Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country and attacks by armed groups can occur in many different areas; hotels frequented by westerners have been caught in the crossfire.  Armed clashes have occurred in the areas near Tripoli International Airport, Airport Road, and Swani Road.  Checkpoints controlled by militias are common outside of Tripoli, and at times inside the capital.  Closures or threats of closures of international airports occur regularly, whether for maintenance, labor, or security-related incidents.  Along with airports, seaports and roads can close with little or no warning.  U.S. citizens should closely monitor news and check with airlines to try to travel out of Libya as quickly and safely as possible.

Don’t drink the water and if you go out after dark, make sure you wear your bullet-proof vest.

But Mead is angriest because he feels the lessons of Iraq were ignored by the administration when they blundered into the Libyan war.

If Obama were a Republican, the press and the weekly news shows would be ringing with hyperbolic, apocalyptic denunciations of the clueless incumbent who had failed to learn the most basic lessons of Iraq. Indeed, the MSM right now would be howling that Obama was stupider than Bush. Bush, our Journolist friends would now be saying ad nauseam, at least had the excuse that he didn’t know what happens when you overthrow a paranoid, genocidal, economically incompetent Arab tyrant in an artificial post-colonial state. But Obama did—or, the press would nastily say, he would have done if he’d been doing his job instead of hitting the golf course or yakking it up with his glitzy pals at late night bull sessions. The ad hominem attacks would never stop, and all the tangled threads of incompetence and failure would be endlessly and expertly picked at in long New Yorker articles, NYT thumbsuckers, and chin-strokings on all the Sabbath gasbag shows.

Why, the ever-admirable tribunes of a free and unbiased press would be asking non-stop, didn’t this poor excuse for a President learn from what happened in Iraq?  When you upend an insane and murderous dictator who has crushed his people for decades under an incompetent and quirky regime, you’d better realize that there is no effective state or civil society under the hard shell of dictatorial rule. Remove the dictator and you get chaos and anarchy. Wasn’t this President paying attention during the last ten years?

It’s not that Obama wasn’t paying attention, it’s that he believed himself to be smarter than everyone else and that such a fate could not befall him or his policies. Everybody warned the president that post-Qaddafi Libya was going to be a mess, a quagmire, a bloody clash of tribes, factions, and religions. But he dismissed the criticism, even from members of his own party.

Well, here we are, says Mead.

The news is so bad, and the President’s foreign policy is collapsing on so many fronts, that it is impossible to keep the story off the front pages. “Smart diplomacy” has become a punch line, and the dream Team Obama had of making Democrats the go-to national security party is as dead as the passenger pigeon. But what the press can do for the White House it still, with some honorable exceptions, labors to accomplish: it will, when it must, report the dots. But it will try not to connect them, and it will do what it can to let all the people involved in the Libya debacle move on to the next and higher stage of their careers.

Exactly. Have you seen any efforts in the press to connect the dots of Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Iran, and the border fiasco? The common thread is Obama’s policies leading to war and chaos. Such breathtaking incompetence, naivete, and arrogance have frightened our friends and emboldened our enemies. Not since the clueless reign of Jimmy Carter has American foreign policy been in such utter disarray.

Israel has taken the measure of this president and is ignoring his calls for a ceasefire in order to do what it thinks necessary for its security. Vladimir Putin has also sized up this president and realized that he can do just about anything — including helping to shoot down a passenger plane — with little fear of reprisal. Hundreds of thousands of people in Central America have judged President Obama to be an easy mark and are either here or on their way here.

At least Bush’s unforced errors were mostly confined to Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s incompetence spans the globe and the failure of his policies has the potential of igniting larger conflicts.

When you view the world through an extreme ideological prism, you see what your ideology tells you is real. The worldview expressed by President Obama was laughed out of America in 1972 when George McGovern told America to “come home.” It was apparently buried in 1984 when Walter Mondale lost 49 states.

But here it is, alive and well in 2014. When you believe your country is at fault for most of the world’s ills; when you think you can charm your enemies into being friends; when you think allies don’t matter; when you believe your own sycophantic press clippings regarding your ability to “lead from behind” — well, the resulting chaos and bloodshed let loose when America takes a back seat in world affairs is entirely predictable.

With American credibility in the toilet, you have to wonder if a total meltdown is avoidable.

 

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Israeli Government Source: Kerry ‘Completely Capitulated’ to Hamas

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A very harsh assessment comes from an Israeli government source on the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to broker a ceasefire late last week.

The Times of Israel is reporting that a government official told Israeli Channel 2 that Kerry “dug a tunnel under the Egyptian ceasefire proposal” which was accepted by Israel on Friday, and gave the Israeli government a text that accepted most of the demands made by Hamas.

To the “horror” of the Israeli ministers, the Kerry proposal accepted Hamas’s demands for the opening of border crossings into Gaza — where Israel and Egypt fear the import of weaponry; the construction of a seaport; and the creation of a post-conflict funding channel for Hamas from Qatar and other countries, according to the sources. The proposal, meanwhile, did not even provide for Israel to continue demolishing the Hamas network of “terror tunnels” dug under the Israeli border.

Rather than provoke an open diplomatic confrontation with the United States, the report said, the appalled ministers chose not to issue an official statement rejecting the Kerry terms. Instead, word of the decision was allowed to leak out.

The cabinet was meeting again on Saturday night to discuss all aspects of the 19-day conflict with Hamas. Ongoing efforts were being made to reformulate the ceasefire terms, Israeli sources said.

Channel 2′s diplomatic reporter Udi Segal said “voices” from the cabinet had described Kerry as “negligent,” “lacking the ability to understand” the issues, and “incapable of handling the most basic matters.”

Yep. That’s our Johnny. No one has ever accused Kerry of being the brightest bulb in the room, and this pretty much confirms everyone’s previous opinion of him.

The Channel 2 report said that some of those involved in the contacts with Kerry had suggested that “perhaps there was some kind of misunderstanding” or that Kerry “was only presenting a draft” of the offer, but the secretary himself gave no indication that this was the case when he expressed his disappointment that no ceasefire had been agreed during a press conference in Cairo on Friday night.

In fact, it makes you wonder which side Kerry is on.

Noting that the US secretary chose to hold Saturday’s talks without representatives of Israel, the Palestinian Authority or Egypt, Erdan said this showed “we’re a long way from a political solution.”

Privately, Israeli leaders have signaled deep dismay that Kerry engaged in talks in Paris with representatives of Turkey, whose leadership is openly hostile to Israel, and Qatar, whose leadership is seen by Israel to be representing Hamas’s interests, and not to include Israel, the PA or Egypt.

Israeli government sources also privately contradicted Kerry’s assertion Friday that his ceasefire proposal was “built on” an Egyptian proposal from last Tuesday, which Israel accepted and Hamas rejected. Far from resembling the Egyptian proposal, which urges an immediate ceasefire followed by negotiation, the Kerry proposal leans heavily toward Hamas, the sources said, in tying Hamas preconditions to a cessation of hostilities.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan said recently, “Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.” Nice company you’re keeping there, Mr. Secretary.

Maybe it’s for the better that we have Kerry bumbling and fumbling around in the Middle East. His incompetence gives Israel a perfect excuse to continue their attack on Hamas. Imagine a competent secretary of state. If history is a guide, we would have had a ceasefire by now. Kerry is the only U.S. secretary of state in 20 years unable to negotiate an end to hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians.

That’s the kind of accomplishment we’ve come to expect from him.

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100 Days Out, GOP Hopes for Senate Takeover Still High

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

With exactly 100 days to go before the November 4 mid term elections, Republicans still see a path to a Senate majority, but Democrats are holding out hope that some of their vulnerable incumbents can squeak through to victory.

The good news is that, in 3 red state open Senate races currently held by Democrats, GOP candidates maintain solid leads on their opponents. West Virginia, Montana, and South Dakota all appear ready to fall to the Republicans.

But in 4 other races that feature vulnerable Democratic incumbents who were thought to be ripe targets for the Republicans, Democrats are running better than expected.

The Hill:

Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) seem to have the edge in their races, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is hanging tough, and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) isn’t dead yet.

Hagan’s approval ratings are low, but state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) is even less popular, and public and private polls both show her ahead.

Tillis has been trapped in an extended legislative session as unpopular GOP lawmakers war over the state budget, and Hagan has a four-to-one cash advantage.

“Tillis has to put this legislative fight behind him. He’s got to move on. He’s struggled,” admitted one national GOP strategist.

Begich also appears to be in good shape in a tough state. His attacks on GOP primary front-runner Dan Sullivan have taken a toll and could hurt him in his August primary, too.

“Begich is running the best race of any Democrat right now,” said another national Republican consultant. “In Alaska it’s tough to see the path to victory until this primary plays itself out.”

Pryor has stayed alive because of Cotton’s unbending conservatism, most notably his vote against the Farm Bill. Both parties say they have a small advantage in the race and each have polls to back those claims.

Democrats admit Landrieu is their most vulnerable incumbent. It will be hard for her to reach the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a December runoff with two GOP candidates on the ballot. If that scenario plays out, Republicans believe Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) holds the edge in a runoff, especially if Senate control remains undecided after November.

Landrieu has been in this position before. She narrowly won run off elections in 1996 and 2002. Of the four vulnerable Dems, she probably has the best chance to sneak through.

All four are extremely well funded and outside money is pouring into their coffers. Republican candidates are trying to catch up, and between now and Labor Day should give a good showing of themselves in raising cash.

But circumstances have arisen in Iowa and Colorado that have cheered Republicans and placed those two races that were previously thought to lean Democratic into the toss-up column:

While Republicans have failed to knock out the incumbents some predicted would be underwater by this point in the election cycle, Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D-Iowa) missteps have given Democrats severe heartburn in that open seat race, and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is also running strong against Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.).

“We really have already expanded the field…. A year ago we weren’t even talking about those races. We were talking about having to win three of four open seats,” Carl Forti, the political director of the GOP super-PAC American Crossroads, told The Hill.

Braley damaged himself with comments that as a trial lawyer he’s more qualified than popular Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school,” to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) has run a strong race so far, and Democrats admit Braley’s lackluster campaign is cause for alarm.

“Braley has shot himself in the foot again and again. We have a lot of work to do. Iowa is a lot closer than we want it to be,” said one national Democrat.

Gardner’s entrance into the race earlier this year put Colorado on the Senate map. Democrats think Udall’s attacks on social issues have paid dividends, though Udall has squirmed on some controversial environmental issues. Recent public surveys show a dead-even race, but private polling from both sides show the incumbent up slightly.

Other potential GOP targets in Michigan and New Hampshire appear to be slipping away. In Michigan, Rep. Gary Peters has opened a significant lead over Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land in a race to succeed retiring Democrat Carl Levn, while in New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown’s campaign against Senator Jeanne Shaheen has failed to generate much momentum.

Democratic hopes rest on the open Georgia race where charity exec Michelle Nunn, daughter of legendary Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, has raised a lot of money and received good reviews for her efforts. But she’s running an uphill campaign against GOP nominee David Perdue. There has been talk about “changing demographics” in Georgia which Democrats believe give Nunn a shot at victory. But Georgia is still a very conservative state and Republicans have a clear advantage. Perdue would probably have to commit some horrible gaffe for Nunn to win.

Political prognosticator Charlie Cook still gives the Republicans a 50-50 shot at winning the Senate. Now, 100 days out, the sprint to the finish is underway and Republicans consider themselves in very good shape.

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The Gray Lady Joins Stoner Nation

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The New York Times has given the pot-legalization movement a huge boost by coming out in an editorial today advocating for the repeal of federal marijuana laws.

We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.

There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.

We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these.

But that would leave their citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.

The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the “Reefer Madness” images of murder, rape and suicide.

There are legitimate concerns about marijuana on the development of adolescent brains. For that reason, we advocate the prohibition of sales to people under 21.

There has been far less research on the effects of pot on the body and brain than there has been on alcohol and tobacco. The evidence, for instance, that pot smoking can lead to an decrease in the production of serotonin – a brain chemical associated with mood and depression — is pretty well established. There is impact on memory, mostly long-term memory, as well as lingering effects on the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

The problem with the idea of “moderate use” is that the government defines “moderate” as smoking pot 3 to 8 times a month. It’s pretty obvious no one on the Times editorial board is smoking weed these days. Most pot smokers I’ve ever known — myself included — got high 3 or 4 times a week.

Then there’s the Colorado experiment with the jury still out regarding legalized pot’s effect on society. Taken together, the Times, in my opinion, is jumping the gun on national legalization, or decriminalization. What’s the rush? Let’s see how things work out in Colorado before we start debating the future of marijuana in America.

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Hamas Rejects Truce Extension: Fires Rockets into Israel

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Perhaps it’s just as well that Hamas rejected Israel’s suggested four-hour extension of the Gaza truce. It isn’t so much that the world will blame Hamas for the resumption of hostilities — no chance of that. It’s that Israel has unfinished business in Gaza: those insidious tunnels and Hamas’s cache of arms and missiles must be destroyed.

Hamas rejected the offer to extend the truce at least four hours and possibly longer, and fired missiles into Isreal.

USA Today reports:

The cease-fire rejection came after the Israeli Cabinet agreed to extend the 12-hour truce until midnight Saturday, and Yuval Steinitz, an Israeli Cabinet minister, said a further extension would be considered.

Earlier Saturday, the Israeli military had warned that it “shall respond if terrorists choose to exploit” the lull to attack Israeli troops “or fire at Israeli civilians.” It also said that operations to locate and neutralize tunnels would continue.

Meanwhile, at least 100 bodies were recovered Saturday, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said, as Palestinians used the cease-fire to move medical supplies and tend to the dead and injured in the Gaza Strip.

As the initial lull in hostilities began at 8 a.m. Saturday, Gazans poured onto the streets to find food supplies, look for missing family members or return to homes they left for shelters. The nearly three weeks of fighting has left swaths of rubble, destroyed roads and damaged power infrastructure in residential neighborhoods across the strip.

More than 1,000 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed since the conflict began on July 8. Another 6,000 have been wounded. In Israel, 43 have died, including 40 soldiers, two civilians and a Thai worker.

Imad Nasrallah, 38, said he and others have made it a point not to forget the living.

“With my brothers and neighbors, we volunteer and go help others, in case their homes were targeted,” Nasrallah said. “We transfer the wounded to hospitals or go carry the martyrs and bury them.”

Saturday’s temporary truce was the second and the longest since the conflict began on July 8. A humanitarian cease-fire on July 17 was quickly overlooked as rocket fire resumed as soon as the set five hours expired.

In Paris on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with European foreign ministers to find ways to build off Saturday’s lull.

It was not to be. Kerry is being ignored by the Israelis as the government seems utterly determined to carry on its military mission until Hamas is neutralized. They have gone to war with the terrorists three times in the last five years. Israel’s citizens are under constant threat from thousands of missiles launched from Gaza every year, and Hamas has used its network of tunnels to carry out attacks on civilians.

Israel will de-militarize Gaza one way or another. And all the efforts by western powers to get them to dial it back will go for naught.

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Has Obama Already ‘Checked Out’ of the Presidency?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The fact that people are seriously discussing the idea that the president of the United States has given up and is pining for retirement is unprecedented in my lifetime. I’m sure the during their last few months in office, most presidents begin mailing it in. But we are two and a half years from the end of the Obama presidency and the world order is collapsing while our borders are disintegrating. Without a strong hand at the helm of the ship of state, the aimless drift of American leadership is causing events to spiral out of control.

Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller penned a column for the Telegraph this weekend that states “Barack Obama has already checked out of his job.” But Lewis isn’t the only commentator who has wondered out loud about the president’s commitment to his job. Peggy Noonan wrote in her Wall Street Journal column earlier this month that Obama appears “above it all” and that his fancy dinners with celebrities and intellectuals as well as his endless rounds of golf present a frightening picture of a president detached from reality and “waiting for history to recognize his greatness.”

Jazz Shaw at Hot Air agrees with that assessment. Shaw points to Obama’s vision that he naively believed would be shared by everyone — “that everyone would, sooner or later, recognize the brilliance of his vision and the structural soundness of his solutions to the planet’s ills and things would truly change.” When they didn’t, Obama walked away.

Lewis, in his Telegraph column, lays out the evidence for Obama’s tanking it:

The fact that the press would find relevance in speculating on Obama’s post-White House residence – and identify California as the kind of scene the future ex-president would want to hang out in when he leaves office – is perhaps telling.

And, indeed, this comes on the heels of multiple reports from outlets such as The New York Times and Politico, detailing how Obama has increasingly been spending his time at trendy restaurants and fancy, late-night dinner parties with celebrities and various intellectuals.

Rubbing elbows with the rich and elite is fine enough. Unfortunately, the work suffers. The degree to which he is now phoning it in – sleepwalking perfunctorily through his second term – is astonishing.

And based on his recent handling of situations much more serious than a possible post-presidential move to sunny California, it seems as if “No Drama Obama” is no longer even worried about keeping up appearances; he doesn’t care enough to fake it.

Consider this: In recent days, a) Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down, apparently by Russian separatists in Ukraine, b) In the Gaza strip, the numbers killed continued to mount as Israelis and Palestinians exchange rocket fire, c) a huge influx of children fleeing Central American poverty and gang warfare swamped America’s southern border, creating a humanitarian crisis. And, oh yeah, d) Christians living in Mosul were given the choice to either convert to Islam or flee the area they have inhabited for nearly two thousand years.

You know what else has happened during this time? a) Obama played many rounds of golf, b) he attended numerous fund-raisers, c) he dined on barbecue in Texas and burgers in Delaware, and d) he almost appeared on the comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night television show in Hollywood.

I say “almost” because the White House finally relented. “We ultimately elected not to have the president do that interview over the course of this trip,” the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, conceded. “And that is at least in part related to the challenges of doing a comedy show in the midst of some of these other more serious matters that the president’s dealing with in the international scene.”

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Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton Doesn’t Think Congress has a Right to Know What the White House is Doing

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

You’ve got to give credit to Washington, D.C.’s non voting delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton for her novel interpretation of the Constitution and legislative tradition.

Becoming exasperated with Republicans on the House Oversight Committee who kept insisting that a White House aide cannot ignore a subpoena to testify, Norton scolded Chairman Darrell Issa, telling him “You don’t have a right to know everything in a separation-of-powers government, my friend.”

Washington Examiner:

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting congressional delegate for the District of Columbia, angrily sputtered during a congressional hearing Friday that the White House should not be held up to scrutiny, saying that there was no right to know what it was doing behind closed doors.

“You don’t have a right to know everything in a separation-of-powers government, my friend. That is the difference between a parliamentary government and a separation-of-powers government,” Norton said during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

It was, to put mildly, a significant departure from the more traditional liberal stance that openness and transparency are must to prevent abuses of power by government officials. Instead the leading advocate for statehood for the District of Columbia literally argued that even the congressional committee charged with oversight shouldn’t be asking questions in the first place.

She made the comments while protesting the committee’s Republican majority for voting to ignore a claim by the White House that David Simas, director of it’s Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, was immune to a congressional subpoena to testify. Republicans believe the office is being used a political campaign operation, a violation of federal election law.

Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., noted he was not alleging any wrongdoing by Simas, but there was a history of violations involving that particular office in prior administrations that justified requesting his testimony.

Under President Obama, the White House has asserted sweeping executive powers, including the right to ignore pretty much all congressional inquiries. The administration has regularly ignored subpoenas from congressional committees.

Holmes was clearly down with that. She called Issa’s subpoena a “showcase fishing expedition.” She went on to argue that the Constitution’s separation of powers specifically gives the people who work directly under the chief executive immunity from subpoenas. “The president’s immediate advisor is not an agency and this is not a matter of policy,” she said, before going to further clarify that we “don’t have a right to know” everything that the administration does.

The Legal Information Institute makes Holmes-Norton look like the idiot she is:

The Court has long since accorded its agreement with Congress that the investigatory power is so essential to the legislative function as to be implied from the general vesting of legislative power in Congress. “We are of the opinion,” wrote Justice Van Devanter, for a unanimous Court, “that the power of inquiry—with process to enforce it—is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function. . . . A legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change; and where the legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information— which not infrequently is true—recourse must be had to others who possess it. Experience has taught that mere requests for such information often are unavailing, and also that information which is volunteered is not always accurate or complete; so some means of compulsion are essential to obtain what is needed. All this was true before and when the Constitution was framed and adopted. In that period the power of inquiry—with enforcing process—was regarded and employed as a necessary and appropriate attribute of the power to legislate— indeed, was treated as inhering in it. Thus there is ample warrant for thinking, as we do, that the constitutional provisions which commit the legislative function to the two houses are intended to include this attribute to the end that the function may be effectively exercised.”163

You can’t get any clearer than that. Both conservative and liberal justices have recognized the right of Congress to investigate just about anything it wants — including, especially, the executive branch. In 1927, the court “ratified in sweeping terms, the power of Congress to inquire into the administration of an executive department and to sift charges of malfeasance in such administration.”

There are limits on congressional investigative powers, especially regarding private citizens. But demanding testimony from the White House aide running the Office of Political Strategy because Congress believes “the office is being used a political campaign operation, a violation of federal election law,” is the very definition of “malfeasance” and therefore, well within the purview of the Committee’s investigative mandate.

Since contempt citations apparently mean even less than subpoenas to this administration, it’s hard to see how the Oversight Committee can compel anyone’s testimony who works at the White House. It’s just more evidence, if any more were needed, that this president regularly thumbs his nose at the law and tries to stonewall congress when the seek to expose his administration’s wrongdoing.

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Up to 5 Million Illegals to be Granted ‘Temporary Legal Status’

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

President Obama is preparing executive orders that would grant up to 5 million illegal aliens temporary legal status, giving them the ability to work in the US.

Time Magazine is reporting that, although Obamaa is keeping his options open, it is likely he will grant relief from deportation and the temporary work authorizations to millions of illegal immigrants. Some experts believe Obama possesses this authority, although Republicans in Congress will almost certainly dispute that.

Exactly what Obama plans to do is a closely held secret. But following the meeting with the activists, Obama declared his intention to use his executive authority to reform parts of a broken immigration system that has cleaved families and hobbled the economy. After being informed by Speaker John Boehner that the Republican-controlled House would not vote on a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration law this year, the President announced in a fiery speech that he was preparing “to do what Congress refuses to do, and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.”

Obama has been cautious about preempting Congress. But its failure to act has changed his thinking. The recent meeting “was really the first time we had heard from the administration that they are looking at” expanding a program to provide temporary relief from deportations and work authorization for undocumented immigrants, says Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

The White House won’t comment on how many undocumented immigrants could be affected. “I don’t want to put a number on it,” says a senior White House official, who says Obama’s timeline to act before the mid-term elections remains in place.

Obama has a broad menu of options at his disposal, but there are two major sets of changes he can order. The first is to provide affirmative relief from deportation to one or more groups of people. Under this mechanism, individuals identified as “low-priority” threats can come forward to seek temporary protection from deportation and work authorization. In 2012, the administration created a program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that allowed eligible young unauthorized immigrants to apply for a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit.

The most aggressive option in this category would be expanding deferred action to anyone who could have gained legal status under the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate in June 2013. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, the Senate bill would have covered up to 8 million undocumented immigrants. It is unlikely that Obama goes that far. But even more modest steps could provide relief to a population numbering in the seven figures. “You can get to big numbers very quickly,” says Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

“Obama has been cautious about preempting Congress.” Uh-huh. He was cautious 41 times when he unilaterally altered Obamacare. He was cautious when he unilaterally changed the law to allow hundreds of thousands of DREAMers legal status. He was cautious when he unilaterally halted most deportations. He was cautious when he ordered the Justice Department not to enforce DOMA. He was cautious when he made illegal recess appointments to the NLRB.

I don’t think Time has the same definition of “cautious” as you and I do.

Rep. Gutierrez believes that the number will be about 5 million. It will almost certainly include agricultural workers to make the Chamber of Commerce happy. Others on the list to be amnestied include family members of DREAMers already made legal by Obama’s other executive order.

Does anyone believe that this “temporary legal status” will actually be temporary?

No comment yet from the 1.5 million people waiting in other countries who are seeking to come to the US legally.

 

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U.S. Evacuates Tripoli Embassy Personnel by Land to Tunisia

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Defense Department was called in to evacuate all staff from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli in what the State Department called a “temporary staff relocation” to Tunis.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said “at the request of the Department of State, the U.S. military assisted in the relocation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli” today. There were reportedly 150 staff there including 80 Marines.

“All embassy personnel were relocated, including the Marine security guards who were providing security at the embassy and during the movement,” Kirby said. “The embassy staff was driven in vehicles to Tunisia.”

“During movement, F-16′s, ISR assets and an Airborne Response Force with MV-22 Ospreys provided security. The mission was conducted without incident, and the entire operation lasted approximately five hours.”

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. is “grateful to the Government of Tunisia for its cooperation and support” and that the staff would travel “onward” from there.

“Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya,” Harf said in a statement this morning. “We are committed to supporting the Libyan people during this challenging time, and are currently exploring options for a permanent return to Tripoli as soon as the security situation on the ground improves. In the interim, staff will operate from Washington and other posts in the region.”

“Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top Department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly. Security has to come first. Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions,” she continued.

“We will continue to engage all Libyans and the international community to seek a peaceful resolution to the current conflict and to advance Libya’s democratic transition. We reiterate that Libyans must immediately cease hostilities and begin negotiations to resolve their grievances. We join the international community in calling on all Libyans to respect the will of the people, including the authority of the recently-elected Council of Representatives, and to reject the use of violence to affect political processes. Many brave Libyans sacrificed to advance their country toward a more secure and prosperous future. We continue to stand solidly by the Libyan people as they endeavor to do so.”

Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon simply said “as Americans evacuate from Tripoli, I want to express my deep gratitude for the U.S. forces who have been on standby alert there.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with all Americans in Libya,” McKeon added. “I wish them a safe return, and for the safety of American troops watching over them.”

Libyan airspace has largely been closed due to the violence. The Libya Herald reported that Libyan Airlines planes were being hit on the tarmac in missile attacks on Tripoli International Airport.

A Maltese oil worker was abducted in recent days and Turkey told all of its citizens to leave the country.

The ongoing violence threatens to derail a meeting of Libya’s House of Representatives planned in Benghazi on Aug. 4.

 

 

 

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McKeon: White House Request That Congress Repeal Iraq Force Authorization ‘Past Absurd,’ ‘Dangerous’

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee ripped into the White House for trying to lobby House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on a vote today regarding the authorization of military force in Iraq, noting “if the administration fought terrorists with half the tenacity they fight straw men, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

The resolution from Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Walt Jones (R-N.C.) directed President Obama “pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, to remove United States Armed Forces, other than Armed Forces required to protect United States diplomatic facilities and personnel, from Iraq.”

It passed 370-40, with 37 Republicans and three Democrats voting against the resolution.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice sent Boehner a letter before the vote stressing that Obama has “made clear that if American interests are threatened, ‘we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it.’ The President has made exceedingly clear that he will consult closely with Congress and leaders in Iraq and in the region.”

“While we understand the House of Representatives will consider this resolution that supports the President’s position, we believe a more appropriate and timely action for Congress to take is the repeal of the outdated 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq (P.L. 107-243),” Rice continued. “With American combat troops having completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18, 2011, the Iraq AUMF is no longer used for any U.S. government activities and the Administration fully supports its repeal. Such a repeal would go much further in giving the American people confidence that ground forces will not be sent into combat in Iraq.”

Armed Services chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said when Boehner told him about the Rice letter, “I thought he was joking.”

“Obama Administration officials are warning us daily that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is ‘worse than al-Qaeda’ and an extreme threat to the American people. The American people aren’t worried that the president will send the military back to Iraq. They’re worried about a deadly terrorist state that can hit us from Wall Street to Main Street. They’re worried that this president refuses to do anything, at anytime, in any way, to stop the flood of national security crises that are popping up around the globe,” McKeon said.

“Why on earth is the president’s national security advisor pleading with Congress to help build Americans’ confidence that the president will not confront a clear and present danger to the United States? He needs no help there. Where is her plan to stop this looming threat? Where is her request for additional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to monitor the situation? Why isn’t she over here, building support to stop a common enemy? Why is she fighting Congress instead of ISIS? Why on earth is she refighting the 2003 Iraq War in 2014?”

McKeon said Rice’s move “isn’t just absurd.”

“We’re past absurd. This is dangerous. This administration is fiddling while the world burns, and now they’re demanding Congress play with them,” he said.

“If the administration fought terrorists with half the tenacity they fight straw men, we wouldn’t be in this mess. It is my sincere hope that someone comes to their senses on Pennsylvania Avenue, before something worse happens.”

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Kerry on Release of Sudanese Christian: ‘Their Concerns Were Our Cause’

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry lauded the U.S. role in promoting religious freedom worldwide after the release of Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim.

Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli helped arrange Ibrahim’s departure from Sudan to Rome, according to Vatican Radio. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi welcomed her at the airport; she then met with Pope Francis at the Vatican for about half an hour along with her husband, American citizen Daniel Wani, her son Martin and baby Maya, born in prison two months ago.

Before her death sentence was overturned, Ibrahim faced capital punishment for marrying a Christian man. Her father was Muslim.

“Around the world, supporters of religious freedom celebrate the arrival of Meriam Ishag and her family in Rome. I am grateful to the Government of Italy for its role in working with the Government of Sudan to enable Ms. Ishag and her family to depart Sudan,” Kerry said in a statement today.

“I want to acknowledge the many individuals in the United States and the international community who expressed their concern at Ms. Ishag’s plight. Their concerns were our cause,” he continued. “I am especially proud that our diplomatic efforts through the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum helped secure Ms. Ishag’s and her family’s release. The United States will continue to be an unwavering advocate for the right to freedom of religion worldwide.”

“I extend my personal best wishes to Ms. Ishag and her family as they rebuild their lives and restore hope for a future where all people can live their faiths fully and freely.”

The House today sent to President Obama’s desk a bill, originally introduced in the Senate by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and passed July 10, to encourage the appointment a special envoy to promote religious freedom among religious minorities in the Middle East.

“As we continue to witness disturbing violence against religious minorities in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, I’m pleased both chambers of Congress have passed this bipartisan bill to demonstrate that the U.S. takes religious freedom very seriously,” said Blunt. “I urge the President to sign this bill into law quickly and appoint a special envoy to promote religious freedom among all persecuted religious communities in these critical regions.”

“It is a tragic fact that in much of this region, the freedom to worship in keeping with one’s conscience is in doubt,” Levin said. “Passage of this legislation strengthens America’s role in protecting religious minorities from violence, persecution and fear.”

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Netherlands, Australia Sending Troops to Secure MH17 Crash Site In Ukraine

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The interests of both countries in securing the MH17 site are clear: The plane was flying from the Netherlands to Kuala Lumpur and many of the 298 victims were Dutch citizens. Not all of the victims’ bodies have been recovered yet. There were Australians and British citizens on the flight as well. Australia is close to hammering out a deal with Ukraine’s government to get its forces, mostly police personnel, in to help secure the site.

The Dutch are looking at sending combat-ready special forces in to secure the site, which is understandable but raises the stakes — the area around the site is still under the Russian rebels’ control and those so-called rebels have every interest in stifling the investigation. The rebels are even now reportedly using the credit cards and cell phones of the victims that were recovered from the crash.

The Netherlands is poised to send its most elite soldiers to secure the crash site of Malaysian Airways MH17, the Telegraaf reports on Friday.

The paper says all leave for the commandos of the 11 Luchtmobiele Brigade based in Schaarsbergen and Assen has been cancelled and that soldiers will leave for eastern Ukraine this weekend.

In addition, Dutch special forces currently in Mali are being recalled and sent on to the area around Donetsk, the paper says, without quoting sources.

The aim of sending troops is to ensure the 23 Dutch crash investigators and 40 unarmed military police officers can do their job, the paper says.

With Russia now firing on Ukraine military targets inside Ukraine from Russian territory, it’s not hard at all to see how this may escalate into a full blown world war.

Add to that, the British are considering sending in their forces to secure the site, too. One hit on troops from any NATO ally from Russia or its proxies and things could spiral out of control quickly.

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Gallup: If You Oppose Israel, You’re Probably an Uneducated Democrat

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Gallup has released a new poll on Americans’ opinions of the conflict in Gaza. It’s no surprise that Republicans tend to side with Israel, and Democrats tend to believe that Israel’s military actions against Hamas are unjustified. Fully 47% of Democrats take that view, compared with just 31% who back Israel. That, plus independent voters’ ambivalence toward Israel, helps explain why the Obama administration is not backing Israel more strongly than calling for a (now rejected) cease-fire. Their base does not back Israel.

The educational differences on the issue are found in this chart.

gallup-israel-education

 

The more educated one is, the more likely one is to believe that Israel is taking justified action against Hamas terrorists.

Younger Americans tend to go left on everything from socialism to redefining marriage, and lack of support for democratic Israel against Hamas terrorists is no exception. This is despite Israel’s long history of supporting women’s and minority rights, while the Palestinians side with extremism that denies women and non-Muslims their rights.

This poll is a warning: If the rising millennial generation doesn’t change its attitudes in a hurry, Israel cannot count on American support for more than few more years.

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Stupid and Lame: Wealthy Actress Kristen Bell Begs for Minimum Wage Increase (Update: Reason Rebuttal FTW)

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

According to CelebrityNetWorth, actress Kristen Bell is worth $16 million. It’s fair to say that she make far more than a “living wage” for pretending to be other people in movies and on TV.

The actress is lending her looks and voice to the Democrats’ campaign to increase the federal minimum wage, on Funny or Die. Bell stars as a Mary Poppins knock-off. Take a look.

Funny or Die has gone all in for the minimum wage campaign, mocking House Speaker John Boehner over the issue in this ad video starring Harry Hamlin. Is the Obama administration or the Democratic National Committee paying Funny or Die for these clearly political ads videos that border on in-kind donations?

Liberals find Bell’s video persuasive, or at least politically useful. Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette is flogging it on Facebook.

In the video, Bell slams her boss for not paying her a “living wage,” despite the fact that as a live-in nanny, Poppins got full room and board in addition to pay for caring for the boss’ kids. Bell quits, mocks her boss, and curses in front of the children she is supposed to be raising, but never seems to figure out that if she is still making minimum wage, the problem may not be with her boss, but with her and her own job performance and her ability to stand up for herself.

Bell/Poppins never mentions the CBO study that found that raising the minimum wage will cost about half a million jobs.

In short, the unfunny video that barely scrapes the surface of the minimum wage issue and works in a slam on the Tea Party deserves to die.

Update: Reason rebuts with a win.

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Speak-O! More Audio of Obamacare Architect Jon Gruber Touting State-Based Exchanges Emerges

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Today, Obamacare architect Jon Gruber claimed to be at a loss as to why he said in 2012 that the Obamacare subsidies were directly tied to the state exchanges. It’s quite a mystery, a typo, Gruber claims about his own statements.

It’s “unambigious that it’s a typo,” Gruber tells Chris Matthews.

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It can’t be a typo, though, because Gruber said on video that the subsidies are tied to the exchanges, which is at the heart of the Halbig case against Obamacare. Call it a “speak-o,” then as is moving on Twitter.

If it’s a speak-o, it’s a recurring one. John Sexton has found more audio of Gruber saying that the Obamacare exchanges are tied to the state exchanges — that the exchanges are integral to Obamacare itself.

In addition, it’s worth pointing out that on this occasion, unlike the one revealed last night, Gruber’s statement was not in response to a question. During both speeches, Gruber listed three possible threats to the implementation of Obamacare. In both cases the third “threat” was that states would not set up exchanges. In the January 10th speech (above) he simply went into more detail about the nature of that threat. In the January 18th speech that detail wasn’t mentioned until the Q&A.

The exchanges and subsidies are at the heart of the Halbig case:

In brief, these cases claim the IRS has exceeded its statutory authority in authorizing tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies on federal exchanges because the PPACA only authorizes tax credits for the purchase of insurance on an exchange “established by the State under Section 1311.”  Section 1311 instructs states to create exchanges.  Federal exchanges are established under Section 1321 of the Act.

At one level these cases present a straightforward statutory interpretation question.  The text is clear and does not contradict any other provisions in the Act.  That would seem to settle the matter.  On the other hand, the PPACA is a complicated and poorly drafted statute and, because over 30 states refused to set up their own exchanges, invalidation of the IRS rule could have a significant effect on its implementation.  So the federal government has pushed back hard and has sought to argue that what the statute says cannot be what it means.

The administration is arguing that the plain text of the law does not mean what it says. Gruber has tried to make that case too, but his own words keep coming back to argue against him.

Update: Gruber lied in court.

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First Howard Stern, Now Joan Rivers Fires Up Passionate Support for Israel

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Radio jock Howard Stern went off on a listener who took Hamas’ side against Israel earlier this week. “If you’re anti-Israel, you’re anti-America!” Stern said, which is both true and probably doesn’t bother Hamas’ staunchest defenders.

Now Joan Rivers is coming to Israel’s defense too. TMZ asked Rivers about the ongoing fight in a street interview. Rivers pulled no punches, saying repeatedly that Hamas started the war, that it hides its weapons in civilian homes, schools and hospitals, and Israel has to defend its people.

“Palestinians, you cannot throw rockets and expect Israel not to defend themselves,” Rivers said. TMZ asks about civilian casualties, and Rivers responds “Don’t you dare put weapons stashes in private homes.” Rivers also slams Selena Gomez for her pro-Palestinian tweet. Rivers goes on to hammer CNN, the BBC and other media who have played up Palestinian casualties without noting that Hamas started the war by firing rockets at Israeli civilians.

Watch.

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Terrorist Tycoons: Meet Hamas’ Richest Men

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The Palestinians project an image of poverty and powerlessness to the world. While most Palestinians do live in poverty, especially when compared to their Israeli neighbors, Globes profiles several Hamas leaders who have used their positions to amass incredible wealth while their own people suffer.

Hamas’ terrorist tycoons include Dr. Musa Abu Marzook. He was a US-based Hamas fundraiser who was arrested for supporting terrorism in 1995. After serving two years in prison, he was freed and allowed to leave. Marzook kept the money he raised for Hamas, left the US and resides in Gaza. He is estimated to be worth $2 to $3 billion now and maintains numerous ties to terrorists including al Qaeda, according to the Globes report.

Marzook is followed closely in wealth by Khaled Mashaal, who is estimated to be worth about $2.6 billion.

Following them is one of Hamas’ most public faces, Ismail Haniyeh. He is said to be worth about $4 million, which he has registered in the names of various family members to conceal the true size of his fortune.

According to Globes:

The question of where these officials got their money exposes the corrupt system used by Hamas through its control of the money pipelines in the Gaza Strip. They treated the money as their own personal possession. “Most of the money that went into the pockets of people in the Gaza Strip was obtained through tunnel deals and the creation of a flourishing smuggling market, which it is believed has created several hundred millionaires in the Gaza Strip, although most of the people there don’t live like that. The man pulling the strings from Egypt with the tunnels is none other than the number two man in the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat el-Shater. His connection with Hamas was ostensibly for Islamic religious purposes, but they actually built a prosperous business, which earned phenomenal profits,” Elad says.

The Arshaq Al-Awsad (Middle East) newspaper, one of the most prestigious in the Arab world, recently reported that at least 600 millionaires were living in the Gaza Strip – the same people sitting on the money pipelines there.

Elad describes how the system worked and to how much money (huge amounts) Hamas leaders were exposed: “Senior Hamas leaders charged a 25% ‘tax’ and $2,000 on every disassembled vehicle coming through the tunnels. There are hundreds of smuggling tunnels from Egypt to Gaza, and these are the types of tunnel Israel has been less busy in destroying, because Egypt has destroyed many of them. From June 2007 until 2010, $800 million in cash was transferred in tunnel deals (according to information from Hamas money traders). Hamas also taxes Gaza merchants on everything traded, from boxes of vegetables to luxury cars, and the leaders scoop the money into their pockets.”

In summary, Elad says, “This is corruption at the highest level… What has united the Palestinian leaders all throughout the years is the saying, ‘We have to get rich quick.’ This is how the regime sees it. Their leaders have no shame.

The PLO’s Yasser Arafat was reportedly worth $1 billion when he died.

In addition to its graft, oppression and corruption, Palestinian leaders also live on money provided to them by the United States and Europe. The US and Europe pay hundreds of millions in aid to the Palestinians every year, mostly through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Some of that aid ends up in the hands of the Palestinian government, including Hamas, despite US law against supporting terrorism and despite the fact that Hamas is still a designated terrorist organization. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel this week pledging $47 million more aid to the Palestinians, while calling for a cease-fire as Israel pounds Hamas forces, tunnels and weapons caches.

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Why Not Set Up Refugee Kiosks in Honduras? Can We Consider Any Idea from Obama, McCain?

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

A plan to evaluate refugee status for Hondurans in Honduras currently makes the rounds in D.C. – apparently backed by some in the Obama administration, it resembles a recent bill from Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona. The idea is to protect people, especially youth and children, from a dangerous trek across coyote-infested lands.

No one knows the details of this plan to set up, in effect, refugee immigration kiosks in Honduras, and the White House says no decision has been made, but already there’s pushback. This raises the question: Do Republicans, conservatives and libertarians need to shoot it down immediately because…

1) It might increase immigration from Honduras, and

2) might spread to other countries, and/or

2) it’s backed by McCain and Obama?

After all, we’re talking about facilitating legal immigration, and this might keep potential immigrants from piling up in U.S. border towns, jeopardizing public health and straining social services.

Regardless of the eventual shape of this plan, it’s time for folks on the Right to take the moral high ground on immigration. Oddly enough, if we’re serious about that, we’ll find that the issue isn’t immigration at all.

I know that even in whispering this, I may run afoul of my friends who think that it is the tide of immigrants — some unwilling to assimilate — that’s destroying our country. They’re stealing American jobs, or bearing contagions, including radical Islam. Seal the border.

Before our knees jerk in opposition to the latest proposal, we need to ask: Will the tide stop anytime soon under any plan which can actually pass Congress, and be implemented efficaciously?

No. The tide will stop when America stops being the beacon of liberty. I contend that one who wishes to stem the tide of immigration, inadvertently wishes American demise.

The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus

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