On Monday, I wrote about the Sheriff’s Association lobbying Google to remove a feature on its popular GPS app Waze, that allows users to report when they see police officers seeking motorists to ticket for driving infractions. Initially, the sheriffs claimed that allowing citizens to locate police officers on tax-payer funded highways and streets enables people to stalk and possibly ambush law enforcement officers.
The Waze app is a combination GPS/social network, that allows users to report information subsequently shared with other app users. Not only can users report the location of a police car or highway patrol but they can report broken-down automobiles on the side of the road and red-light cameras.
Now, the Sheriffs have “broadened the criteria” on which their objections to the app are based.
Just as I suspected, the new complaint against Waze is based on hampering the use of speed traps or as I prefer to call them “fundraisers.” The sheriffs are now claiming that radar guns and speed enforcement techniques have reduced highway fatalities and accidents. And, consequently, warning drivers about speed traps would result in situations that endanger the automobiling public.
“This app will hamper those activities by locating law enforcement officers and puts the public at risk,” the group said.
Nonsense. If drivers slow down because they know there is a patrol car in the area, isn’t that the point?
“Most users tend to drive more carefully when they believe law enforcement is nearby,” Waze spokeswoman Julie Mossler said.
Unless the point isn’t to stop reckless driving or speeding but rather to issue speeding tickets to generate revenue.
We currently live in a society where the Department of Justice, the mother-ship of law enforcement, is cataloging and stalking the movement of all cars, and yet the sheriffs have the nerve to suggest that the public doesn’t have the right to know the same information about them. And it’s not just the right to know, it’s the right to speak freely about what we know.
Publicly broadcasting information falls under the First Amendment. “Waze represents person-to person information in the public square,” said Nuala O’Connor, head of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington civil liberties group, who said she uses the software. “And that’s long been a U.S. right under the Constitution.”
It’s time to take a few steps back and consider what path we are going down when law-enforcement thinks it’s entitled to restrict the fundamental law of free speech in the service of entrapping citizens for minor traffic violations.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Fox in a wide-ranging interview today that he can definitely bring together disparate points of view within his caucus.
“Listen, I was the Tea Party before there was a Tea Party. I understand their concerns. I understand their frustrations. But we have a Constitution that we abide by and we’re going to live by,” Boehner said.
“And that means we’ve got separate and equal branches of the government. And whether people like it or not, Barack Obama is going to be the president for the next two years. We’ve got to find a way to hold him accountable and try to find common ground to get things done on behalf of the American people.”
Asked if this Congress is his “last time around,” the 65-year-old speaker replied, “No. No. No. I’ll be here for a while.”
On his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Boehner said White House officials “don’t even try to hide” their antipathy toward Bibi.
“I believe that the prime minister of Israel has a strong voice. He believes that the threat of the Iranians having a nuclear weapon is a very serious threat,” Boehner said.
“The Israeli prime minister can also talk with some expertise about the growing threat of radical Islam. We’ve got a serious problem in the world, and the president just wants to act like it’s going to just disappear. And so as a co-equal branch of our government, I don’t have any problem at all in doing what I did to invite the prime minister to come to Congress and address those concerns.”
Boehner said he hadn’t heard of Jeremy Bird, who served as national field director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, working in Israel to defeat Netanyahu, “but I don’t want to say I’m surprised or not.”
“But I would hope that would not be the case,” he added. “Israel has been our strongest ally in the region for decades. We have a great relationship with them. And we ought to what — look for ways to work together on behalf of our shared interests, not have the kind of antipathy that we’ve seen over the last several years.”
The Speaker said House Republicans are working on an Obamacare alternative. “There are three committee chairmen that have the jurisdiction over the health care policy in our country. And those three chairmen are working together to craft what we believe would be a better approach with regard to health care for the American people than Obamacare,” he said.
He also confirmed that his new lawsuit against Obama is coming together.
“The president’s overreach when he took executive action to — to deal with the immigration problems in our country, frankly, in my view, is a violation of our Constitution is — it’s a violation of his oath of office,” Boehner said. “I said in December, we were going to do everything to try to stop it. That’s why when we passed the DHS appropriations bill a couple of weeks ago, we took the president’s ability to do what he did away from him. That bill is awaiting action over in the United States Senate.”
The White House has vowed to veto such a bill, or any that strips funding for the immigration executive actions.
“But in addition to that, we believe that the filing of a lawsuit to try to stop the president from violating our Constitution is an important step for our institution,” Boehner added. “This isn’t about immigration. This is the president violating the Constitution, violating his oath of office and, frankly, not upholding the rule of law.”
Homeland Security Adviser Mohamed Elibiary Goes on Hate-Filled Anti-Christian Rant, Attacks Jindal as ‘Bottom Feeder’
Obama administration Muslim adviser Mohamed Elibiary is no stranger to regular PJ Media readers.
In September, Elibiary was unceremoniously removed from his fellowship position with the Department of Homeland Security, which he tried to spin as a “resignation,” but letters sent to members of Congress by DHS officials indicated he would not be reappointed.
Undoubtedly, one of the chief reasons for DHS cutting ties with Elibiary was a long string of extremist statements he had been making on Twitter, including talking about the inevitability of the return of an ISIS-style caliphate — tweets that were subsequently used by ISIS supporters for recruiting purposes.
But Elibiary has apparently not learned his lesson, engaging in a hate-filled anti-Christian rant on Twitter yesterday, even going so far to attack Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as a “bottom feeder”:
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) January 28, 2015
Nor, as you’ll see below, is this the first time he has indulged in his anti-Christian bigotry.
Before revisiting his Twitter meltdown, perhaps it’s useful to revisit some of Elibiary’s greatest hits:
- Elibiary admitted that his mentor and long-time friend was none other than Hamas terrorist leader Shukri Abu Baker, who is currently serving a 65-year prison sentence.
- In 2003, Elibiary was listed as a board member for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Dallas chapter, which was founded by now-convicted Hamas operative Ghassan Elashi. In 2008, federal prosecutors declared in a federal court brief that “from its founding by Muslim Brotherhood leaders, CAIR conspired with other affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood to support terrorists.”
- In Dec 2004, Elibiary was a featured speaker at a Dallas rally honoring the Ayatollah Khomeini as a “Great Islamic Visionary,” an event the Dallas Morning News called a “disgrace.”
- Immediately after the Fort Hood massacre in November 2009, Dallas Morning News editor Rod Dreher recounted Elibiary’s strident defense of jihadist ideologue Sayyid Qutb, whom the 9/11 Commission identified as the chief architect of Al-Qaeda’s ideology.
- In April 2010, he published an op-ed at Fox News pleading with the Obama administration to not kill senior Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
- In June 2010, he attacked the Supreme Court after they upheld the material support for terrorism statute in an op-ed for the Dallas Morning News.
- In June 2011, the IRS revoked the 501c3 tax-exempt status of Elibiary’s Freedom and Justice Foundation for failing to file the required IRS Form 990s over a period of several years, documents which would reveal the source of his organization’s funding.
- In October 2011, I reported exclusively here at PJ Media that Elibiary had downloaded sensitive documents by the Texas Dept. of Public Safety from a secure DHS database, and then unsuccessfully tried to shop them to the media claiming then-Gov. Rick Perry was running an “Islamophobic” operation. Despite multiple claims by top DHS officials that an internal investigation exonerated Elibiary, in Sept 2013 DHS admitted in response to the Judicial Watch FOIA request that no records related to any internal investigation existed, prompting members of Congress to claim DHS was engaged in a cover-up. Texas DPS, having conducted their own investigation, severed their relationship with Elibiary.
- After 30 million Egyptians took to the streets to remove Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, leading to his ouster, Elibiary added a Muslim Brotherhood logo to his Twitter avatar in solidarity with the extremist Islamic group.
- In November 2013, Elibiary took to Twitter to announce that the U.S. was a shariah-compliant Islamic country.
So that provides some context for his hate-filled Twitter rant yesterday.
Elibiary began his meltdown by denouncing “guilt by association,” and then engaged in the very group scapegoating (“Christianist culture wars”) he had just condemned:
We don't assign collective guilt 2 whole groups of fellow Americans under our constitution & laws. #Chistianists culture wars are just that.
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) January 27, 2015
Then in a bizarre statement, he claimed that Islam is the driving force for the “Far Right” (presumably he means that hatred of the religion of Islam itself drives the “Far Right” — again another sweeping group indictment that he previously denounced):
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) January 28, 2015
He then launched into a rage about “Christianist subculture”:
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) January 27, 2015
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) January 27, 2015
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) January 27, 2015
“Christianist” is a slur invented by Leftist reactionaries to attack Christians who take their faith seriously and are politically involved. And yet if Elibiary’s co-conspirators at CAIR can denounce the use of the term “Islamist,” as they recently did, isn’t it equally bigoted and unfair to use the term “Christianist” to attack Elibiary’s perceived enemies?
But he continues, identifying “Christianist subculture” as a “problem” for Muslims, and presumably one that must be eradicated:
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) January 27, 2015
“Christianist” subculture is unAmerican:
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) January 27, 2015
And again the attack continued, as he demonized a large group he had just identified in the millions as hateful and xenophobic:
For majority in US, no matter xenophobia & hatefulness from this loud #Christianist subculture, we won't abandon our vision for this nation.
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) January 27, 2015
And demonstrating the complete lack of self-awareness of his own hypocrisy:
Fellow American #Patriots: If u find yourself gravitating towards a view that blames religion of Islam or Muslims broadly, then you're lost.
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) January 27, 2015
But don’t dare call Mohamed Elibiary out on his hypocrisy:
Judging from the reaction on my TL, #Chistianists got irritated that I called their subculture unrepresentative of mainstream US Christians.
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) January 27, 2015
One is given to wonder what Elibiary’s reaction would be if someone were to simply modify his tweets to replace “Christianist subculture” with “American Islamist subculture.” Undoubtedly, he would froth at the mouth with rabid accusations of racism and “Islamophobia.”
This, however, is not remotely the first time that Christians have been the targets of Elibiary’s unbridled rage.
In September 2013, he engaged in a series of tweets attacking Egyptian Coptic Christians:
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) September 14, 2013
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) September 15, 2013
Which prompted this shocked response from a UK Coptic bishop:
— Bishop Angaelos (@BishopAngaelos) September 28, 2013
But Elibiary was back spewing anti-Christian hate again last April, attacking Coptic church leaders as immoral:
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) April 12, 2014
As I witnessed first-hand in Egypt last year, Elibiary’s Muslim Brotherhood allies sacked and burned down nearly 100 churches in August 2013 and launched an ongoing wave of terror targeting Copts and the government after the ouster Morsi. During Morsi’s regime, attacks on Christians were commonplace, with the Muslim Brotherhood setting up torture chambers for Christian protesters right outside Morsi’s palace. When Christians were murdered in April 2013, a Muslim mob aided by Morsi’s police attacked the funeral service and mourners at the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo. So it’s no surprise that Christians overwhelmingly supported Morsi’s overthrow.
And the outrage of Coptic Christians is understandable when, despite all the contrary evidence, Elibiary tweets out this:
— Mohamed Elibiary (@MohamedElibiary) April 14, 2014
Clearly, it is long past time for Elibiary’s friends to stage a mental health intervention. And because he exhibits undeniable anti-Christian hatred and bigotry, he clearly has no place advising anyone in our government.
Every year since 1995, the Heritage Foundation has published an Index of Economic Freedom that ranks every country in the world by how free their economy is.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “The index measures commitment to free enterprise on a scale of 0 to 100 by evaluating policies related to the rule of law, government size, regulatory efficiency and market openness.”
The US ranking has been dropping since 2005, when we stood at #5 in the rankings and our score was high enough that we were designated a “free” economy. Since then — and especially in the 5 years of the Obama administration, the US has tumbled out of the top ten and our overall score has us designated as a “mostly free” economy. Our current ranking is 12th — same as it was last year.
This year, we saw a slight uptick in 7 of 10 indices, making this the first year since 2009 we haven’t lost any ground in economic freedom.
Although the precipitous downward spiral in U.S. economic freedom since 2008 has come to a halt in the 2015 Index, a 1.6-point decline in overall economic freedom over the past five years reflects broad-based deteriorations in key policy areas, particularly those related to upholding the rule of law and limited government. Continuing to trail such comparable economies as Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Canada, America has been ranked “mostly free” since 2010.
The anemic post-recession recovery has been characterized by slow growth, high unemployment, a decrease in the number of Americans seeking work, and great uncertainty that has held back investment. Increased tax and regulatory burdens, aggravated by favoritism toward entrenched interests, have undercut America’s historically dynamic entrepreneurial growth.
Part of the reason for the slight rise in our numbers is attributed by Heritage to the Republican Congress:
President Barack Obama’s second-term efforts to expand government spending and regulation have been thwarted to some extent by Republican Party opposition in Congress. Economic policy leadership has devolved by default to the Federal Reserve, whose attempts to use monetary policy to stimulate economic activity have not restored robust growth. Implementation of the 2010 health care law, which has reduced competition in most health insurance markets, remains a drag on job creation and full-time employment. Overall, the U.S. economy continues to underperform, despite a private sector–led energy boom that has made the U.S. the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. The weak economic recovery and uncertain responses to foreign policy challenges, particularly in the Middle East, in Ukraine, and along the southern U.S. border, have contributed to a loss of support for the President and his party and Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress as a result of 2014 midterm elections.
Compare the “Limited Government” index between the US and Hong Kong, who is ranked #1 in economic freedom:
The top individual income tax rate is 39.6 percent, and the top corporate tax rate remains among the world’s highest at 35 percent. Other taxes include a capital gains tax and excise taxes. Tax revenue is equal to 24.3 percent of gross domestic product, and government spending is well over one-third of GDP. Public debt exceeds the value of the economy’s annual production.
Hong Kong, on the other hand, has a low personal and business tax rates:
The standard income tax rate is 15 percent, and the top corporate tax rate is 16.5 percent. The overall tax burden equals 13.7 percent of domestic income. Government expenditures amount to 18.5 percent of gross domestic product. Public debt is low, and a budget surplus has been maintained, but population aging and greater spending on social programs have increased fiscal pressures.
Here are the top ten most free and least free countries according to the Index:
1, Hong Kong
3. New Zealand
178. North Korea
173. Equatorial Guinea
170. Republic of Congo
Note the countries ahead of the US, including Estonia (?), Chile, Switzerland, and #11 Denmark. When democratic socialist peoples like the Swiss and Danes are freer economically than the US, you know something is radically out of kilter.
The rankings are a useful guide to approximating economic freedom. But there is not always a strong correlation between economic liberty and personal liberty. Hong Kong and Singapore are considered “partly free” by the Freedom House “Freedom in the World” rankings, with restrictions on the press and some draconian laws, like receiving lashes in Singapore for spitting.
Heritage points out that there have been 145 major regulations issued by the Obama administration, adding $70 billion to the economy’s regulatory tab — burdening business, reducing job creation, and slowing growth. It appears business growth will continue to be stifled until President Obama exits his office – two long years from now.
The Castro regime took another step today as it, in one lawmaker’s words, pulled out the “Iranian playbook” to extort as much as possible from the U.S. after President Obama’s move to normalization relations with the communist country.
At a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States today, Cuban President Raul Castro demanded that Guantanamo Bay be returned to Cuba before any relations are re-established.
Castro also wants “just compensation” in cold, hard cash “to our people for the human and economic damage that they’re suffered,” and an end to the embargo that can only be lifted by Congress.
“The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process of normalizing bilateral relations, but this will not be possible while the blockade still exists, while they don’t give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base,” Castro said.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who immigrated from Cuba to the U.S. as a young child, cited the legally binding agreement between the U.S. and Cuba regarding Guantanamo: “So long as the United States of America shall not abandon the said naval station of Guantanamo or the two Governments shall not agree to a modification of its present limits, the station shall continue to have the territorial area that it now has.”
“Naval Station Guantanamo Bay is strategically important for U.S. national security, and as our own military personnel have said, also plays a key role as a logistical hub in support of a variety of U.S. priority efforts in the region,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “The president must not allow this strategic asset to be extorted from the U.S. by the Castro brothers at any cost.”
The Castro brothers, “once again,” the congresswoman said, “have made their intent toward the United States clear: they plan to use the Iranian playbook in an attempt to extort concessions from the Obama administration in exchange for nothing.”
“Noticeably absent from the regime’s demands, not surprisingly, is any offer to compensate the Cubans and Americans who had their land and property seized by the Castro regime, any change in its oppressive nature and abysmal human rights practices, and to halt its support for terrorism.”
Pressed by reporters about why the Jordanians can’t trade a would-be suicide bomber to ISIS for the return of a downed pilot, the White House said today that deal-making with the Taliban to win Bowe Bergdahl’s release was different.
“The Taliban is an armed insurgency. ISIL is a terrorist group. So we don’t make concessions to terrorist groups,” spokesman Eric Schultz said today.
Jordan said a short time ago that there is no deal in place yet for the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi awaiting the death penalty for her role in the grisly 2005 bombing of a wedding reception at the Radisson in Amman. Her husband killed himself, but her suicide belt failed to properly detonate and she was captured.
ISIS had requested al-Rishawi be freed in exchange for Japanese war reporter Kenji Goto. Jordan wants any such deal tied to the release of air force pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh as well, but they haven’t received any proof of life that the pilot is OK.
“Our policy is that we don’t pay ransom. We don’t give concessions to other — to terrorist organizations,” Schultz said at today’s briefing. “But in terms of details on the negotiations between the Jordanians and the Japanese, I’m gonna refer you to their governments.”
“I can tell you that this is a longstanding policy that predates this administration. And it’s also one that we’ve communicated to our friends and allies across the world.”
Schultz was asked how Jordan’s swap would be different from the U.S. release of five Taliban commanders for Bergdahl’s freedom.
“As you know, this was highly discussed at the time, and prisoner swaps are a traditional end of conflict interaction that happens,” the spokesman said. “As the war in Afghanistan wound down, we felt like it was the appropriate thing to do. The president’s bedrock commitment as commander in chief is to leave no man or woman behind. That’s the principle he was operating under.”
Then, he said the Taliban — hosts of al-Qaeda camps, suicide bombers, throwers of acid on schoolgirls — didn’t qualify as terrorists.
“The Taliban is an armed insurgency. This was the winding down of the war in Afghanistan. And that’s why this arrangement was dealt,” Schultz continued. “Our view is, as the president said at the time, which is, as the commander in chief, when he sends men and women into armed combat, he doesn’t want to leave anyone behind. That was the commitment he was following through on this.”
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki was posed similar questions at today’s briefing.
“We’re not going to discuss the details of our diplomatic exchanges with Jordan, with Japan, with any other country involved. Our position is well know. The United States government policy in terms of how we operate is, we don’t make concessions to terrorists. That is our policy. I don’t think there’s any secret about that to other countries around the world,” Psaki said.
“…Every country has the ability and the right to make decisions about — obviously, within the realm of what is acceptable by international law. We have our own positions, our own views, that are well-known, and there’s reasons behind them.”
Does the administration believe the Bergdahl swap fell within those parameters? “We do, yes.”
“We have our own positions, as many other countries do, on things like ransoms and swaps for a reason,” Psaki said.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Dem on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN today that it’s “very difficult” to distinguish a Jordan swap from the Bergdahl swap.
“They’re in a difficult spot. And as you point out, we did trade Bowe Bergdahl for this Taliban, in something that I’m not sure was a very good exercise and a very good precedent for the United States to set,” Schiff said.
“But in any event, Jordan is a key ally. We’ll support them with whatever they decide they have to do. This is the scourge of dealing with a terrorist organization that is willing to behead people if it doesn’t get what it wants. There are no laws of war. There are no rules of war. There’s nothing but brutality, and murder and death when it comes to ISIL. It ought to reinforce why this terrorist group has to be stopped.”
Psaki After Hezbollah Attack: Israel Can Defend Itself, But ‘Preference’ Is No More ‘Back-and-Forth’
Two Israeli soldiers were killed today by a series of Hezbollah missiles fired from the Lebanon side of the border at a military convoy.
The United Nations said it’s investigating the death of a Spanish member of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) after Israel responded to the Hezbollah attack with airstrikes and artillery, Reuters reported.
“I would like to send condolences to the families of the fallen and my best wishes for a full recovery to our wounded soldiers. Whoever is behind today’s attack will pay the full price. For some time, Iran – via Hezbollah – has been trying to establish an additional terrorist front against us from the Golan Heights,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of an evening meeting with security officials.
“We are taking strong and responsible action against this attempt. The Lebanese government and the Assad regime share responsibility for the consequences of the attacks emanating from their territories against the State of Israel,” Netanyahu continued. “In all of these events, our mission is to defend the State of Israel.”
“Our only consideration is the security of the State of Israel and its citizens. Thus we have acted and thus we will continue to act.”
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki urged both sides to remain calm.
“We support Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense and continue to urge all parties to respect the blue line between Israel and Lebanon as prescribed by UNSCR 17-01,” she said. “We also, of course, condemn the act of violence, and will be watching the situation closely.”
Pressed for clarification on “the act,” Psaki clarified that they condemn Hezbollah’s attack.
“We certainly encourage all parties to respect the blue line between Israel and Lebanon. We urge all parties to refrain from any action that could escalate the situation. You’re familiar with our views on Hezbollah. As I’ve mentioned, we strongly condemn Hezbollah’s attack today near the border. But beyond that, I’m not going to speculate further,” she told reporters.
“…But certainly, our preference is to reduce the tensions and the violence and the back-and-forth from here.”
Psaki added, “Look, this is a situation where there has been an attack from Hezbollah. Obviously, we condemn that. Is our preference that there are no more attacks and that the UNSCR is abided by? Yes. But we also believe Israel has the right to defend itself.”
“Maybe the way to state your position would be that you would prefer that Israel not exercise its right to self-defense,” a reporter said.
“I wouldn’t state it in that way, though I appreciate your offer to give us talking points,” Psaki retorted.
The congressional Democrats involved in writing the Affordable Care Act told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that they intended for consumers in all states to be eligible for subsidies, and they argue that the law they drafted reflects that intention.
Opponents have challenged the Obama administration’s enforcement of the law, arguing that it only allows subsidies to be paid in states that set up their own exchanges, but not to customers in most of the country who use the federal exchange.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and their colleagues disputed that in a new brief filed with the Supreme Court Wednesday, saying to leave out some states would defy the entire reason they passed Obamacare — “to make health insurance affordable for all Americans.”
The court case rests on language in the law that says subsidies will be paid to those in exchanges “established by the state.”
Mr. Obama’s opponents say that means the federal exchange, which covers the two-thirds of states that refused to set up their own exchanges, are not eligible. The opponents, pointing to comments from some Obamacare defenders, say Congress had intended to use the subsidies as a way to entice states to set up exchanges, rather than leave the job to federal officials.
But the Democratic lawmakers who wrote and passed the law called that argument “so weak” and say they never meant to draw that kind of distinction, saying the law grants subsidies to “applicable taxpayers” and defines them by income, not by geography.
Hey, I know — let’s ask an expert!
Jonathan Who? Never heard of him.
One thing you have to give the Democrats: they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit. Even after getting various body parts hacked off and handed to them last November, they’re still — taking a cue from Fearless Leader Barry — swaggering around like the cocks of the walk:
House Democrats are feeling emboldened as they head to their annual issues conference and a pep talk from President Obama in Philadelphia this week, relishing a series of stumbles by the Republican majorities in Congress and rallying around a populist tax-the-rich agenda that they are convinced will score points with voters.
Rep. Steve Israel of New York, who headed up House Democrats’ campaign operation last year and now runs the Policy and Communications Committee, said Tuesday that his party had quickly regained its footing after taking a beating in the November elections. “The opening weeks of this Congress have not been kind to the Republicans. They have been a reminder to middle-class Americans that the Republican priorities are wrong,” he said.
Never underestimate the incompetence of the Stupid Party, nor the malevolence of the Evil Party. If Weepy John Boehner is such a crackerjack Speaker, he surely could have managed to slam-dunk his abortion and immigration bills. But, of course, no.
Presenting themselves as champions of the middle class and Republicans as allies of the rich, Democrats have embraced the liberal agenda that Mr. Obama presented last week in his State of the Union address. The plan included a plan to raise taxes on the wealthy and give a slew of tax breaks to middle-class families, free tuition at community colleges, boost the minimum wage and mandate employers provide paid sick leave.
Mr. Israel said these “paycheck” issues will pay off for Democrats in the 2016 elections.
Interesting how the Democrats have redefined “paycheck issues” as “gimme free stuff.” Still, it takes a lot of chutzpah when your president lives in Cloud Cuckoo-Land and your congressional caucus is at its weakest in decades to start getting frisky about the 2016 election. Especially when you look like this:
Come on, you pansies! Fight like a man!
Moments ago (12:29 p.m. EST), Bloomberg Business posted a “Story Developing … ” blurb consisting entirely of the following:
The S&P is considering downgrading Greece’s credit following concerns over whether the nation can continue to service its debt.
Leftwing Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras threw down an open challenge to international creditors on Wednesday by halting privatization plans agreed under the country’s bailout deal, prompting a third day of heavy losses on financial markets.
A swift series of announcements signaled the newly installed government would stand by its anti-austerity pledges, setting it on course for a clash with European partners, led by Germany, which has said it will not renegotiate the aid package needed to help Greece pay its debts.
After announcing a halt to the privatization of the port of Piraeus on Tuesday, for which China’s Cosco Group [COSCO.UL] and four other suitors had been shortlisted, the government said on Wednesday it would block the sale of a stake in the Public Power Corporation of Greece (PPC).
It also plans to reinstate public sector employees judged to have been laid off without proper justification and announced rises in pension payments for retired people on low incomes.
Uncertainty over the new government’s relations with the European Union went beyond economic policy. A day before the EU is expected to extend sanctions against Russia for six months, it was unclear if Athens would back its European partners on this move, after dissenting over a joint statement from the bloc on Ukraine on Tuesday.
Tsipras, who met Russia’s ambassador to Athens on Monday and the Chinese envoy the next day, told ministers that the government would not seek “a mutually destructive clash” with creditors. But he warned Greece would not back down from demanding a renegotiation of debt.
“We are coming in to radically change the way that policies and administration are conducted in this country,” he said.
Sigh. Few global events are more predictable than the reaction of markets — and the subsequent drop in general welfare — to socialist policies.
A Democratic congresswoman says the administration needs to be accurate about its descriptions of terrorists in order to properly fight terrorism.
“It’s not just about words, it’s not about semantics, it’s really about having a real true understanding of who our enemy is and how important that is, that we have to understand what their motivation is and what their ideology is, this radical Islamic ideology that’s fueling them,” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) told Fox.
“Just a couple of days ago, Secretary Kerry said in a speech that ISIS and al-Qaeda are engaging in, quote, ‘criminal conduct rooted in alienation, poverty, thrill seeking and other factors.’ Now if we really look at what he’s saying and if that’s really the cause, then the solution would be to give them a trophy, give them a hug, give them a good paying job, $10,000, and a skateboard so they can go and get their thrills and say, OK, great, they’re going to be happy and they won’t be fighting anymore,” she continued.
“That’s not the case. Unfortunately, we have people who are living in poverty all around the world, people who have this same feeling of alienation from their government, but they’re not terrorists. So we’ve got to look at what their ideology is and how that’s fueling these tragic attacks that keep occurring.”
Gabbard, the first Hindu member of Congress, is a captain in the Hawaii Army National Guard and Iraq combat veteran. She is also a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Her perspective, she said, “comes from experiencing not only the culture myself, personally, but also seeing the incredibly high cost of wars.”
“Seeing friends of mine who did not make it home, people who I served with in Iraq, and unfortunately, the countless other lives who sacrificed and paid that ultimate price,” she said.
Obama, Gabbard said, “really is not recognizing that Islamic extremism is the enemy.”
“We can see that through their actions, through the decisions that this administration has made. And Libya is a perfect example, where if you don’t know who your enemy is, you end up going to war with people who are not your enemy. In Libya, we had a situation where Gadhafi was taken out. We attacked Libya, and we look now rather than eliminating our enemy, these Islamic extremists, they’re stronger there now than they were before. And there are other examples. We look at the proposed attacks on Syria that occurred just over a year ago. Again, we’re dealing with a situation where this is not our enemy, this is not the people who are threatening the American people,” she said.
“It’s a real problem because of a very simple reason actually. That is something I learned as military 101, but something that’s easy for everyone to understand, and that is, if you are at war, which we are, you have to know who your enemy is in order to defeat them. You’ve got to recognize what’s fueling them, what’s motivating them, what are their strategies and tactics that they’re using in order to be able to defeat them and prevent them from attacking the American people.”
Harvard University, best known for its former, albeit laconic *, Law Review president, has now distinguished itself in another way. Last year, Harvard received gifts in excess of $1.5 billion — that’s Billion, as in “you didn’t Build that.”
The president undoubtedly Tweeted Harvard’s Dean of Donations this week to remind him that “at a certain point you’ve made enough money,” and that, while he doesn’t want to punish Harvard’s success, “when you spread the wealth around it’s good for everybody.”
Obama probably urged his Crimson comrades to consider the egalitarian generosity of Charles and David Koch, who recently contributed $25 million to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) to help needy students at historically-black schools. President Obama almost certainly encouraged his alma mater to emulate this field-leveling behavior, even if doing so might cause a backlash from AFSCME, the union of government employees, which cut ties with the UNCF in protest over the Koch donation.
With only 106 historically-black colleges and universities, many of them struggling financially, Harvard could simply divide up that $1.5 billion in equal shares of $14 million (with Harvard also receiving its fair share.) What could be a more equitable way of addressing such savage income inequality?
It was, after all, a $37.5 billion record year for giving to America’s 4,800 colleges and universities, but $6.75 billion of that went to just 10 schools. In other words, the top two-tenths of one percent got 18 percent of the money.
As a millionaire, living in a palace, with servants meeting his every need, security watching his every step, becking and calling limousines and luxury aircraft, vacationing in posh resorts, and golfing his days away — Barack Obama clearly has the prestige, and the leisure time, to petition the captains of Cambridge, Mass., to redress this lingering injustice.
However, you may contend, the donors to Harvard did not intend their wealth to be spread around so liberally.
Yes, but what is Harvard, if not an educational institution? Should that education stop after a few years of undergraduate work, a master’s or a doctorate? No, I say, let the learning continue for a lifetime, as Harvard teaches its wealthy capitalist alumni the vanity of greed and the surpassing value of selfless giving.
May Obama’s elite friends in academia experience the full blessing of his legacy of leveling.
Hobby drone operators are fighting back against President Obama’s call for more regulations after a drone crashed on the White House lawn this week.
The drone operator reported himself to the Secret Service, saying he lost control of the craft.
In an interview with CNN while visiting India, Obama noted that “the drone that landed in the White House you buy in Radio Shack.”
“You know that there are companies like Amazon that are talking about using small drones to deliver packages… There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife.” Obama said. “But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it.”
Stressing that “these technologies that we’re developing have the capacity to empower individuals in ways that we couldn’t even imagine 10-15 years ago,” Obama said said he’d work with stakeholders to craft a regulatory framework that “ensures that we get the good and minimize the bad.”
The Academy of Model Aeronautics responded with a statement that “more regulation isn’t the answer.”
“The Washington, DC, airspace is some of the most heavily regulated airspace in the world, and all aircraft operations are currently prohibited in the vicinity of the White House. Despite the existing regulations, a quadcopter still made its way onto the White House lawn this week,” said AMA President Bob Brown.
“Community-based programming is the key to safe and responsible flying, as our organization’s 78-year history has shown. AMA has safety guidelines, best practices and operating principles that have allowed enthusiasts to operate their aircraft and safely use this technology for more than seven decades. When an incident occurs, it’s a rare day when one of AMA’s 175,000 members is involved,” Brown added.
Those members are spread throughout 2,400 clubs in the United States, the group said.
“AMA has always believed that the best, and perhaps the only, way to successfully manage the recreational community is through a community-based set of safety guidelines and the combined efforts of the FAA and AMA,” Brown said. “The FAA’s recent interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft has complicated our working relationship, but it is our hope that the agency will work with us to forge a path forward for the recreational community that finds common ground on the Interpretive Rule and leverages AMA’s deep expertise when it comes to safe and responsible flying.”
The AMA sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta last week asking for a meeting “to again offer our expertise and knowledge in support of the FAA’s effort to create guidance for the operation of recreational sUAS in the NAS.”
Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) officially introduced their Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 with 16 original co-sponsors and more expected in the days to come.
The Senate Banking Committee is expected to mark up the bill on Thursday. Senate aides have told PJM that there will be amendments coming down the pipeline.
In addition to Kirk and Menendez, this year’s reintroduction of Iran sanctions came with co-sponsors Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
It would implement new sanctions on the Islamic Republic after the June 30 negotiations deadline if a deal is not reached.
The administration would be required to submit any agreement to Congress within five days. Congress would then have 30 days to review the pact before the president can give Iran any sanctions relief agreed to at the P5+1. There also would need to be certification that a sanctions waiver is in the national security interest of the U.S.
If Congress acts before the deadline, reimposition of sanctions could happen as early as August, specifically targeting the petroleum and financial sectors as well as regime officials.
“The clock is ticking on a nuclear Iran, and the longer they have to build a bomb, the closer we are to witnessing a nuclear war in the Middle East,” Kirk said in a statement. “Sanctions against Iran have been signed into law four times with bipartisan, veto-proof majorities in both Houses. The time for action is now.”
Senate Dems co-sponsoring the bill want a vote after the March 24 framework deadline. That would put the congressional action after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 address to a joint session of Congress, and after the giant AIPAC conference in D.C. at which Bibi will also speak.
Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said even the markup of the bill is “something the Obama administration doesn’t want.”
“They’ve said that. They put pressure on their fellow Democrats not to support it. But we’re going to bring it out, and we’re going to let people vote up or down on it,” Shelby told Fox Business. “I hope they will vote the right thing, not the political thing.”
The current New York governor and son of a former New York governor — no hereditary political families in these United States, no sirreebob! — is starting to find himself very, very lonely, rattling around in the governor’s mansion — no hereditary mansions in these United States, no sir! — in Albany. From the house organ (okay, the other house organ) of Democrat-Media Complex liberalism, Politico, this fine piece by Jeff Smith:
As news of numerous, exhaustively documented federal charges against New York Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver spread Thursday morning, the New York Daily News went looking for comment from Silver’s legislative colleagues. They found no shortage of pols who had long lived in fear of Silver—who was charged with taking several million dollars in bribes and kickbacks—but now are willing to turn on him. This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course. Most politicians, possessing unmatched self-preservation instincts, will distance themselves from an embattled colleague, and the alacrity with which they abandon him often speaks volumes about his behavior.
But one person who has worked closely with Silver didn’t attack or distance himself on this darkest of days for the speaker (who has expressed confidence in his eventual vindication). That would be Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“Obviously, it’s bad for the speaker,” Cuomo acknowledged Thursday. “But it’s also a bad reflection on government, and it adds to the negativity. And it adds to the cynicism and it adds to the ‘they’re all the same.’” Why exactly would Cuomo go to such lengths not to impugn the inscrutable Silver, with whom he is not particularly close?
Good question! And, amazingly, Politico even manages to come up with the right answer: the big, stinking pile of horse manure known as the Moreland Commission, which Cuomo the Younger abruptly disbanded once it became known that he might be at least collateral damage as a result of its corruption investigation.
In 2013, the governor had charged the Moreland Commission with investigating state government corruption. According to the criminal complaint filed against Silver, as well as sources inside the commission, the speaker, who works as a lawyer outside of his government job, repeatedly refused to comply with commission requests to provide a description of the services he provided to his legal clients or a list of those clients, leading federal prosecutors to subpoena his firm. The Silver-led state assembly then filed a court motion to quash the commission’s subpoenas related to legislators’ outside income.
In exchange for allowing the campaign finance bill to pass, Silver allegedly demanded that Cuomo disband the commission, according to the complaint against Silver, and Cuomo—knowing that the commission was also examining the campaign spending of some of his largest donors—was apparently only too happy to oblige.
Silver has not publicly discussed these negotiations other than lambasting the commission’s inquiry into legislators’ outside income as a “fishing expedition”—perhaps because he knew all along that the guiltiest fish in Albany was staring at him in the mirror every morning. Cuomo has variously asserted that he disbanded the commission because it accomplished its primary goal of persuading the legislature to pass an ethics bill, and because the state didn’t “need another expensive prosecutor’s office”; while he originally called the commission “100 percent independent,” he later stated, “I can appoint it; I can disband it; I can appoint you; I can un-appoint you tomorrow.”
Here come the oh-oh part:
If Silver provides new details about Cuomo’s role in the negotiations that led to the commission’s demise, especially if the speaker reveals that Cuomo or his top negotiators were aware of the criminality underlying Silver’s desire to kill the commission, Cuomo’s vulnerability to an obstruction of justice charge increases. And Silver will be under unrelenting pressure to talk: pressure from the feds, pressure from his family and, of course, pressure rooted in any 70-year-old’s desire not to die in prison if it becomes clear that the only route to a short sentence is to give up a much bigger fish.
What are the chances Silver rolls? Given that US Attorney Preet Bharara has publicly said, “stay tuned,” I would say they’re pretty high. Unless, of course, Shelly should meet with an unfortunate accident along the way.
In the Guardian, Simon Tisdall thinks the unthinkable — and it’s about time:
It would be far-fetched to describe the US and Britain’s long-term relationship with Saudi Arabia as a love affair, although elements of romance, blind infatuation and lustful mutual gratification have never been entirely absent. But what has become painfully clear from the furious row over the sycophantic official reaction in Washington and London to the death, this month, of King Abdullah is how much the relationship has changed, at least on the west’s side of the bed…
Intent on offering his condolences and meeting Abdullah’s successor in person, Obama led an exceptionally high-powered delegation to Riyadh that included former secretaries of state, past presidential candidates and senior military commanders. Similarly subservient, Britain had already sent David Cameron and Prince Charles.
Yet when asked to justify this level of attention and, for example, the flying of flags at half-mast on government buildings, Downing Street was hard put to explain its stance. Saudi Arabia was an important ally and economic partner came the muttered reply from No 10, and others. To act otherwise would have been “aggressive” and impolite. A legion of critics vociferously disagreed.
This kneejerk diplomatic kowtowing, embedded in the thinking of a cold war, 1980s world that no longer exists, looks increasingly anachronistic and warrants close scrutiny. All the main policy planks underpinning the Saudi relationship are, more or less, under challenge.
Tisdall goes on to list them, including a shift in the balance of global oil-producing power (thanks, fracking! thanks, North Dakota!), which is breaking the sheikdom’s stranglehold on oil prices, but also its self-protective, two-faced role in the “War on Terror” (if Bush had called it by its proper name, a war on radical Wahhabist Islam, the Saudis wouldn’t have been able to get away with their tiresome act), and of course their despicable repression of women, public beheadings, etc.
The relationship with the west has survived several wars between Israelis and Arabs, in Afghanistan and in Iraq (twice); the chilling predominance of Saudi nationals in the 9/11 attacks and the rise of al-Qaida; serious bribery and corruption scandals and diplomatic rifts; recurring oil crises; deepening concern over Saudi funding for extremist religious teaching and its links to terrorism; escalating rows about egregious human rights abuses and the repression of women, and most recently, the Syrian calamity and the ascendancy of the black-shirted head-cutters of Islamic State.
But it has survived at what cost? For many in Britain and the US (which, post-1945, gradually assumed Britain’s geostrategic role in the Arabian peninsula, as elsewhere), the rationale binding western interests so closely to the Saudi state is no longer obvious, persuasive, welcome or easily justified.
You can say that again. Given its structural weaknesses, the sheikdom’s future under its new hereditary fraternal “monarch” looks very dubious.
Writing days before Abdullah’s death, the American author Stephen Kinzer warned that the basis of the west’s relationship with the Saudi regime was shifting in fundamental ways, while Saudi Arabia’s position in a region beset by insurrection and civil war was ever less secure. “The most intriguing candidate for collapse is Saudi Arabia,” Kinzer wrote. “For more than half a century, Saudi leaders manipulated the United States by feeding our oil addiction, lavishing money on politicians, helping to finance American wars, and buying billions of dollars in weaponry from US companies. Now the sand is beginning to shift under their feet.
“After [King Salman, Abdullah’s successor, departs the scene], a power struggle within the royal family is likely. No one can say how intense or violent it might become, but the prospect of crisis comes at an especially bad time. The region is afire and oil prices are plummeting. It would be foolish to bet that Saudi Arabia will exist in its current form a generation from now.”
“Three generations and out” has long been rule in the United States, whether for Rockefellers or the Gambino crime family; or “from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” Let’s hope the same is true for the Saudis, although in this case it’s from camels to camels.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words:
This essay on the evils of Political Correctness by liberal Jonathan “Why I Hate George W. Bush” Chait — has been widely chewed over on the Net today, but I did want to bring it to your attention, if only to…
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… sorry I can’t stop laughing.
Neither can Kevin Williamson at National Review. Or Ace, who has a longish post about it here. But if it’s a dose of good old schadenfreude you’re looking for to drive the blizzard blues away, then look no farther than this primo example of how stupid, nasty, vicious, destructive and evil the Left really is. And how fully they deserve to get what’s coming to them, good and hard.
If a person who is accused of bias attempts to defend his intentions, he merely compounds his own guilt. (Here one might find oneself accused of man/white/straightsplaining.) It is likewise taboo to request that the accusation be rendered in a less hostile manner. This is called “tone policing.” If you are accused of bias, or “called out,” reflection and apology are the only acceptable response — to dispute a call-out only makes it worse. There is no allowance in p.c. culture for the possibility that the accusation may be erroneous. A white person or a man can achieve the status of “ally,” however, if he follows the rules of p.c. dialogue. A community, virtual or real, that adheres to the rules is deemed “safe.” The extensive terminology plays a crucial role, locking in shared ideological assumptions that make meaningful disagreement impossible…
Political correctness appeals to liberals because it claims to represent a more authentic and strident opposition to their shared enemy of race and gender bias. And of course liberals are correct not only to oppose racism and sexism but to grasp (in a way conservatives generally do not) that these biases cast a nefarious and continuing shadow over nearly every facet of American life. Since race and gender biases are embedded in our social and familial habits, our economic patterns, and even our subconscious minds, they need to be fought with some level of consciousness. The mere absence of overt discrimination will not do.
Liberals believe (or ought to believe) that social progress can continue while we maintain our traditional ideal of a free political marketplace where we can reason together as individuals. Political correctness challenges that bedrock liberal ideal. While politically less threatening than conservatism (the far right still commands far more power in American life), the p.c. left is actually more philosophically threatening. It is an undemocratic creed.
“Undemocratic liberalism”? Perish the thought! It’s a Little Nell moment, so savor it while you can.
House Speaker John Boehner’s leadership team is preparing a resolution that could authorize further legal action against the Obama administration over its moves on immigration, he told his colleagues Tuesday morning.
The resolution, which Boehner discussed in a closed Republican meeting Tuesday, could authorize the House to take several different forms of legal action against the administration, but no final course of action has been decided. For example, the resolution could authorize the House to join a lawsuit that states have filed against President Barack Obama over the executive action.
“We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue — one we believe gives us the best chance of success,” Boehner said in the meeting.
Honestly, this is a pleasant surprise. For a few years Boehner has been echoing the president about a “need for immigration reform” and he was really only kept in check last year by Mitch McConnell and the prospect of retaking the Senate. The president’s post-election love for executive overreach seems to have been a blessing in disguise, as Boehner seems resolute about battling the tactic.
If the result of the president’s arrogant constitutional end-around plays is a slightly more conservative speaker, here’s hoping the White House remains tone deaf for the next couple of years.
President Obama summoned a posse of Congress members and administration officials to meet him in Saudi Arabia today to offer condolences on the death of King Abdullah and meet with King Salman.
Some of those lawmakers were pulled away from key hearings to fly to Riyadh, including Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Dem on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a critic of soft Iran policy, who missed a hearing on the status of Iran negotiations.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) missed an Armed Services Committee hearing on national security threats, at which one retired general warned that al-Qaeda has grown fourfold over the past five years. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a co-sponsor of the Menendez-Kirk sanctions bill, was pulled away from a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the matter today.
Other lawmakers brought to the kingdom were Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Ami Bera (D-Calif.), and Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.).
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters today that upon the news of King Abdullah’s death last Thursday, “we went to work to put together a delegation that represented people who had been invested in the Saudi relationship for a long time and had known King Abdullah well.”
“We wanted to make sure that we had bipartisan representation from members of Congress, given the deep congressional interest and relationship with Saudi Arabia, and we also wanted to make sure we had bipartisan representation across different administrations,” Rhodes said. “And, again, we were able to have a number of former administration officials, including Republican administration officials, join us and then people who worked closely on the Saudi relationship. So I think if you look across it, it meets the threshold of being bipartisan, high-level, and individuals who have worked very closely with Saudi Arabia over many years.”
In addition to Rhodes and press secretary Josh Earnest, the current administration officials included in the delegation were Ambassador Joseph W. Westphal, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, White House counselor John Podesta, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Anita Breckenridge, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President and Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President and Director of Scheduling and Advance Chase Cushman, United States Chief of Protocol Peter A. Selfridge, CIA Director John Brennan, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff to the First Lady Melissa Winter, Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget Brian Deese, and U.S. Central Command leader General Lloyd J. Austin III.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was sent to Poland for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which was attended by about a dozen heads of state including French President Francois Hollande.
Past administration officials on the Saudi Arabia delegation included former Secretary of State James Baker, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and former Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Fran Townsend.
King Salman greeted the Obamas at the airport with a band playing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The delegation feasted upon appetizers, soup, seafood, lamb, ravioli, veal steaks, stuffed chicken breasts, and five dessert choices at Erga Palace.
Rhodes was asked what Obama would say to the new king about human rights after giving India a lecture on equality and tolerance before flying out of New Delhi.
“What we would say to all of our partners around the world is that we fundamentally believe in a set of values to include equality for women and religious freedom and tolerance. Obviously different countries are in very different places in terms of their embrace of those values. I think what the president would say is that it’s not simply a matter of the United States telling other countries what they should do; it’s frankly a fact that societies are more successful when they respect those types of universal values. And that’s the message he delivered in India,” Rhodes said.
“And then, ultimately, stability in the long run is going to depend on a process of reform in different societies that move in the direction of those values. Again, places don’t change overnight but I think with Saudi Arabia what we’ve said we’d support is a reform process that does provide for greater respect for those types of universal values. King Abdullah took some initial steps in that direction, in terms of more political participation for some people within Saudi Arabia, more access to education for women. But, clearly, much more work needs to be done to realize the types of values that the president was talking about in India, and that will be a consistent part of our dialogue with all countries around the world.”
— AJE News (@AJENews) January 27, 2015
Just posted by MEMRI (subscription required, shared with permission): an ISIS cell was raided in Belgium in the days following the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Two of the three jihadists were killed, and a third is believed to be at large. All had previously been to Iraq and fought for ISIS.
In a report on how ISIS members use social media for recruitment and communication, MEMRI has published multiple clips and stills of the jihadis posting photos of their activities on the front lines — including graphic photos of their dead victims. The full report is here, below are some clips and photos:
Jadaoun (27) was of Moroccan origin. Before leaving for Syria, he posted on Facebook regularly, first under the alias Abu Abbas Al-Belgiki and later under the alias Abou Hamza Belgiki; his accounts were frequently shut down. His publicly shared content consisted mainly of quotes from Islamic texts, anasheed (religious songs), reflections on the situation and suffering of Muslims around the world such as the Rohingya Muslims in Burma, and his own personal musings and photos of himself with friends and family. He signed some of his messages “The Lion” and shared images of lions; the lion is a common motif among jihadis, symbolizing the mujahideen and their courage.
On August 4, he posted a photo he took of a front line position at night, stating: “May Allah protect the brothers in combat. Pray for the mujahideen, it is the least of faith you can show. Pray so we march onto Palestine and free them with the help of Allah…”
On September 21 he shared a photo of a body and boasted: “My first victim, by Allah’s grace.” When asked by friends to elaborate, he wrote: “Ha-ha it’s a beautiful story. I got so close, around 10 meters away – that I talked to him. It was night time. There was an olive grove in front of his position, I passed through it. I was afraid I might shoot a brother [a fellow jihad fighter]. I asked ‘who are you brother,’ he asked me as well. We had a code between brothers and I stressed out and said to him ‘dawla islamiya’ [Islamic State], so he started shooting at me, the dog. I saw where he was shooting from, I swear he was very well tucked in a prone position. I shot a volley. There were three or four of them, the rest fled. I swear to God, Allah helped us a lot to conquer this village, and all villages, but I have only been in two [of these assaults]. At night he was on his stomach and in the morning I found him like this.”
The former vice chief of staff of the Army warned the Senate Armed Services Committee today that al-Qaeda has “grown fourfold in the last five years.”
“AQ and its affiliates exceeds Iran in beginning to dominate multiple countries,” retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane testified.
Using a term that the Obama administration now eschews, Keane called radical Islam “the major security challenge of our generation.”
“Radical Islam, as I’m defining it for today’s discussion, consists of three distinct movements who share a radical fundamentalist ideology, use jihad or terror to achieve objectives that compete with each other for influence and power,” he said.
“In 1980, Iran declared the United States as a strategic enemy and its goal is to drive the United States out of the region, achieve regional hegemony, and destroy the state of Israel. It uses proxies, primarily as the world’s number one state sponsoring terrorism. Thirty plus years Iran has used these proxies to attack the United States. To date, the result is U.S. troops left Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, while Iran has direct influence and some control over Beirut, Lebanon, Gaza, Damascus, Syria, Baghdad, Iraq, and now Sana’a, Yemen,” the general continued.
“Is there any doubt that Iran is on the march and is systematically moving toward their regional hegemonic objective? Iran has been on a 20-year journey to acquire nuclear weapons, simply because they know it guarantees preservation of the regime and makes them, along with their partners, the dominant power in the region, thereby capable of expanding their control and influence. Add to this their ballistic missile delivery system and Iran is not only a threat to the region, but to Europe, as well. And as they increase missile range, eventually a threat to the United States. And as we know, a nuclear arms race, because of their nuclear ambition, is on the horizon for the Middle East.”
Keane detailed the growth of al-Qaeda in its quest to “eventually achieve world domination.”
“Third, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS, is an outgrowth from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was defeated in Iraq by 2009. After U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq in 2011, ISIS reemerged as a terrorist organization in Iraq, moved into Syria in 2012, and began seizing towns and villages from the Syria-Iraq border all the way to the western Syria from Aleppo to Damascus,” he reminded the committee.
That leads to an “unmistakable” conclusion that “our policies have failed,” Keane added.
“And the unequivocal explanation is U.S. policy has focused on disengaging from the Middle East, while our stated policy is pivoting to the east,” he said. “U.S. policymakers choose to ignore the very harsh realities of the rise of radical Islam. In my view, we became paralyzed by the fear of adverse consequences in the Middle East after fighting two wars. Moreover, as we sit here this morning, in the face of radical Islam, U.S. policymakers refuse to accurately name the movement as radical Islam. We further choose not to define it, nor explain its ideology, and most critical, we have no comprehensive strategy to stop it or defeat it.”
No official confirmation yet from either the White House or the Defense Department, but NBC News is quoting senior Defense officials as saying Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will be charged with desertion within a week:
According to the officials, the desertion charges would be based on allegations that Bergdahl abandoned his remote outpost in June 2009 to avoid hazardous duty or important service, which are grounds for charges of desertion under the Uniform Military Code of Justice, (UCMJ). According to one senior official, Bergdahl’s actions in Afghanistan go well beyond the lesser offense of AWOL, absent without leave, because he allegedly abandoned his post “in the middle of a combat zone, potentially putting the lives of his fellows soldiers at risk.”
The charges will apparently not allege that Bergdahl left with the intent never to return. Bergdahls was reportedly captured by the Haqqani terrorist network in Pakistan. He was released in a prisoner swap for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay in May.
While a court martial could lead to imprisonment, defense and military officials tell NBC News it is likely Bergdahl would be given consideration for the 5 years he spent in captivity and be permitted to leave the Army with a “less than honorable discharge.” If accepted, Bergdahl would be denied as much as $300 thousand in back pay and bonuses, and reduced in rank to at least Private First Class, the rank he held when he disappeared from his outpost in Afghanistan.
More than half a year after his Memorial Day release in a swap with the Taliban, the Defense Department referred Bergdahl’s case to a General Courts Martial Convening Authority just before Christmas.
Gen. Mark Milley, commanding general of Forces Command, “will determine appropriate action – which ranges from no further action to convening a court martial,” the Pentagon said in a brief statement then, adding that “a thorough investigation and a comprehensive legal review” had been conducted.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said the five Taliban traded for Bergdahl’s release “are in Qatar but they are scheduled to go back to Afghanistan.”
“And that’s the real worry that some many of us have had,” Ayotte told Fox. “The issue really is that what’s the price being put on American lives, number one, we now are going to have a pattern where people are being asked to be traded — you have ISIS also saying for certain individuals, we want terrorists released in exchange for some of the prisoners we have. And so it gets us down this slippery slope and Qatar, of course, in the middle of this, Qatar is where the Taliban Five were transferred to and where from there they will be returning to Afghanistan.”
UPDATE: A Forces Command spokesman tells Army Times that no decision has been made, despite reports from NBC and Fox. Bergdahl’s attorney refused to comment.
A person wearing an abominable snowman costume was spotted wandering the streets of Boston in the middle of last night’s massive snow storm.
Below, the Yeti tries to hail a cab.
The Boston Yeti debuted mysteriously on Twitter at about 10 p.m. Monday and wandered the deserted streets of Somerville, a Boston suburb, around midnight, after a travel ban went into effect.
The Boston Yeti told ABC News “it was raised and educated by the woods.” The “Yeti’s” identity has not been revealed.
— Boston Yeti 2015 (@BostonYeti2015) January 27, 2015
— Boston Yeti 2015 (@BostonYeti2015) January 27, 2015
Donald Trump, who is “very, very seriously considering” a run for the White House in 2016, said 2014 candidate Mitt Romney has no business in the crop of contenders because “he was not able to close the deal.”
“He should have been able to. We had a president that was doing terribly, as bad as you are going to do, and he should have won,” Trump told Fox. “And many Republicans would have won. And he was not able to close the deal. And certainly, the Republicans cannot be so stupid as to give him a second crack because honestly he choked. He wasn’t able to get it done. He should have been able to get it done. There is no excuse for it. And you cannot give that person a second chance, unfortunately.”
He called Jeb Bush’s surname “a huge negative.”
“The Bush name is not exactly hot right now. I think it’s a very, very big negative. He is very weak on immigration. He is for Common Core, which, for is a Republican, I can tell, it is not a positive thing. I think he wouldn’t get elected. I don’t think he would beat Hillary or whoever it may be,” he said.
Trump says that he “could make America great again.”
“I was doing well last anytime. I could have done something. In a way, I have a regret. I did what I had to do when I backed Mitt and Mitt let us down and that was very unfortunate,” he said, adding that he would be “willing” to walk away from his TV show, The Apprentice, because “the country is far more important.”
“And I can do things that other people can’t do. I can do things that the other Republicans candidate and, frankly, the Democratic candidates can’t do. One of the things we have to do is stop with this tremendous flow of people just walking right into the country. We don’t know who they are, where they come from. They just walk right across our southern border. And who builds a better wall than Donald Trump? I build the best buildings.”
Survivors and world leaders are marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz today, but President Obama is not among them.
Obama wrapped up his India trip before flying to Riyadh to meet and dine with King Salman.
Vice President Biden is in Kentucky for the funeral of former Sen. Wendell Ford (D-Ky.).
“On the tenth International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the American people pay tribute to the six million Jews and millions of others murdered by the Nazi regime. We also honor those who survived the Shoah, while recognizing the scars and burdens that many have carried ever since,” Obama said in a statement released this morning by the White House.
“Honoring the victims and survivors begins with our renewed recognition of the value and dignity of each person. It demands from us the courage to protect the persecuted and speak out against bigotry and hatred,” he continued. “The recent terrorist attacks in Paris serve as a painful reminder of our obligation to condemn and combat rising anti-Semitism in all its forms, including the denial or trivialization of the Holocaust.”
Obama called the anniversary “an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made confronting this terrible chapter in human history and on our continuing efforts to end genocide.”
“I have sent a presidential delegation to join Polish President Komorowski, the Polish people, official delegations from scores of nations, and many survivors, at today’s official commemoration in Poland,” he said.
That delegation was led by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and included State Department officials and two Holocaust survivors.
“As a founding member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the United States joins the Alliance’s thirty other member nations and partners in reiterating its solemn responsibility to uphold the commitments of the 2000 Stockholm Declaration,” Obama continued. “We commemorate all of the victims of the Holocaust, pledging never to forget, and recalling the cautionary words of the author and survivor of Auschwitz Primo Levi, ‘It happened, therefore it can happen again. . . . It can happen anywhere.’ Today we come together and commit, to the millions of murdered souls and all survivors, that it must never happen again.”
Among those at Auschwitz today was director Steven Spielberg, who told CNN that he was “appalled” that on his first tour of the death camp the guide “never mentioned the word Jew… just said that ‘many innocent people had been killed here.’”
Spielberg, who has been documenting the histories of Auschwitz survivors, said at the ceremonies, “If you are a Jew today, in fact if you are any person who believes in the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom in free expression, you know that like many other groups, we are once again facing the perennial demons of intolerance.”
He noted “Facebook pages identifying Jews and their geographic locations with the intention to attack and the growing efforts to banish Jews from Europe.”
French President Francois Hollande and German Prime Minister Joachim Gauck are among about a dozen heads of state at Auschwitz today. Britain sent Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, according to the Daily Mail. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his chief of staff.
A new bill introduced in California on Monday would ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and also tighten up restrictions on selling e-cigs to minors.
Electronic cigarettes are gaining in popularity but the health risks associated with them have yet to be determined. It sounds like a perfect time for the state to step in and start crushing some freedoms.
“Whether you get people hooked on e-cigarettes or regular cigarettes, it’s nicotine addiction and it kills,”
nanny-stater Democratic state Senator Mark Leno, who introduced the bill, said in a telephone interview. “We’re going to see hundreds of thousands of family members and friends die from e-cigarette use just like we did from traditional tobacco use.”
The bill is looking to regulate e-cigs and add them to the list of tobacco products controlled by the state. This would include banning the use of e-cigs in public places the way cigarettes and other tobacco products are.
The bill was criticized by the American Vaping Association, which said it punished people who are trying to quit smoking cigarettes.
“California smokers deserve truthful information about smoke-free alternatives, not hype and conjecture designed to scare them away from attempting to quit with these innovative technology products,” Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said in a press release.
On the other side of things, nanny-stater Leno’s bill is backed “by the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, said the vapor released by the e-cigarettes contains carcinogens, and the nicotine in them is addictive.”
Any of my regular readers here at PJ Media can attest, I am no fan of the FBI’s counter-terrorism programs. Recently, I’ve been writing about the FBI’s failures to catch “Known Wolf” terrorists – individuals who were already known to law enforcement prior to their acts of terror. So no one can accuse me of being an apologist for the bureau.
But an article yesterday in The Guardian entitled “Counter-terrorism is supposed to let us live without fear. Instead, it’s creating more of it” by two individuals currently promoting the screening of their film (T)ERROR at the Sundance International Film Festival falsely claims the FBI is engaged in a deliberate effort to entrap innocent American Muslims.
Here’s the case they make:
While making our film (T)ERROR, which tracks a single counter-terrorism sting operation over seven months, we realized that most people have serious misconceptions about FBI counter-terrorism efforts. They assume that informants infiltrate terrorist networks and then provide the FBI with information about those networks in order to stop terrorist plots from being carried out. That’s not true in the vast majority of domestic terrorism cases.
Since 9/11, as Human Rights Watch and others have documented, the FBI has routinely used paid informants not to capture existing terrorists, but to cultivate them. Through elaborate sting operations, informants are directed to spend months – sometimes years – building relationships with targets, stoking their anger and offering ideas and incentives that encourage them to engage in terrorist activity. And the moment a target takes a decisive step forward, crossing the line from aspirational to operational, the FBI swoops in to arrest him.
So they accuse the FBI of setting suspects up and then arresting them — entrapment. This “entrapment” claim is commonly repeated by defense attorneys and self-styled “civil rights” groups. In fact, that’s what the authors of The Guardian article explicitly say:
The cumulative effects of FBI surveillance and entrapment in communities of color have been devastating.
I’ll leave aside their “communities of color” smear, but there is one glaring problem with their entrapment claim: in no single jihadist-related terrorism trial since the 9/11 attacks has a federal court on ANY LEVEL found that the FBI engaged in entrapment. Many suspects have made the claim, but none have successfully argued it. In only one case I remember, that of Ahmadullah Niazi, did the Justice Department voluntarily drop an indictment because of the reliability of an informant.
Those who peddle these FBI entrapment claims have been found to regularly play fast and loose with data, such as describing terror conspirators who turn state’s evidence against their partners and are sentenced to jail for their roles in terror plots as “informants.”
Another tactic taken is to equate the involvement of an informant as a de facto case of entrapment, as do the authors of The Guardian article. They cite the arrest earlier this month of a Cincinnati-area man:
A recent example: on 14 January, the FBI announced that it had interrupted an Isis-inspired terrorist plot in the United States. Christopher Lee Cornell, a 20-year-old recent Muslim convert from Cincinnati, was allegedly plotting to attack the US Capitol with pipe bombs and gun down government officials.
But then they make a colossal leap with this non sequitur:
Cornell was arrested after purchasing two semiautomatic weapons from an Ohio gun store because the man that Cornell thought was his partner was actually an FBI informant.
So the reason he bought the weapons was because there was an informant? In the information made available so far, there’s no indication that’s the case. If the record of every single jihad-related terror case since 9/11 is any guide, it’s unlikely their claim will stand. One reason why these terrorism cases have universally withstood scrutiny by the federal courts are the extensive measures taken by the FBI to prevent entrapment.
As an example of how far the FBI will go to prevent someone from turning to terror, consider the case of 19-year-old Colorado woman Shannon Conley, who was sentenced last week to four years in prison. As the court record shows, the FBI repeatedly warned Conley over a period of months not to attempt to travel to Syria to join ISIS and even talked to her parents asking them to intervene. And yet she persisted in her plans and was arrested trying to board a plane bound for Turkey. Now her parents are saying “the terrorists have won” after her sentencing, blaming the federal government for prosecuting their daughter.
If anything, this administration has bent over backwards to accommodate the concerns that they are unfairly targeting Muslims, such as special rules for dealing with the Muslim community and conducting a wide-spread purge of counter-terrorism training materials at the request of Muslim organizations. Curiously, none of this is mentioned in The Guardian article.
Attorney General Eric Holder, hardly a right-wing neo-con “Islamophobe,” has directly challenged the claims that the FBI uses entrapment targeting the Muslim community, telling one Muslim legal group:
Those who characterize the FBI’s activities in this case as ‘entrapment’ simply do not have their facts straight or do not have a full understanding of the law.
And yet The Guardian regurgitates a number of howlers, such as this:
And on campuses across the country, Muslim student associations have banned discussions of politics, terrorism and the “war on terror.”
But Muslim Student Associations (MSA) have had no trouble at all discussing politics, terrorism and the “war on terror.” In fact, you can’t shut them up from talking about it. One topic you won’t hear addressed at MSA meetings, however, is the long litany of senior MSA leaders who have been convicted in terrorism cases.
In the absence of actual evidence, The Guardian authors have to resort to anecdotes, including this one:
After a recent screening of our film at a New York City mosque, a young African-American convert to Islam, sporting a brown full-body covering with matching hijab, confessed to us that she feels uncomfortable discussing aspects of her identity. She does not speak about her religious conversion in public, for fear of attracting or encouraging informants.
Yes, because wearing a brown full-body covering with a matching hijab, no one would ever know she’s a Muslim.
This is how laughably ridiculous those who peddle this false narrative have sunk. Perhaps a review of some of the jihad-related terror cases where FBI informants weren’t involved is warranted:
Beltway snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo
UNC-Chapel Hill vehicle jihadist Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar
Seattle Jewish Federation killer Naveed Afzal Haq
Little Rock killer Carlos Bledsoe (aka Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad)
Fort Hood killer Major Nidal Hasan
Would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad
Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Cross-country jihadist spree killer Ali Muhammad Brown
Undoubtedly, if FBI informants had been used in any of these cases to prevent their terror attacks, The Guardian authors, Islamic “civil rights” groups and their ilk would be crying “entrapment.”
Current and former administration officials have confirmed that the Justice Department has been building a massive database to track real-time movement of vehicles in the United States. The secret spy program collects and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists.
The Wall Street Journal reports: “The primary goal of the license-plate tracking program, run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is to seize cars, cash and other assets to combat drug trafficking, according to one government document. But the database’s use has expanded to hunt for vehicles associated with numerous other potential crimes, from kidnappings to killings to rape suspects, say people familiar with the matter.”
We’re getting pretty close to establishing a department of pre-crime here in America.
Initially, the cover story for the wholesale snooping on citizens’ automobiles was that the government was trying to fight the drug cartels. “What hasn’t been previously disclosed is that the DEA has spent years working to expand the database ‘throughout the United States,’’ according to one email reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.
The database is not just used by the Feds. There is a “wealth of information in the hands of local officials who can track vehicles in real time on major roadways.”
Now, here we have an interesting juxtaposition between this story, revealing that local law enforcement can track your car in real-time, and the story I wrote about yesterday where law enforcement officials are lobbying the Waze app to disable the feature where citizens are able to track and locate police officers as they drive. This situation is entirely INVERTED. It’s the citizens who need to keep an eye on their government, not the other way around.
The documents disclosing the latest government snoop effort were obtained by the ACLU via a FOIA request. A DOJ flak responded: “It is not new that the DEA uses the license-plate reader program to arrest criminals and stop the flow of drugs in areas of high trafficking intensity.”
The Journal describes the database:
The DEA program collects data about vehicle movements, including time, direction and location, from high-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways. Many devices also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear enough for investigators to confirm identities, according to DEA documents and people familiar with the program.
“The documents show that the DEA also uses license-plate readers operated by state, local and federal law-enforcement agencies to feed into its own network and create a far-reaching, constantly updating database of electronic eyes scanning traffic on the roads to steer police toward suspects.”
The ACLU is not pleased about the program. “Any database that collects detailed location information about Americans not suspected of crimes raises very serious privacy questions,’” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU. “It’s unconscionable that technology with such far-reaching potential would be deployed in such secrecy. People might disagree about exactly how we should use such powerful surveillance technologies, but it should be democratically decided, it shouldn’t be done in secret.”
Add this to the disclosures that airplanes are mimicking cell phone towers to collect flyers’ cell phone data and collecting metadata from digital communications, and it’s indisputable that we live in a police state now.
Over the last couple of decades it seems like we’ve had more than our fair share of non-traditional office seekers. Kentucky voters can add one more name to that list: Drew Curtis, founder of the snarky aggregate news site Fark.com.
Curtis announced his candidacy – where else – on his blog at Fark.com on Monday. He also announced his wife Heather for lieutenant governor. He promises a completely different paradigm – completely removing the influence of so-called “special interests” from governance.
The 41-year-old Curtis is part the Citizen Candidate movement in which members pledge to make “data-driven” choices without party affiliation, which they argue makes them not beholden to special interest money.
Though political history is full of candidates who tried to win office by playing outside the prescribed rules, Curtis insists he’s unlike many of them.
“I’m not some wealthy person who calls himself an outside candidate,” he told FoxNews.com on Monday.
At his blog, Curtis laments the influence of big money in politics and proposes himself and other independent candidates as the answer.
The only way to fix this is from within. So I’m taking my shot. I’m running for Governor because if I get elected, the vicious cycle of influence money in politics grinds to a halt. Corporations are remarkably predictable – they won’t spend money on politics unless it has a chance of creating a beneficial return. Why would any corporation spend money on legislation in a state where they can’t buy the Governor? The game would be completely disrupted.
So that’s what this is about – trying something new. And proving that normal people can run for elected office and win. If one million people can call the FCC and back Net Neutrality, surely I have a chance. The best part is, win or lose, I’m going to help produce the blueprint to allow other people to run for office and win without party support.
In terms of where Curtis stands on issues – well, he’s made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t really stand on any issues at all.
One thing that people have been asking is where I stand on “the issues”. I’m still working up a response to that, mainly because I think it’s the wrong question. Political parties use “the issues” as weapons of mass distraction. If any of the really difficult political questions were solvable we’d have done it already. Besides, I’ll be an unaligned Governor with no ability to submit legislation. And Kentucky’s Legislature is currently split, which I think is a great thing.
I really want people to think in terms of solutions. For example, someone asked me where I stood on the issue of equal pay for women. Who would be against that? However the problem there is what’s the mechanism? What law could we pass that would solve that problem? I would much rather people provide me with solutions – preferably ones that have worked in other states.
I don’t have “beliefs” on issues of economics. I’m more or less agnostic on social issues. And I’m far more excited about retooling the executive branch to better interface with customers than anything else. The boring stuff is the most important stuff. It doesn’t grab headlines but it’s the part of being Governor I really want to sink my teeth into.
The only fringe idea I have is that Government could work better.
Curtis talks a good game, but the question that remains to be seen is whether his data-driven, third-way political style will work. Will voters buy his apparent pragmatic approach, or will they find themselves turned off by a candidate with little-to-no stance on issues? It looks like Kentucky may become the first big test of a whole new approach to politics.
Featured image courtesy of Business Lexington
Conservative political advocacy groups supported by the billionaire Koch brothers plan to spend $889 million in the 2016 U.S. elections, more than double what they raised in 2012, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
The newspaper said the goal was announced to donors at a weekend meeting in Rancho Mirage, California, hosted by Freedom Partners, a business lobby at the center of the Koch brothers’ political operation. The Post cited a person who attended the gathering.
The money will be doled out by a network of 17 organizations funded by industrialists Charles and David Koch, who have become a major force in conservative politics in recent years, and other wealthy donors. The network raised $407 million for the 2012 campaign.
I spent some time scouring the MSM to see if there were any similarly specific stories about how much Tom Steyer or groups funded by George Soros plan on spending during the same election cycle and didn’t find much.
One of the inaccuracies in the constant media wailing is the “organizations funded by” line. Many of those organizations are only partially funded by the Kochs, one with a built-in reduced yearly amount. It doesn’t fit the “They control everything and damn Citizens United!” story that the leftist talking heads like to tell. When Soros only partially funds an organization, his name is never mentioned.
Steyer is pretty much a ghost, even though he throws money around Democrat politics like a Kennedy at an exotic dancer convention.
Miss USA, Nia Sanchez, came in second at the Miss Universe Pageant to the lovely Miss Colombia, and you have to wonder if her response to the question from judge Manny Pacquiao — a world class boxer who apparently absorbed a few too many blows to his head — had something to do with her failure to capture the top spot.
In this face-off between Pacquiao and Sanchez, it’s hard to figure out who gets the prize for having fewer working brain cells — the brain-damaged boxer or the empty-headed beauty queen.
Sanchez was asked by boxer Manny Pacquiao what her message to terrorists might be (admittedly a strange question), and Sanchez replied:
“I know as Miss USA I can always spread a message of hope and love and peace, and I would do my very best to spread that message to them and everyone else in the world.”
There must have been an audience full of punchy boxers and air-headed beauty contestants considering all the whooping and hollering they did after that weird and wonderful question and answer.
It is not sexist in the slightest to say that as beautiful as Miss USA truly is, she comes up a little short in intellectual gifts. After all, you can say the exact same thing about Matt Damon, once named by People as the “Sexiest Man Alive.”
Actors and beauty queens don’t have to rely on their intellectual prowess to succeed in life. Especially Miss Sanchez, who will make a gazillion dollars modelling clothes, perfume, and, we hope, swim suits.
As for her answer, spreading peace, love, and goodness even to terrorists is perfectly in keeping with liberal thinking on the terrorism problem. It’s not that these thugs are psychopathic, sadistic murderous cretins; it’s that they’re misunderstood. Give them good schools, Obamacare, and and a pocketful of coin, and they’d be just like you and me.
After all, we wiped out hunger in Africa by singing about it:
And look how peaceful the world got after we bought it a Coke:
All we have to do is “Imagine” a world without problems and it can happen.
The one constant in the universe is that no matter what evidence is presented to the contrary about the goodness in our fellow men, liberals will come up with some treacly, idiotic response that has rational people shaking their head in wonder.
President Obama was caught on camera chewing gum again. It’s either the president has this “man of the people,” working-class hero thing going, showing us what a regular guy he is (net worth: $12.2 million), or he gets major-league nic fits and can’t wait an hour or two until he can find a little more private space to either light up or chew his Nicorette.
Is Barack Obama a pack-a-day smoker? My expert analysis (I’ve been smoking for 45 years) of the president’s behavior indicates someone who is not “nicotine free” as his spokesman claims. If he was, he wouldn’t need a smoking-cessation aid at this point.
Obama emerged from his car chomping away on the gum. Couldn’t he have grabbed a quick butt in his armored car? That would have carried him over until the parade was over. Of course, he may be smoking on the sly, trying to keep his wife from knowing about his backsliding. But any non-smoker who lives with a smoker knows if their spouse has smoked in the last 24 hours. That smell just doesn’t go away.
So why try to fool the rest of us?
American media in past has commented about Obama’s habit of chewing gum while referring to his medical report, according to which the US president was in excellent health except for a minor problem of “history of smoking”.
But Obama was now “tobacco free” buoyed by the “occasional use” of “nicotine gum”, said a report in Washington Post.
I call bullcrap on that. Anyone who can’t go 2 or 3 hours without a nicotine crutch is still smoking. I guess we wouldn’t expect Obama to pull out a pack of Marlboro’s and light up in the middle of a formal ceremony — especially after he’s told the world he’s an ex-smoker. Besides, the last president to light up at formal gettogethers was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was never photographed without his elegant cigarette holder jammed between his teeth. LBJ smoked like a chimney but was rarely photographed doing so. Kennedy smoked cigarettes in private, but didn’t mind being photographed smoking a good cigar. There were several presidents who quit cigarette smoking before becoming president, including Eisenhower, Reagan, and George W. Bush.
So the question isn’t whether or not President Obama should light up in public. No one would approve of that. The question most of us are asking is, it any better to be seen chomping away on gum to assuage the pangs of nicotine withdrawal?
Some in India are asking the same question:
In an ungainly sight, cameras caught US President Brack Obama chewing gum during the Republic Day parade on Monday.
In the picture captured by cameras and posted on Twitter by some users, Obama was spotted removing his chewing gum while PM Modi was seen trying to explain something to the US president.
However, this is not the first time that Obama has been spotted chewing gum during an important function. Though there was a lot of commentary on social media on his chewing gum at a formal ceremony.
Comments on Twitter included remarks by author Shobhaa De, who said, “Barack bhai working his jaws overtime and chewing gum! At least it isn’t gutka. But seriously – gum during a formal parade?”.
“Glad to see @BarackObama is so human. Like most Americans, he chews gum. Anyone know what brand?,” was how noted film-maker Shekhar Kapur reacted.
I sympathize with the president. Long airplane flights can be agony for me, so I feel his pain. But really, this is the president of the United States. He’s supposed to be better than the rest of us. It is a mystery to me why he can’t forgo the nicotine gum for a few hours while representing the majesty and dignity of his office, as well as the people of the U.S.
Otherwise, he demeans the presidency and makes the rest of us look like a bunch of ill-mannered louts.
Turns out Moscow really was behind the 2006 polonium poisoning of dissident FSB (the successor to the KGB) agent Alexander Litvinenko in London:
NSA-intercepted communications have proven what many have long suspected about one of the most intriguing cases of murder and espionage in recent times. According to a recent article in the Telegraph, the Russian government was behind the 2006 poisoning of spy-turned dissident Alexander Litvinenko.
The National Security Agency (NSA) obtained electronic communications between key individuals in London and Moscow from the time that the former spy was poisoned with radioactive material in central London. The evidence was passed to the British authorities. A source familiar with the investigation confirmed the existence of American “intelligence material”. They said it would have been “inadmissible” in court, but that the British authorities were “confident that this was a state execution”.
We knew that all along, but it’s nice to have the NSA spying on the Russians for a change, instead of American citizens:
American spies secretly intercepted communications between those involved in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko and provided the key evidence that he was killed in a Russian-backed “state execution”, The Telegraph can disclose.
The disclosure comes ahead of the start of the public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death in 2006, which will see hearings, many of which will be held in secret, carried out over a nine-week period in the High Court from Tuesday…. The disclosure of the material is likely to be put pressure on the British government’s relationship with the Kremlin and will renew calls for the UK to toughen its stance.
Let’s see: the KGB is back. The Soviets are back. The Musselmen are back. Formerly eradicated diseases are back. And all during the Obama administration! I wonder if Francis Fukuyama wants to revist his “End of History” theory now.