Secretary of State John Kerry was asked by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) at today’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing whether he would define ISIS as “Islamic radical terrorists.”
“Well, I think many of them are. Not all of them. But many of them are. And certainly, the top leadership, al-Baghdadi and folks around him, are formulating their concept of the caliphate — of the caliphate on the basis of their interpretation of Islam,” Kerry said.
“To the degree they are establishing a caliphate and hanging some of their notions of — of organization and discipline and — and — and battle based on that, there is a component of it that is a distorted sense of — of — of Islam.”
“But also, there’re a lot of criminals and thugs and adventurers and thrill-seekers and — involved in this. There’s a kind of criminal anarchy in all of it, notwithstanding whatever basis they want to claim with respect to Islam.
And — and it is important in coming at this that you not empower them through the language we use to be able to make the argument to their people that, in fact, we’re at war with Islam and they’re building that up as a recruitment tool and we create our own problem. I think that’s what people are trying to be sensitive to here.
Now, when you get into the deep analysis, yes, there are clearly very distorted sense of radical extreme Islam being put forward. The victims are anybody who stands in their way or people who are different or who have different beliefs. They can be Christians. They can be Yazidis. They can be officers and police officers who are Sunni and — and trying to stand up for their village or their town, in Mosul.
I mean, they go out and kill the mayor. They kill young kids. They’ll kill, you know, people they think are apostates.”
Kerry was also asked why ISIS does what it does.
“They do this for power and for the extension of their — the leaders for their misguided notion of their caliphate and their desire to be the power that is defining not only their version of Islam but to have the power within that region to run the show,” he said.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) asked Kerry to “define ISIL.”
“Well, ISIS is self-defining. They are the combatants and those who have pledged allegiance to them who have formed a caliphate, fly a flag, wear their black uniforms and are engaged in a struggle both within Syria and Iraq, most directly, but also in what they call distant provinces as they try to establish their caliphate,” Kerry replied.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to muster 50% of the vote in the city’s non-partisan mayoral primary, which means he will face off against second place finisher, Cook County Board Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia on April 7.
Four years ago, Emanuel swept to an easy victory. But a rising murder rate, controversy over the closing of 50 public schools, and a $20 billion pension shortfall that threatens to bankrupt the city, has taken its toll on his popularity. Emanuel won only 45% of the vote while the relatively unknown Garcia took 33%.
More than the issues, there is a sense in Chicago that Emanuel is too cozy with the elites and has lost touch with ordinary Chicagoans. Blacks are upset over the school closings and the gang violence that makes their streets almost unlivable. Hispanics flocked to Garcia’s banner, and some analysts think that he has a chance to knock off the incumbent.
Mayoral underdog Jesus “Chuy” Garcia has a fighting chance in an April runoff election against well-funded incumbent Rahm Emanuel but political insiders say he must broaden his coalition beyond the Hispanic voters and disgruntled teachers who boosted him so far.
Garcia must also persuade tough-minded Chicagoans that he can do a better job than the mayor at keeping trains running and police on the streets as the city’s budget gap balloons past $1 billion.
The sometimes abrasive Emanuel displeased enough voters to help Garcia force the first mayoral runoff since Chicago adopted a non-partisan election format in the mid-1990s. Both candidates are Democrats.
While the mild-mannered Garcia appealed to many in the first round, “Chicago does not need a nice guy. … We need someone who can deal with enormous financial difficulties,” said Paul Green, professor of policy studies at Roosevelt University.
However, Emanuel, once seen as certain to win re-election, is vulnerable after getting substantially less than the 50 percent of votes he needed for an outright win in Tuesday’s first round.
The former White House chief of staff and investment banker will go head to head in the April 7 runoff against Garcia, a county commissioner and former Chicago alderman.
Garcia’s base is in the city’s poorer neighborhoods, and he has to overcome a reputation as being reluctant to slash spending. Emanuel, who did best in the wealthy lakefront on Tuesday, must play down his reputation for arrogance.
Garcia, who got very few endorsements from people with clout, will court non-committal public unions, wealthy liberals and working-class African Americans and white ethnic voters.
Emanuel has made things so bad in Chicago that voters may feel he’s the only one who can get the city out of its budget and fiscal mess. They may also see Emanual as better able to handle the new Republican governor in Springfield, Bruce Rauner, who wants to trim state payments to the city by a whopping $300 million.
That almost certainly won’t happen, as Democrats in the legislature are already circling the wagons to protect the pension and benefits of public unions, and will see to it that not a dime is cut from the state’s payments to Chicago. But Rauner may look to Emanuel as an ally in his efforts to reform the state pension system, giving the mayor some leverage he can use to extract more cash from the state.
Emanuel should win the runoff. But stranger things have happened in Chicago politics, including a little known alderman named Harold Washington defeating incumbent Jane Byrne in the Democratic primary in 1983. Washington, the only black mayor in the city’s history, came out of nowhere to beat Byrne, the Democratic establishment’s candidate. He did it by uniting north shore liberals, unions, and minorities — the same coalition that Garcia wants to form to beat Emanuel.
Contrary to popular belief, lightening does strike in the same place.
Secretary of State John Kerry told a congressman today to stop making fun of what State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
At this morning’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) asked Kerry about Harf’s comments last week, in which she said “we cannot win this war” by killing ISIS and job development was one facet of the plan to combat extremism.
In clarifying her comments on CNN, Harf then said her argument about getting to the “root cause” of terrorism “might be too nuanced an argument for some.”
“Harf espoused the interesting proposition that we should create a jobs program for people who might be inclined to support groups like ISIS, jobs for jihadists. She didn’t call it that, but I will,” Chabot said in his questioning of Kerry. “And just where will these jobs come from? I guess not at the mall. It’s apparently too dangerous to work there now. And are these shovel-ready jobs, or are they yet to be created, like Keystone Pipeline jobs?”
“And Mr. Secretary, did Ms. Harf consult with anyone else in the State Department, yourself or anyone, before announcing this new initiative? If not, who did she consult with?” the congressman continued. “I realize that according to Ms. Harf, many of us are not nuanced enough to grasp the wisdom of such an enlightened proposal, but I and, I’m sure, some of my colleagues would appreciate some insight on where in the heck this idea came from.”
Kerry said that’s not what the deputy press secretary was saying “if you take the full breadth of what Marie Harf was talking about.”
“In fact, what she was talking about is the notion that if all we do is have a military approach to the problem of violent religious extremism, whether it’s Islamic or other — or whether there’s violent extremists, we’re going to fail,” he said. “You will have the next secretary of State or the one thereafter, a continuum of presidents coming to you with new acronyms for new groups that are a new threat.”
“And everything that came out of our White House summit on violent extremism underscored the fact that there’s one component that you have to do for sure, which is the military. You have to take ISIS fighters off the battlefield the way we are, and that’s for certain. But if you don’t want them just replenished, like the three kids from Britain who just traveled ostensibly to Syria to join up.”
Kerry called it “a spreading cancer” that “is not going to be eliminated by just shooting at people once they finally get to the battlefield.”
“Everything that came out of the conference we just had the other day pointed to the need to deal with prevention,” he said, referencing last week’s conference on violent extremism hosted by the White House.
Chabot tried to get in another question, but Kerry interjected, “Don’t — don’t make fun — don’t make fun of what she was talking about.”
The latest entry in the Scott Walker Media Deracination Sweepstakes comes from a nasty piece of work named John Cassidy in the New Yorker:
Let’s stipulate up front that Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, is an odious politician whose ascension to the Presidency would be a disaster.
With a lede like that, you know you’re in the presence of a True Believer whose President Precious has just been attacked by… somebody, somewhere, somehow. And he doesn’t like it one bit; in fact, it frightens him.
Set aside, for a moment, his repeated refusal, in the past few days, to say whether he believes that President Obama loves America, or whether he believes that the President is a Christian, and look instead at Walker’s record running what used to be one of America’s more progressive states. Having cut taxes for the wealthy and stripped many of Wisconsin’s public-sector unions of their collective-bargaining rights, he is now preparing to sign a legislative bill that would cripple unions in the private sector. Many wealthy conservatives, such as the Koch brothers, who have funnelled a lot of money to groups supporting Walker, regard him as someone who’s turning his state into a showcase for what they want the rest of America to look like.
But just how threatening is he? If you’ve been following the political news during the past week, you may well have the impression that he’s stumbling in his campaign for the 2016 G.O.P. nomination. Among the political commentariat, the consensus of opinion is that Walker’s repeated refusal to distance himself from Rudy Giuliani’s incendiary comments about Obama, and his subsequent encounter with the Washington Post’s Dan Balz and Robert Costa, during which he appeared to question Obama’s religious faith and took some shots at the media for asking him silly questions, weren’t merely reprehensible: they were serious gaffes that raised questions about Walker’s political abilities…
Rather than deflecting the reporters’ queries about Obama’s beliefs, as other Republicans had done, Walker used them to send a none-too-subtle message to Republican voters. His refusal to say whether Obama was a Christian wasn’t merely a shot at a hostile media. As Dana Milbank, of the Washington Post noted, it allowed Walker to “wink and nod at the far-right fringe where people really believe that Obama is a Muslim from Kenya who hates America.” Milbank also wrote that Walker was “refusing to grant his opponent legitimacy as an American and a Christian.”
In a more just world, Walker’s indecent and craven antics would disqualify him from playing any further role in the Presidential race. But in the current political environment, his tactics, far from hurting him, may well bolster a candidacy that is already thriving.
Surely this man Cassidy is insane. What other explanation can there be? But if Scott Walker can make the Left foam at the mouth by the simple act of not answering a stupid question to which there is no answer anyway, he’s my kind of guy.
Politico screams this warning on the front page today, above the fold: Congress Inches Closer to DHS Cliff!!
The exclamation points are mine.
For those not paying attention, including readers of Politico, the House passed a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security that fully funded the agency save for a small number of components that will carry out President Obama’s unilateral immigration amnesty.
All of the important components of DHS are funded by the House. All of the components that will implement lawlessness are defunded. That’s how the Constitution was designed to work.
The “cliff” that Politico warns against is not millions of illegal aliens staying in the United States. The “cliff” the nation is about to plunge over is a federal agency possibly closing down for a few days.
The only reason this could happen is because Senate Democrats (and Senate Republicans who went along with them) place greater importance on importing millions of foreigners into the United States and making sure people who should be working to deport them are paid for not deporting them. Thus, the House and Senate are liable to disagree.
The cliff the nation is about to plunge over is bureaucrats not being paid immediately. We know, of course, they will all eventually be given backpay, as all federal employees are after every shut down. It’s a vacation without having to ask for a vacation. Where do I sign up?
Back to Politico’s front page alarmism. Cliffs imply catastrophe. Think Thelma and Louise. Unless the guy driving the bread truck in Peoria gives more money to the beltway lawyer who should be deporting an illegal alien, the nation will go over the cliff.
Only in Washington would that nonsense fly.
But down lower on the front page of Politico, we find this piece headlined “Reality Check on Net Neutrality.”
There Alex Byers lectures us:
The escalating fight over the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules is sprouting a classic feature of Washington political battles — bombastic rhetoric designed to stir up partisan passions. Both supporters and opponents of Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal have turned to dramatic language to shape the debate, painting ominous pictures about the future of the Internet and turning a wonky regulatory issue into a full-blown D.C. brawl.
The senator behind the Assault Weapons Ban bill and a House Republican have teamed up for new gun-control legislation — to ban terrorists from buying guns.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015 in the upper chamber with co-sponsor Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, introduced the bill in the lower chamber with 14 co-sponsors, Feinstein’s office said.
“Under current law, known or suspected terrorists on terrorist watch lists are prohibited from boarding airplanes, but they are legally allowed to buy firearms and explosives anywhere in the United States. That makes no sense,” Feinstein said in a statement. “The Kouachi brothers, responsible for the attacks in Paris, were on U.S. terrorist watch lists, including the no-fly list. However, if the brothers had instead been in the United States, they would have been able to legally purchase weapons.”
“Sadly, this situation isn’t rare,” she continued. “Individuals on the consolidated terrorist watch list who sought to purchase a weapon in 2013 and 2014 cleared the background check in 455 out of 486 attempts. We need to close this dangerous loophole and keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists.”
That report, which included individuals on no-fly lists, was compiled by the Government Accountability Office.
Studying a 10-year period from 2004 to 2014, the background check clearance rate was 91 percent of attempted transactions, or 2,043 of 2,233 times, according to the GAO.
The bill would give the attorney general discretion to “deny the transfer of a firearm” if he or she “determines that the transferee is known (or appropriately suspected) to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism, or providing material support or resources for terrorism” and “has a reasonable belief that the prospective transferee may use a firearm in connection with terrorism.”
It includes international and domestic terrorism.
If someone thinks they were wrongly denied the ability to buy a weapon or explosives under the terrorism statute, he or she would be able to first complain to the Justice Department, then file a lawsuit against the DOJ.
In such a lawsuit, the Justice Department would be able to keep classified information deemed to compromise national security.
King said “common sense dictates that the federal government stop gun sales to suspects on the terrorist watch list.”
“Federal law already prohibits nine categories of dangerous persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, including the mentally ill and criminals,” he said. “Yet, after almost 14 years, we still allow suspected terrorists the ability to purchase firearms.”
With funding for the Department of Homeland Security running out at the end of the week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) confirmed he’s acquiescing to Democrats’ demands to break immigration demands off of the DHS appropriations bill.
A vote on a “clean” DHS bill isn’t scheduled yet, and it would then have to be approved by the House.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters after a closed caucus meeting today that he’s just “waiting for the Senate to act.”
“The House has done its job to fund the Department of Homeland Security and to stop the president’s overreach on immigration. And we’re waiting for the Senate to do their job. Senate Democrats have stood in the way now for three weeks over a bill that should have been debated and passed. So until the Senate does something, we’re in a wait-and-see mode,” Boehner said.
Asked if he’s concerned about “rebellion” from upset conservatives, he replied, “I’m waiting for the Senate to pass a bill.”
Asked what he thinks of McConnell’s plan, Boehner said, I”‘m waiting for the Senate to pass a bill. There’s a lot — I don’t know what the Senate is capable of passing. And until I see what they’re going to pass, no decision has been made on the House side.”
House Republicans aren’t publicly signaling much on which way they’d go if presented with a bill that excludes their effort to defund President Obama’s executive actions.
“We have a right to fund or not fund anything,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told MSNBC this morning.
“Every time somebody talks about a shutdown, they talk about the budget, they talk about everything, they always point to the of the purse. Well, the power of the purse says we want you to do and we will fund 100 percent of keeping America safe, we just won’t fund visas and work permits for illegal immigrants. It’s that simple,” Issa said.
“It’s a pretty straight forward understanding. He has no authority to grant work permits, therefore, we will not fund granting work permits for people who are unlawfully here. We’re happy to do immigration reform, but we have to have a willing partner.”
Issa added that “right now, the speaker has said that he’s staying with needing to make sure that the president’s unlawful act is not funded. And I realize there’s a federal judge in play, but again, the president would like funding for longer than that federal judge’s stay may be in effect.”
McConnell said on the Senate floor this morning that “later this week, the Senate will consider a bill from the senior senator from Maine that’s about as reasonable as you can get.”
“Obviously, President Obama was right to refer to the kind of overreach he took in November as ‘ignoring the law.’ And Senator Collins’ sensible bill focuses simply on preventing that most egregious example of executive overreach from taking effect. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “Her bill isn’t tied to funding for DHS either. So there are no excuses left. Democrats should join us in voting for this common-sense legislation.”
“In the meantime, we’ve offered Democrats the chance to prove they were serious about something else: funding the Department of Homeland Security.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told Fox that “we’re not playing politics” if McConnell breaks up the bill.
“I told the Republicans I would support their movement. And I think that’s a rational way to move. You give them both to the House. And Democrats are afraid the House is going to do a different thing, basically play a gotcha game and make some amendments,” Manchin said.
“I don’t think the House would pass up the ability it to vote for a clean Homeland Security. If they do that and they put their immigration bill, basically repealing the president’s executive order, they’re truly playing politics at the highest level and putting their politics ahead of the security of our nation. I just don’t think good people will do that.”
D.C. delegate to Congress is upset that Capitol Police have been shooing sledders away from Capitol Hill during the recent snow dumps.
“Sledding on U.S. Capitol Grounds is one of the oldest traditions in the nation’s capital,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) wrote yesterday to Senate Sergeant at Arms Frank J. Larkin. “Although I understand that sledding has been banned for years, what I do not understand is why the U.S. Capitol Police have recently decided to enforce this Scrooge-like ban.”
“Because the Capitol Police Board issues the regulations, I am reaching out directly to the Board to request that sledding be permitted on U.S. Capitol Grounds,” she said.
“The District of Columbia received enough snowfall to bring out sledding children and their parents last week. Left to enforce the ban for no good reason, some U.S. Capitol Police turned away families invoking security. Because of high-residential density, there are few places to sled in the city, and the grounds of the U.S. Capitol – the Hill – provide a perfect sledding venue. The sledding ban appears to be arbitrary.”
Norton pointed out that “there is so little snow here that there will not be frequent sledding and, therefore, no significant damage to Capitol Grounds.”
“Moreover, the public is not barred from walking or playing games on the grounds. I understand that there may be reasonable limits placed on sledding, but an absolute ban on sledding in the little snow the District has on the grounds of the People’s House and the Senate is unseemly and unnecessary,” she added.
“Americans should be able to sled on ‘America’s front lawn.’ I am asking that the Capitol Police Board remove the ban on sledding from Capitol Police Regulations.”
Norton asked for a response within 30 days.
— Jaimee C (@jmee16) February 17, 2015
Hitler, in the form of Mein Kampf (My Jihad, er, Struggle), which will once again be legally for sale in Germany:
The book that once served as a kind of Nazi bible, banned from domestic reprints since the end of World War II, will soon be returning to German bookstores from the Alps to the Baltic Sea.
The prohibition on reissue for years was upheld by the state of Bavaria, which owns the German copyright and legally blocked attempts to duplicate it. But those rights expire in December, and the first new print run here since Hitler’s death is due out early next year. The new edition is a heavily annotated volume in its original German that is stirring an impassioned debate over history, anti-Semitism and the latent power of the written word.
Following the war, there has been a complete ban on Nazi regalia, mementos, etc., in Germany (not that there aren’t plenty of secret rooms filled with souvenirs of the Thousand-Year-Reich in private homes). Now the most notorious book of the 20th-century will be back on the shelves:
The book’s reissue, to the chagrin of critics, is effectively being financed by German taxpayers, who fund the historical society that is producing and publishing the new edition. Rather than a how-to guidebook for the aspiring fascist, the new reprint, the group said this month, will instead be a vital academic tool, a 2,000-page volume packed with more criticisms and analysis than the original text.
Still, opponents are aghast, in part because the book is coming out at a time of rising anti-Semitism in Europe and as the English and other foreign-language versions of “Mein Kampf” — unhindered by the German copyrights — are in the midst of a global renaissance.
“I am absolutely against the publication of ‘Mein Kampf,’ even with annotations. Can you annotate the Devil? Can you annotate a person like Hitler?” said Levi Salomon, spokesman for the Berlin-based Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism. “This book is outside of human logic.”
I beg to differ. The real horror of the National Socialist state was that it was entirely all too human and, by its own lights, eminently logical. That it seduced the most civilized nation in Europe is to Germany’s eternal shame. But hiding Hitler’s turgid, soporific prose (especially in German; the English translations are actually marginally better, literarily) does nobody any good: sunlight really is the best disinfectant.
Two prominent Senate Democrats invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sit down with their caucus while he’s in town next week — he said thanks, but no thanks.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) extended the invite to the prime minister on Monday in a letter first reported by Bloomberg.
Netanyahu accepting the invitation to address a joint session of Congress, they wrote, “sacrifices deep and well-established cooperation on Israel for short-term partisan points — something that should never be done with Israeli security and which we feel could have lasting repercussions.”
“To maintain Israel’s dialogue with both political parties in Congress, we invite you to a closed-door meeting with Democratic senators during your upcoming visit to Washington,” Durbin and Feinstein wrote. “We believe such a venue would be a wholly appropriate opportunity to discuss the range of issues that face our two countries.”
Reuters obtained the decline, which wasn’t released publicly by Netanyahu’s office.
“Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation to meet with Democratic Senators, I believe that doing so at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit,” he wrote.
Netanyahu stressed that he agreed “wholeheartedly” of the bipartisan foundation for strong U.S.-Israel ties. “I also fully understand the importance of bipartisan support for ensuring that our alliance remains strong in the future,” he wrote.
“I can assure you my sole intention in accepting it was to voice Israel’s grave concerns about a potential nuclear agreement with Iran that could threaten the survival of my country.”
Netanyahu said he’d be happy to meet with senators when all of them are welcome in the meeting room.
Here’s your feel-good story of the day.
The IRS said yesterday that it has fewer resources available to audit your tax returns.
Budget cuts forced the IRS to reduce the number of audits last year to the lowest level in a decade — and it could go down even more this year, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Tuesday.
“The math is pretty simple,” Koskinen said in a speech to the New York State Bar Association. “There are fewer audits because we have fewer auditors. Audits fell in virtually every individual category and across income levels.”
The number of audits last year was only 1.2 million tax returns, which is less than 1% of all returns filed. That is the lowest rate of auditing since 2004.
Koskinen said the IRS is down more than 2,200 revenue agents since 2010.
Last year, a little more than 11,600 revenue agents examined returns, and Koskinen is warning that the number of agents will decline again this year.
Congress has cut the agency’s budget by $1.2 billion since 2010.
The IRS budget for the year ending this September was $10.9B.
A senior State Department official was arrested yesterday for allegedly soliciting sex from a minor, Fox News is reporting.
Fairfax County Police officials say Daniel Rosen was arrested by a county detective about noon at his Washington, D.C. home after he allegedly sought to arrange sex with a minor. The detective, a female officer working in the county’s Child Exploitation Unit, had been posing as the minor in online exchanges with Rosen, police said.
Rosen is the director of counterterrorism programs at the State Department.
He was arrested and charged with one count of Use of a Communications Device to Solicit a Juvenile.
The police notified Rosen’s employer, as is usual in these situations.
Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said late Tuesday, “We are aware that a State Department employee has been arrested and charges have been issued.
“For issues related to Department personnel and for privacy reasons, we are not able to confirm the identity of the individual or specific charges.
“His security clearance will be suspended and he will be put on administrative leave while this proceeds to its end through any judicial process. We are following standard procedure in this case.”
A source told Fox News that the police had obtained a warrant to search Rosen’s phones for additional evidence.
Rosen has been working at the State Department since 2008, according to his LinkedIn profile.
New filings show that donations to the National Rifle Association have “soared” following the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012.
The filings reveal that NRA donations for 2013 clocked-in at $96.4M, an 11.5% increase from 2012.
Money poured into to the NRA once certain states and the federal government began agitating for more gun control after the Sandy Hook shooting.
The left, who usually knee-jerks any tragic situation with some kind of civil rights-suffocating action, quickly mobilized to have a “national conversation” about gun violence which would have resulted in the weakening of law abiding citizens’ rights and had no effect on lawless criminals or madmen.
“It’s very perverse,” said Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. “Most Americans would have a visceral reaction toward those numbers following a tragedy where 20 (kids) were slaughtered.”
It’s not really perverse at all. Many people, at least $96.4M worth of people reacted to the killing spree by supporting a group who wanted to ensure Americans kept their right to protect themselves against such madmen like the Sandy Hook shooter.
Barret went on to say that the NRA was “fearmongering” it’s base, although the fear was not unfounded. The NY Daily News writes: “Federal gun control efforts — including a push to require tough background check requirements — ultimately failed in Congress.” So, more anti-second amendment restrictions were most definitely on the horizon surrounding Newtown.
The real fearmongers, are the anti-gun cabal who started immediately mobilizing to ban certain firearms and place restrictions on firearms purchases.
The good news is that the NRA saw a rise not just in donations but in memberships. “The NRA reported that its total revenue in 2013 increased by 35.8%, to $348 million. That includes $175.6 million in membership dues.”
California was the first state in the country to ban the use of plastic shopping bags in retail and grocery stores. But the ban has now been put on hold as state election officials confirmed that a group has gathered enough signatures to challenge the ban and place the issue on the 2016 ballot.
The American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents bag manufacturers, had about 50,000 more valid signatures than the 505,000 needed to qualify the referendum after a random sample of the signatures was tallied, said Bill Mabie, chief deputy for Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
The group had submitted more than 800,000 signatures at the end of last year.
Governor Jerry Brown signed the bag ban legislation into law last fall, after a hostile battle between environmentalists and bag-makers. The ban was supposed to be phased-in, starting in July of this year.
The plastic bag alliance says the ban will costs jobs.
“California voters will now have the chance to vote down a terrible law that, if implemented, would kill 2,000 local manufacturing jobs and funnel obscene profits to big grocers without any money going to a public purpose or environmental initiative,” the group’s executive director, Lee Califf, said in a news release.
Supporters of the ban complained that opponents spent millions of dollars on the referendum campaign.
“This is a cynical ploy by out-of-state interests desperate to delay a ban already adopted in more than 100 communities across California,” Brown’s spokesman Evan Westrup said.
But supporters of the bill are confident that Californians will uphold the ban at the ballot box.
Mark Murray, a spokesman for Californians vs. Big Plastic, said the coalition of environmental, labor and business groups is confident California voters will uphold the ban. “It’s not surprising that after spending more than $3.2 million, 98 percent of which is from out of state, the plastic bag industry has bought its way onto the California ballot to protect its profits,” Murray said.
Already the environmentalists have successfully pushed for bans in cities around the country, as well in California. Seattle, Chicago and Austin already have bans, as well as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
With no sense of irony to speak of, some of the biggest and most profitable companies on the Internet have succeeded in masking their pursuit of subsidy as a campaign for “an open internet.” Now, they stand ready to close the con. From the New York Times:
The Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to approve regulating Internet service like a public utility, prohibiting companies from paying for faster lanes on the Internet.
Republicans had aspired to counter any such regulation with legislation, but conceded on Tuesday that they lack the bipartisan support necessary to get such a bill passed.
As a result, when the FCC moves forward with regulating the internet, big businesses will be legally empowered to violate the free association rights of Internet service providers and compel subsidy from everyone else online.
The FCC plan would let the agency regulate Internet access as if it is a public good. It would follow the concept known as net neutrality or an open Internet, banning so-called paid prioritization – or fast lanes – for willing Internet content providers.
… an avalanche of support for [the FCC] plan – driven by Internet companies as varied as Netflix, Twitter, Mozilla and Etsy – has swamped Washington.
Since the cost of providing bandwidth to these companies will not change, Internet service providers will be forced to make up the difference by charging their other customers more – customers like you. Either that, or they’ll have to trim costs somewhere else, which could translate to lost jobs and hampered innovation.
Beyond the blatant violation of free association and the negative economic impact, establishing the legal perception of the Internet as “a public good” sets the stage for further rights violations in the future. If the Internet is public, it’s not yours, and you won’t be able to claim ownership over your activity on it. At the whim of regulators or legislators, your online relationships, your online speech, and your online property will each be subject to disruption or seizure.
It’s a sad day for liberty. The world’s most practical example of market success is about to be leashed to Washington cronies.
The State Department this evening responded to ISIS’ mass kidnapping of Christians in Syria by stressing that the terrorists harm all religious groups.
Estimates of the number of kidnapped Assyrians from villages near Tel Hmar have ranged from at least 90 to as high as 200. Thousands fled with no possessions as ISIS attacked in the early morning hours. Members of the ancient community speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
The Assyrian Human Rights Network said ISIS moved the hostages to the Abdul Aziz Mountains region, where they fear the terrorists will use the Christians as human shields against Kurdish fighters.
Said State Department press secretary Jen Psaki in a statement sent to reporters tonight:
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms ISIL’s attacks yesterday on predominantly Assyrian Christian villages in the northeast Syrian province of Hasakeh, where they kidnapped dozens of civilians, including women, children, priests, and the elderly. Hundreds of other civilians remain trapped in villages surrounded by ISIL fighters, and clashes continue between ISIL and local forces defending their communities. ISIL burned and destroyed homes and churches, and the violence has reportedly displaced more than 3,000 people. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the civilians taken captive yesterday and of all those held by ISIL.
ISIL’s latest targeting of a religious minority is only further testament to its brutal and inhumane treatment of all those who disagree with its divisive goals and toxic beliefs. ISIL continues to exact its evil upon innocents of all faiths, and the majority of its victims have been Muslims. People of all faiths and many religious leaders throughout the region have united in condemning ISIL’s depravity, including its mass killings, rape, sexual enslavement, lashing, stoning, crucifixion, torture, and public murders of hostages.
Earlier this month, ISIS was ordering Assyrians to remove crosses from their churches. About 600 families are now sheltering at the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary in Al-Hasakah, suffering from “a significant lack of blankets, water, food and heating fuel,” the Assyrian Human Rights Network said.
The following occurred in Chicago, Illinois, USA and not some Communist dictatorship or theocratic backwater.
A secret interrogation site is being used by the Chicago police to hold suspects for up to a day or more without access to an attorney or being read their Miranda rights.
The facility is “off the books” — no one will acknowledge its existence despite the fact that Chicago criminal defense attorneys are very familiar with the site. Suspects are temporarily “disappeared” from police precincts and re-appear to be booked hours later.
The site is apparently used by special police task forces — anti-terror, anti-gang, anti-drug units.
The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.
Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:
Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
Shackling for prolonged periods.
Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.
At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.
“If police “want money, guns, drugs”, or information on the flow of any of them onto Chicago’s streets, “they bring them there and use it as a place of interrogation off the books,” said one attorney.
The site also serves as a safe house where police informants can meet their handlers in a secure location. It also serves as an evidence locker and is a storage site for military-grade vehicles.
But secret interrogation sites have been a dark part of Chicago police history for at least 50 years.
“Back when I first started working on torture cases and started representing criminal defendants in the early 1970s, my clients often told me they’d been taken from one police station to another before ending up at Area 2 where they were tortured,” said Taylor, the civil-rights lawyer most associated with pursuing the notoriously abusive Area 2 police commander Jon Burge. “And in that way the police prevent their family and lawyers from seeing them until they could coerce, through torture or other means, confessions from them.”
Police often have off-site facilities to have private conversations with their informants. But a retired Washington DC homicide detective, James Trainum, could not think of another circumstance nationwide where police held people incommunicado for extended periods.
“I’ve never known any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours. That scares the hell out of me that that even exists or might exist,” said Trainum, who now studies national policing issues, to include interrogations, for the Innocence Project and the Constitution Project.
Regardless of departmental regulations, police frequently deny or elide access to lawyers even at regular police precincts, said Solowiej of First Defense Legal Aid. But she said the outright denial was exacerbated at Chicago’s secretive interrogation and holding facility: “It’s very, very rare for anyone to experience their constitutional rights in Chicago police custody, and even more so at Homan Square,” Solowiej said.
There have been several previous torture scandals involving the Chicago police — organized groups of thugs who beat suspects and coerced confessions. This is, if possible, even worse. The lack of accountability and transparency as well as the routine application of physical abuse eats at the trust police need to effectively fight crime in the community.
In short, the police are only making their jobs harder by running a site like this.
President Obama just vetoed legislation dropped on his desk to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
“Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest,” Obama said in his statement to the Senate.
“The Presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously. But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people,” he continued. “And because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety, and environment — it has earned my veto.”
The veto comes as no surprise, though this morning congressional Republicans were rallying pressure on the administration through social media.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the veto “a national embarrassment.”
“It’s embarrassing when Russia and China are plowing ahead on two massive pipelines and we can’t get this one no-brainer of a project off the ground. The president is just too close to environmental extremists to stand up for America’s workers. He’s too invested in left-fringe politics to do what presidents are called on to do, and that’s put the national interest first,” Boehner said.
“We are not going to give up in our efforts to get this pipeline built – not even close. We pledged to make the people’s priorities our priorities, and we will keep working every day to deliver on that commitment.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, applauded the president for just saying no to “Canadian special interests.”
“Reports have shown the pipeline project will increase the dangers of spills like the ones that occurred in Arkansas and Michigan, and will result in pollution that causes serious illnesses like asthma and increases in carbon pollution – the main cause of climate change,” Boxer said. “Instead of building this pipeline, which will only create 35 permanent jobs, the Republican leadership should immediately focus on passing a long-term transportation bill that will support millions of jobs.”
The chairman of the EPW committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), said Obama “denied Americans thousands of new, well-paying jobs and the opportunity to progress towards energy independence.”
“In my home state of Oklahoma on March 22, 2012, he acknowledged that America is producing ‘so much oil and gas in places like North Dakota and Colorado that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it.’ Today he confirmed this was just another campaign stump speech that he did not intend to back up with real solutions,” Inhofe said.
“I stand in strong support of a veto override vote. Congress must band together with the majority of Americans who support this job-creating initiative. The U.S. energy sector has faithfully provided over 9.2 million jobs to our economy, and it is unfortunate the president has failed to lead the way in standing for energy independence, national security, and a more robust economy.”
The bill passed the Senate 62-36 on Jan. 29 with one Republican (Marco Rubio) and one Democrat (Harry Reid) not voting. Nine Dems sided with the GOP in that vote.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), sponsor of the bill, said he’d “continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to try and gain the support necessary to override the veto.”
“Another option is to attach this legislation to other energy, infrastructure or appropriations legislation that the President won’t want to veto,” Hoeven said. “The will of the American people and Congress is clear.”
My colleague, Bridget Johnson, just beat me to the punch on this one, but still a few things are worth adding. Such as: what the hell is wrong with these people? Are they psychotic? Or simply typical Democrats, i.e. habitual liars?
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald apologized Monday for misstating that he served in the military’s special forces. McDonald made the erroneous claim while speaking to a homeless veteran during a segment that aired last month on “CBS Evening News.”
In a statement released Monday by the VA, McDonald said: “While I was in Los Angeles, engaging a homeless individual to determine his veteran status, I asked the man where he had served in the military. He responded that he had served in special forces. I incorrectly stated that I had been in special forces. That was inaccurate and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement.”
The VA website says McDonald is an Army veteran who served with the 82nd Airborne Division. The Huffington Post website, which first reported on McDonald’s mistake, noted Monday that the 82nd is not considered part of special forces.
I’m calling B.S. on this one, big time. How do you “incorrectly state” you were in the special forces? You don’t. You lie. You lie the same way your boss, Obama, does in just about everything he says. You lie because there is no downside to your lying. You get to keep your cushy job. A day or two passes and the storm blows over; it’s just another one of those, “they all do it” stories. You get away with it.
This is how a republic dies. And the rot starts from the top.
The secretary of Veterans Affairs faced the press outside of the department moments ago to apologize for claiming to have served in the Special Forces.
Robert McDonald, who took over the troubled department in July, was touring VA facilities in Los Angeles last month when he stopped to speak to a homeless veteran. The man told McDonald that he had served in Special Forces.
“Special Forces? What years?” McDonald responded. “I was in Special Forces.” The exchange was captured by a CBS News crew and his claim was called out yesterday by the Huffington Post.
McDonald, who retired from Proctor & Gamble before being selected by Obama, is a graduate of West Point and served as a captain in the Army for five years, with most of his time in the 82nd Airborne.
His message today? “I have no excuse.”
“We at VA are working hard to restore trust and again I apologize for those who may have been offended by my misstatement,” McDonald said.
“My biggest motivation was to connect with the veteran,” he said when asked why he would make that statement, reminding reporters that at his first national press conference he gave out his cell phone number for veterans to call. “My whole purpose in this job is to try to connect with veterans and better serve veterans.”
“I made a mistake and I apologized for it,” he added. “…I was talking to a homeless veteran … what I said was not on my mind at the time.”
Asked what he’d say to offended Special Forces veterans, the secretary replied, “I apologize to them.”
“What you do when you connect with veterans is try to find common ground,” he said, adding that no one would find him claiming to be Special Forces in any of his corporate or government bios. “Integrity has been one of the foundations of my character.”
Asked if he thinks he should step down: “I want to serve veterans.”
In a statement before the press conference, the American Legion called out McDonald on the lie.
“In an effort to bond with a homeless veteran, Secretary McDonald told him he was in the Special Forces,” National Commander Michael D. Helm said. “He did complete Ranger training and served honorably with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. But a lie is a lie.”
“I can’t believe people do this,” Helm continued. “What a disappointment from the leader of a department whose number one issue right now is the restoration of trust. He should be held to a higher standard. The secretary has apologized, as he certainly should. We hope that he can restore the trust that he lost.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest called McDonald “somebody who understands firsthand about why what he said about his service was wrong and that certainly is why it was appropriate for him to apologize.”
“But there is no reason to think that the mistake that he made should interfere with his ability to continue to lead the fight for our veterans and to continue to implement the kinds of reforms at the VA that are still critical to making sure that our veterans are getting the benefits that they deserve,” Earnest said.
That would be the daughter of Barack Hussein Obama’s spiritual mentor and the man who “baptized” him into whichever variation of “Christianity” the president currently claims to adhere:
Jeri L. Wright, the daughter of President Barack Obama’s controversial former pastor, was headed to jail Monday after a judge revoked a deal that allowed her to remain free as she awaits sentencing on a money-laundering conviction.
U.S. District Judge Sue E. Myerscough ruled there was probable cause to believe Wright committed a separate theft while on bail, thereby violating terms of her supervised release, according to Sharon Paul, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the Central District of Illinois. The judge ordered Wright, who appeared in court in Springfield, to be taken into custody by U.S. marshals.
Wright, 49, of Hazel Crest, is the daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the Chicago minister known nationwide for the controversy his sermons created for Obama in the 2008 presidential election. Last March, Jeri Wright was found guilty of money-laundering, lying to federal investigators and lying to a grand jury over her role in a state grant-fraud scheme orchestrated by one of her childhood friends, former Country Club Hills Police Chief Regina Evans.
Prosecutors now say Wright was taking part in another scheme — this one involving ghost payrolling — even as she was standing trial.
“Money-laundering” and “lying” don’t sound very Christian to me, but what do I know, I’m Catholic. Really, you can’t make this stuff up.
The Justice Department just announced that George Zimmerman will not face federal civil-rights charges in the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
“The death of Trayvon Martin was a devastating tragedy. It shook an entire community, drew the attention of millions across the nation, and sparked a painful but necessary dialogue throughout the country,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
“Though a comprehensive investigation found that the high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution cannot be met under the circumstances here, this young man’s premature death necessitates that we continue the dialogue and be unafraid of confronting the issues and tensions his passing brought to the surface,” Holder said. “We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”
The FBI began its investigation when local authorities brought murder charges against Zimmerman. He was acquitted in July 2013.
Said the Justice Department of their probe:
Federal investigators reviewed all of the material and evidence generated by the state of Florida in connection with its investigation and prosecution of Zimmerman, including witness statements, crime scene evidence, cell phone data, ballistics reports, reconstruction analysis, medical and autopsy reports, depositions, and the trial record. Federal investigators also independently conducted 75 witness interviews and obtained and reviewed the contents of relevant electronic devices. The investigation included an examination of police reports and additional evidence that was generated related to encounters Zimmerman has had with law enforcement in Florida since the state trial acquittal. In addition, federal authorities retained an independent biomechanical expert who assessed Zimmerman’s descriptions of the struggle and the shooting.
The federal investigation sought to determine whether the evidence of the events that led to Martin’s death were sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman’s actions violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes, specifically Section 3631 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code or Section 249 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, as well as other relevant federal criminal statutes. Section 3631 criminalizes willfully using force or threat of force to interfere with a person’s federally protected housing rights on account of that person’s race or color. Section 249 criminalizes willfully causing bodily injury to a person because of that person’s actual or perceived race. Courts define “willfully” to require proof that a defendant knew his acts were unlawful, and committed those acts in open defiance of the law. It is one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law.
The federal investigation examined whether Zimmerman violated civil rights statutes at any point during his interaction with Martin, from their initial encounter through the fatal shooting. This included investigating whether there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman violated Section 3631 by approaching Martin in a threatening manner before the fatal shooting because of Martin’s race and because he was using the residential neighborhood. Investigators also looked at whether there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman violated Section 3631 or Section 249, by using force against Martin either during their struggle or when shooting Martin, because of Martin’s race.
The investigation is now closed, the DOJ said. “This decision is limited strictly to the department’s inability to meet the high legal standard required to prosecute the case under the federal civil rights statutes; it does not reflect an assessment of any other aspect of the shooting,” the department added, noting it “aggressively prosecutes criminal civil rights violations whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so.”
The world’s most useless government bureaucracy (and the competition is stiff) has got to be the Department of Homeland Security. From its creepy name to its kluge of ill-fitting departments, this panicked overreaction to 9/11 is a disgrace to America. Now someone’s finally making the case against it:
Congressional Republicans are once again holding the government hostage against a budget authorization bill, this time threatening to put the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) into furlough. Maybe it’s time to call them on their bluff and go one step further: Let’s shut down the DHS. The agency is no longer relevant in an age where cyberterrorism may be the new normal, and it’s doing the United States more harm than good.
As Ashley Parker at the New York Times reports, obstructionist Republicans are so determined to get their way on immigration policy that they’re willing to let the agency’s funding lapse rather than authorize a bill that includes immigration provisions. “Some House Republicans,” she wrote, “have expressed a willingness to let the agency run out of money.”
And maybe we should. Permanently.
In retrospect, the Bush administration did almost everything wrong after 9/11: it attacked the wrong country (Iraq, instead of Saudi Arabia, which might actually have done some good, global-security-wise), it penalized honest Americans via the horrendous TSA instead of immediately closing the country to all Arabs and Muslims until we could sort them out; and it created a bureaucratic monster that, by definition, was ill-suited for the purpose for which it was allegedly established.
I agree with most of the points in the linked piece, including the fact that DHS’s nearly $40 billion budget is an absurd waste of money, especially on an agency that will not defend the country’s borders in any meaningful fashion. I also agree that law enforcement has become far too militarized (once again, punishing Americans for the crimes of foreigners) and that our surveillance culture is out of control. Where I part company with the author, however, comes with Point 5: “It’s time to end the war on immigrants,” when in fact it’s precisely time to start the war on “immigrants” — by which I mean “invaders” — and also with Point 7: “We need to focus on internal problems,” by which the writer means “domestic terrorism.”
Here’s the argument:
The DHS is an active participant in the war on immigrants in the United States—the very same issue that the president and the House are trying to tackle. Undocumented immigrants of all stripes are being treated like base criminals, from housekeepers trying to send money home to their families to hardened criminals with extensive records. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reports 315,943 “removals” for 2014, including those of people without criminal records.
Meanwhile, close to 450,000 immigrants are held annually across the United States, with many living in substandard, terrible conditions in crowded facilities while waiting for their day in immigration court. It can take months or even years to get to court, and because undocumented immigrants are not citizens, they are not entitled to the legal rights that would make such gross delays in justice a civil rights violation under the law. ICE and related agencies have created a logistical nightmare for the government and a terrifying reality for immigrants, not to mention a wildly expensive immigration tangle; the U.S. spent a reported two billion dollars on immigration detention in 2014.
Tough. If they can’t come here legally, the hell with them. And quoting the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is basically a Leftist hate group, does very little to advance one’s argument. Still, five out of seven ain’t bad.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) underwent eye surgery at the end of January and mid-February to repair facial bones damaged in his home-workout accident; today at a press conference, he was sporting a new look.
Reid wasn’t wearing his new shades on the Senate floor, which suggests the lighting from cameras at the press conference to pressure Republicans to pass a clean DHS bill was painful.
— Jake Laperruque (@JakeLaperruque) February 24, 2015
— Jessica Taylor (@JessicaTaylor) February 24, 2015
Harry Reid conducting DHS presser in sunglasses. Did not wear on floor this morning. pic.twitter.com/BJspJJz2Oa
— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) February 24, 2015
Remember “Cap and Trade?” The anti-market allegedly “market-based” “solution” to man-faked global warming climate change?
A central authority (usually a governmental body) sets a limit or cap on the amount of a pollutant that may be emitted.
The limit or cap is allocated and/or sold by the central authority to firms in the form of emissions permits which represent the right to emit or discharge a specific volume of the specified pollutant.
Permits (and possibly also derivatives of permits) can then be traded on secondary markets.
Only if (you) want government to raise energy prices, make coal uneconomical as an electricity fuel, or restrict Americans’ access to carbon-based energy.…
“Cap and trade” is a policy so disastrous it couldn’t pass a Democrat-majority Congress – with Democrat President Barack Obama eagerly waiting with pen at the ready.
Except with this President, no terrible idea dies just because the Constitutional process demands it.
And so they have. Here’s the EPA’s “Cap and Trade” page.
And in government, terrible ideas are like kudzu – they rapidly, illegally spread everywhere.
The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have announced an expanded partnership to support water quality trading….
Oh look – the government is assaulting our farmers’ water supply. Where else have we seen that?
The EPA exists to assault the private sector. And it is teaming up with other government departments to maximize the damage.
The USDA is a complete waste of money, time and space. Humans have engaged in agriculture for 10,000 years – we did so for 9,900 of those years without a government department. I think we’ve got this.
And, of course, there is zero Constitutional authority granted to the federal government to have a USDA.
Having no useful purpose, the Department of Agriculture works day and night to make private agriculture more difficult and expensive. Which raises our food prices – and makes our farmers less competitive on the now-global market.
These government-inflicted regulations and costs – by a department that shouldn’t exist – foster other government programs that shouldn’t exist.
Like the horrendous Farm Bill. Government makes it nearly impossible for farmers to turn a profit – then subsidizes them.
Like Food Stamps. Government jacks the price of food – then buys tens of millions of people food at the government-inflated prices because they can no longer afford it.
The Obama Administration is assaulting the private sector with every department, agency, commission and board at its $4-trillion-a-year disposal. Including unilaterally imposing “Cap and Trade” across multiple agencies. And what has transpired during the Obama Administration’s tenure?
It would seem there is a correlation there.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said President Obama “seems more intent on telling us warnings about the Crusades, criticizing America” than fighting terrorism.
Jindal, the 2016 hopeful playing the most hardball lately, emerged from a governors’ meeting with Obama at the White House yesterday to declare the president “unfit to be commander in chief.”
“I take no joy in saying that,” said Jindal, in town for the National Governors Association meeting, to reporters. “I don’t say so for partisan or ideological reasons.”
Jindal elaborated on Fox this morning, saying Obama “disqualified” himself from being fit to lead the country and its military as he “refuses to identify one of the main military threats we face by name: radical Islamic fundamentalism.”
“You listen to those quotes from his own administration. Eric Holder says, ‘We’re not at a state of war.’ You’ve got the State Department saying, ‘We’re not going to kill our way to victory,’ at a time when these barbarians, they’re beheading Christians, they’re torturing, prosecuting Christians, Muslims, Jews, other religious minorities, they are — they killed over 100 schoolchildren, they’re actually killing editorials, because they don’t like their cartoons,” he said.
The governor also cited two “fundamental mistakes” Obama makes in his authorization of military force request to Congress.
“One, he puts an arbitrary timeline, a three-year deadline in there. We know we’ll be done when we’ve hunted down and killed these terrorists, not some political deadline. And then secondly, he bars the use of ground troops,” Jindal said.
“We need to enlist our military commanders. We need to go to them and say, ‘Give us a plan to hunt down, to kill, to eradicate these terrorists.’ We don’t need a president who’s trying to appease (inaudible), trying to be politically correct. He won’t even name the enemy we face, and now he’s refusing to give our military the tools — all the tools they need to go and win this war.”
He added that the 90-minute meeting Obama held with the governors is “more of the president talking to us than a real dialogue.”
“One, the president continues to say, ‘We’re not at war with Islam.’ Well, that’s obvious. That’s obviously true. But we are at war with radical Islam, and he needs to say it. You hear other foreign leaders say it. You hear the president of Egypt, the prime minister of France say it,” Jindal continued. “And secondly, the way that we win, the way we deny them the P.R., the recruiting tool is to hunt them down and kill them.”
“These — this political correctness is just — it’s not helping anything. It’s — it’s hurting our ability to actually go and win this fight. The way we deny them the P.R. tools is hunt them down and kill them.”
Jindal said political correctness is also making Obama “pretend like we’ll never send in ground troops.”
“The reality is we have allies willing to supply ground troops, including Turkey, if this president would be serious about being there to get rid of Assad,” he said of the dictator giving haven to terrorists in return for keeping him in power. “I think there’re a lot of allies worried that if they go after ISIS, it’ll create a vacuum for Assad. It’ll create a vacuum for Iran. So there are allies willing to supply the ground troops if they thought this president were more serious.”
“…This is one of the few times I think Congress needs to give the president more than he’s asked for. I almost never say that. I think they need to give him the ability to go win this war. He hasn’t asked for enough when it comes to the ability to win this war. They should give it to him.”
Obama needled governors eyeing his job in public remarks to the group. “So I’m in the fourth quarter of my presidency, or as some of you might call it — the kickoff for your campaign season,” he said.
The mayor who took down a knife-wielding terrorist on Sunday told Fox that “the residents of Jerusalem are part of me” and “the last thing you do is run away” from that situation.
Footage from the Jerusalem Municipality Emergency and Safety Department, above, shows an 18-year-old Palestinian from Ramallah attacking a 27-year-old Haredi man on a street corner in central Jerusalem’s Safra Square.
Barkat, in the white shirt, was passing by and jumped out of his car with his bodyguard.
“I was on my way to the office, and, coincidentally, we just were first at the light,” he said. “And my team sitting in the front of the car told me there’s something going on. And I exited the car with my bodyguard. And we slowly approached to figure out, what is going on? Is it a fight or anything? We weren’t sure what is going on.”
“And as we got close, we saw this terrorist with a knife in his hand, seeking, who else should he hurt? And so my bodyguard pulled his pistol and aimed at him. And he immediately froze and threw the knife on the floor.”
Barkat is seen on the video lunging first at the suspect, grabbing him and taking him down. “We tackled him on the ground and neutralized him. And then I looked around and I saw this wounded person and started treating him. And when we realize that there’s no more terrorists around, we realized that the situation is under control. And we wait for the police and the ambulances to come and clear out the place,” Barkat said.
The mayor said once they realized what was happening, there was no turning back. “Once we entered it, we’re in it, and then we had to figure out what the right thing to do is,” he said. “…I was a company commander in the paratroopers. And the DNA we have is to solve the problem.”
The father of four wounded in the attack, Avraham Goldschmidt, got the opportunity to thank Barkat at the hospital yesterday. “It was a humane thing, what you did,” Goldschmidt told the mayor, according to YNet News. “…God willing, I will be the last person to be wounded in a terror attack in Jerusalem.”
Barkat’s word of advice to Americans wanting to avoid terrorist attacks on U.S. soil? “The Iranians are the bad guys. They want nukes. They’re very radical and extremist people. Don’t trust them.”
The Oscar telecast hit a six-year low in the ratings, losing 17% of the previous year’s audience, about 6 million viewers. Last year’s telecast hit a ten-year high, which proved to be unsustainable. Writes the Hollywood Reporter:
After metered market ratings brought dips — the year’s show dropped 10 percent, to an average 25 rating among households and a 38 share — final ratings for the series fell 17 percent in the key demographic of adults 18-49 to a 10.8 rating.
With time zone adjustments for the period of 8:30 p.m. to 11:46 p.m. ET, the audience for the ABC telecast also fell by more than 6 million viewers from the previous year. The live telecast averaged 36.6 million viewers.
This year’s Academy Awards show had several instances of political agitating, and it is not unusual for Hollywooders to use the spotlight to push a political agenda. Perhaps this behavior turns away potential viewers; no one wants to get lectured about politics under the guise of an “entertainment” show.
Patricia Arquette, winner of the best supporting actress award, used her acceptance speech to lecture the audience of millionaires about wage inequality for women. She thanked “every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation” who has “fought for everyone else’s equal rights.” She went on to say: “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
John Legend, who won an award along with rapper Common for the best original song “Glory,” complained about the Voting Rights Act being compromised. “We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country.”
Maybe it’s just me, but people don’t want to spend their Sunday night being called sexist or racist by a bunch of rich, privileged people during a ceremony celebrating themselves. (Taking home a bag of goodies worth $165K, nonetheless.) Who else could these celebrities be talking about other than the Academy Awards TV audience: the people they expect to buy tickets to their movies and make them rich?
This story may twist your political instincts in a knot. On the one hand, it’s an effort to limit government intrusion in the marketplace. On the other, it’s an assault on local control. From the Associated Press:
A Missouri lawmaker who also leads an association of grocery stores is trying to stop cities and towns in the state from restricting the use of plastic bags, bucking a national trend toward banning their use to help the environment.
The move comes as the city of Columbia, the home of the University of Missouri, considers a ban that would prevent grocery stores from offering plastic bags and would impose a 10-cent charge on paper bags.
Legislation by a state representative, who also serves as a board member of the Missouri Grocers Association, would stop that. A House panel is set to vote on the bill Tuesday.
At issue is local control, said Columbia City Councilman Ian Thomas, who is in favor of a ban on plastic bags but said it might take time to gain more community support.
“The state ban on city bans is an enormous overreach,” Thomas said. “It’s important for individual cities that maybe have a different political outlook or a more progressive tendency to be able to approve this kind of legislation.”
How’s that for an argument? A state ban on local bans is an overreach. Cities should be free to ensure their residents aren’t.
This particular appeal to local control ignores the fundamental principle upon which local control rests. That principle is individual rights. Generally speaking, people ought to be free to decide how to live their lives. When we talk about local control, that’s what we’re referencing, not an unfettered ability for local officials to bully their constituents.
The purpose of checks and balances, whether the horizontal checks of different branches or the vertical checks of different levels, is to limit the ability of government to exceed the consent of the governed. Indeed when we examine the history of racial relations in this country, spanning everything from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we note a recurring theme of higher levels of government acting to check the excesses of lower ones.
So when Councilman Thomas evokes local control in defense of his effort to limit the liberties of his constituents, he echoes the appeal to state’s rights used to defend the atrocities of Jim Crow. Put simply, you can’t rationally appeal to a “right” to violate rights.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here.)
A new 50-page e-book released this month by ISIS gives directions to would-be jihadists and women wanting to join the Islamic State on everything from securing a safehouse in Turkey to packing enough underwear for the trip.
Maps in the book suggest flying into Şanlıurfa, Turkey, for a nearly 80-mile overland trip to Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the “caliphate.”
“People who leave to get to Syria do not tell anyone, not even family. Travellers to Syria usually want to reach Turkey. But for safety reasons, they buy a ticket for an indirect holiday country like Spain or Greece so their destination doesn’t seem suspicious,” the guide states, suggesting buying a return ticket to tamp down suspicion.
Upon arriving in Turkey, the person waits for a contact arranged through Twitter, important because “they will require protection in addition to not knowing where to go to, or who to trust.”
The old way of getting into Syria, the handbook said, was dressing in a non-religious fashion and hoping Turkish border guards let them past checkpoints, but the “updated method” is now looking for border guards and sprinting into Syria near Akçakale, Turkey. “Lately things have got harder at the Turkish border, so Islamic State members often meet new people in Turkey hotels and smuggle them across the border,” though the safehouses are “usually males only” and can only be accessed with “a paper signed by an existing member to show he is trustworthy.”
“The only reason members live in Turkey in some peace is because Turkey fears revenge attacks,” says the manual.
It also stresses that financial aid could be available, noting a group of Turkistanis (Kazakhstan) who were broke but had their trip arranged and paid for after sending a letter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
For the journey, ISIS recommends carrying no more luggage than a suitcase, a “tough” backpack with lots of pockets, and one “satchel-type bag” or fanny pack to stash passport and wallet along with other “vitals” including wet wipes, “a few pills (if you suffer from any condition),” a little flashlight and a “few band-aids.”
If a would-be jihadist can’t fit a full change of clothes into the backpack along with all of his electronics, “at least pack some clean underwear.” ISIS recommends packing tablet computers, MP3 players for lectures, external hard drives to stash jihadi material, unlocked WiFi modem, headlamp, and solar chargers to work around “erratic and interrupted” electricity in the Islamic State and not be “dirtying the Earth which belongs to Allah.”
The guide recommends bringing an electric hair trimmer. “If you’re a brother, this is the quickest way to trim your moustache here, and if you like the Talafi buzzcut or egghead-style, then bring a bigger hair clipper.”
For clothes, jihadists are advised to bring knee pads, running shoes, flip-flops, long johns, windbreakers, beanies, goggles, and lots of socks. The handbook on how much clothes to bring: “Bring only the strict minimum (okay, so some sisters fainted after reading this bit, but continue reading, in shā Allah).”
Also on the packing list, in addition to standard toiletries: “Skin lotion and hand lotion if you have dry skin” and utensils including a spork. The guide notes that “knives here are scarce” and low quality.
There’s a section on how to talk to Turkish authorities if stopped, including claiming the purpose of the visit is tourism or helping Syrian refugees along the border. “Make sure you have a good knowledge of the tourist attractions in Turkey. Go to a travel agent and get yourself some brochures on Turkey or buy a traveller’s handbook. This is important since if they question you, you can just brandish this in front of their noses and show them how serious of a tourist you are.”
It advises women to arrange contacts beforehand, to learn some conversational Turkish, not travel on the same plane in groups larger than three, buy a SIM card for a cell phone at the airport, and to “be chill to the airport officers.” Once at a hotel, the woman would call contacts for a ride to a home of an ISIS sympathizer in preparation to cross the border at night or dawn. It cautions that if you leave your luggage at the safehouse “they might steal your stuff.” The guide also recommends bringing an extra abaya in case a woman rips hers while crawling under barbed wire at the border.
After crossing into ISIS territory, newbies are advised to “be sure to take a breath of fresh air, ‘cause that’s how sharī’ah feels like.”
The handbook includes some testimonials from foreign fighters who made the trip, including a European jihadist who “hacked some Israeli credit cards” to cover the cost of his ticket.
One woman tells of sneaking off from her family to join the Islamic State yet being detained by Turkish authorities who didn’t buy her story of being an aid worker. ISIS “found out about our predicament and sent us a lawyer who worked some magic” and got she and other women released from Turkish custody after a week, she writes.
The guide includes a list of Twitter handles, some suspended, of contacts within the Islamic State, reminding would-be jihadis to reach out only through secure browsers and chat apps.
As his immigration executive actions have been blocked by the courts, President Obama will travel to Miami for a Wednesday townhall on immigration to rally public opinion in his corner.
The forum will be hosted at Florida International University by Telemundo and MSNBC.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that the focus of the townhall will be “the president’s ongoing efforts to bring some accountability to our immigration system and try to finally fix as many of the broken — the many problems of the broken immigration system as he possibly can.”
But what a coincidence that the forum is being held in a hub of Cuban-Americans.
“It’s a town hall meeting, you know, so that means that people will have an opportunity to ask question of the president. And given the sizable Cuban-American population in South Florida, I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody just choose to ask the president about this. And I would not anticipate that the president will have any new announcements,” Earnest said.
“But I do think that you can expect to hear the president persuasively restate his case for why he believes moving to normalize relations with Cuba is clearly in the best interest of the United States and is the best way for us to elicit the kind of social and political change that we’d like to see in Cuba.”
Earnest added that “it’s precisely because of the president’s commitment to universal human rights and applying pressure on the Cuban regime to respect and even protect those basic human rights, that the president wants to change his policy.”
The president’s new plan, he argued, “will remove a barrier to our efforts to try to focus international attention on the Cuban regime’s treatment of its citizens, that for too long, any time we wanted to go and raise concerns about Cuba’s policy toward their own people, other countries wanted to raise questions about our policy toward Cuba.”
“And now that distraction has been removed, international attention will focus on the way that the Cuban regime all too often violates the basic human political rights of their people,” he said. “And whether that’s turned to squelch free speech, or trying to trample on the rights of independent journalists, or to prevent groups of people from gathering to have political discussions in Cuba, that there are a variety of — of instances on a regular basis where we see the — the Castro government try to squelch the basic human rights of their people.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) noted that as the next round of U.S.-Cuba normalization talks begins later this week, more than 200 dissidents were recently arrested by Havana.
“U.S. officials are so desperate to open a U.S. embassy in Havana, that they’re forging ahead despite a new wave of repression,” he said today. “…It’s clear there is zero intent on behalf of the Castro dictatorship to engage in a genuine conversation that centers around bringing freedom to the island’s residents.”
“In addition, the recent congressional delegation that visited Cuba sent worrying signals to the regime that human rights are, in fact, negotiable. By staying in a regime-controlled hotel that was confiscated twice in its history, these U.S. officials sent a worrying message that the many legal claims the U.S. has against the Castro regime are not a priority for U.S. lawmakers. Even worse about this trip is how the members of Congress capitulated to the regime’s terms for this trip by not meeting with dissidents and human rights activists. These are not insignificant actions, because the regime interprets them as signs that U.S. policy makers are not truly interested in the democratic aspirations and human rights of the Cuban people.”
The leader of that congressional delegation? House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Pelosi tweeted that she had “positive and constructive meetings” with Cuban officials.
Rubio said U.S. negotiators “must insist that any future negotiations place democracy, human rights, free expression and the free will of the Cuban people to choose their own leaders through multi-party elections as the highest priority before any more concessions are made to the regime.”
The White House made clear today that President Obama isn’t interested in attending the giant American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington beginning a week from Sunday.
Obama last addressed the conference in 2012, when he was stumping for re-election votes.
In 2013, Vice President Joe Biden address AIPAC. Biden is heading to Uruguay “the first week in March,” according to the White House, for their presidential inauguration and will also hold meetings in Guatemala.
The conference runs March 1-3 at the convention center in D.C. It coincides with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 address to a joint session of Congress. That’s also the lobbying day of the conference, when thousands of pro-Israel activists will flood Capitol Hill.
Netanyahu will also directly address AIPAC while in town.
Last week, the State Department said Secretary of State John Kerry, who spoke at the conference last year, will be out of town at an undetermined location.
“We are still in discussions with AIPAC about what sort of administration representation they’ll have at the meeting,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today. “You’ll recall that, you know, there were previous — in previous years there have been administration representatives, including the president on at least one occasion I can think of off the top of my head, but we’re still evaluating the invitation and as soon as we have some more information about who will be available to speak to the group I will let you all know.”
Obama spoke to the conference as a senator in 2008, when he was stumping for votes, and as president in 2011 in addition to 2012.
Kerry speech’s last year, which received a lukewarm reception, extolled the brilliance of Obama’s Iran negotiating plans in an address that began 45 minutes late.
Asked directly if Obama was considering going to AIPAC this year, Earnest replied, “Not that I’m aware of.”
Democrats confirmed to speak at the conference this year include longtime supporters of Israel and critics of the administration’s policy on Iran and ISIS.
Dem Speakers include Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
Courtesy of the Washington Post, which has clearly decided to start its coverage of Campaign ’16 early this season:
In 1999, Columba Bush, the famously private wife of then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, was detained and fined by federal customs officials for misrepresenting the amount of clothing and jewelry she had bought while on a solo five-day shopping spree in Paris. The incident left the Florida first lady deeply mortified and her husband politically chagrined. Jeb Bush said the first lady had misled customs officials because she did not want him to know that she had spent about $19,000 on the trip.
“The embarrassment I felt made me ashamed to face my family and friends,” Columba Bush said in a July 1999 speech to the Central Florida Make-a-Wish Foundation, not long after the incident. “It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life.” The ordeal did not stop her from spending freely, however. Less than a year later, she took out a loan to buy $42,311.70 worth of jewelry on a single day, according to records filed with the state of Florida by Mayors Jewelers.
That purchase was part of a pattern by Columba Bush of borrowing to buy tens of thousands of dollars of jewelry at a time from the South Florida store over a 14-year period. Documentation available online, which does not include the details of two transactions made less than six weeks apart in 1995, shows that she spent a total of more than $90,000 at the store.
What’s the big deal, you say? It’s been clear for decades that we have a government of, by and for the oligarchs. Congress is brimming with millionaires, and even po-boy presidents like Bill Clinton and Hussein can amass large fortunes while in office — and look forward to pots more money thereafter in their “retirement.” And in Jeb Bush’s case, why not trade on both your money and your family name in order to go for the Bush Hat Trick? Never mind that family dynasties are antithetical to the American system (the exceptions of the Adamses and, to a lesser extent, the Roosevelts notwithstanding).
There is no compelling need for a Jeb Bush candidacy, but it seems he is determined to force one upon us anyway — as if his father and his brother weren’t bad enough. Two Bushes and one Romney are more than enough.
The United States and Iran are working on a two-phase deal that clamps down on Tehran’s nuclear program for at least a decade before providing it leeway over the remainder of the agreement to slowly ramp up activities that could be used to make weapons.
A breakthrough was not expected before Kerry returns to Washington later Monday. Still, Western officials familiar with the talks cited long-awaited progress on some elements that would have to go into a comprehensive deal. They described the discussions as a moving target, however, meaning changes in any one area would have repercussions for other parts of the negotiation.
The idea would be to reward Iran for good behavior over the last years of any agreement, gradually lifting constraints on its uranium enrichment program and slowly easing economic sanctions.
Iran says it does not want nuclear arms and needs enrichment only for energy, medical and scientific purposes, but the U.S. fears Tehran could re-engineer the program to another potential use — producing the fissile core of a nuclear weapon. The U.S. initially sought restrictions lasting for up to 20 years; Iran had pushed for less than a decade. The prospective deal appears to be somewhere in the middle.
Don’t worry! Congress will have to approve the deal… but –
Several steps would come immediately through executive action by President Barack Obama, the officials said. Other penalties would be suspended, but not lifted, as Iran demonstrates its compliance with its obligations. A lesser amount of restrictions would stay in place until Congress acts to remove them permanently.
Feel better now?
After President Obama’s conference last week on violent extremism, Hawaii Dem Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said it’s clear the administration still doesn’t understand the threat.
“Understanding that this is not just people who are being motivated because they’re poor, or they are feeling alienated, or they’re looking for some kind of violence or excitement in their life,” Gabbard told MSNBC this morning. “This goes to a much deeper theological motivation, ideological motivation, and unless we defeat that as well as a strong military defeat, we’re going to continue to see more recruits popping up.”
Gabbard has been hammering the White House for weeks on its refusal to link “Islamic” with the extremism faced from groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.
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.
“When we look at ISIS, what I believe the president and the administration needs to do is really understand the ideological motivation behind groups like ISIS, behind groups like al-Qaeda, and the fact that when you look at the 40 plus groups around the world who are committing these atrocious actions, the one common element is this Islamic extremist ideology that not only motivates them, but it’s their primary recruiting tool,” the congresswoman said today.
Gabbard said she thinks Obama “has good intentions, but I think it’s important for us to really look at all sides of this and understand at its core what’s the root cause and motivation of these people who are conducting these things, and how we stop their momentum, and how we defeat them.”
“Terror recruits,” she said, “look for some kind of purpose to their lives, and so when they look at what ISIS, and al-Qaeda, and these groups are offering them, they’re promising them, if you go and do these things, if you become a martyr, you conduct this jihad, then you will go to heaven, your family will be taken care of, and it’s a spiritual ideology that’s drawing them in, which is what has to be defeated.”
There is no “quick and easy way,” to defeat them, she said, “but the question of whether or not to deploy large amounts of U.S. ground troops is directly tied to the need to understand the enemy’s ideology, because if that were to happen, if we had large numbers of U.S. troops deploying, it would play directly into their recruitment propaganda which is this is, you know, the infidels in the West waging war against Muslims. And it would increase their ability and their strength to grow in the actions in — in their war that they are waging.”
“Which is why it’s so important for us to empower and arm the Kurds, empower these Sunni tribes, empower the Egyptians, the Jordanians, people who are on the ground and in the region who are eager and really begging for our help to go and fight against this enemy.”
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) February 21, 2015