The lone Texas gubernatorial debate took place in the Rio Grande Valley Friday night. Front-runner Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican, just had to get through the debate without making any negative news. The pressure was all on Wendy Davis, Democrat state senator trailing by a lot in the polls, to make something — anything positive — happen.
Well, she made something happen. But it wasn’t positive.
Davis attacked Abbott over a school finance lawsuit that’s in appeal.
Abbott responded that as attorney general, he has an obligation to follow the law and keep the suit going.
Davis then went into unleashed mode, and talked over everyone. Her actions are aptly being called a “meltdown” statewide. The moderator felt compelled to remind her of the debate rules.
You can hear in the clip, Davis calling on Abbott to ignore a state law in the matter and “stand up to the legislature.”
That would be the legislature of which Davis is a member, which passed a law concerning when the attorney general may not just settle a case, as Davis wants him to do in this case. That law is S.B. 899, which passed during the 2011 session of the Texas legislature. Davis ought to remember, because she was there. It prohibits the state attorney general from entering into a settlement that costs over $10 million or that “commits the state to a continuing increased expenditure of state funds over subsequent biennia” without the legislature’s approval. The school finance case would clearly cost far more than that.
So Attorney General Abbott, following the law, cannot settle the school finance suit unless the legislature authorizes him to do so. That’s the law. He reminded Davis of her own record on that law.
Namely, that Wendy Davis voted for that very law.
Wendy Davis was clearly very unhappy to have her own record used against her. So she stepped all over the debate rules and ended up advocating that the elected attorney general break the law just to satisfy her.
Wendy Davis violated the debate rules, which isn’t a huge deal, but she did so in pursuit of trying to goad her opponent into breaking a state law — which she voted for and which as a lawyer, Davis knows that the attorney general cannot do.
That is a huge deal. It’s a disqualifying deal.
It’s at this point that Texas writers usually deploy a finishing phrase — that dog won’t hunt, Davis is all hat and no cattle, she’s a gun with no ammo that still manages to misfire — that sort of thing. All of those phrases and a whole lot more fit the Davis run for governor. She’s all hype and no substance. She’s one-dimensional, just a left side who’s never right. But those two minutes showed a deep problem with Wendy Davis as a candidate, a lawyer and a person.
Not only did Wendy Davis meltdown at the mere mention of her own record, showing an intemperate side that would wear thin quickly with daily exposure, she signaled that if she were ever entrusted with executive authority of any kind in state government, she would not hesitate to shred state law and the Constitution if she found them to be in the way of pursuing her leftwing agenda. Davis would form a government unto herself and just ignore precedent, current law, and the people’s representatives in the legislature.
That’s just not how things work. Not now, and hopefully not ever.
Watch the whole embarrassing two minutes on the next page.
My social media feed has lit up with cyber-angst and the digital rending of robes in response to comments made by Ann Coulter in her most recent column. “Ann Coulter Wants to Drown Libertarian Voters” reads the headline over at Before It’s News. “Ann Coulter just told libertarian voters that she wants to drown them,” echos the libertarian publication Rare. Reason piles on as well. Even some lefty publications have jumped on the bandwagon.
The problem with these headlines, and some of the writing which follows them, is the attention they deflect from the vital point she made. If you take time to soberly read Coulter’s column, it becomes clear her comments were benign and even in libertarians’ best interest. She wasn’t addressing libertarians as such, but voters who throw their vote away on third party candidates. The relevant excerpt:
The biggest current danger for Republicans is that idiots will vote for Libertarian candidates in do-or-die Senate elections, including Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and Colorado. (That’s in addition to the “Independent” in Kansas who’s a Democrat.) Democratic candidates don’t have to put up with this crap — they’re even trying to dump the official Democrat in Kansas to give the stealth Democrat a better shot.
When we’re all dying from lack of health care across the United States of Mexico, we’ll be deeply impressed with your integrity, libertarians.
Which brings me to my final assignment this week: If you are considering voting for the Libertarian candidate in any Senate election, please send me your name and address so I can track you down and drown you.
I won’t waste time defending Coulter’s rhetorical choices. Suffice it to say, she’s read widely due in large part to her antagonistic style. But when you push past that to the substance of her argument, where is she wrong?
Indeed, a few cycles back, the Democrats did a fair job of browbeating their third party competitors into towing the line for the sake of “the greater good.” Remember Michael Moore and Bill Maher getting on their knees to beg Ralph Nader not to run for president in 2004?
USA Today sums up the situation for hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who may owe the IRS for overpayment of subsidies for Obamacare policies: “Sadly, it’s fair to say some people will see some unexpected, unpleasant surprises on their tax returns next year.”
If you’re receiving an Obamacare subsidy and you had certain “life changes” over the past year — marriage, divorce, a raise, a new child — chances are, you are going to owe Uncle Sam some cash.
When you file that 2014 tax return next year, the Internal Revenue Service will compare your actual income for the year with the amount you estimated when applying for exchange-based health insurance under the health insurance law.
The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15. But notices were sent this week to some consumers whose incomes don’t match up to such things as 2012 tax return information.
On Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said at least 279,000 households reported incomes that still don’t match what the government has on record. Supporting documents are needed by Sept. 30.
What can you do to avoid tax-time problems?
Experts say people need to realize early on that they should report changes in income and other changes in one’s life, such as a marriage, throughout the year. See HealthCare.gov to report “income and life changes.”
Of course, many people may have no idea that they’d need to report changes.
The IRS put out some more details on the issue mid-month.
What should you report? A move, an increase or decrease in income, a marriage or divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, whether you started a job that offers health insurance and whether you gained or lost eligibility for other health care coverage.
Best spots for information: HealthCare.gov and IRS.gov/aca.
Karen Pollitz, senior fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation, said many people who qualify for these tax credits aren’t working 9-to-5 jobs with regular salaries. So guesstimating one’s income for the coming year can be very tough.
“It’s people in transition. Maybe they’re in and out of work,” she said. Or maybe they’re self-employed.
People who lose a job would want to report that change during the year, as well, because that change can lead to a higher advance payment for the credit.
“Life changes can drive tax changes,” said Mark Steber, chief tax officer for Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.
Steber stressed that people need to make sure to update information via HealthCare.gov or their state insurance exchanges.
If your income ends up below 400% of the poverty line, you would owe a maximum of $600 for a single filer, and $2500 for a family.
But if your income is over 400% of the poverty line, there is no limit. You will have to repay the entire amount of the difference between what you received as a subsidy and what you actually deserved.
There are already going to be millions of taxpayers who get a nasty surprise when the IRS withholds part or all of their refund to pay the fine for not having insurance — and then bills them if that’s not enough.
Welcome to the Brave New Tax World of Obamacare.
Many politicians have a gift for understatement. So it’s not surprising that Kansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis would describe being caught getting a lap dance in a strip club in the late 1990s when police raided the joint looking for drugs as being in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”
Got that right, dog.
In the late 1990s the Democratic candidate for governor of Kansas was getting a lap dance at a strip club when cops raided it in search of drugs, a situation Paul Davis on Saturday described as being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Davis was not charged with any crime, but a police chief involved in the raid wrote afterward that he had been drinking and was found “in a somewhat compromising position … in a back room of the club.”
According to police reports, he was alone with a topless stripper who was wearing only a G-string.
Davis, who was unmarried at the time, identified himself as an attorney for the owner of the strip club after an officer ordered him at gunpoint to lie on the floor during the raid for methamphetamine.
That’s one lap dance Davis won’t forget.
“When I was 26 years old, I was taken to a club by my boss – the club owner was one of our legal clients,” said Davis, a state representative. “While we were in the building, the police showed up. I was never accused of having done anything wrong, but rather I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
This news comes amid recent polling that shows Davis with a slight lead over Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, the former U.S. senator who is seeking a second term.
How many points in the polls is a lap dance worth to Brownback? Kansas is a very conservative state — as culturally conservative as they come. I suppose it will depend on how many voters believe that Davis having a mostly naked woman writhing on his lap constituted “the wrong place.”
A few minutes after midnight on Aug. 5, 1998, a group of officers executed a search warrant after an informant said he bought drugs from the owner of the club.
One of Davis’s “legal clients.” Sheesh. The owner was later arrested for selling drugs and the strip club was closed.
For those of you not familiar with strip-club nomenclature, a “lap dance” can take many forms, but is usually performed as a clothed sex act. I’ve never had the pleasure, but I am told by reliable sources that a good lap dance can really curl your toes.
In Davis’s case, it appears that the poor guy suffered the ultimate indignity and had his ego — or something — deflated in the most humiliating way.
Like any good politician, Davis used the revelation to turn the tables on his opponent and attack:
Responding to the strip club story Saturday, Davis pointed to press reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating whether confidants of Brownback were involved in an influence-peddling scheme around the governor’s attempt to privatize the state’s Medicaid program.
Brownback has denied any wrongdoing, and his team questions the political motivations behind leaks to the Topeka Capital-Journal this spring. The governor declined to say in a July interview whether he’s been in contact with the FBI.
Is one lap dance worth one FBI investigation? Not when you consider no one would pay an FBI agent to walk around in a G-string.
Well, maybe they’re not really marching to end industrialized civilization. But given all the monumental exaggeration and hyperbole of which they are guilty, perhaps I can be excused a few small liberties while describing their goals.
Tens of thousands of marchers from all over the world came to New York City to protest inaction on climate change. A “wake up call” they are calling it. In fact, at 12:58 Eastern time, there was to be a moment of silence followed by “a blare of noise — a symbolic sounding of the alarm on climate change — from horns, whistles and cellphone alarms. More than 20 marching bands and tolling church bells were expected contribute to the cacophony.”
A perfect way to sum up the march: a lot of noise signifying nothing.
As might be expected, the New York Times is all over the story:
With drums and tubas, banners and floats, the People’s Climate March turned Columbus Circle, where the march began just before 11:30 a.m., into a colorful tableau. The demonstrators represented a broad coalition of ages, races, geographic locales and interests, with union members, religious leaders, scientists, politicians and students joining the procession.
“I’m here because I really feel that every major social movement in this country has come when people get together,” said Carol Sutton of Norwalk, Conn., the president of a teachers’ union. “It begins in the streets.”
With world leaders gathering at the United Nations on Tuesday for a climate summit, marchers said the timing was right for the populist message in support of limits on carbon emissions. The signs marchers held were as varied as the movement: “There is No PlanetB,” “Forests Not for Sale” and “Jobs, Justice, Clean Energy.”
The description of the tableau was accurate. The colors reminded me of a tie my little niece bought me a few years ago.
Truth be told, if things are as dire as the marchers believe, it’s already too late. That’s the problem with the hysterical wing of climate change advocacy. Cutting emissions of greenhouse gases won’t do the trick if we are on the edge of the climate precipice. We would have to halt all human activity that contributes to global warming and then hope nature can reverse the process.
And if this movement was really about “climate change,” they might be forgiven their hysteria. But as world leaders gather at the UN beginning Tuesday, it will become clear that, at least for the politicians of the world, it’s not about climate change at all. It’s about power, control, and money.
If history is any guide, the rich countries of the world will say how concerned they are about the damage their emissions of heat-trapping gases are causing. The poor countries — whose people have done little to contribute to global warming but stand to suffer the most from it because of their vulnerability to rising seas and weather extremes — will point out that this professed concern never seems to translate into sufficient action.
“We’re saying to the U.S. and the developed world, ‘You’re responsible for this,’ ” said Ronald Jean Jumeau — the ambassador to the United Nations for the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles, off the coast of Africa — in a preview of his country’s remarks. “Don’t tell us you can’t cut emissions, you can’t give money, while you bask in the rich way of life you enjoy now. You know your emissions are damaging us. Help us out here.”
People like Mr. Jumeau have been pleading for help for years, and they have heard many promises that help will come. The latest attempt to make good on those pledges is the Green Climate Fund, a financing vehicle that is eventually supposed to funnel as much as $100 billion a year to poor countries.
The fund, which struggled for four years to get off the ground and opened its doors only recently, has received just one large donation to date: $1 billion from Germany. More are expected this week.
Notably absent from the summit will be the leaders of China and India — the two nations that make any effort to cut CO2 emissions a waste of time.
China is building three coal-fired power plants a month. India isn’t far behind. And neither country seems interested in anything the rest of the world wants to do about global warming. The fact is, any schemes the nations come up with to reduce their emissions won’t matter a fig if China and India refuses to cooperate.
Forces of the Islamic State in Syria have mounted a huge offensive with columns of heavy armor sweeping through the Kurdish region of northern Syria near the Turkish border.
Their goal is apparently capturing the strategic border town of Ayn al-Arab, and more than 60 towns and villages in the region have fallen to ISIS forces in the past few days.
This has unleashed a nearly unprecedented wave of refugees streaming into Turkey. More than 60,00 women, children, and old people crossed the border into Turkey in the 24-hour period from Friday to Saturday, overwhelming aid resources.
Kurdish forces in the region are falling back while others are making their way to the front from Turkey to join their comrades.
Since Thursday, Islamic State rebels, backed by tanks and other heavy armor, have seized control of more than 60 villages near the regional capital of Ayn al-Arab, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group. The extremist insurgents, also known as ISIS or ISIL have also forced the evacuation of about 100 other villages, Kurdish field commanders and Turkish officials said.
Turkish television on Sunday continued to broadcast footage of thousands of Kurds, many on foot, crossing the border into Turkey to escape Islamic State. The U.N. refugee agency said most of the refugees were Kurdish women, children and the elderly. Hundreds of Kurdish fighters and volunteers were traveling in the other direction to Syria to shore up their brethren’s defenses, Turkish media reported.
Kurdish militia in Syria, under the banner of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defense Units, or YPG, said dozens of Kurds had been killed in fighting to defend Ayn al-Arab, called Kobani in Kurdish. They said the jihadists had advanced to within 9 kilometers of Kobani and appealed for international intervention to help their outgunned forces.
The call was joined by one from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a rebel group closely affiliated with the YPG, for the youth of Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast to rise up and rush to save Kobani. The PKK, listed as a terror organization by Washington and Turkey, has spent three decades fighting for autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds.
“Supporting this heroic resistance is not just a debt of honor of the Kurds but all Middle East people. Just giving support is not enough, the criterion must be taking part in the resistance,” the PKK said on its website. “ISIL fascism must drown in the blood it spills…The youth of north Kurdistan (southeast Turkey) must flow in waves to Kobani.”
Islamic State’s progress toward the Turkish border again showed the group’s military strength. It seized Kurdish territory in Syria even as French warplanes launched their first attacks Friday against the group’s positions hundreds of miles away in northeastern Iraq.
The move on Ayn al-Arab follows the seizure by Islamic State insurgents this past week of a strategic bridge over the Euphrates River. The capture enabled the rebels to march on the city from the west and rain down artillery shells on the city’s streets, said Khaled Issa, a representative of the Syrian Kurdish administration in Paris.
The timing is almost too coincidental, as I’ll explore after the page break.
Hey, Democrats! How about giving some props to your party leader, your president, by talking about him on the House or Senate floor?
What’s that? President “who”? My, how the worm has turned.
When President Obama took office in 2009, congressional Democrats were euphoric. With control of the House, Senate and the White House, and high public approval for their new party standard bearer, Democrats eagerly embraced Obama and all the long-awaited policy initiatives he’d surely help them achieve.
In that first month, congressional Democrats mentioned Obama during floor speeches 200 or so more times than Republicans. In the next year and a half, the parties referred to the president at similar rates, sometimes with the Republicans having more to say, other times the Democrats.
One can reasonably assume that when the Democrats speak of the president publicly it’s in a favorable way and when Republicans do it’s, well, not quite as glowing. As positive public opinion of Obama began to dip after his first year, the spread between how often Republicans and the Democrats invoked Obama grew wider. Put simply, the Democrats weren’t mentioning Obama by name nearly as much as Republicans.
This chart from the Sunshine Foundation tells the tale at a glance. The Democrats have almost stopped mentioning the president in public debates, according to the Congressional Record.
The gap between how many times the Republicans anhd Democrats have mentioned Obama has considerably widened in the last year.
Much has been written this election cycle about the Democrats distancing themselves from Obama ahead of the midterm elections. Some Democratic candidates in tough races regularly emphasize their differences with the president. And Obama is persona non grata on the campaign trail (unless it’s inside private high-dollar fundraiser dinners).
If the number of times they bring him up in front of the C-SPAN cameras is a measure, the Democrats detachment from the president is even evident on Capitol Hill – where every spoken word is recorded forever, so it’s especially crucial to choose them carefully.
Politicians are feral when it comes to their survival, so it’s not surprising that Democrats would have stopped talking about an unpopular leader. The problem is that history shows it won’t matter. Trying to run away from your party leader is a futile strategy and Democrats are likely to find that out in November.
Turkey is celebrating the return of 49 of their citizens held for 101 days by Islamic State. The hostages were captured when the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to the terrorists.
Turkey’s state run news agency Anadolu reported that “no ransom had been paid and “no conditions were accepted in return for their release.”
But many observers weren’t buying that explanation.
The official explanation “sounds a bit too good to be true,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who chairs the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies. “There are some very legitimate and unanswered questions about how this happened.”
The hostages — whose number included two small children — were seized from the Turkish Consulate in Mosul after the Islamic State group overran the Iraqi city on June 11. Turkish leaders gave only the broadest outlines of their rescue Saturday.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the release was the work of the country’s intelligence agency rather than a special forces operation.
“After intense efforts that lasted days and weeks, in the early hours our citizens were handed over to us and we brought them back,” Davutoglu said.
Davutoglu was the star of the homecoming ceremony Saturday, flying the hostages back to Ankara on his plane and delivering an impassioned address to the crowd. Families rushed the aircraft to greet their returning loved ones. The ex-hostages emerged wearing clean dresses and suits and showed little sign of having been held captive by fanatical militants for more than three months.
The hostages’ joyous reunion at the airport came as an enormous relief after the recent beheadings of other hostages — two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker — by the Islamic State group. The gruesome deaths briefly reignited a debate over whether the U.S. or British government should pay ransoms to free hostages.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported no ransom had been paid and “no conditions were accepted in return for their release,” although it didn’t cite any source for its reporting.
The agency said the hostages had been held at eight separate addresses in Mosul and their whereabouts were monitored by drones and other means.
The Iraqi government said it had no information about the rescue.
The hostages declined to answer all but the most general questions, although a couple hinted at ill treatment or death threats.
While the Turkish government broadly hints at some kind of cloak and dagger operation, the truth may be as simple as the government of Prime Minister Erdogan trading their pledge not to allow anti-ISIS forces uses of their bases and not joining the coalition for their prisoners.
What is certain is that the release of the hostages hasn’t changed Turkey’s mind about the coalition:
Turkey had been reluctant to join a coalition to defeat the Islamic State group, citing the safety of its 49 kidnapped citizens, but Stein said he doubted Turkey would suddenly adopt a much more muscular attitude toward the organization. Turkey might feel freer to advertise its existing efforts against the group, he said, citing its efforts to control oil smuggling across the border. But he said Turkey would not open its air bases to U.S. aircraft operating against the group.
“There will some changes, but not as much as people hope,” he said.
ISIS has hardly been restrained from killing fellow Muslims so there has to be another reason the hostages lives were spared. Whatever that reason was, Turkey — a member of NATO at present — still won’t allow their allies to press the fight against ISIS from their soil.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has asked for a Pentagon review of the military’s involvement in the National Football League. The review comes in the wake of several domestic violence complaints against NFL players.
The connection between the NFL and the military goes back decades, and the connections are considerable.
The Army alone spends some $10 million a year buying advertising from television networks broadcasting NFL games. Games are also broadcast by the Armed Forces Network to troops deployed overseas.
Military support for the NFL games includes: providing ceremonial units at games for colors ceremonies; military personnel singing the national anthem, and other units providing drill teams or flyovers. Military personnel, including wounded warriors, often appear at NFL events honoring those who serve.
The Army and the NFL also have a agreement to share information and resources to better understand traumatic brain injury, which is a major medical issue both for wounded troops and football players. They are working together on awareness of TBI as well as research into treatment. The military has been sharing some of the lessons learned on TBI from the last 13 years of war, specifically.
Another program, NFL Play 60, has seen players visit military bases to encourage children to be more active as least 60 minutes a day to help prevent childhood obesity.
It is clear the White House is also closely monitoring the NFL controversy, with one senior administration official calling recent abuse allegations “deeply troubling” and stressing the league’s obligation to “(get) control of the situation.”
“Many of these professional athletes are marketed as role models to young people,” the official said. “So their behavior does have the potential to influence these young people. So that’s one of the many reasons it’s important the league gets a handle on this and have zero tolerance.”
Just how is the NFL supposed to “get control” of the domestic violence committed by their players? There are more than 1300 NFL players on 30 rosters across the league. Six players have been accused of domestic violence in recent months. While that is six too many, the question has to be asked: is domestic violence in the NFL so serious and so widespresd that it must become a federal issue?
No doubt women’s advocates would love to make it one. Already several big money advertisers like Anheuser-Busch and Nike are looking closely at their relationship with the NFL. A pullout by those two giants would hit the league where it hurts the most: advertising dollars.
There are legitimate questions about how the league has handled specific cases — most notably, the Ray Rice clocking of his girlfriend in an elevator. But how can you blame anyone, especially Commissioner Roger Goodell, for the actions of players off the football field? The only way this campaign against the NFL makes sense is if you consider the enormous amount of money at stake, and the high-profile nature of the crimes, which aids women’s groups in fundraising and marketing.
When good habits are bad, or something.
A 13-year-old California boy was reportedly placed in detention for sharing a school-prepared lunch with another student.
Kyle Bradford, a student at Weaverville Elementary School in Weaverville, Calif., was disciplined after sharing his chicken burrito with a friend who didn’t like the cheese sandwich he was given by the cafeteria, KRCR-TV reported.
“It seemed like he couldn’t get a normal lunch so I just wanted to give mine to him because I wasn’t really that hungry and it was just going to go in the garbage if I didn’t eat it,” Bradford told the website.
The Trinity Alps Unified School District, however, has rules that prohibit students from sharing food — claiming that students can have allergies their classmates may not be aware of, according to the website.
When in doubt, overreact — that is the way of school administrators. I am sure we can partially blame the lawyers for that. However, I also think this has to do with the liberal fantasy of being able to have rules that make every little bad go away in childhood.
I will now leave you with the immortal words of Susan Powter:
Congress has recessed to prepare for November’s midterm elections, and President Obama warned the DNC Women’s Leadership Forum today that “in the coming weeks, the American people will see two very different visions of this country.”
One is the top-down economy and the other “says that our economy grows best from the middle out… and in case you didn’t figure it out, the second vision is better.”
“We do better when we embrace an economic patriotism that says we’re all in this together,” Obama said.
The president said his pitch for “getting rid of policies that belong in the Mad Men era” isn’t political.
“It’s not politics in the narrow, cramped sense, but, yes, it’s politics in the big sense of us organizing ourselves to try to move our country forward,” Obama continued. “The work we do is bigger than partisan politics. And I believe that for all that is wrong with our politics right now, there’s so much that’s right with America that if we could just create a government and a politics that spoke to common sense and what was important for ordinary Americans, we’d do great.”
“…America isn’t the party we belong to — we’re not born Democrats or Republicans. America is the values we share: hard work and responsibility, and sacrifice, and looking out for one another.”
He called one brand of politics “mean and nasty and polarizing” and another sense of the word “having a common vision for the future.”
Obama asked the Democrats to “choose hope,” because “hope is what gave soldiers courage to storm a beach.”
The president also touched on foreign policy, stressing that with all of the challenges “America remains the one indispensable nation in the world.”
“Even the folks who badmouth us look to us,” Obama said. “America is leading the effort to rally the world against Russian aggression. America is leading the fight to contain and combat an Ebola epidemic in Africa. America is leading the coalition that will degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL. And as Americans, we welcome these responsibilities; we don’t shy away from them.”
Prior to the independence vote in Scotland, there were predictions that, win or lose, the vote would encourage other regions of Europe and around the world to seek independence in order to fulfill the national aspirations of their people.
Several European enclaves have been agitating for independence for decades — even centuries. Many of them have their own history, culture, and language that predate their assimilation. The Basque may be the most notorious of these independence seekers since the armed wing of their revolutionary party — the ETA — used to routinely carry out terrorist attacks. The ETA laid down their arms in 2011, but the desire for independence has not lessened.
Italy’s South Tyrol and Sardinia, Belgium’s Flanders, France’s Corsica, the United Kingdom’s Wales and Northern Ireland — all of these and a dozen more have expressed an interest in gaining independence.
And that’s just Europe. There are dozens of separatist movements in Africa and Asia that also have been cheered by events in Scotland. While independence may have lost, the fact that a vote was held in the first place has leaders of separatist movements around the world hopeful that they can be more successful.
The next turn of the screw for Europe will apparently be in Catalonia, the richest and most productive area of Spain. Within hours of knowing the outcome of the Scottish vote on independence, the Catalonian parliament voted to hold their own referendum on independence in November, thus directly defying the national government in Madrid which has threatened to take legal action against the autonomous region.
A day after a majority of Scots voted against secession from the U.K., the parliament in the wealthy, industrial Spanish region of Catalonia approved a law to allow for its own, albeit nonbinding, referendum on independence.
The 106-28 vote Friday set Spain on a path toward a legal and political crisis. The central government in Madrid has vowed to block the referendum, which it says is unconstitutional.
After the law is published in the coming days, Catalonia’s regional president, Artur Mas, is expected to sign a decree formally convoking the referendum for Nov. 9. At the Spanish government’s request, the Constitutional Court is then expected to issue an injunction to halt the vote.
Mr. Mas has expressed misgivings about going ahead with the referendum in violation of Spanish law because the vote might lack international credibility. Another way for him to satisfy pro-independence groups clamoring to cast ballots would be by calling early regional elections as a proxy vote.
During the Catalan parliament’s 2½-hour debate, many speakers took note of the historic nature of the proceedings.
“Democracy without liberty is a sham and we want to vote—not a sham,” said pro-referendum congresswoman Dolors Camats.
Albert Rivera, leader of the Citizens’ Party and an opponent of the referendum, said that those advocating it were being irresponsible. “This isn’t a day of celebration, but of worry because these separatist movements have a sword over Europe’s head,” he said.
Catalan separatists complain that the government in Madrid drains the region of tax revenue without offering sufficient respect for its language and culture. Spanish government officials maintain that Catalonia receives economic benefits from being part of Spain and has plenty of autonomy under the constitution.
While there is certainly resentment against the perception that Madrid is stifling their national character, Catalans have an economic bone to pick with the Spanish government — especially after the last few years of “austerity” budgets that put most of the burden on the region:
The pro-independence forces claim that Catalonia’s fiscal imbalance with Spain’s national budget amounts to $20 billion (US dollars) per year, according to figures from the Catalan government’s finance minister. This office claims that Catalonia—origin of a quarter of Spain’s exports—suffers an insufficient investment and financial disadvantage since it generates nineteen percent of Spain’s GDP and receives back eleven percent in expenditure from the central government. Indeed, with a population of 7.5 million out of 46 million, Catalonia is, after Madrid, the second-wealthiest of Spain’s seventeen so-called autonomous communities, as stated in the last available Spanish government’s National Statistics Institute account, which excludes the Basque Country and Navarre because they benefit from a special fiscal regime due to their historic “foral” tradition. However, Catalonia is also the most indebted autonomous community among the communities.
Madrid responds to Catalan complaints by claiming that Catalonia receives special assistance from the Spanish government, outside of money from the national budget, in the form of ad hoc loans to make payments not previously planned for. (The central government is in fact its only lender, since Spanish law blocks access by the autonomous communities to shop for loans on international markets.) Spain also insists that solidarity must be at the core of relations among its regional governments. But this has proven a double-edged sword since the separatists claim that Catalonia is discriminated against within this community, noting that Spanish investment in Catalonia (i.e., annual government budgeting for the region) will drop twenty-five percent compared to an average decrease of 7.2 percent for the nation as a whole during the current belt-tightening effort to stop the country’s economic free fall. Catalan nationalists refer to this imbalance as “plunder.”
With Barcelona, one of the jewel cities of Europe and a vital hub of finance and commerce as Catalonia’s capital, it is not likely that the Spanish government will allow independence for the region even if a vote for independence is successful.
Besides, it appears likely that the Catalans themselves are wary of even holding a vote if it contravenes Spanish law:
Just 23 percent of those surveyed in a Metroscopia poll published in El Pais said Catalonia should press ahead with the referendum, even if it is declared illegal. This is the stance of Mas’s coalition partner, the separatist party ERC.
The poll showed 45 percent of those surveyed believed Catalonia should respect the decision of the court and 25 percent said the region should look for other legal ways to redraw its relationship with Spain.
A NC Report poll, published in La Razon newspaper, showed 55 percent of Catalans would not support the referendum if declared illegal. Both polls surveyed 1,000 people.
The wealthy region of 7 million people has its own language and cultural identity and has long sought greater self-rule. Central government spending cuts during a deep recession have helped fuel independence sentiment.
The Metroscopia poll found just 27 percent of those polled wanted full independence from Spain, with 42 percent wanting Catalonia to form a part of Spain but under new terms. Many Catalans want more power over taxes and welfare spending.
The Catalonian people share a common dream with other small European enclaves of distinct ethnic minorities: they want their culture and history back, as well as some sense that they have their hands on the levers of economic and political power to help direct their national destiny. If this can be accomplished within the framework of remaining attached to their current parent country, that would probably be satisfactory to the majority.
If not, we are going to see more votes like the one in Scotland.
Clinton hasn’t spoken much publicly about the impending birth of her first grandchild, but Friday, that’s how she anchored her argument.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about family, because as you know, I’m on grand-baby watch. And I think a lot about this new member of our family and what he or she can look forward to,” Clinton said.
“The Democratic Party is at its best, just like America is at its best, when we rally behind a very simple but powerful idea: family.”
How can she call it a “grandbaby” if it isn’t here yet? Aren’t the Democrats the ones always telling us that it’s not a baby until it’s born. Hillary really needs to get on message here.
Sure, if the kid can survive the womb gauntlet the pro-abortion Democrats have created, then it is all about family, right?
Clinton is setting up the narrative for 2016. It is obvious she is going to lead with the “War On Women” nonsense, despite the fact that leaning on her more-hawkish-than-Obama foreign policy credentials might serve her better by the time 2016 rolls around. However, the focus on the former will enable her to play the gender card every time she feels put upon, which will be always.
It’s fair to say that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver is a critic of President Obama’s plan to arm Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. He voted against the plan, and then he appeared on MSNBC to trash the plan.
Cleaver called the congressional vote authorizing arming the rebels a vote “to arm semi-bad buys to kill some barbarically-bad buys to teach all the world that bad guys should not kill.” Cleaver pointed out that we don’t even know who many of the rebels are or why they’re fighting.
Having said that, Cleaver says he has no plans to spend the next month “bashing” Obama because the president “had no good options.”
Plus, the president is a Democrat and there is an election on.
Cleaver didn’t say that last part. It was implied.
This indulgence so overwhelms our ruling class’s perception of reality that the recipes put forth by its several wings, little different from one another, are identical in the one essential respect: none of them involve any plans which, if carried out, would destroy the Islamic State, kill large numbers of the cut-throats, and discourage others from following in their footsteps. Hence, like the George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and for the same reasons, this exercise of our ruling class’s wisdom in foreign affairs will decrease respect for us while invigorating our enemies.
The WSJ’s recommendations, like the Obama administration’s projected activities, are all about discrete measures—some air strikes, some arming of local forces, etc. But they abstract from the fundamental reality of any and all activities: He who wills any end must will the means to achieve it. As in Bush’s war, as is the custom in Washington nowadays, our ruling class’s several sectors decide what actions they feel comfortable undertaking about any given problem, while avoiding reasonable judgment about whether these actions will actually fix the problem. This is the very definition of irresponsibility. But they call it “strategy.”
This is a pretty spot-on analysis of what ails us when it comes to foreign policy. As long as wars are fought to preserve the borders of politicians’ comfort zones thousands of miles away rather than focused on the destruction of an enemy, the enemy has an advantage. Modern American leaders rightfully praise the World War II military members as “The Greatest Generation”. Perhaps they should dust off a history book and familiarize themselves with the decision making and methods used to win that war.
As for the lack of debate, I lay that at the feet of the Democrats, specifically the Clintons. Any person with an ability to perceive reality knows that Hillary’s bemoaning of “the politics of personal destruction” back in the day was pure projection. American politics had always been rough and tumble, but the Clintons took the demonizing and destruction of political enemies to another level. Now Democrat politicians have no compunction whatsoever about labeling (libeling?) Republican foes as Nazis, terrorists or grandma-killers. Who wants to debate with these little Alinskys?
The Republicans don’t get a free pass on this, however. More of them need to be bold in condemning the ridiculous accusations coming out of the mouths of their Democrat counterparts.
Good luck with that.
Democrat strategist Bob Beckel warned Republicans that the Democrats have a surprise coming, during yesterday’s episode of The Five.
“I’ll tell you: I would expect an October surprise,” Beckel said on Thursday. “I think I know what is — I’m not going to say it, but I think I know what it is — and it is going to shake things up, and it has to do with national security.”
Video at the link.
What could it be?
The Democrats’ base no longer vote on national security, or at least they don’t vote in favor of national security. What could the Democrats come up with that would help motivate their base and bring moderates around to their side?
I can’t think of much. Perhaps the capture of Mullah Omar or a major ISIS leader. But if that’s a planned “October surprise,” unveiling it at some strategic point means the actual act has already been accomplished — and it’s being kept under wraps for political reasons. That will backfire.
If it’s Obama’s amnesty, we already know all about that. It’s baked into the election now. It’s not helping the Democrats.
So what could it be?
Speaking at a Democratic National Committee event for women’s leadership Friday, Vice President Joe Biden gave a positive shout out to Bob Packwood, a former U.S. senator who was ousted from Congress following sexual harassment accusations.
Biden made his remarks at Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C. The event was dubbed the Women’s Leadership Forum Breakfast.
Making the point that present day Republicans do not compromise with Democrats, Biden said the GOP was once “involved” with expanding voter access. “Guys like [former Maryland Sen.] Mac Mathias and Packwood and so many others,” Biden said. “It wasn’t Democrats alone.”
The Washington Post broke the story in the 1990s of several women who claimed Packwood sexually harassed them. Packwood resigned sometime after.
“So I’m not joking,” Biden said. “This is not your father’s Republican Party or your mother’s Republican Party.”
Biden’s ill-timed, Bidenesque comments come two days after having referred to Asian as “the orient” and opportunistic bankers as “Shylocks,” a term offensive to some Jewish groups.
Seriously, who lets this guy off-leash? I am now almost looking forward to this clown getting enough money to make a serious run at Hillary just for the theatrics. Between his constant bumbling and her shrill overreaction to everything, I’ll have enough material for five years. Elizabeth Warren will have to become a fake Native American juggler just to get stage time during the primaries.
Go, Joe, go!
UPDATE: BuzzFeed‘s White House reporter quickly ran interference for Biden on Twitter, pretty much saying Packwood’s support of Title IX makes the remark OK, despite all of the harassment and abuse:
— E McMorris-Santoro (@EvanMcSan) September 19, 2014
Scotland voted against leaving the United Kingdom Thursday. The vote wasn’t even that close — 55-45 voted for Scotland to reject going its own way.
But the Russians showed up and are behaving boorishly, according to the Guardian.
Russia has said the conduct of the Scottish referendum “did not meet international standards”, with its observers complaining the count took place in rooms that were too big and that the procedure was badly flawed.
In an apparent attempt to mirror persistent western criticism of Russia’s own elections, Igor Borisov – an accredited observer – said the poll failed to meet basic international norms.
Among their objections, the room where votes were counted was too big.
He said the room where he watched the count on Thursday night was a cavernous “aircraft hangar” next to an airfield. It was difficult to see what was going on, he said, adding: “The hangar is approximately 100m by 300m. There are tables, with voting papers stacked upon them, but the observers are stuck around the perimeter. Even if you want to, it’s impossible to tell what’s happening. It’s also unclear where the boxes with ballot papers come from.”
Borisov said the US state department, the UK and other western countries loudly hectored the Kremlin about Russia’s supposed democratic deficiencies. But in this instance, he said, London and Edinburgh had not “fully met” the requirements of a proper referendum.
“Nobody was interested in who was bringing in the voting slips. There were no stamps or signatures as the bulletins were handed over,” he said.
The Russians wanted Scotland to vote for independence. Evidently they saw that as somehow justifying their annexation and fake vote in Crimea this past spring.
That, plus the fact that Scotland National Party leader Alex Salmond, leader of the independence movement, admires Russia’s Vladimir Putin a little bit. So an independent Scotland might have become friendly to the Russians, right on the rest of the United Kingdom’s doorstep.
The 22 senators who voted against arming Syrian rebels in the continuing resolution came from each party and had different reasons for their objections.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who may be contemplating a run for the White House, told MSNBC he voted “no” because “I do not want to see this become a war between east and west, a war between Christianity and Islam, a war between the United States and ISIS.”
“The bottom line is, we will not be successful until the countries of the Middle East themselves become engaged and are prepared to take on this terrible organization called ISIS,” the senator argued.
Sanders brought up the wealth of those nations as one reason why they should pick up the fight.
“Saudi Arabia has the fourth largest military budget in the world. They spend more than the United Kingdom and France. If we talk about ISIS being a threat, they are most definitively a threat to the countries around Saudi Arabia and around Egypt. Those are the guys who are really threatened. Where are they? Where is Kuwait? Where are — where is Turkey?” he said.
“So, I do not want to see this be a war between the United States and ISIS. These guys have got to the commit both militarily and financially. Last point on this issue. It turns out, of course, that the Saudi family is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, one of the wealthiest families in the world,” Sanders continued. “You tell me why taxpayers in the state of Vermont who cannot afford to send their kids to college are in a sense subsidizing the efforts of one of the wealthiest families on earth. Does not make a lot of sense to me.”
Sanders said he supports President Obama in the overall strategy to conduct airstrikes against ISIS and forge an international coalition, “but we are not yet there.”
“I hear many of my colleagues, especially the Republicans, criticize the president because ‘he did not have a strategy for ISIS,’” the senator said. “Well, I remember a President and a vice President Bush and Cheney, they had a strategy. They were forceful. They were bold. They took action. And, they committed the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of the United States. The result of which we are trying to deal with today.”
“Let me tell you what the nightmare is. The nightmare is that a U.S. fighter plane gets shot down or some American soldiers are taken captive. The war hysteria rises in this country. Our troops get sent into battle. You are already seeing Republicans are talking about boots on the ground.”
So the United Kingdom is still united, and in the end it wasn’t that close. The people of Scotland rejected independence early this morning, with the No campaign prevailing by a relatively comfortable 55% to 45%. The margin of victory was around half the lead the No vote had enjoyed in the early stages of the campaign, but it was far more decisive than recent polls, one of which put the Yes camp narrowly ahead, had suggested.
Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron said the independence debate had been “settled for a generation.” He added: “So there can be no disputes, no re-runs; we have heard the will of the Scottish people.”
President Obama, who angered Yes campaigners by expressing his hope that Scots would stay with the UK, tweeted that he “welcomed” the result.
"We welcome the result of yesterday’s referendum on Scottish independence." —President Obama pic.twitter.com/5qJyAPGP6Q
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 19, 2014
A vote for independence would have been cataclysmic for British politics; however, the reverberations from the No vote will still be far-reaching, and while supporters of both sides were celebrating or drowning their sorrows into the wee small hours, Cameron, along with politicians from all parties on both sides of the border, woke up this morning with a different kind of hangover — they must now turn their attention to dealing with the complex political and constitutional issues thrown up by the result.
With polls tightening in the run-up to the referendum, Cameron, along with other figures in the No campaign, including Scot and former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, made increasingly generous promises about the extra powers that would be devolved to the existing Scottish Parliament if Scots rejected independence. These include full control over the setting of income tax and other tax rates, and more powers over welfare spending.
Conservative MPs, with backing from their Liberal Democrat coalition partners and some in the Labour Party, are now demanding that if Scotland is effectively granted “home rule” then similar powers must also be devolved to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and Cameron appeared to accede to those demands when he spoke this morning.
The result could be something like a federalized United Kingdom, and devolving powers to England would finally bring about a resolution of the so-called “West Lothian question“ – the anomaly whereby Scottish MPs sitting at Westminster can vote on taxation and other matters affecting England, but English MPs have no say on matters devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
There are no plans for a separate English Parliament, but it’s likely that proposals will be put forward to enable “English only” parliamentary sessions, with English MPs legislating on matters relating only to England, and Scots MPs excluded. That would in all probability mean Ed Miliband’s Labour Party would be outvoted by the Tories on English matters – even if Labour won an overall majority in next year’s general election – because of Labour’s reliance on large numbers of Scottish MPs.
The referendum campaign highlighted the growing disconnect between the UK’s London-based political establishment and the rest of the country. And if Cameron does make good on his promise of greater devolution for England it would be bad news for Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party, which has portrayed itself as the party of localism and regionalism, and which has criticized Cameron for promising so much to Scots at the apparent expense of the rest of the UK.
The White House expressed satisfaction this morning at Scotland’s vote to stay within the United Kingdom, with one congressman stressing it was an important decision from a security standpoint.
“We welcome the result of yesterday’s referendum on Scottish independence and congratulate the people of Scotland for their full and energetic exercise of democracy,” President Obama said in a statement. “Through debate, discussion, and passionate yet peaceful deliberations, they reminded the world of Scotland’s enormous contributions to the UK and the world, and have spoken in favor of keeping Scotland within the United Kingdom.”
“We have no closer ally than the United Kingdom, and we look forward to continuing our strong and special relationship with all the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as we address the challenges facing the world today,” he added.
The White House repeatedly said it wouldn’t step into the middle of referendum. On Wednesday, Obama issued a personally signed tweet saying, “The UK is an extraordinary partner for America and a force for good in an unstable world. I hope it remains strong, robust and united.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron, declaring “the people of Scotland have spoken,” admitted that a “yes” vote “would have broken my heart.”
“Now the debate has been settled for a generation or as Alex Salmond has said, perhaps for a lifetime,” Cameron said. “So there can be no disputes, no re-runs – we have heard the settled will of the Scottish people.”
“We now have a chance – a great opportunity – to change the way the British people are governed, and change it for the better… Just as the people of Scotland will have more power over their affairs, so it follows that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must have a bigger say over theirs.”
Cameron acknowledged the campaign “stirred strong passions.”
“It has electrified politics in Scotland, and caught the imagination of people across the whole of our United Kingdom,” he said. “It will be remembered as a powerful demonstration of the strength and vitality of our ancient democracy. Record numbers registered to vote and record numbers cast their vote. We can all be proud of that. It has reminded us how fortunate we are that we are able to settle these vital issues at the ballot box, peacefully and calmly.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) called the outcome “a welcome vote.”
“The Scottish people’s decision to remain part of the United Kingdom will allow our robust cooperation on security, humanitarian, and economic issues to continue uninterrupted,” Royce said. “I look forward to further deepening the exceptional relations between our countries.”
The bookies were right as Scotland voted “no” in the independence referendum, so what do they have to say about American politics? Irish bookmaker Paddy Power currently has the odds of a Democrat winning the White House in 2016 at 4/6, with Republicans at 6/5 and independents (Sen. Bernie Sanders, maybe?) at a longshot 50/1. How are individual names faring in the betting pool, though?
They’re also thinking in the shorter term: Republicans are 1/80 on retaining control of the House with 11/1 odds for the Democrats, and the GOP is 8/13 on gaining control of the Senate with Dems at 6/5.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid paid compliments on Thursday to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz — but deferred to President Barack Obama on her future as the head of the party.
Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic congresswoman from Florida, is under increasing scrutiny by top Democrats in Washington for her stewardship of the party since 2011. Reid called her a “friend” but skirted answering a reporter’s question on whether she’s became a liability for Democrats as they head into a pitched battle to keep the Senate this November.
“I’m always so impressed with her appearances on television. She’s very, very good. But the ultimate decision regarding her is made by the president of the United States, not the three of us,” said Reid, flanked by fellow Senate Democratic leaders Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York.
Reid is forever offering strong opinions on subjects about which he knows nothing. His deflection on a matter that he’s certainly discussed speaks volumes. Cutting Wasserman-Schultz loose now doesn’t do the Democrats much good though, they’re still going to need a fall guy/gal after the midterm elections.
Perhaps the most telling part of this piece about Wasserman_Schultz’s fate is Politico noting that Reid, Schumer and Durbin weren’t “particularly pleased” that the question about her job performance came up at all.
During today’s hilarious Democrat Twitter townhall meltdown, one House Democrat piped up to brag about something.
— Mark Bowen (@MarkJohnBowen) September 18, 2014
— Rep. Steven Horsford (@RepHorsford) September 18, 2014
Rep. Steven Horsford’s (D-NV) tweet links to this page on his own website. On it, Horsford has posted his own attempt to get the IRS to go past what the law allows in regulating/oppressing conservative groups, during a hearing about the IRS targeting scandal on Wednesday.
Early on in his questioning, Horsford establishes that he is IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s friend, not adversary or interrogator:
I think that that’s more the tone that we should be working from, not the abusive tone that we continue to have from the Chairman of the Subcommittee or the full Committee that turns this something into that it’s not.
Rep. Horsford makes it clear: The IRS targeting of conservatives is not a scandal at all, to him.
Horsford then gets into more detailed questioning about IRS functions with respect to 501(c)(4) groups. Horsford explicitly connects his query to the Citizens United decision. That’s the decision that President Obama denounced in front of the Supreme Court during his 2010 State of the Union address.
The IRS’ illegal and biased scrutiny of conservative groups followed Obama’s remarks by a couple of months.
Emails revealed during the House investigations show that IRS staff including Lois Lerner were obsessed with the Citizens United ruling.
According to the report, as early as September 2010, Lerner forwarded to her colleagues an EO Tax Journal blog advising the IRS to “keep track of new c4s” and “be more pro-active” about catching groups created solely for political activities. One quote in the story specifically calls out the “educational organizations woven by the fabulously rich Koch Brothers to foster their own financial interest by political means.”
“I’m really thinking we need to do a c4 project next year,” Lerner said in the email.
Horsford questioned Koskinen on how the IRS interprets a 1959 regulation on 501(c)(4) groups. Horsford makes it clear that he wants the IRS to take a more expansive view of the original language, to allow for more scrutiny of some groups and less freedom for them to operate and speak on issues.
Rep. Horsford: I want to ask you, Commissioner, about a letter that I and 25 of my other colleagues sent to the acting commissioner, Mr. Werfel, relating to the discrepancy between the agency’s regulatory interpretation of the law dealing with 501(c)(4)’s, and what the U.S. code actually enumerates in statute.
Are you familiar with the request I made along with 25 of my colleagues on June 6, 2013?
Commissioner Koskinen: I’m not familiar with the specific language but I do know a number of people that have been encouraging us when we look at the regulations under the 501(c)(4) to start with the statute which says that social welfare organizations under 501(c)(4) should be exclusively involved in social welfare.
Rep. Horsford: And the regulation states ‘primarily.’
Commissioner Koskinen: The regulations established in 1959 have said ‘primarily.’
Rep. Horsford: Isn’t that problematic?
It wasn’t problematic until the Obama administration came along. Koskinen notes that now, the IRS is looking into a new interpretation of the 1959 statute.
Commissioner Koskinen: Well it’s been around for a long time and we have over 150,000 comments about how to deal with that issue, which we are seriously taking a look at. But it is the issue that the spectrum is: one end of the spectrum is it should be exclusive, i.e. no activity. The other end of the spectrum is that there shouldn’t be any limitations at all. And a third spot in the middle, is well primarily, some percentage close to 50 would be a good number. And we’re looking at that entire range of possibilities.
Horsford wants the tightest interpretation, to push so-called “dark money” away. He aims straight at Citizens United.
Rep. Horsford: Until you make that final determination this ambiguity remains. And because of the recent Citizens United decision, which created the huge influx of the number of organizations that were applying for tax-exempt status, has contributed to this problem, has it not?
Citizens United is settled law, in the same way that Democrats claim Obamacare is “settled law” — the Supreme Court has ruled.
As for Horsford, he is not interested in any further pursuit of the IRS targeting scandal. Because in his mind, it is not and never was a scandal at all.
I believe that there are certain staff, including Ms. Lerner, who have not served this administration well. That due to poor management, poor decision making, we are in a position to have to have these types of hearings.
And I’m not going to defend every action or decision that certain former staffers of the IRS have taken; but I also think it is inappropriate for members of this Committee to apply such a broad brush to all staff or all management of the IRS or other federal agencies.
I also think it takes a lot of gumption of certain members of Congress to question the request for critical pay authority, when this is the least productive Congress in the history of Congresses.
Hard-working people can’t get a raise, but members of Congress continue to get paid whether they do their jobs or get anything done around here or not.
At the same time that we’re having this hearing, which is the fifteenth hearing, there is a debate going on the floor right now that is crucial to our country’s safety, to international relations, and is one of the most serious issues that this Congress is being confronted with.
But instead, this Chairman has decided to have the fifteenth hearing on the same issue trying to assert the same allegations and never getting to the point of action on anything.
So, Mr. Chairman, either we get on with the business of the American people that they have sent us here, or we need to stop wasting time and taxpayer resources.
There are important issues that we need to be tackling. But unfortunately this Committee’s time has been wasted in large part.
Nothing to see here, say the Democrats. Other than their own desire to weaponize government against Americans who disagree with them.
I still blame it on radical Islam.
Democrats Hold #AskDems Twitter Townhall. It Goes About as Well As a Savvy Twitter User Would Expect.
The Democrats are holding a Twitter townhall using the #AskDems hashtag.
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) September 18, 2014
Democrats like Rep. Steny Hoyer are taking the opportunity to dish out party lines and propaganda.
— Steny Hoyer (@WhipHoyer) September 18, 2014
One tweep isn’t buying that.
— Matt (@Mattley_Crue) September 18, 2014
Another questioned the Democrats’ clear prioritizing of illegal immigrants over citizens.
#askdems why do Democrats allow people who have no rights to vote in America more ability 2 dictate policy than Americans they r 2 represent
— Heather Jo (@heatherjo40) September 18, 2014
Another wants to follow the money.
#AskDems What the heck have you done with all the money that we already sent you?
— Soquel by the Creek (@SoquelCreek) September 18, 2014
Democrats aren’t running on Obamacare, but they can’t run away from it.
If ACA is so great, why does it have to be enforced by law? #AskDems
— Baldwin (@baldwin100) September 18, 2014
— ✩ Megan ✩ (@MeganSmiles) September 18, 2014
MeganSmiles was just getting started “asking Dems.”
— ✩ Megan ✩ (@MeganSmiles) September 18, 2014
A couple of polls came out today showing that Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) is now trailing to his GOP challenger. That’s probably not what the Democrats wanted to be asked about.
#AskDems What will Udall do after November?
— Call me the Breeze (@Rem870P) September 18, 2014
MeganSmiles was just getting warmed up.
— ✩ Megan ✩ (@MeganSmiles) September 18, 2014
Here’s another question that Democrats will not answer. Ever.
#AskDems If you had your way – your complete wish list granted – how much of my income would I be allowed to keep?
— Drew Belsky (@DJB627) September 18, 2014
Why was dissent “patriotic” when Bush was in office but it’s “racist” when Obama is in the same chair? #AskDems
— Drone Bait (@BigRMV) September 18, 2014
The Democrats lost control of their own Twitter townhall. So Hoyer decided to just exit, stage left.
— Steny Hoyer (@WhipHoyer) September 18, 2014
That’s all folks!
But it wasn’t the last word, as you’ll see on the next page.
Voters still show a negative view toward both parties, but favorable ratings for Republicans have rebounded since the low in October, 2013 following the government shut down.
Gallup reports nearly identical favorable numbers for both parties; 40/57 favorable/unfavorable for Republicans and 42/54 for Democrats.
There are encouraging and discouraging signs for both parties in the latest poll, conducted Sept. 4-7, just two months before the important midterm elections.
Americans have typically rated the Democratic Party more positively than the Republican Party since the question was first asked in 1992, so the current parity between the two is a positive sign for the GOP and a negative one for the Democratic Party. Indeed, current opinions of the Democratic Party are among the worst Gallup has measured in the past 20 years. The only time Gallup measured a lower favorable rating for the Democrats was 41% in late March 2010, just after Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.
At the same time, Democrats can take some solace in the fact that Americans are not rating the GOP any more positively than they rate the Democratic Party, even at a time when Americans believe the Republican Party is better than the Democratic Party both at keeping the U.S. prosperous and at keeping the U.S. secure from international threats.
The situation is similar to what occurred in 2010. Even as Republicans were making large gains in federal and state offices nationwide, Americans did not view the GOP any more positively than the Democratic Party. As such, the Republicans may have merely benefited from public frustration with Obama and the Democrats in 2010, rather than having been truly embraced by Americans. Thus, if Republicans do well on Election Day this year it does not necessarily equate to a voter mandate for the party and its policies.
All Partisan Groups More Positive toward GOP
The gains, or perhaps recovery, in the GOP’s image over the past year are evident among Democrats, independents, and Republicans. Notably, Republicans’ favorable views of their own party are still not back to pre-shutdown levels.
As would be expected given the stability in overall views of the Democratic Party, the ratings of it by respondents’ political identity are also generally steady over the past 12 months. However, Democrats and independents are less positive toward the Democratic Party than they were in late 2012, after Obama’s re-election.
That “public frustration” of voters in 2010 with Democrats may have turned into something even more dangerous for Democratic prospects in November; fear. The threats we face around the world are causing a lot of concern among voters and given the Republican edge in which party can keep America safer, that may play a significant role when voters make up their mind.
Peter Beinart of the Atlantic writes of the return of the “security moms” and how that favors the GOP:
In August, white women favored a Democratic Congress by four points. Now they favor a Republican Congress by eight.
As in 2002, Democrats are responding by becoming more hawkish. In October 2002, most Democrats in competitive Senate races voted to authorize the Iraq War. Last week, Obama announced a multi-year air campaign against ISIS.
But it doesn’t work. Almost all the imperiled Democrats in 2002 lost anyway. And there’s no evidence that Obama’s new hawkishness is helping him politically either. One reason is that although women are more worried about terrorism than men, they’re actually less supportive of responding with military action. In 2002, women were somewhat more skeptical of invading Iraq. Today, they’re more wary of going after ISIS.
Fundamentally, the Democrats’ terrorism problem with women—especially married white women—isn’t about policy. It’s about trust. In 2002, at a time of heightened anxiety, women trusted a Republican president to keep them safe. In 2014, with that anxiety heightened again, they don’t trust a Democratic president to do the same.
Rather than wondering if “foreign policy” will play a larger role in the campaign, perhaps it’s more accurate to talk about “security” as a general issue where Republicans appear to have the advantage.
In as many close Senate races as we are likely to have, the security issue may be a difference maker in at least some of them.
New York writer and self-proclaimed kink (NTTAWWT!) Jillian Keenan says in Slate that “spanking is great for sex,” which makes it “grotesque for parenting.” Here’s more:
I have a spanking fetish. In my case, that means I like to be spanked, usually with a hand, belt, hairbrush, wooden spoon, switch, or paddle. It sexually gratifies me. I’ve had submissive fantasies for as long as I can remember, and it’s part of my identity. I consider my kink to be my sexual orientation.
To be clear—because apparently I have to be—I am an adult. My husband, who is not kinky, is an adult. My first boyfriend (the only other sexual partner I’ve had) was an adult, too. Everyone is an adult. Everyone consents.
So I have a question: If it’s “somewhat pedophilic” when my adult husband consensually spanks me in a simulated “punishment,” what should we call it when parents do the same physical thing to actual children in an actual punishment?
I make no judgements about what consenting adults do for enjoyment, so I’ll leave it to you, gentle (or not-so-gentle) reader, to make your own judgement, if you must, about Keenan’s little hijinks.
But the flaw in Keenan’s thinking lies in that single word “consensually.” Punishment is not consensual, or it wouldn’t be punishment. Sex is consensual, or it isn’t sex — it’s rape.
On the flip side, spanking a child without cause isn’t discipline or punishment — it’s abuse. And I’m sure Keenan would agree that if her husband spanked her without her consent or past her safe word, that would be abuse, too.
But spanking a child with cause is not abuse (to a point), and nor is it remotely sexual. It’s not fun for the child, and it certainly shouldn’t be any fun for the parent. Any parent getting any sort of sexual thrill out of discipling their child is no longer a parent, but a molester.
In the question of what the group that calls itself the Islamic State should be called, France has decided to officially use “Daesh” — an insulting Arabic acronym used by Kurds and others in the region.
Secretary of State John Kerry has his own moniker for the terrorists that the administration formally refers to as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
“What would you call — I call them ISIS: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) asked Kerry today at a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on the administration’s strategy.
“What would you tell the American people? OK, we are doing this support. We are at war. We are a counter-terrorism operation. Whatever you want to call it,” Poe said, referring to Kerry’s insistence on “war” terminology not being important. “Who is the enemy? Define the enemy for me. What would you call them?”
“Well, I call them the enemy of Islam, because that’s what I think they are, and they certainly don’t represent a state, even though they try to claim to,” Kerry replied.
“So, officially, we should refer to them as the enemy of Islam?” Poe asked.
“Well, I do,” said Kerry. “I don’t know if there’s an official whatever. But I hope you join me in doing that, because that’s what I think they are, and [they] don’t they deserve to have a reference in their name that gives them legitimacy.”
“Are they the enemy of the United States?” Poe continued.
“They are an enemy of humanity,” Kerry responded. “…Definitively, it is in the national security interest of our country, with Americans over there with passports learning how to fight and taking part in this.”
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) said he thought “many” people were “shocked” when Obama “emphasized that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was in fact not Islamic.”
“They now simply refer to themselves as the Islamic State. You know, they don’t call themselves the Methodist State or the Episcopalian State or the Baptist State. They’re the Islamic State, and I think for good reason,” Chabot said.
“You know, when Christians, for example, are told to convert to Islam or die, that would seem to fly in the face of the president’s insistence that the Islamic State is not the Islamic State. And an indication that he may not fully accept that radical Islam is indeed something that does exist and in fact is growing.”
Kerry said the U.S. “shouldn’t compound the sin by allowing them to get away with” calling themselves the Islamic State.
“Now religious leaders, Islamic leaders are reclaiming legitimate Islam. And they’re separating it, too. So I wouldn’t compound the crime by calling them a state whatsoever. They’re the enemy of Islam. That’s what they are,” Kerry said. “And as the 21 clerics yesterday said in Saudi Arabia, they are in fact the Order of Satan. And there’s nothing in Islam that condones or suggests people should go out and rape women and sell off young girls or give them as gifts to jihadists, and you know, cut people’s heads off and tie people’s hands behind their backs, and put them on their knees and shoot them in the head.”
“These are war crimes. And they’re crimes against humanity. And we need to make clear that that is exactly what is the reality here.”
“It’s clear to me that their motivation is their religious fervor, this fanaticism, however misguided it is,” Chabot interjected. “I mean, that’s their motivation here.”
“Well, I don’t know. They use that,” Kerry replied. “I don’t know if that is in truth — it’s part of it. The caliphate is certainly on the minds of many. But I think a lot of them are thugs and criminals and people who simply want to go out and maraud and take part in the success of — vanquish and be opposed to modernity and a whole bunch of other things.”
Did the mullahs do this because of some “grievance,” or because they’re totalitarians who base their rule on the Koran?
A group of seven Iranian men and women who created and starred in their own version of a video for Pharrell Williams’ song ‘Happy’ have each been given suspended sentences of prison time and 91 lashes.
The fun-loving friends were arrested in May after posting their homemade music video ‘Happy in Tehran’ to YouTube.
They were forced to publicly confess and apologise on national television before being released on bail, with police chief Hossein Sajedinia warning others that the video was “a vulgar clip” which “hurt public chastity”.
The suspended sentences mean that the “Happy” seven won’t go to prison immediately, but the possibility of prison time hangs over their heads if they step out of line again.
“We wanted to tell the world that the Iranian capital is full of lively young people and change the harsh and rough image that the world sees on the news,” said Neda, one of its stars.
The end credits of the video – which can still be viewed online though the original has been made private – reads: “We have made this video as Pharrell Williams fans in 8hrs with iPhone 5S. ‘Happy’ was an excuse to be happy. We enjoyed every second of making it. Hope it puts a smile on your face.”
Instead, Iran’s harsh image has been reinforced. The only ones smiling are the mullahs who control everything.
And probably drink liquor and listen to “Happy” on their iPhones when they think no one is watching them.
While many have rightfully criticized U.S. President Obama’s recent assertion that the Islamic State “is not Islamic,” some of his other equally curious but more subtle comments pronounced in the same speech have been largely ignored.
Consider the president’s invocation of the “grievances” meme to explain the Islamic State’s success: “At this moment the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL — which calls itself the Islamic State.”
Obama’s logic, of course, is fortified by an entire apparatus of professional apologists who make the same claim. Thus Georgetown professor John Esposito — whose apologetics sometimes morph into boldfaced lies — also recently declared that “The “primary drivers [for the Islamic State’s violence] are to be found elsewhere,” that is, not in Islam but in a “long list of grievances.”
In other words and once again, it’s apparently somehow “our fault” that Islamic State Muslims are behaving savagely— crucifying, beheading, enslaving, and massacring people only on the basis that they are “infidels”: thus when IS herds and slaughters “infidel” and/or Shia men (citing the example of the prophet)—that’s because they’re angry at something America did; when IS captures “infidel” Yazidi and Christian women and children, and sells them on the sex-slave market (citing Islamic teachings) — that’s because they’re angry at something America did; when IS bombs churches, breaks their crosses, and tells Christians to convert or die (citing Islamic scriptures) — that’s because they’re angry at something America did.
Although the “grievance” meme has always flown in the face of logic, it became especially popular after the 9/11 al-Qaeda strikes on America. The mainstream media, following the Islamist propaganda network Al Jazeera’s lead, uncritically picked up and disseminated Osama bin Laden’s videotapes to the West where he claimed that al-Qaeda’s terror campaign was motivated by grievances against the West — grievances that ranged from U.S. support for Israel to U.S. failure to sign the Kyoto Agreement concerning climate change.
Of course, that was all rubbish, and I have written more times than I care to remember about how in their internal Arabic-language communiques to fellow Muslims that never get translated to English, al-Qaeda and virtually every Islamist organization make it a point to insist that jihad is an Islamic obligation that has nothing to do with grievances.
Consider Osama’s own words in an internal letter to fellow Saudis:
Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue — one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice — and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually?
Yes. There are only three choices in Islam:  either willing submission [conversion];  or payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam;  or the sword — for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die. (The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 42)
Conversion, submission, or the sword is, of course, the mission of the Islamic State — not alleviating “grievances.”
Worst of all, unlike al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, from day one of its existence, has made it very clear — in Osama’s words, “with power and determination, with one voice” — that its massacres, enslavements, crucifixions, and beheadings of “infidels” are all based on Islamic law or Sharia — not silly “grievances” against the West… Keep reading
Addressing a joint session of Congress this morning, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he’s willing to negotiate to bring peace to his country but draws the line at anything that compromises Ukraine’s sovereignty.
“Over the last months, Ukrainian have shown that they have courage to stand up to the most powerful enemy. We will never obey or bend to the aggressor,” Poroshenko said. ”We are ready to fight, but we are people of peace, and we extend the hand of peace to Russia and the Russian-inspired separatists.”
“I am ready to do my utmost to avoid the further escalation and casualties, even at this point when the war has already started feeding on itself. Sooner or later, I’m absolutely sure peace will return to the Ukrainian homes.”
Despite “the insanity of this war,” he said, “I am convinced that peace can be achieved sooner rather than later, and I’m ready to offer the separatists more rights than any part of Ukraine had ever had in the history of nation.”
“And I’m ready to discuss anything except one thing: Ukrainian independence, Ukrainian territorial integrity, Ukrainian sovereignty,” Poroshenko stressed, garnering applause from the U.S. lawmakers. “And I am confident if this war is about the rights and not about the geopolitical ambition, the solution must and I am sure, will be found.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, in 1991, independence came to Ukraine at a very low cost and peacefully. Yet the more real this independence become, the higher grew its cost. Today, the cost is as high as it gets.”
The president said Russia’s invasion has taught his country to “learn the value of independence and to recognize the true friends.”
His country needs “to root out the seeds that drain Ukraine’s potential,” Poroshenko said, including those problems “largely inherited from the era of Soviet Union — decay, corruption, bureaucracy and the self-preserving cynicism of political elites.”
He asked Congress ”to create a special fund to support investment of American companies in Ukraine and to help us with the reforming of our economy and our justice system,” a request met with applause. “And I assure you that all aid received from the west will be utilized by non-corrupt institution and that the new generation of official will make sure that the funds are distributed effectively.”
“By supporting Ukraine, you support new future of Europe and the entire free world. By supporting Ukraine, you support a nation that has chosen freedom in the most cynical of the times. In Ukraine, you don’t build a democracy. It’s already exist. You just defend it.”
Poroshenko reference New Hampshire’s motto: “Live free or die.”
“Live free or die was the spirit of the revolutionary on the Maidan during the dramatic winter months of 2014 with a significant presence of the member of United States Congress,” he said. “And we thank you for that.”
“Live free or die are words of Ukrainian soldiers standing on line of freedom on this war. Live free must be the answer with which Ukraine comes out of this war. Live free must be the message Ukraine and America send to the world while standing together in this time of enormous challenge.”
Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged at Wednesday’s hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Islamic State is “pumping oil and selling it to the tune of a million dollars a day to fund its brutal tactics.”
But he was evasive when Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Kerry who was buying the oil. “Who are they selling it to? Which countries are transiting…”
“We have raised with a number of countries in the region the question of how they could possibly be getting oil out of the country. It’s being smuggled out. And what — that’s part of the approach here is to deal… ” Kerry replied before Durbin interjected, “Through which countries do you believe it’s being smuggled out?”
“Well, it’s being smuggled out from the border countries of Syria, obviously, which means either through Turkey or through Lebanon or south…”
“Now, are they joining us in the effort to stop this smuggling?” Durbin asked.
“They are, but, obviously, Turkey has difficulties right now, has 49 hostages that are being held, and they’ve talked about that publicly,” Kerry responded. “And Turkey is — you know, we’ve had some conversations with them, and those conversations will continue.”
In January, the Telegraph reported that Bashar Assad was buying ISIS’ oil and funding the terrorist group. Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra already admitted last year that Assad was buying their oil from Deir Ezzor province.
And an opposition lawmaker in Turkey said his government is buying ISIS’ oil
Ali Ediboglu, a Republican People’s Party member of parliament representing a border region, told Taraf, “$800 million worth of oil that ISIS obtained from regions it occupied this year [the Rumeilan oil fields in northern Syria — and most recently Mosul] is being sold in Turkey.
“They have laid pipes from villages near the Turkish border at Hatay. Similar pipes exist also at [the Turkish border regions of] Kilis, Urfa and Gaziantep,” Ediboglu said. “They transfer the oil to Turkey and parlay it into cash. They take the oil from the refineries at zero cost. Using primitive means, they refine the oil in areas close to the Turkish border and then sell it via Turkey. This is worth $800 million.”
President Obama has had a close working relationship with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the former priem minister who recently became president.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) asked Kerry at today’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing if we could bomb the oil fields or refineries to help deprive ISIS of its $1 million-per-day revenue.
“Um, I haven’t heard any objections,” Kerry responded before Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said he’d run out of time and could submit a more detailed answer to the committee in writing.
Kerry did hint, though, at the Assad-ISIS alliance: “We have evidence that Assad has played footsie with them.”
An Islamic State supporter in Australia had grisly plans.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the plan involved kidnapping randomly selected members of the public off the streets in Sydney and Brisbane, beheading them on camera, and releasing the recordings through Islamic State’s propaganda arm in the Middle East.
Later Thursday, Attorney General George Brandis confirmed that a person born in Afghanistan who had spent time in Australia and is now working with the Islamic State group in the Middle East ordered supporters in Australia to behead people and videotape the killings.
“If the … police had not acted today, there is a likelihood that this would have happened,” Brandis told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The plan was disrupted.
But, why Australia? They’re not leading the coalition of the unwilling to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
One possible reason that Australia was chosen — handguns are banned there. ISIS operatives there would know that they would be extremely unlikely to face an armed opponent, instead of a hapless victim.
The raid has smoked out another potential problem for Australia.
Uthman Badar, a spokesman for the Islamist group Hizt ut-Tahrir, warned of a growing unrest within Australia’s Muslim community.
“We are tired of being made scapegoats. The government is the terrorist,” he said in front of supporters wearing anti-government placards, according to News.com.au.
“We would be fools to think we can now wake up and feel safer,” he added. “We are not fools to be deceived. There is anger in the community. We have been victimized for years and years.”
Here’s Uthman Badar’s Twitter feed. He apparently engineered the “snap protest” that has run interference for ISIS.
— Manny Tsigas (@mantsig) September 18, 2014
— Matthew Snelson (@matthewsnelson7) September 18, 2014
Badar justifies “honor killings,” despite the chant above about keeping women safe.
His group is already banned in many countries for its radicalism. It’s time for Australia to follow suit.
MarketWatch reports today that President Barack Obama will exert tight personal control over U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria.
The U.S. military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria is being designed to allow President Barack Obama to exert a high degree of personal control, going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential sign-off for strikes in Syrian territory, officials said.
The requirements for strikes in Syria against the extremist group Islamic State will be far more stringent than those targeting it in Iraq, at least at first. U.S. officials say it’s an attempt to limit the threat the U.S. could be dragged more deeply into the Syrian civil war.
So far, Obama has handled the ISIS threat as primarily a political, not a national security, matter. He only spoke to the American people to reveal his strategy to deal with the group once the beheadings of two Americans enraged the public. Obama himself merely offered a brief statement after the beheading of James Foley, and then went straight out to play golf.
Thus far, Obama is publicly limiting the U.S. military role against ISIS to air power and “advisers” on the ground. Those “advisers” will assist the Kurdish peshmerga, the Iraqi military, and even Syrian rebels. Those American “advisers” are said to have no combat role. But the number of those advisers has already grown, from a few dozen early on to nearly 3,000.
Yet the war against the Islamic State shows no sign of progress. Overnight, ISIS captured 16 villages in Syria.
Ever since the 1970s, every time U.S. forces have engaged in any overseas conflict on the ground, Democrats and the media have warned that America could be entering “another Vietnam.” When President George H. W. Bush ordered U.S. troops into Panama to capture dictator Manuel Noriega, some Democrats warned of “another Vietnam.” At the beginning of the 1990-91 Gulf War and at the outset of the 2003 Iraq war, many Democrats warned that America was blundering into “another Vietnam.”
But none of those wars ended up resembling Vietnam. Panama and the first Gulf War featured overwhelming U.S. force that won those wars quickly, with very few U.S. casualties. The 2003 Iraq war versus Saddam Hussein’s military was actually over quickly too, but Islamist insurgencies (some of which were backed by Iran) dragged out the military action and the country’s recovery. By 2009, Iraq was relatively stable and quiescent. More than 3,000 American troops died in the second Iraq war, but that number is dwarfed by the 59,000 killed in Vietnam.
Obama inherited that stable Iraq, and withdrew U.S. forces too quickly. The Islamic State has arisen out of the Syrian civil war and the vacuum of power that Obama left in Iraq.
Now Obama is slow rolling America’s entry into the war versus the Islamic State. His strategy of limiting U.S. forces’ role to “advisers” mirrors how U.S. presidents from Harry Truman to Lyndon Baines Johnson slowly increased America’s military role in Vietnam, especially following the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Within two years of that defeat, a small number of American military “advisers” were on the ground in Vietnam training the South Vietnam military. In 1962, there were 12,000 American troops in Vietnam, officially in non-combat roles. Two years later, there were 15,000 American troops in Vietnam.
In 1965 Johnson authorized Operation Rolling Thunder, a massive bombing campaign against the north. That same year, Johnson’s advisers determined that bombing alone would not be enough to win the war. Operation Rolling Thunder, though, was never intended to achieve victory. Its aim was to disrupt supply lines from the north into the south, by North Vietnam to the Vietcong guerillas. Operation Rolling Thunder slow rolled across two years, to including bombing more strategic targets in North Vietnam.
Operation Rolling Thunder was closely controlled by the White House and at times targets were personally selected by President Johnson. From 1965 to 1968, about 643,000 tons of bombs were dropped on North Vietnam. A total of nearly 900 U.S. aircraft were lost during Operation Rolling Thunder. The operation continued, with occasional suspensions, until President Johnson, under increasing domestic political pressure, halted it on October 31, 1968.
President Johnson escalated the U.S. role in Vietnam once it became clear that the advisory role plus U.S. air power would never defeat Ho Chi Minh’s communist forces. By the end of 1965, Johnson had sent 184,000 troops into Vietnam, and the “advisory” role was changed to combat.
The slow-rolled war dragged on until U.S. withdrawal in 1973, and the final defeat of South Vietnam in 1975. The victorious communists hunted down, imprisoned, tortured and murdered hundreds of thousands in South Vietnam, sparking a refugee exodus in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
During the Vietnam air war, President Johnson even personally selected bombing targets. President Obama, according to the MarketWatch report, is set to repeat that in selecting targets in Syria.
There are many obvious differences between Vietnam and the fight against the Islamic State, with Islam being the most obvious. The differences in the terrain — jungles in Asia, desert in the Middle East — is another.
But the similarities even at this stage of the ISIS fight are haunting, as we’ll explore on the next page.