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The PJ Tatler

Godless Militants Go After Alabama Town

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Winfield, Alabama, is a sleepy little town not far from Birmingham where about 5,000 people work, live, and worship – a city where the year’s biggest event is Mule Day every September.

Winfield has also become the site of a fight over religion. Because the greatest defense against theocracy is an attack on a tiny Southern town, militant atheists have targeted the town over a proclamation the mayor and city council issued back in December of last year “acknowledging the blessings of God and expressing a desire to seek Divine guidance.”

Over the next several weeks, the city received blistering letters of condemnation from the American Civil Liberties Union and Freedom From Religion Foundation decrying the alleged violation of separation of church and state. The FFRF letter was particularly harsh, suggesting that God was the mayor’s “imaginary friend” and that, if God did exist, he probably did not care about the small Alabama town.

The Pacific Justice Institute has come to the defense of Winfield, citing recent rulings that support the town’s proclamation and its decision to stand behind it.

In response, PJI sent a letter to Mayor Randy Price late Friday, pointing out the proclamation’s consistency both with recent cases and historic American traditions. The PJI letter noted the omission in either the ACLU or FFRF letters of failed attempts by those groups to mount similar legal challenges. Within the last few years the FFRF lost a legal challenge to President Obama’s continuation of the National Day of Prayer proclamation, and the ACLU lost a case where it had sued over Ohio’s state motto, “With God all things are possible.” Court decisions in this area have also allowed local proclamations and resolutions to voice anti-religious sentiments. For instance, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the right of San Francisco officials to issue scathing denunciations of religious groups and the Catholic Church, in the name of free speech.

PJI’s president, Brad Dacus, weighed in:

This proclamation does not compel or coerce anyone to do anything.  As with any governmental action, not everyone is going to like it, but that doesn’t make the proclamation unconstitutional.

Here’s hoping that, in the end, Winfield will prevail against the forces trying desperately to be the squeaky wheel against the First Amendment.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley

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Definitely Not Politically Correct: Who Gets Murdered in L.A. and Where?

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

Exactly whom you think gets murdered and pretty much where you’d expect, in one of America’s most segregated cities:

Sunday and Monday were the deadliest days of the week in Los Angeles in 2014. April saw the most killings; January and February the least. More people were killed with a firearm than any other weapon. Those statistics and others compiled by the Los Angeles Police Department offer a deeply detailed look at the 260 homicides that occurred in Los Angeles last year. The report breaks down everything from which LAPD division saw the largest increase (77th Street in South L.A.) to where the killings occurred (streets were the most common location, followed by sidewalks).

No surprise there. The 77th Street station in South L.A. patrols some of the most violent, gang-infested neighborhoods in the sprawling city; at its epicenter is the intersection of Florence and Normandie, where the Rodney King riots began and where truck driver Reginald Denny was nearly beaten to death by a mob. Once a black neighborhood, it’s turned Latino over the past decade or so. And just who got murdered?

Nearly 86% of the people killed in Los Angeles last year were male. About one-third of victims were 26 to 35, and about a quarter were 18 to 25. Out of 260 victims, 119 were Latino and 112 were black.

Let’s put that another way: only 29 of the victims were either white (18), Asian (2) or “other” (9). Get the pertinent stats here.

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GOP Senators to Obama: We’re Totally with You on Cuba Policy

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

While senators such as Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) have vehemently opposed the Obama administration’s rapprochement and concessions toward Cuba, some Republicans have banded together to let President Obama know that they have an eye on lifting the decades-old embargo.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — incidentally, the two Senate Republicans likely to vote against the Menendez-Kirk sanctions legislation on Iran — told Obama in a letter that they “have sought reforms to restrictions on travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba and the removal of hurdles that hamstring trade.”

“Given the statutory nature of restrictions on activities related to Cuba, real and permanent change to U.S.-Cuba policy will be achieved through successful legislative initiatives,” they wrote.

Flake and Paul were joined on the letter by Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

“That said, recent regulatory reforms to financial restrictions on U.S. exports will increase access to some U.S. agricultural and other products for millions of people in Cuba,” the Republicans continued. “Increasing both the limit on remittance and the types of goods that can be legally exported to the island will lead to increased demand for U.S. commodities. Similarly, the expansion of general licenses for statutorily delineated categories of travel by U.S. citizens will have a similar impact while simultaneously facilitating greater meaningful contact between Americans and everyday Cubans. Our hope is that changes to the current trade and travel relationship will advance our goal of bolstering the vulnerable private sector and increasing entrepreneurship while decreasing the role of state-controlled enterprises.”

“With the significance of your recent announcements related to Cuba, we look forward to Congress turning its attention toward modernizing U.S.-Cuba policy to the benefit of U.S. citizens and the Cuban people alike. Congress must play an integral role in reforming our policy toward Cuba.”

Yesterday, Rubio was officially named chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. He has vowed to block funding for the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.

But even that could take some time — given an inch, Cuban President Raul Castro is now demanding a mile from the administration before relations are normalized, including the return of Guantanamo, financial compensation, and the lifting of the embargo by Congress.

“I plan to continue to be a voice for the oppressed, whether they be in our own hemisphere or on the other side of the globe,” Rubio said. “I look forward to working to ensure that U.S. programs aimed at advancing these freedoms are effective and achieving results that are consistent with our values as a nation.”

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Lindsey Graham Keeps Threatening To Run For President

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Stephen Kruiser

Your guess is as good as mine.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Thursday formed a political organization to explore a potential run for his party’s presidential nomination, the latest high-profile politician to test the 2016 waters.

Graham would attempt to use his South Carolina home base to his advantage for any potential run, since the Southern state is typically the third to hold a nominating contest in presidential election years, after Iowa and New Hampshire.

“What I’m looking at is, is there a pathway forward on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire for a guy like me? I don’t know until I look,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Someone is feeding the squish horrible information. The only Republican outside of South Carolina who likes Graham is John McCain, and he isn’t exactly flush with presidential campaign mojo. In fact, the greatest thing that could happen to the GOP would be those two taking a permanent vacation together.

Of all the long-shot potential Republican candidates, Graham makes the least sense. He’s loathed by the base and really doesn’t excite many centrists. Perhaps his inner circle at home feels this is his participation trophy moment. The sooner it passes the better for all of us.

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House GOP February Agenda: Tax Breaks And Protection From Common Core

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Stephen Kruiser

Pinch me.

House Republicans will vote on repealing Obamacare next week, but this time the legislation will include “instructions” for committees to craft an GOP alternative.

In a memo sent to Republicans on Thursday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) laid out the agenda for the entire month of February, which will also include making permanent tax breaks for charitable giving and preventing the White House from “coercing states to adopt Common Core standards.”

Admittedly, I had set my expectations for this Congress low, so it is pretty easy for them to make me happy now. I am pleasantly surprised thus far, even with the hiccups.

They are also going to vote on a bill that would prevent any future attempts to raid 529 accounts. Just because this president figured out in a hurry that was a bad idea doesn’t mean some “revenue” seeking progressive won’t go after them in the future.

The most interesting tidbit on the agenda appears at the end of this article:

Next week, the GOP will also vote on a bill that attempts to “hold agencies accountable for the true cost of federal mandates” by imposing “stricter requirements for how and when federal agencies must disclose the cost of federal mandates and equips both Congress and the public with tools to determine the true costs of regulations.”

Putting the bureaucracy in charge of revealing how much bureaucracy costs may not be the most perfect solution, but this is a start. Nearly every (I’m being generous here) federal program and mandate is presented to the public with extremely low cost projections (see: Medicare) to make the sale go smoothly. It’s not unlike being told a new car is going to cost $10,000 and finding out that number was adjusted to $45,000 as soon as you signed the contract.

Any move towards increased transparency has got to help.

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White House Scraps Constitution, George Washington’s Rules in Netanyahu Rift

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Michael Hamilton

To the White House’s chagrin, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is proving to be more fox than hen, despite his avian nickname.

Months after an anonymous White House administration official bestowed the moniker “chickens**t” to the leader of the U.S.’s closest Middle Eastern ally, Netanyahu is planning a March visit to the United States that will bypass the White House entirely.

Aghast at such effrontery (the PM’s circumvention of the executive, not the excremental name-calling, which is peachy), White House officials have once again jettisoned not only their pocket companions to the Constitutionbut their bookstore-issue Rules of​  Civility and Decent Behaviour, famously transcribed by young George Washington as a homework lesson.

Before further venting their frustration through unnamed leaks and Press Secretary Josh Earnest, White House officials would do well to consider Rule No. 39:

“In writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.”

Paraphrased for White House: If you don’t have anything nice to say about the man staving off a nuclear Holocaust, it’s still in poor taste to slur him … and leak it.

Good advice for young George—and us. And it gets better. Like constitutional clauses, the Rules of Civility inform each other, allowing readers to test for violations as they discover other gems. The above, for instance, is buttressed by No. 48:

“Wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.”

Paraphrase for White House: Don’t be a hypocrite; practice what you preach (especially when accusing Netanyahu–er, Chickens**t–of poor diplomacy).

White House officials may be rude–but are they wrong? Actually, Press Secretary Josh Earnest rightly describes Netanyahu’s actions as a “departure from protocol.” Typically, he says, “the leader of a country would contact the leader of another country when he is traveling there.”

It also is typical, however, for the Obama administration to forget that in the United States, although the president is the ranking individual, the executive branch is co-equal to the other branches in law and in leadership. That means that Netanyahu did indeed contact the country’s leader–not a mere man, but Congress itself–when accepting the invitation of Speaker Boehner.

Pretending for a moment that size does matter, President Obama trumps Speaker Boehner. Period. It would be asymmetrical for Netanyahu to meet unilaterally with the speaker or other members of Congress.

But Netanyahu isn’t meeting with the speaker (except incidentally).

He is addressing both houses of Congress in a joint session. That’s 535 legislators, to be precise, whose “Laws … shall be the supreme Law of the Land,” when passed “in Pursuance” of the Constitution (Article VI).

Size matters here, too.

It cannot be said that the executive branch trumps the Legislative. True, President Obama is fortunate to occupy a position virtually synonymous with his branch, and should be accorded due honors. True, he is the country’s chief diplomat in foreign relations. But as the incarnation of a co-equal branch, he is no more the gatekeeper for Congress’s decisions and guests than Congress is for his. And if the president’s brazen expansion of executive power during his terms says anything, it is that Congress is not his gatekeeper.

For once, Congress has learned that turnabout is fair play.

So before his staff resumes berating Congress or besmirching Israel’s prime minister, the president would do well to float Rule No. 41 in a memo:

“Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Professes. It Savours of arrogance.”

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Ready For Mitt 3.0? Me Neither

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh
Don't go away mad, just go away

Don’t go away mad, just go away

Why won’t this consistent loser just go away? He lost a Senate race to Ted Kennedy. He lost the GOP nomination in 2008 to the awful John McCain. Four years later, he lost the presidential race to the even worse Barack Hussein Obama. He couldn’t fight Obama on Barrycare since he himself was the architect of Romneycare during his one term as governor of Massachusetts (he chose not to run for re-election because he knew he was going to lose). And now he’s back, maybe, to almost nobody’s acclaim:

Mitt Romney’s nascent 2016 presidential campaign has a bit of a problem: It’s broadcasting what its 2016 campaign and candidate will look like, but political reporters and analysts are dubious.  To recap: Romney’s team has said that he will cast himself as an ally of the poor and middle class rather than the wealthy, as a foreign policy candidate, and as someone who is “authentic.”

All three of these things, in case you deliberately wiped the 2012 campaign from your memory, were among Romney’s big hindrances in that race. There was the “47 percent” comment about poor people not paying taxes, his stumbles while overseas, and his inescapable image as a buttoned-down plutocrat who didn’t connect to average people.

Accordingly, reporters have written about all of this as a “rebranding” effort. Only a top 2012 Romney aide, deputy campaign manager Katie Packer Gage, says that’s not fair…

The definition of “rebrand,” according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, is “to change the corporate image of a company.” Now, Mitt Romney is not a corporation — though Romney himself might actually disagree on that count — but what he’s doing is unquestionably rebranding.

“Rebranding” suggests more than a change in advertising strategy, but rather a wholesale re-casting of the image of the corporation/person involved. According to just about everything written about Romney 2016′s message, that is precisely what his team is trying to do. They are trying to turn the guy who scoffed at poor people not paying taxes into an ally of the poor. They are trying to turn the guy who offended London on the eve of the Olympic Games into the foreign-policy guy. They are trying to turn Mitt Romney into someone who isn’t quite so, well, Mitt Romney.

Willard, however, will always be Willard. The GOP needs to forget its dinosaur also-rans (Romney, Santorum, Huckabee) and just accept the fact that its next presidential nominee is going to be either Scott Walker or Ted Cruz and that’s the end of it. Act accordingly, Stupid Party.

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Congressional Iraq War Vet: Trade by Jordan Would Hand ISIS ‘Moral Victory’

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

An Air Force veteran in Congress who served in Iraq said Jordan should not trade a would-be suicide bomber for a pilot’s freedom as it hands ISIS a “moral victory.”

Jordan has been weighing a deal for the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi awaiting the death penalty for her role in the grisly 2005 bombing of a wedding reception at the Radisson in Amman. Her husband killed himself, but her suicide belt failed to properly detonate and she was captured.

ISIS had requested al-Rishawi be freed in exchange for Japanese war reporter Kenji Goto. Jordan wants any such deal tied to the release of air force pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh as well, but they haven’t received any proof of life that the pilot is OK.

The latest deadline set by ISIS, which has passed, was sunset today.

“Look, you have to have sympathy for the Jordanian people. They watched for a month their pilot on television paraded around, this hero,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said on Fox. “So you understand that. This sets a very bad precedent.”

“Look at the fact that, why does ISIS want this to happen in the first place? Do they really want this so-called ‘lady al-Qaeda’ out? Maybe. But at the end of the day, they wanted a victory. That will be a huge victory for them if they are able to get Jordan to, in essence, show up on their knees, release a prisoner who as been convicted through a legal court system to get their pilot back. It’s as much as a moral victory for ISIS than anything.”

U.S. Special Forces reportedly attempted, unsuccessfully, to rescue al-Kasaesbeh earlier this month.

On Christmas Eve, ISIS released the ID card of Kasasbeh and paraded parts of his downed plane, as well as images of the pilot in a soaked T-shirt and stripped from the waist down with blood coming from his mouth. ISIS’ magazine ran an “interview” with the pilot and referred to him throughout as “murtadd” — apostate.

“This is going to it be a multiyear process, especially with the president saying we will never use ground troops in this case. You will see these hostage situations and these desires for swaps and these #100 or $200 million ransom, and more beheadings. We will see this forever. This is their M.O. and they want this as a moral victory,” Kinzinger said.

“Think about the moral victory, unfortunately, maybe if this pilot has already been murdered. We hope he hasn’t been. And then Jordan offers to make a swap and find out he was murdered anyway. Again, the thing ISIS is seeking here is a major moral victory. A moral victory to them will help them recruit. They will have brought down this infidel regime in Jordan. It’s a very dangerous situation. It’s going to lead to further kidnappings and further danger. That’s why we don’t negotiate with terrorists. We can’t do it.”

There’s been extra political pressure on King Abdullah to swap for the pilot’s life because the young man comes from a powerful tribe that’s critical to support for the monarchy.

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Think Scandinavia Is Paradise? Think Again

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

That’s expat Michael Booth’s considered opinion in a Washington Post essay today:

I live in Denmark, and although it appears to have been surpassed as the happiest country in the world by Panama, Costa Rica or Fiji (depending on which list you believe), it is still a pretty great country, especially in which to raise kids. But Scandinavia is not the utopia that American liberals or the 11 million Americans of Nordic descent often make it out to be, just as it is not the quasi-commie, statist gulag that those on the right would often have us believe. And global and domestic events are conspiring to make life a little more uncertain for these former high achievers. I am not just talking first-world problems, although those are definitely a Scandi specialty — at a recent dinner party, I heard one woman complain that her son’s preferred university did not offer the surfing degree he wanted. Rather, the Scandinavian model’s structural fissures are coming under increasing stress.

Booth goes on to list some of those fissures, including declining oil revenues in Norway and the chiseling that eventually creeps into the social-welfare system. But then he goes and blows his whole argument apart by worrying about mosque firebombings and the rise of a “neo-Nazi” right wing:

The Sweden Democrats party, which has its roots in the neo-Nazi movement, won 13 percent of the vote in September’s general election. Some credit its rise to Sweden’s “open door” immigration policy; others point to the poor integration of those immigrants and their resulting overrepresentation in crime and unemployment figures. Either way, the party’s electoral success prompted hasty political horse trading among other parties intent on keeping extremists as far from the levers of power as possible, which in turn prompted allegations that Sweden’s political establishment was subverting the democratic process. This has distracted from the slowing economy, increasing state and household debt levels, and one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Europe.

There’s barely a nod to the rising levels of Muslim crime in Scandinavia, where the invaders look at the Nordic women as both whores and targets of opportunity, although Booth does mention the stupefying levels of alcoholism in a country like Finland (not, strictly speaking, Nordic, although it does have a sizable Swedish minority). And then, of course, there are the taxes:

But here are just two Scandi-paradoxes that might make you hesitate before signing on a nice penthouse in Turku: These countries that do so well in life-satisfaction surveys also record the highest consumption of antidepressants in the world, and despite their reputation for gender equality, they have the highest rates of violence against women in Europe.

I suspect that few Americans would truly embrace a Scandinavian-style society. The tax rates alone would likely be a sufficient deterrent. Though I’m a freelance journalist, I essentially work until Thursday lunchtime for the state. And it’s not as if the money that is left in my pocket goes all that far: These are fearfully expensive countries in which to live.

Even if you are willing to accept such downsides, there is no exportable model for turning a country Scandinavian. These lands have evolved into the flawed, fascinating paragons of civilization that they are today over many centuries, through a combination of unique historical events, religion, geography and climate — to which some might add DNA. There is no secret to replicate their success.

“Some might add DNA”? Where does Booth think Scandinavian culture comes from? Immigrants from North Africa? The more immigration from Arab countries, the less Scandinavian the Scandinavian countries will become. And once they’re gone, there’s no getting them back.

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Strong Bipartisan Support for Iran Sanctions Bill as it Passes Committee 18-4

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
YouTube Preview Image

The Menendez-Kirk Iran sanctions bill passed its first test today with flying colors, receiving an 18-4 vote to move it out of the Senate Banking Committee.

The “no” votes came from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Democrats who voted in favor of the bill were Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

Included in the final bill was an amendment from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) expressing the sense of the Congress that it should vote on any final agreement about Iran’s nuclear program.

“Congress votes on treaties and trade agreements, including agreements that allow for the exchange of peaceful nuclear technology and material between the United States and other countries, such as Japan and India,” said Toomey.

“A final deal with Iran about its nuclear program is certainly no less important, and it deserves a public debate in Congress along with a vote.  Our national security interest in preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons will extend far beyond the 18 months that will remain in this administration’s term by the time a deal may be reached,” he added. “Congressional approval would make a pact more durable, and the importance of such an agreement with Iran should have the national commitment that comes from a bipartisan consensus in Congress.”

In addition to Kirk and Menendez, original co-sponsors of the bill are Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Schumer, and Donnelly.

It would implement new sanctions on the Islamic Republic after the June 30 negotiations deadline if a deal is not reached.

The administration would be required to submit any agreement to Congress within five days. Congress would then have 30 days to review the pact before the president can give Iran any sanctions relief agreed to at the P5+1. There also would need to be certification that a sanctions waiver is in the national security interest of the U.S.

If Congress acts before the deadline, reimposition of sanctions could happen as early as August, specifically targeting the petroleum and financial sectors as well as regime officials.

Senate Dems co-sponsoring the bill want a vote after the March 24 framework deadline. That would put the congressional action after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 address to a joint session of Congress, and after the giant AIPAC conference in D.C. at which Bibi will also speak.

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VIDEO: Mother & Child Burn to Death in Inglewood Apartment Fire This Morning

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Dave Swindle

KTLA.Com reports:

Two people – believed a young mother and her child – died early Thursday morning and three others were injured when a fire ripped through a 17-unit apartment in Inglewood, officials and residents said.

Firefighters responded to reports of a fire in the 600 block of Queens Street (map) around 2:30 a.m. L.A. County Fire Inspector Randall Wright said.

About 55 firefighters worked nearly an hour to knock down the two-alarm blaze, and fire officials remained on the scene as of 5 a.m.

Two females died, according to the coroner’s office, which did not provide age estimates.

Neighbors said they believed the two dead were a mother under the age of 30 and her daughter, thought to be 3 years old or younger.

This is startling news to wake up to — not only is the apartment nearby but it’s on the same street as one that we applied for last summer when making our move from the San Fernando Valley.

One of the big stresses in making the move was that we didn’t get the first apartment that we wanted. My wife went to a lot of effort to send our application next-day, only to be sabotaged when the clerk put in the address wrong, delaying it by an extra day, causing the apartment to go to someone else. (There are plenty of apartments in Inglewood, where my wife had decided to locate her art studio after graduating with her MFA in May, but the number of them that would accept our 70-pound Siberian Husky Maura was much smaller.)

A #cute #closeup #video of Maura #siberianhusky snuggling before bedtime.

A video posted by David Swindle (@daveswindlepjm) on

Digging through my email I’ve been trying to find the exact address of the apartment on Queens Street we lost out on — if memory serves, it isn’t the same one that saw tragedy this morning, it’s just a few blocks further east — but it might as well have been. I’m treating it in my mind as though it was.

It’s my 31st birthday today and perhaps I’ll make this the lesson of the day to try to remember for the year: that the unknown variable — randomness, fate, chance, divine intervention, what Machiavelli labeled “fortune,” however you want to label it — can’t be forgotten or dismissed.

So here’s a big leap of a thought, but somewhat along these lines: I’m starting to think from my study of history that there’s a strong probability I wouldn’t exist and really, my whole family wouldn’t exist, if FDR hadn’t died during World War II and been replaced by Harry Truman who ended the war by dropping the atom bomb. (The state of Israel might not exist either, would it? If FDR had been the president instead of Truman, would he have supported the Jewish state?)

Truman had the moral clarity to use the bomb. It’s an open question if FDR would have done the same had he lived — I have little reason to think he would have. The war more likely would have dragged on and my grandfather, a pilot in the Pacific, would have more likely been killed in an invasion of Japan, and then never to return so my father could be born.

How much of history has turned on the errors of file clerks and on the decisions of individual men? How many lives just go up in smoke seemingly out of chance for no reason, while others because men in positions of power choose — or don’t choose — to take vital action?

The #siberianhusky starts the day with confidence, as always. #sunrise shot from our walk earlier today.

A photo posted by David Swindle (@daveswindlepjm) on

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Code Pink Tries to Arrest 91-Year-Old Kissinger for ‘War Crimes,’ Get Smacked Down by 94-Year-Old George Shultz

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
YouTube Preview Image

A Senate hearing opened this morning with Code Pink protesters trying to arrest former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for “war crimes.”

The protesters, bearing signs reading “Kissinger War Criminal” and “Cambodia,” rushed up behind the 91-year-old diplomat at the witness table of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which was holding a hearing on global challenges and the U.S. national security strategy.

Also testifying were 94-year-old former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and 77-year-old former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he would call recess until Capitol Police removed Code Pink from the room.

“I’ve been a member of this committee for many years, and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place,” McCain said, which led to shout-backs from the protesters.

“You know, you’re going to have to shut up, or I’m going to have you arrested. If we can’t get the Capital Hill Police in here immediately… Get out of here, you low-life scum,” McCain added.

“So Henry, I hope you will — Dr. Kissinger, I hope on behalf of all of the members of this committee on both sides of the aisle — in fact, from all of my colleagues, I’d like to apologize for allowing such disgraceful behavior towards a man who served his country with the greatest distinction. I apologize profusely.”

Later, when Kissinger began his opening statement, more protesters popped up in the room, screaming about Vietnam and rattling off his “war crimes.”

“Vietnam! From 1969 to 1973, Kissinger, working for Richard Nixon, oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, that led to the deaths of millions — millions of people. Many thousands more died from the effects of massive doses of agent orange and from unexploded bombs that covered the countryside!” a protester shouted. “Chile! Henry Kissinger was one of the principle architects of the coup in Chile on September 11th, 1973…”

Shultz then stood up to verbally battle the protesters, saying, “I salute Henry Kissinger for his many contributions to peace and security.” That led to a standing ovation from the committee members and audience that drowned out Code Pink.

MORE: Shultz “very uneasy about the way our negotiations with Iran are going on”

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DEA Has Abandoned Plans to Track Cars at Gun Shows

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Liz Sheld

The head of the Drug Enforcement Agency announced yesterday that the agency had abandoned plans to use surveillance cameras to photograph license plates appearing  in the vicinity of gun shows.

DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart said in a statement that the proposal memorialized in an employee’s email was only a suggestion, never authorized by her agency and never put into action. The AP also learned that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not authorize or approve the license plate surveillance plan.

Are these the kinds of ideas we are paying tax dollars for? I’m glad this wasn’t “approved,” but someone obviously thought it was “on the table” for consideration.

Automated license plate scanners take pictures of every vehicle that passes their field of view and record the information in a database that can be used to track a vehicle’s movements over time.

Why would the government even think it should “keep track” of law-abiding citizens participating in a purely legal social activity?

Cameras are everywhere now, on police cruisers, utility polls, traffic lights and mounted in front of private businesses. Does the government have the right to catalog and monitor innocent comings and goings? The AP writes, “The scanners have raised significant privacy concerns even though they generally only record cars and trucks driving on public roads. There are no consistent, national rules that govern how police can use the information, how long it can be saved and how widely the records can be shared with other police agencies.

And therein lies the problem. We have a government full of bureaucrats who see no problem throwing ideas around like “let’s catalog and monitor people who attend gun shows,” which is a sly run-around to the national gun registry the leftists and gun grabbers are always agitating to create. Coupled with very suspicious and punitive behavior by the IRS to target “tea party types,” the last thing we should allow is the government to amass information on an “undesirable” class of citizens.

 

 

 

 

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Sheriffs’ Assoc. Doubles Down on Campaign Against Waze Cop-Tracker

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Liz Sheld

On Monday, I wrote about the Sheriffs’ Association lobbying Google to remove a feature on its popular GPS app Waze that allows users to report when they see police officers seeking motorists to ticket for driving infractions. Initially, the sheriffs claimed that allowing citizens to locate police officers on taxpayer-funded highways and streets enables people to stalk and possibly ambush law enforcement officers.

The Waze app is a combination GPS/social network that allows users to report information subsequently shared with other app users. Not only can users report the location of a police car or highway patrol but they can report broken-down automobiles on the side of the road and red-light cameras.

Now, the sheriffs have “broadened the criteria” on which their objections to the app are based.

Just as I suspected, the new complaint against Waze is based on hampering the use of speed traps or, as I prefer to call them, “fundraisers.” The sheriffs are now claiming that radar guns and speed-enforcement techniques have reduced highway fatalities and accidents. And, consequently, warning drivers about speed traps would result in situations that endanger the automobiling public.

“This app will hamper those activities by locating law enforcement officers and puts the public at risk,” the group said.

Nonsense. If drivers slow down because they know there is a patrol car in the area, isn’t that the point? 

“Most users tend to drive more carefully when they believe law enforcement is nearby,” Waze spokeswoman Julie Mossler said.

Unless the point isn’t to stop reckless driving or speeding but rather to issue speeding tickets to generate revenue.

We currently live in a society where the Department of Justice, the mother-ship of law enforcement, is cataloging and stalking the movement of all cars, and yet the sheriffs have the nerve to suggest that the public doesn’t have the right to know the same information about them.  And it’s not just the right to know, it’s the right to speak freely about what we know.

Publicly broadcasting information falls under the First Amendment. “Waze represents person-to person information in the public square,” said Nuala O’Connor, head of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington civil liberties group. “And that’s long been a U.S. right under the Constitution.”

It’s time to take a few steps back and consider what path we are going down when law enforcement thinks it’s entitled to restrict the fundamental law of free speech in the service of entrapping citizens for minor traffic violations.

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Annals of Dhimmitude, Cont’d

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

Read this and weep:

First, we asked them what preconceived notions they have about women who wear hijab. Then we brought in Edina Lekovic, a Muslim woman who has worn hijab for two decades, to help give the women one perspective on a complex topic.

You see where we’re going with this, don’t you?

For the most part, they were surprised by how little attention the hijabs received.

This being Buzzfeed, the story is told through video and animated gifs. Be sure to zip through it to see what these modern feminists have to say about the hijab, using the language of cultural relativism and female “empowerment” to guide them into the dark ages. And then join my crusade to repeal the 19th Amendment, for they’re clearly too stupid to vote responsibly. Maybe these sorority sisters are right.

Somewhere in hell, Osama bin Laden is taking another victory lap.

 

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Boehner: ‘I Was the Tea Party Before There Was a Tea Party’

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Fox in a wide-ranging interview today that he can definitely bring together disparate points of view within his caucus.

“Listen, I was the Tea Party before there was a Tea Party. I understand their concerns. I understand their frustrations. But we have a Constitution that we abide by and we’re going to live by,” Boehner said.

“And that means we’ve got separate and equal branches of the government. And whether people like it or not, Barack Obama is going to be the president for the next two years. We’ve got to find a way to hold him accountable and try to find common ground to get things done on behalf of the American people.”

Asked if this Congress is his “last time around,” the 65-year-old speaker replied, “No. No. No. I’ll be here for a while.”

On his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Boehner said White House officials “don’t even try to hide” their antipathy toward Bibi.

“I believe that the prime minister of Israel has a strong voice. He believes that the threat of the Iranians having a nuclear weapon is a very serious threat,” Boehner said.

“The Israeli prime minister can also talk with some expertise about the growing threat of radical Islam. We’ve got a serious problem in the world, and the president just wants to act like it’s going to just disappear. And so as a co-equal branch of our government, I don’t have any problem at all in doing what I did to invite the prime minister to come to Congress and address those concerns.”

Boehner said he hadn’t heard of Jeremy Bird, who served as national field director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, working in Israel to defeat Netanyahu, “but I don’t want to say I’m surprised or not.”

“But I would hope that would not be the case,” he added. “Israel has been our strongest ally in the region for decades. We have a great relationship with them. And we ought to what — look for ways to work together on behalf of our shared interests, not have the kind of antipathy that we’ve seen over the last several years.”

The Speaker said House Republicans are working on an Obamacare alternative. “There are three committee chairmen that have the jurisdiction over the health care policy in our country. And those three chairmen are working together to craft what we believe would be a better approach with regard to health care for the American people than Obamacare,” he said.

He also confirmed that his new lawsuit against Obama is coming together.

“The president’s overreach when he took executive action to — to deal with the immigration problems in our country, frankly, in my view, is a violation of our Constitution is — it’s a violation of his oath of office,” Boehner said. “I said in December, we were going to do everything to try to stop it. That’s why when we passed the DHS appropriations bill a couple of weeks ago, we took the president’s ability to do what he did away from him. That bill is awaiting action over in the United States Senate.”

The White House has vowed to veto such a bill, or any that strips funding for the immigration executive actions.

“But in addition to that, we believe that the filing of a lawsuit to try to stop the president from violating our Constitution is an important step for our institution,” Boehner added. “This isn’t about immigration. This is the president violating the Constitution, violating his oath of office and, frankly, not upholding the rule of law.”

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Homeland Security Adviser Mohamed Elibiary Goes on Hate-Filled Anti-Christian Rant, Attacks Jindal as ‘Bottom Feeder’

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

Obama administration Muslim adviser Mohamed Elibiary is no stranger to regular PJ Media readers.

In September, Elibiary was unceremoniously removed from his fellowship position with the Department of Homeland Security, which he tried to spin as a “resignation,” but letters sent to members of Congress by DHS officials indicated he would not be reappointed.

Undoubtedly, one of the chief reasons for DHS cutting ties with Elibiary was a long string of extremist statements he had been making on Twitter, including talking about the inevitability of the return of an ISIS-style caliphate — tweets that were subsequently used by ISIS supporters for recruiting purposes.

But Elibiary has apparently not learned his lesson, engaging in a hate-filled anti-Christian rant on Twitter yesterday, even going so far to attack Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as a “bottom feeder”:

Nor, as you’ll see below, is this the first time he has indulged in his anti-Christian bigotry.

Before revisiting his Twitter meltdown, perhaps it’s useful to revisit some of Elibiary’s greatest hits:

  • Elibiary admitted that his mentor and long-time friend was none other than Hamas terrorist leader Shukri Abu Baker, who is currently serving a 65-year prison sentence.
  • In 2003, Elibiary was listed as a board member for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Dallas chapter, which was founded by now-convicted Hamas operative Ghassan Elashi. In 2008, federal prosecutors declared in a federal court brief that “from its founding by Muslim Brotherhood leaders, CAIR conspired with other affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood to support terrorists.”
  • In Dec 2004, Elibiary was a featured speaker at a Dallas rally honoring the Ayatollah Khomeini as a “Great Islamic Visionary,” an event the Dallas Morning News called a “disgrace.”
  • Immediately after the Fort Hood massacre in November 2009, Dallas Morning News editor Rod Dreher recounted Elibiary’s strident defense of jihadist ideologue Sayyid Qutb, whom the 9/11 Commission identified as the chief architect of Al-Qaeda’s ideology.
  • In April 2010, he published an op-ed at Fox News pleading with the Obama administration to not kill senior Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
  • In June 2010, he attacked the Supreme Court after they upheld the material support for terrorism statute in an op-ed for the Dallas Morning News.
  • In June 2011, the IRS revoked the 501c3 tax-exempt status of Elibiary’s Freedom and Justice Foundation for failing to file the required IRS Form 990s over a period of several years, documents which would reveal the source of his organization’s funding.
  • In October 2011, I reported exclusively here at PJ Media that Elibiary had downloaded sensitive documents by the Texas Dept. of Public Safety from a secure DHS database, and then unsuccessfully tried to shop them to the media claiming then-Gov. Rick Perry was running an “Islamophobic” operation. Despite multiple claims by top DHS officials that an internal investigation exonerated Elibiary, in Sept 2013 DHS admitted in response to the Judicial Watch FOIA request that no records related to any internal investigation existed, prompting members of Congress to claim DHS was engaged in a cover-up. Texas DPS, having conducted their own investigation, severed their relationship with Elibiary.
  • After 30 million Egyptians took to the streets to remove Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, leading to his ouster, Elibiary added a Muslim Brotherhood logo to his Twitter avatar in solidarity with the extremist Islamic group.
  • In November 2013, Elibiary took to Twitter to announce that the U.S. was a shariah-compliant Islamic country.

So that provides some context for his hate-filled Twitter rant yesterday.

Elibiary began his meltdown by denouncing “guilt by association,” and then engaged in the very group scapegoating (“Christianist culture wars”) he had just condemned:

Then in a bizarre statement, he claimed that Islam is the driving force for the “Far Right” (presumably he means that hatred of the religion of Islam itself drives the “Far Right” — again another sweeping group indictment that he previously denounced):

He then launched into a rage about “Christianist subculture”:

“Christianist” is a slur invented by Leftist reactionaries to attack Christians who take their faith seriously and are politically involved. And yet if Elibiary’s co-conspirators at CAIR can denounce the use of the term “Islamist,” as they recently did, isn’t it equally bigoted and unfair to use the term “Christianist” to attack Elibiary’s perceived enemies?

But he continues, identifying “Christianist subculture” as a “problem” for Muslims, and presumably one that must be eradicated:

“Christianist” subculture is unAmerican:

And again the attack continued, as he demonized a large group he had just identified in the millions as hateful and xenophobic:

And demonstrating the complete lack of self-awareness of his own hypocrisy:

Mohamed, if you find yourself gravitating towards a view that blames “Christianist subculture” broadly, then you’re lost.

But don’t dare call him out on his hypocrisy!

One is given to wonder what Elibiary’s reaction would be if someone were to simply modify his tweets to replace “Christianist subculture” with “American Islamist subculture.” Undoubtedly, he would froth at the mouth with rabid accusations of racism and “Islamophobia.”

This, however, is not remotely the first time that Christians have been the targets of Elibiary’s unbridled rage.

In September 2013, he engaged in a series of tweets attacking Egyptian Coptic Christians:

Which prompted this shocked response from a UK Coptic bishop:

But Elibiary was back spewing anti-Christian hate again last April, attacking Coptic church leaders as immoral:

As I witnessed first-hand in Egypt last year, Elibiary’s Muslim Brotherhood allies sacked and burned down nearly 100 churches in August 2013 and launched an ongoing wave of terror targeting Copts and the government after the ouster of Morsi. During Morsi’s regime, attacks on Christians were commonplace, with the Muslim Brotherhood setting up torture chambers for Christian protesters right outside Morsi’s palace. When Christians were murdered in April 2013, a Muslim mob aided by Morsi’s police attacked the funeral service and mourners at the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo. So it’s no surprise that Christians overwhelmingly supported Morsi’s overthrow.

And the outrage of Coptic Christians is understandable when, despite all the contrary evidence, Elibiary tweets out this:

Clearly, it is long past time for Elibiary’s friends to stage a mental health intervention. And because he exhibits undeniable anti-Christian hatred and bigotry, he clearly has no place advising anyone in our government.

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US Ranks 12th in Index of Economic Freedom

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Every year since 1995, the Heritage Foundation has published an Index of Economic Freedom that ranks every country in the world by how free their economy is.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The index measures commitment to free enterprise on a scale of 0 to 100 by evaluating policies related to the rule of law, government size, regulatory efficiency and market openness.”

The US ranking has been dropping since 2005, when we stood at #5 in the rankings and our score was high enough that we were designated a “free” economy. Since then — and especially in the 5 years of the Obama administration, the US has tumbled out of the top ten and our overall score has us designated as a “mostly free” economy. Our current ranking is 12th — same as it was last year.

This year, we saw a slight uptick in 7 of 10 indices, making this the first year since 2009 we haven’t lost any ground in economic freedom.

Although the precipitous downward spiral in U.S. economic freedom since 2008 has come to a halt in the 2015 Index, a 1.6-point decline in overall economic freedom over the past five years reflects broad-based deteriorations in key policy areas, particularly those related to upholding the rule of law and limited government. Continuing to trail such comparable economies as Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Canada, America has been ranked “mostly free” since 2010.

The anemic post-recession recovery has been characterized by slow growth, high unemployment, a decrease in the number of Americans seeking work, and great uncertainty that has held back investment. Increased tax and regulatory burdens, aggravated by favoritism toward entrenched interests, have undercut America’s historically dynamic entrepreneurial growth.

Part of the reason for the slight rise in our numbers is attributed by Heritage to the Republican Congress:

President Barack Obama’s second-term efforts to expand government spending and regulation have been thwarted to some extent by Republican Party opposition in Congress. Economic policy leadership has devolved by default to the Federal Reserve, whose attempts to use monetary policy to stimulate economic activity have not restored robust growth. Implementation of the 2010 health care law, which has reduced competition in most health insurance markets, remains a drag on job creation and full-time employment. Overall, the U.S. economy continues to underperform, despite a private sector–led energy boom that has made the U.S. the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. The weak economic recovery and uncertain responses to foreign policy challenges, particularly in the Middle East, in Ukraine, and along the southern U.S. border, have contributed to a loss of support for the President and his party and Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress as a result of 2014 midterm elections.

Compare the “Limited Government” index between the US and Hong Kong, who is ranked #1 in economic freedom:

The top individual income tax rate is 39.6 percent, and the top corporate tax rate remains among the world’s highest at 35 percent. Other taxes include a capital gains tax and excise taxes. Tax revenue is equal to 24.3 percent of gross domestic product, and government spending is well over one-third of GDP. Public debt exceeds the value of the economy’s annual production.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, has a low personal and business tax rates:

The standard income tax rate is 15 percent, and the top corporate tax rate is 16.5 percent. The overall tax burden equals 13.7 percent of domestic income. Government expenditures amount to 18.5 percent of gross domestic product. Public debt is low, and a budget surplus has been maintained, but population aging and greater spending on social programs have increased fiscal pressures.

Here are the top ten most free and least free countries according to the Index:

MOST FREE

1, Hong Kong
2. Singapore
3. New Zealand
4. Australia
5. Switzerland
6. Canada
7. Chile
8. Estonia
9. Ireland
10. Mauritius

LEAST FREE

178. North Korea
177. Cuba
176. Venezuela
176. Zimbabwe
174. Eritrea
173. Equatorial Guinea
172. Turkmenistan
171. Iran
170. Republic of Congo
169. Argentina

Note the countries ahead of the US, including Estonia (?), Chile, Switzerland, and #11 Denmark. When democratic socialist peoples like the Swiss and Danes are freer economically than the US, you know something is radically out of kilter.

The rankings are a useful guide to approximating economic freedom. But there is not always a strong correlation between economic liberty and personal liberty. Hong Kong and Singapore are considered “partly free” by the Freedom House “Freedom in the World” rankings, with restrictions on the press and some draconian laws, like receiving lashes in Singapore for spitting.

Heritage points out that there have been 145 major regulations issued by the Obama administration, adding $70 billion to the economy’s regulatory tab — burdening business, reducing job creation, and slowing growth. It appears business growth will continue to be stifled until President Obama exits his office – two long years from now.

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Cuba Whips Out ‘Iranian Playbook,’ Demands More Concessions from Obama

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The Castro regime took another step today as it, in one lawmaker’s words, pulled out the “Iranian playbook” to extort as much as possible from the U.S. after President Obama’s move to normalization relations with the communist country.

At a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States today, Cuban President Raul Castro demanded that Guantanamo Bay be returned to Cuba before any relations are re-established.

Castro also wants “just compensation” in cold, hard cash “to our people for the human and economic damage that they’re suffered,” and an end to the embargo that can only be lifted by Congress.

“The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process of normalizing bilateral relations, but this will not be possible while the blockade still exists, while they don’t give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base,” Castro said.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who immigrated from Cuba to the U.S. as a young child, cited the legally binding agreement between the U.S. and Cuba regarding Guantanamo: “So long as the United States of America shall not abandon the said naval station of Guantanamo or the two Governments shall not agree to a modification of its present limits, the station shall continue to have the territorial area that it now has.”

“Naval Station Guantanamo Bay is strategically important for U.S. national security, and as our own military personnel have said, also plays a key role as a logistical hub in support of a variety of U.S. priority efforts in the region,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “The president must not allow this strategic asset to be extorted from the U.S. by the Castro brothers at any cost.”

The Castro brothers, “once again,” the congresswoman said, “have made their intent toward the United States clear: they plan to use the Iranian playbook in an attempt to extort concessions from the Obama administration in exchange for nothing.”

“Noticeably absent from the regime’s demands, not surprisingly, is any offer to compensate the Cubans and Americans who had their land and property seized by the Castro regime, any change in its oppressive nature and abysmal human rights practices, and to halt its support for terrorism.”

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BREAKING: Boko Haram Releases Video Interview With Spokesman

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

The African terror group Boko Haram has released an interview with their spokesman, Shaikh Abu Mus’ab Albarnawi, where he discusses the recent BH offensive in northern Nigeria, where reportedly 2,000 civilians were killed and the city of Baga and 16 surrounding villages were razed (English translation included):

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See also my analysis from last month, “Nigeria Teeters on the Brink: 8 Terrifying Trends.”

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This Pastor in Niger Has a Stunning (and Beautiful) Response to Having His Home and Church Destroyed

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard
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In case you missed it, Muslim protesters, angry about the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, have destroyed more than 70 churches, killing at least ten people since January 16th. The protesters, angry over depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, have attacked not only Christian churches, but also Christian homes and schools — and even an orphanage. Various sources reported that there was little protection offered to Christians by security forces in Niger, which made them an easy target. Christians whose homes were destroyed fled with just the clothes on their backs.

But in the midst of the heartbreak and destruction — and the attempt to annihilate the tiny Christian church in the 98% Muslim country of Niger — one pastor has a message of hope and even expressed his gratitude for what the church has experienced.

“They burned our church, they burned my house, only we emerged safely and we glorify God for that,” he said. “All that I can say is this: may the name of the Lord be glorified right now in Niger.”

Instead of complaining about the suffering, the pastor took to heart the Apostle Paul’s instructions to rejoice in it. “So it is a glory and a joy that they burned our church,” he said. “We are moving forward and this is the time for the harvest. Many souls will come to Christ in Niger. I believe that!”

In other words, the pastor knows that God’s ways are higher than man’s ways. Just as Joseph said to his brothers who sold him into slavery in Egypt, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,” the pastor in Niger knows that history has demonstrated over and over and over again that the Christian church grows — often exponentially — during times of persecution. So instead of looking at the immediate circumstances and the temporary suffering, he is able to find hope, believing that God will ultimately triumph over evil.

 ”Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 Peter 4:12-14

Here are some heartbreaking social media posts — and a few very hopeful ones as well!

There are 7 police trucks guarding the outside of our church in Maradi, For 2 days the youth of the church are inside literally holding up the walls of the compound, The grounds of the church are covered with rocks and debris at the many attempts from the mob to enter, Over 30 churches have been burned in the capital Niamey (where we currently are), Pastors and church members are now displaced with nothing more then the clothes on their back,  As we stand in a burned down church this morning, We know that He makes all things new, We know that the church will rise through persecution, The events of the past few days are the evidence of Gods Kingdom invading Niger, This is not simply a response to something that happened in France, It is not a political demonstration against the current President of Niger, It is the devil trying to burn down what God has built, But, like Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego – God is with us in the fire, He is with us in every fire of life and is faithful to complete the great work He has started. Be apart by praying and giving at runintl.org

A photo posted by Trae Childs (@traechilds) on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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White House: Taliban an ‘Armed Insurgency,’ So We Didn’t ‘Make Concessions to Terrorist Groups’

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Pressed by reporters about why the Jordanians can’t trade a would-be suicide bomber to ISIS for the return of a downed pilot, the White House said today that deal-making with the Taliban to win Bowe Bergdahl’s release was different.

“The Taliban is an armed insurgency. ISIL is a terrorist group. So we don’t make concessions to terrorist groups,” spokesman Eric Schultz said today.

Jordan said a short time ago that there is no deal in place yet for the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi awaiting the death penalty for her role in the grisly 2005 bombing of a wedding reception at the Radisson in Amman. Her husband killed himself, but her suicide belt failed to properly detonate and she was captured.

ISIS had requested al-Rishawi be freed in exchange for Japanese war reporter Kenji Goto. Jordan wants any such deal tied to the release of air force pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh as well, but they haven’t received any proof of life that the pilot is OK.

“Our policy is that we don’t pay ransom. We don’t give concessions to other — to terrorist organizations,” Schultz said at today’s briefing. “But in terms of details on the negotiations between the Jordanians and the Japanese, I’m gonna refer you to their governments.”

“I can tell you that this is a longstanding policy that predates this administration. And it’s also one that we’ve communicated to our friends and allies across the world.”

Schultz was asked how Jordan’s swap would be different from the U.S. release of five Taliban commanders for Bergdahl’s freedom.

“As you know, this was highly discussed at the time, and prisoner swaps are a traditional end of conflict interaction that happens,” the spokesman said. “As the war in Afghanistan wound down, we felt like it was the appropriate thing to do. The president’s bedrock commitment as commander in chief is to leave no man or woman behind. That’s the principle he was operating under.”

Then, he said the Taliban — hosts of al-Qaeda camps, suicide bombers, throwers of acid on schoolgirls — didn’t qualify as terrorists.

“The Taliban is an armed insurgency. This was the winding down of the war in Afghanistan. And that’s why this arrangement was dealt,” Schultz continued. “Our view is, as the president said at the time, which is, as the commander in chief, when he sends men and women into armed combat, he doesn’t want to leave anyone behind. That was the commitment he was following through on this.”

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki was posed similar questions at today’s briefing.

“We’re not going to discuss the details of our diplomatic exchanges with Jordan, with Japan, with any other country involved. Our position is well know. The United States government policy in terms of how we operate is, we don’t make concessions to terrorists. That is our policy. I don’t think there’s any secret about that to other countries around the world,” Psaki said.

“…Every country has the ability and the right to make decisions about — obviously, within the realm of what is acceptable by international law. We have our own positions, our own views, that are well-known, and there’s reasons behind them.”

Does the administration believe the Bergdahl swap fell within those parameters? “We do, yes.”

“We have our own positions, as many other countries do, on things like ransoms and swaps for a reason,” Psaki said.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Dem on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN today that it’s “very difficult” to distinguish a Jordan swap from the Bergdahl swap.

“They’re in a difficult spot. And as you point out, we did trade Bowe Bergdahl for this Taliban, in something that I’m not sure was a very good exercise and a very good precedent for the United States to set,” Schiff said.

“But in any event, Jordan is a key ally. We’ll support them with whatever they decide they have to do. This is the scourge of dealing with a terrorist organization that is willing to behead people if it doesn’t get what it wants. There are no laws of war. There are no rules of war. There’s nothing but brutality, and murder and death when it comes to ISIL. It ought to reinforce why this terrorist group has to be stopped.”

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Psaki After Hezbollah Attack: Israel Can Defend Itself, But ‘Preference’ Is No More ‘Back-and-Forth’

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Two Israeli soldiers were killed today by a series of Hezbollah missiles fired from the Lebanon side of the border at a military convoy.

The United Nations said it’s investigating the death of a Spanish member of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) after Israel responded to the Hezbollah attack with airstrikes and artillery, Reuters reported.

“I would like to send condolences to the families of the fallen and my best wishes for a full recovery to our wounded soldiers. Whoever is behind today’s attack will pay the full price. For some time, Iran – via Hezbollah – has been trying to establish an additional terrorist front against us from the Golan Heights,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of an evening meeting with security officials.

“We are taking strong and responsible action against this attempt. The Lebanese government and the Assad regime share responsibility for the consequences of the attacks emanating from their territories against the State of Israel,” Netanyahu continued. “In all of these events, our mission is to defend the State of Israel.”

“Our only consideration is the security of the State of Israel and its citizens. Thus we have acted and thus we will continue to act.”

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki urged both sides to remain calm.

“We support Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense and continue to urge all parties to respect the blue line between Israel and Lebanon as prescribed by UNSCR 17-01,” she said. “We also, of course, condemn the act of violence, and will be watching the situation closely.”

Pressed for clarification on “the act,” Psaki clarified that they condemn Hezbollah’s attack.

“We certainly encourage all parties to respect the blue line between Israel and Lebanon. We urge all parties to refrain from any action that could escalate the situation. You’re familiar with our views on Hezbollah. As I’ve mentioned, we strongly condemn Hezbollah’s attack today near the border. But beyond that, I’m not going to speculate further,” she told reporters.

“…But certainly, our preference is to reduce the tensions and the violence and the back-and-forth from here.”

Psaki added, “Look, this is a situation where there has been an attack from Hezbollah. Obviously, we condemn that. Is our preference that there are no more attacks and that the UNSCR is abided by? Yes. But we also believe Israel has the right to defend itself.”

“Maybe the way to state your position would be that you would prefer that Israel not exercise its right to self-defense,” a reporter said.

“I wouldn’t state it in that way, though I appreciate your offer to give us talking points,” Psaki retorted.

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Dems Beg Supes for a Mulligan On Obamacare Law

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

Even though this is, prima facie, a bald-faced lie, the Democrats are, of course, arguing it anyway:

The congressional Democrats involved in writing the Affordable Care Act told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that they intended for consumers in all states to be eligible for subsidies, and they argue that the law they drafted reflects that intention.

Opponents have challenged the Obama administration’s enforcement of the law, arguing that it only allows subsidies to be paid in states that set up their own exchanges, but not to customers in most of the country who use the federal exchange.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and their colleagues disputed that in a new brief filed with the Supreme Court Wednesday, saying to leave out some states would defy the entire reason they passed Obamacare — “to make health insurance affordable for all Americans.”

Oh, please

The court case rests on language in the law that says subsidies will be paid to those in exchanges “established by the state.”

Mr. Obama’s opponents say that means the federal exchange, which covers the two-thirds of states that refused to set up their own exchanges, are not eligible. The opponents, pointing to comments from some Obamacare defenders, say Congress had intended to use the subsidies as a way to entice states to set up exchanges, rather than leave the job to federal officials.

But the Democratic lawmakers who wrote and passed the law called that argument “so weak” and say they never meant to draw that kind of distinction, saying the law grants subsidies to “applicable taxpayers” and defines them by income, not by geography.

Hey, I know — let’s ask an expert!

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Jonathan Who? Never heard of him.

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The Black Knight Rises

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

One thing you have to give the Democrats: they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit. Even after getting various body parts hacked off and handed to them last November, they’re still — taking a cue from Fearless Leader Barry — swaggering around like the cocks of the walk:

House Democrats are feeling emboldened as they head to their annual issues conference and a pep talk from President Obama in Philadelphia this week, relishing a series of stumbles by the Republican majorities in Congress and rallying around a populist tax-the-rich agenda that they are convinced will score points with voters.

Rep. Steve Israel of New York, who headed up House Democrats’ campaign operation last year and now runs the Policy and Communications Committee, said Tuesday that his party had quickly regained its footing after taking a beating in the November elections. “The opening weeks of this Congress have not been kind to the Republicans. They have been a reminder to middle-class Americans that the Republican priorities are wrong,” he said.

Never underestimate the incompetence of the Stupid Party, nor the malevolence of the Evil Party. If Weepy John Boehner is such a crackerjack Speaker, he surely could have managed to slam-dunk his abortion and immigration bills. But, of course, no.

Presenting themselves as champions of the middle class and Republicans as allies of the rich, Democrats have embraced the liberal agenda that Mr. Obama presented last week in his State of the Union address. The plan included a plan to raise taxes on the wealthy and give a slew of tax breaks to middle-class families, free tuition at community colleges, boost the minimum wage and mandate employers provide paid sick leave.

Mr. Israel said these “paycheck” issues will pay off for Democrats in the 2016 elections.

Interesting how the Democrats have redefined “paycheck issues” as “gimme free stuff.” Still, it takes a lot of chutzpah when your president lives in Cloud Cuckoo-Land and your congressional caucus is at its weakest in decades to start getting frisky about the 2016 election. Especially when you look like this:

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Come on, you pansies! Fight like a man!

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Lean Forward: Two Days After Leftist Syriza Win, Greece Faces S&P Downgrade

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by David Steinberg

Moments ago (12:29 p.m. EST), Bloomberg Business posted a “Story Developing … ” blurb consisting entirely of the following:

The S&P is considering downgrading Greece’s credit following concerns over whether the nation can continue to service its debt.

Earlier today, Greek stocks, bonds, and banks suffered catastrophic collapse based entirely on the words of incoming Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras:

Leftwing Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras threw down an open challenge to international creditors on Wednesday by halting privatization plans agreed under the country’s bailout deal, prompting a third day of heavy losses on financial markets.

A swift series of announcements signaled the newly installed government would stand by its anti-austerity pledges, setting it on course for a clash with European partners, led by Germany, which has said it will not renegotiate the aid package needed to help Greece pay its debts.

After announcing a halt to the privatization of the port of Piraeus on Tuesday, for which China’s Cosco Group [COSCO.UL] and four other suitors had been shortlisted, the government said on Wednesday it would block the sale of a stake in the Public Power Corporation of Greece (PPC).

It also plans to reinstate public sector employees judged to have been laid off without proper justification and announced rises in pension payments for retired people on low incomes.

Uncertainty over the new government’s relations with the European Union went beyond economic policy. A day before the EU is expected to extend sanctions against Russia for six months, it was unclear if Athens would back its European partners on this move, after dissenting over a joint statement from the bloc on Ukraine on Tuesday.

Tsipras, who met Russia’s ambassador to Athens on Monday and the Chinese envoy the next day, told ministers that the government would not seek “a mutually destructive clash” with creditors. But he warned Greece would not back down from demanding a renegotiation of debt.

“We are coming in to radically change the way that policies and administration are conducted in this country,” he said.

Sigh. Few global events are more predictable than the reaction of markets — and the subsequent drop in general welfare — to socialist policies.

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VIDEO: AG Nominee Lynch Says ‘Waterboarding is Torture and Thus Illegal’

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by David Steinberg

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Dem Congresswoman: Obama ‘Not Recognizing That Islamic Extremism Is the Enemy’

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A Democratic congresswoman says the administration needs to be accurate about its descriptions of terrorists in order to properly fight terrorism.

“It’s not just about words, it’s not about semantics, it’s really about having a real true understanding of who our enemy is and how important that is, that we have to understand what their motivation is and what their ideology is, this radical Islamic ideology that’s fueling them,” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) told Fox.

“Just a couple of days ago, Secretary Kerry said in a speech that ISIS and al-Qaeda are engaging in, quote, ‘criminal conduct rooted in alienation, poverty, thrill seeking and other factors.’ Now if we really look at what he’s saying and if that’s really the cause, then the solution would be to give them a trophy, give them a hug, give them a good paying job, $10,000, and a skateboard so they can go and get their thrills and say, OK, great, they’re going to be happy and they won’t be fighting anymore,” she continued.

“That’s not the case. Unfortunately, we have people who are living in poverty all around the world, people who have this same feeling of alienation from their government, but they’re not terrorists. So we’ve got to look at what their ideology is and how that’s fueling these tragic attacks that keep occurring.”

Gabbard, the first Hindu member of Congress, is a captain in the Hawaii Army National Guard and Iraq combat veteran. She is also a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Her perspective, she said, “comes from experiencing not only the culture myself, personally, but also seeing the incredibly high cost of wars.”

“Seeing friends of mine who did not make it home, people who I served with in Iraq, and unfortunately, the countless other lives who sacrificed and paid that ultimate price,” she said.

Obama, Gabbard said, “really is not recognizing that Islamic extremism is the enemy.”

“We can see that through their actions, through the decisions that this administration has made. And Libya is a perfect example, where if you don’t know who your enemy is, you end up going to war with people who are not your enemy. In Libya, we had a situation where Gadhafi was taken out. We attacked Libya, and we look now rather than eliminating our enemy, these Islamic extremists, they’re stronger there now than they were before. And there are other examples. We look at the proposed attacks on Syria that occurred just over a year ago. Again, we’re dealing with a situation where this is not our enemy, this is not the people who are threatening the American people,” she said.

“It’s a real problem because of a very simple reason actually. That is something I learned as military 101, but something that’s easy for everyone to understand, and that is, if you are at war, which we are, you have to know who your enemy is in order to defeat them. You’ve got to recognize what’s fueling them, what’s motivating them, what are their strategies and tactics that they’re using in order to be able to defeat them and prevent them from attacking the American people.”

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Obama Calls On Harvard Alma Mater to ‘Spread Around’ $1.5 Billion in 2014 Donations It Received

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Scott Ott

Harvard University, best known for its former, albeit laconic *, Law Review president, has now distinguished itself in another way. Last year, Harvard received gifts in excess of $1.5 billion — that’s Billion, as in “you didn’t Build that.”

The president undoubtedly Tweeted Harvard’s Dean of Donations this week to remind him that “at a certain point you’ve made enough money,” and that, while he doesn’t want to punish Harvard’s success, “when you spread the wealth around it’s good for everybody.”

Obama probably urged his Crimson comrades to consider the egalitarian generosity of Charles and David Koch, who recently contributed $25 million to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) to help needy students at historically-black schools. President Obama almost certainly encouraged his alma mater to emulate this field-leveling behavior, even if doing so might cause a backlash from AFSCME, the union of government employees, which cut ties with the UNCF in protest over the Koch donation.

With only 106 historically-black colleges and universities, many of them struggling financially, Harvard could simply divide up that $1.5 billion in equal shares of $14 million (with Harvard also receiving its fair share.) What could be a more equitable way of addressing such savage income inequality?

It was, after all, a $37.5 billion record year for giving to America’s 4,800 colleges and universities, but $6.75 billion of that went to just 10 schools. In other words, the top two-tenths of one percent got 18 percent of the money.

Young Barack Obama posing by Harvard signYou may ask why Barack Obama, of all of the Harvard grads, should be the one to alert the guardians of this Ivy League bastion to their opportunity to address historical inequality?

As a millionaire, living in a palace, with servants meeting his every need, security watching his every step, becking and calling limousines and luxury aircraft, vacationing in posh resorts, and golfing his days away — Barack Obama clearly has the prestige, and the leisure time, to petition the captains of Cambridge, Mass., to redress this lingering injustice.

However, you may contend, the donors to Harvard did not intend their wealth to be spread around so liberally. 

Yes, but what is Harvard, if not an educational institution? Should that education stop after a few years of undergraduate work, a master’s or a doctorate? No, I say, let the learning continue for a lifetime, as Harvard teaches its wealthy capitalist alumni the vanity of greed and the surpassing value of selfless giving.

May Obama’s elite friends in academia experience the full blessing of his legacy of leveling.

 

* Though once a man of few words, Obama has since been super-cured of his erstwhile laconicism.

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Drone Operators to Obama After White House Crash: ‘More Regulation Isn’t the Answer’

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Hobby drone operators are fighting back against President Obama’s call for more regulations after a drone crashed on the White House lawn this week.

The drone operator reported himself to the Secret Service, saying he lost control of the craft.

In an interview with CNN while visiting India, Obama noted that “the drone that landed in the White House you buy in Radio Shack.”

“You know that there are companies like Amazon that are talking about using small drones to deliver packages… There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife.” Obama said. “But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it.”

Stressing that “these technologies that we’re developing have the capacity to empower individuals in ways that we couldn’t even imagine 10-15 years ago,” Obama said said he’d work with stakeholders to craft a regulatory framework that “ensures that we get the good and minimize the bad.”

The Academy of Model Aeronautics responded with a statement that “more regulation isn’t the answer.”

“The Washington, DC, airspace is some of the most heavily regulated airspace in the world, and all aircraft operations are currently prohibited in the vicinity of the White House. Despite the existing regulations, a quadcopter still made its way onto the White House lawn this week,” said AMA President Bob Brown.

“Community-based programming is the key to safe and responsible flying, as our organization’s 78-year history has shown. AMA has safety guidelines, best practices and operating principles that have allowed enthusiasts to operate their aircraft and safely use this technology for more than seven decades. When an incident occurs, it’s a rare day when one of AMA’s 175,000 members is involved,” Brown added.

Those members are spread throughout 2,400 clubs in the United States, the group said.

“AMA has always believed that the best, and perhaps the only, way to successfully manage the recreational community is through a community-based set of safety guidelines and the combined efforts of the FAA and AMA,” Brown said. “The FAA’s recent interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft has complicated our working relationship, but it is our hope that the agency will work with us to forge a path forward for the recreational community that finds common ground on the Interpretive Rule and leverages AMA’s deep expertise when it comes to safe and responsible flying.”

The AMA sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta last week asking for a meeting “to again offer our expertise and knowledge in support of the FAA’s effort to create guidance for the operation of recreational sUAS in the NAS.”

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Menendez, Kirk Introduce New Iran Sanctions Bill

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) officially introduced their Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 with 16 original co-sponsors and more expected in the days to come.

The Senate Banking Committee is expected to mark up the bill on Thursday. Senate aides have told PJM that there will be amendments coming down the pipeline.

In addition to Kirk and Menendez, this year’s reintroduction of Iran sanctions came with co-sponsors Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

It would implement new sanctions on the Islamic Republic after the June 30 negotiations deadline if a deal is not reached.

The administration would be required to submit any agreement to Congress within five days. Congress would then have 30 days to review the pact before the president can give Iran any sanctions relief agreed to at the P5+1. There also would need to be certification that a sanctions waiver is in the national security interest of the U.S.

If Congress acts before the deadline, reimposition of sanctions could happen as early as August, specifically targeting the petroleum and financial sectors as well as regime officials.

“The clock is ticking on a nuclear Iran, and the longer they have to build a bomb, the closer we are to witnessing a nuclear war in the Middle East,” Kirk said in a statement. “Sanctions against Iran have been signed into law four times with bipartisan, veto-proof majorities in both Houses. The time for action is now.”

Senate Dems co-sponsoring the bill want a vote after the March 24 framework deadline. That would put the congressional action after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 address to a joint session of Congress, and after the giant AIPAC conference in D.C. at which Bibi will also speak.

Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said even the markup of the bill is “something the Obama administration doesn’t want.”

“They’ve said that. They put pressure on their fellow Democrats not to support it. But we’re going to bring it out, and we’re going to let people vote up or down on it,” Shelby told Fox Business. “I hope they will vote the right thing, not the political thing.”

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The Tick-Tock Begins for Andrew Cuomo

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh
Moreland Commission? We never heard a' no Moreland Commission

Moreland Commission? We never heard a’ no Moreland Commission

The current New York governor and son of a former New York governor — no hereditary political families in these United States, no sirreebob! — is starting to find himself very, very lonely, rattling around in the governor’s mansion — no hereditary mansions in these United States, no sir! — in Albany. From the house organ (okay, the other house organ) of Democrat-Media Complex liberalism, Politico, this fine piece by Jeff Smith:

As news of numerous, exhaustively documented federal charges against New York Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver spread Thursday morning, the New York Daily News went looking for comment from Silver’s legislative colleagues. They found no shortage of pols who had long lived in fear of Silver—who was charged with taking several million dollars in bribes and kickbacks—but now are willing to turn on him. This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course. Most politicians, possessing unmatched self-preservation instincts, will distance themselves from an embattled colleague, and the alacrity with which they abandon him often speaks volumes about his behavior.

But one person who has worked closely with Silver didn’t attack or distance himself on this darkest of days for the speaker (who has expressed confidence in his eventual vindication). That would be Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Obviously, it’s bad for the speaker,” Cuomo acknowledged Thursday. “But it’s also a bad reflection on government, and it adds to the negativity. And it adds to the cynicism and it adds to the ‘they’re all the same.’” Why exactly would Cuomo go to such lengths not to impugn the inscrutable Silver, with whom he is not particularly close?

Good question! And, amazingly, Politico even manages to come up with the right answer: the big, stinking pile of horse manure known as the Moreland Commission, which Cuomo the Younger abruptly disbanded once it became known that he might be at least collateral damage as a result of its corruption investigation.

In 2013, the governor had charged the Moreland Commission with investigating state government corruption. According to the criminal complaint filed against Silver, as well as sources inside the commission, the speaker, who works as a lawyer outside of his government job, repeatedly refused to comply with commission requests to provide a description of the services he provided to his legal clients or a list of those clients, leading federal prosecutors to subpoena his firm. The Silver-led state assembly then filed a court motion to quash the commission’s subpoenas related to legislators’ outside income.

In exchange for allowing the campaign finance bill to pass, Silver allegedly demanded that Cuomo disband the commission, according to the complaint against Silver, and Cuomo—knowing that the commission was also examining the campaign spending of some of his largest donors—was apparently only too happy to oblige.

Silver has not publicly discussed these negotiations other than lambasting the commission’s inquiry into legislators’ outside income as a “fishing expedition”—perhaps because he knew all along that the guiltiest fish in Albany was staring at him in the mirror every morning. Cuomo has variously asserted that he disbanded the commission because it accomplished its primary goal of persuading the legislature to pass an ethics bill, and because the state didn’t “need another expensive prosecutor’s office”; while he originally called the commission “100 percent independent,” he later stated, “I can appoint it; I can disband it; I can appoint you; I can un-appoint you tomorrow.”

Here come the oh-oh part:

If Silver provides new details about Cuomo’s role in the negotiations that led to the commission’s demise, especially if the speaker reveals that Cuomo or his top negotiators were aware of the criminality underlying Silver’s desire to kill the commission, Cuomo’s vulnerability to an obstruction of justice charge increases. And Silver will be under unrelenting pressure to talk: pressure from the feds, pressure from his family and, of course, pressure rooted in any 70-year-old’s desire not to die in prison if it becomes clear that the only route to a short sentence is to give up a much bigger fish.

What are the chances Silver rolls? Given that US Attorney Preet Bharara has publicly said, “stay tuned,” I would say they’re pretty high. Unless, of course, Shelly should meet with an unfortunate accident along the way.

 

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Saudi Fatwa: Pledge Your Allegiance to King Salman Via Social Media

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

In the first transfer of power in Saudi Arabia since 1995, clerics there have ruled that citizens can fulfill their Islamic duty to pledge allegiance to King Salman via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. In fact, there’s a fatwa to this effect, reports Arab News:

A member of the Council of Senior Scholars said pledging allegiance to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman through social networking websites is allowed, especially since the monarch is the first Saudi king to have a Twitter account.

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Manie, a member of the council, said that any citizen can use social media to pledge allegiance to King Salman, stressing the importance of this gesture in Islam, local media reported.

… “On Twitter, there are more than one million tweets pledging allegiance to King Salman, while there were over a million messages during the past three days on the same site condoling the death of King Abdullah,” Saeed Jadallah, a social network expert told Arab News.

…“Furthermore, many Saudis found pledging allegiance to King Salman through their accounts on Twitter and others social websites easier than going to their respective governorates,” he said.

Saudis comprise the largest number of Twitter users in the Arab world. They take it so seriously that in 2012 a cleric issued a fatwa against buying Twitter followers, calling the practice “dishonest and mendacious.”

King Salman has 1.73 million followers, but predictably he follows no one.

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Imagine a World Without Saudi Arabia — It’s Easy If You Try

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

In the Guardian, Simon Tisdall thinks the unthinkable — and it’s about time:

It would be far-fetched to describe the US and Britain’s long-term relationship with Saudi Arabia as a love affair, although elements of romance, blind infatuation and lustful mutual gratification have never been entirely absent. But what has become painfully clear from the furious row over the sycophantic official reaction in Washington and London to the death, this month, of King Abdullah is how much the relationship has changed, at least on the west’s side of the bed…

Intent on offering his condolences and meeting Abdullah’s successor in person, Obama led an exceptionally high-powered delegation to Riyadh that included former secretaries of state, past presidential candidates and senior military commanders. Similarly subservient, Britain had already sent David Cameron and Prince Charles.

Yet when asked to justify this level of attention and, for example, the flying of flags at half-mast on government buildings, Downing Street was hard put to explain its stance. Saudi Arabia was an important ally and economic partner came the muttered reply from No 10, and others. To act otherwise would have been “aggressive” and impolite. A legion of critics vociferously disagreed.

This kneejerk diplomatic kowtowing, embedded in the thinking of a cold war, 1980s world that no longer exists, looks increasingly anachronistic and warrants close scrutiny. All the main policy planks underpinning the Saudi relationship are, more or less, under challenge.

Tisdall goes on to list them, including a shift in the balance of global oil-producing power (thanks, fracking! thanks, North Dakota!), which is breaking the sheikdom’s stranglehold on oil prices, but also its self-protective, two-faced role in the “War on Terror” (if Bush had called it by its proper name, a war on radical Wahhabist Islam, the Saudis wouldn’t have been able to get away with their tiresome act), and of course their despicable repression of women, public beheadings, etc.

The relationship with the west has survived several wars between Israelis and Arabs, in Afghanistan and in Iraq (twice); the chilling predominance of Saudi nationals in the 9/11 attacks and the rise of al-Qaida; serious bribery and corruption scandals and diplomatic rifts; recurring oil crises; deepening concern over Saudi funding for extremist religious teaching and its links to terrorism; escalating rows about egregious human rights abuses and the repression of women, and most recently, the Syrian calamity and the ascendancy of the black-shirted head-cutters of Islamic State.

But it has survived at what cost? For many in Britain and the US (which, post-1945, gradually assumed Britain’s geostrategic role in the Arabian peninsula, as elsewhere), the rationale binding western interests so closely to the Saudi state is no longer obvious, persuasive, welcome or easily justified.

You can say that again. Given its structural weaknesses, the sheikdom’s future under its new hereditary fraternal “monarch” looks very dubious.

Writing days before Abdullah’s death, the American author Stephen Kinzer warned that the basis of the west’s relationship with the Saudi regime was shifting in fundamental ways, while Saudi Arabia’s position in a region beset by insurrection and civil war was ever less secure. “The most intriguing candidate for collapse is Saudi Arabia,” Kinzer wrote. “For more than half a century, Saudi leaders manipulated the United States by feeding our oil addiction, lavishing money on politicians, helping to finance American wars, and buying billions of dollars in weaponry from US companies. Now the sand is beginning to shift under their feet. 

“After [King Salman, Abdullah’s successor, departs the scene], a power struggle within the royal family is likely. No one can say how intense or violent it might become, but the prospect of crisis comes at an especially bad time. The region is afire and oil prices are plummeting. It would be foolish to bet that Saudi Arabia will exist in its current form a generation from now.”

“Three generations and out” has long been rule in the United States, whether for Rockefellers or the Gambino crime family; or “from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” Let’s hope the same is true for the Saudis, although in this case it’s from camels to camels. 

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Obama Administration Cancels Helicopter Sale, Lending Tacit Support to Boko Haram Terrorists

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry paid a lip-service visit to Nigeria on Sunday. The country best known as Ground Zero in the fight against radical Islamists Boko Haram (remember #BringBackOurGirls of 2014?) will be holding elections in February that stand to determine whether the government will continue to be led by a Christian, or if the government will turn into a Muslim regime. If it were up to the Obama administration, the latter would be preferable, at least based off of their latest decision to cut off military aid in the form of much-needed helicopters to Christian forces:

Kerry promised more US support in the fight against Boko Haram if the elections take place peacefully and democratically. However, the United States apparently stopped a planned sale of retired American-made Cobra helicopters by Israel to Nigeria, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported Monday.

Haaretz has learned that the Defense Ministry had already made plans for the sale to Nigeria and the transfer of the helicopters – but the United States prevented the sale, due to fears that civilians would be harmed during the use of the helicopters in Nigeria.

The New York Times reported at the end of December that the US had blocked the sale “amid concerns in Washington about Nigeria’s ability to use and maintain that type of helicopter in its effort against Boko Haram, and continuing worries about Nigeria’s protection of civilians when conducting military operations.”

Radical Islamists are more than aware of the usefulness of civilians in waging operations against trained armies. The Obama administration’s rather clever excuse regarding civilians isn’t all that clever when one realizes Hamas uses the same argument in press releases involving their latest round of human shields.

But this administration has bigger goals on its plate than saving persecuted Christians in Nigeria. They have plenty of battles in their own self-titled “War on Muslims” to wage, which is most likely why, when speaking to the Nigerian audience on Sunday, Kerry “…referenced his Davos speech in which he said linking Islam to terrorist activities is ‘the biggest error we could make.’”

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