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Ted Cruz Says He’s Not ‘All That Conservative’ and He Has a Point

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

The New York Observer excerpted some choice lines from Ted Cruz’s meetings with various prominent Jewish leaders in New York City this week.

He’s definitely doing prep work for 2016 and, thanks to gross mischaracterizations of him by both Republicans and Democrats, he is probably quite underestimated all around. He is also smart enough to turn this to his advantage in these early stages of the election cycle. Responding to a question inspired by one of the more popular narratives — he can’t win — that Democrats and moderate Republicans are eerily in sync on, Senator Cruz had this to say:

Mr. Boteach said, “You are arguably the strongest U.S. Senator when it comes to Israel. But if you run, can you win? You’re seen as a champion of the tea party. And the media tends to caricature.”

Mr. Cruz replied, “Historically, the media has had two caricatures of Republicans. We are either stupid or evil.”

“Sometimes both!” volunteered one of the lunchers.

Mr. Cruz laughed and continued. “Reagan was stupid, according to the media. George W. Bush, Dan Quayle, stupid. Nixon was evil, Cheney was evil. I sort of take it as a backhanded compliment that they’ve invented a new caricature for me—crazy. At the end of the day, that caricature doesn’t trouble me because it’s fundamentally false. The American people have a history of making up their own minds.”

Mr. Cruz said that as groups who might be skeptical—like the one in this room—come to know him, doubts will be dispelled and stereotypes will be shattered.

He is right about this and the will guarantee that his detractors will expend a lot of effort trying to falsely define him.

Cruz surprised some by saying:

I don’t think I’m all that conservative. And it’s interesting. Reagan never once beat his chest and said, “I’m the most conservative guy who ever lived.” Reagan said, “I’m defending common sense principles—small businesses, small towns.”

The senator is correct about this as well. The Democrats were hijacked by ’60s era radicals and have been drifting ever-leftward for at least forty years. Republican moderates, driven by a desperate need to be liked, tend to get caught up in the wake of the Democrats and drift along with them, even if slowly and behind them. So, relative to a political class that is moving away from the American people, Cruz might seem uber-conservative. Real conservatives, however, don’t have a malleable set of political principles to work with. We’re where we have always been on the political spectrum, and a lot of the American people have always been here with us.

When you look at a red/blue map after the last election, the Democrats are ideologically and geographically at the outer edges of America. They’re literally a fringe party right now.

Ted Cruz isn’t an extremist, no matter how many times Democrat hacks and the John McCain crowd say he is. He’s  aligned with regular Americans who are tired of Washington raiding our wallets.

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Gowdy Re-Appointed Head of Benghazi Select Committee

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Liz Sheld

Speaker of the House John Boehner announced today that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) will continue on as the Chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi for the 114th Congress.

Boehner released a statement today.

“On September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in a brutal terrorist attack in Libya.  Two years later, the American people still have far too many questions about what happened that night – and why.  That’s why I will reappoint Rep. Trey Gowdy and the Republican members of the House Select Committee to investigate the events in Benghazi in the 114th Congress.  I look forward to the definitive report Chairman Gowdy and the Select Committee will present to the American people.”

However, the House will need to vote to re-establish the committee come January as it is a select committee and not a permanent one.

Boehner did not mention if the same Republicans would be on the committee or if new ones would be appointed.

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‘No Questions Will Be Asked’ When Obama’s Newly Minted Legal Aliens Sign Up for Obamacare

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Watch this clip from President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, 2009.

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That’s the famous “You lie!” moment. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) was moved to interrupt the president’s address, when the president claimed that Obamacare would not apply to illegal aliens.

Rep. Wilson has been finally vindicated.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell held an online chat with Latino bloggers on November 11, 2014. The bloggers asked Burwell about Obamacare benefits for “mixed families” — families in which some are present in the United States legally, while others are not.

Burwell said that so-called “dreamers,” people brought to the United States illegally when they were children, are not eligible, but she indicated that she and President Obama would like to change that. Surely another executive order cannot be far off.

But then she said “mixed families should come…Everyone should come on, and folks should not be scared. No questions will be asked, and it is not about an immigration issue.”

It is an immigration issue, and it’s a fiscal issue, it’s a rule of law issue and a constitutional order issue, but deeper than that, it is an honesty issue. Rep. Joe Wilson was right all along. American taxpayers, a majority of whom never supported Obamacare in the first place, will now be forced to subsidize healthcare for millions who are not even in the country legally.

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Schumer: Dems Must ‘Embrace Government, Not Run Away from It’ to Win in 2016

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) argued at the National Press Club this morning that Democrats can win back the majority in 2016 by courting the middle class.

“If you’d ask the average American what the American Dream means to him, he wouldn’t put it in fancy, textbook language or academic terms. He or she would put it very simply. They’d say: ‘It means if I work hard, I’ll be doing better 10 years from now than I’m doing today and my kids will be doing still better than me,’” Schumer said.

“However, if that torch flickers, if the torch is no longer lit, if people no longer believe in the American Dream, we become a different country. And that is exactly what is happening. The light is flickering, has been flickering for over the last decade. And that fact has dominated our politics more than any other.”

Schumer, who led the Democrats to 14 new Senate seats in 2006 and 2008 as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, ceded the post to Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in 2009. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) led the DSCC effort during this midterm, in which Democrats lost the Senate majority.

Schumer said the “most salient factor in our political economy is that for the first time in American history, middle class incomes have been in decline for over a decade and the grand optimism of America and the American Dream is itself in jeopardy.”

“The 2014 election results can be explained this way,” he said. “During 2013, neither party convinced the middle class that they had an effective way to get them out of this morass; that they had an effective plan to create good jobs and raise incomes. As 2014 began, the parties were in stalemate. But when government failed to deliver on a string of non-economic issues — the rollout of the Obamacare exchanges, the mishandling of the surge in border crossers, ineptitude at the VA, the initial handling of the Ebola threat — people lost faith in government’s ability to work and then blamed the incumbent governing party, Democrats, creating a Republican wave.”

The senator argued that the American public “knows in its gut that a strong and active government is the only way to reverse the middle class decline.”

“Democrats lost in 2014 because the government made mistakes that eroded the electorate’s confidence in its ability to improve the lives of the middle class,” he said.

Schumer said the stage is set for a 2016 Democratic victory “if and only if we can convince people that government can work and help restore the middle class to prosperity.”

Democrats, he stated, need to “embrace government, not run away from it” in order to win.

“The Republican mantra that less government works is counterintuitive to the middle class because they know that government is needed to stand up to the big economic forces like technology and globalization that push them around,” he said. “If Democrats can create a convincing plan that is both achievable and believable, embracing government is a way to help the middle class advance, we will roll to victory in 2016.”

Democrats need to make the case that “government can be on their side” and convince voters that their party “will make government the people’s champion, not captive to the powerful.”

“Now, this message has an element of populism. Democratic populism does not mean the rabble-rousing populism or divisiveness of Huey Long or William Jennings Bryan. Democratic populism recognizes that the powerful have much more access and influence over government, and specific and strong actions must be taken to curb that influence so government can really represent the average person,” Schumer said.

“…We must convince the middle class that the only way out of their morass is by embracing a strong and effective government, not demeaning or running from it.”

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Most of the Businesses Destroyed in the Ferguson Riot Were Owned By Minorities

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The fact that Ferguson, MO’s businesses played no role at all in the shooting of Michael Brown did not save them. Many were destroyed Monday night. Unknown rioters set fire to some, and either those same rioters or others fired upon the fire fighters who braved the violence to try putting the fires out. Some rioters looted stores and shops that were owned by minorities who live in the community.

The orgy of violence will leave Ferguson a “ghost town,” according to this bewildered resident. She says that she came out Monday night just to make sure that the rioters had not destroyed her place of work.

“I mean, this is crazy,” she said. “I mean, the business didn’t do anything. If they were going to do something, get the right people, if they have to do it.”

She added that the AutoZone, which is seen burning in the background, was where she purchased her auto parts.

CNN’s Sara Sidner asked the resident what she thinks will happen to the community now that so many businesses have burned.

“They’re not gonna rebuild,” she answered. “It’s just gonna be like a ghost town.”

According to KMOV-TV, most of the businesses that were destroyed in last night’s rioting were owned by minorities.

One of those businesses was a cake store, Cakes and More, owned by Natalie DuBose. DuBose sold cakes at flea markets while she saved up to open up her own store so she could feed her kids and succeed.

She did succeed, only to have the rioters destroy her business among the nearly three dozen businesses that were looted or burned or both.

 

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Taliban Spokesman Sounds Off About Ferguson with Racist Slur

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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The spokesman for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan then had to be told by another mujahideen that he was being racist:

Later, Abdulqahar Balkhi used the trending hashtags #FergusonDecision, #FergusonRiotTips and #Ferguson to attempt to steer Twitter users toward a new release from the Taliban’s multimedia division.

The new video, “The Land of Epic Battles,” contains “footage from Ghazni province of armed attacks against enemy bases and patrols, IED attacks of the vehicles of invaders and their stooges as well as a martyrdom attack on a base organized into three parts totalling approximately one hour and twenty three minutes,” according to the Taliban’s Cultural Commission.

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Is Russia Banning Islam?

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Raymond Ibrahim

Russia appears to be taking serious moves to combat the “radicalization” of Muslims within its border.

Recent pro-Islamic reports are complaining that Russia is banning the Islamic hijab—the headdress Islamic law requires Muslim women to wear—and, perhaps even more decisively, key Islamic scriptures, on the charge that they incite terrorism.

In the words of Arabic news site Elaph, “Russia is witnessing a relentless war on the hijab.  It began in a limited manner but has grown in strength, prompting great concern among Russia’s Muslims.”

The report continues by saying that women wearing the hijab are being “harassed” especially in the “big cities”; that they are encountering difficulties getting jobs and being “subject to embarrassing situations in public areas and transportation.  The situation has gotten to the point that even educational institutions, including universities, have issued decrees banning the wearing of the hijab altogether.”

Moscow’s Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University appears mentioned as one of the schools to ban the donning of the hijab on its premises, specifically, last September (the New York Times bemoaned an earlier instance of anti-hijab sentiment in 2013).

While this move against the hijab may appear as discriminatory against religious freedom, the flipside to all this—which perhaps Russia, with its significant Muslim population is aware of—is that, wherever the Islamic hijab proliferates, so too does Islamic supremacism and terrorism.  Tawfik Hamid, a former aspiring Islamic jihadi, says that “the proliferation of the hijab is strongly correlated with increased terrorism…. Terrorism became much more frequent in such societies as Indonesia, Egypt, Algeria, and the U.K. after the hijab became prevalent among Muslim women living in those communities.”

The reason for this correlation is clear: strict Islamic Sharia commands jihad (“terrorism”) against unbelievers just as it commands Muslim women to don the hijab. Where one proliferates—evincing adherence to Sharia—so too will the other naturally follow.

But Russia’s growing list of Islamic books to be banned on the charge that they incite terrorism is perhaps more significant.  Elaph continues: “This move [ban on the hijab] coincides with a growing number of religious books to be prohibited, with dozens of them being placed on the terrorist list, including Sahih Bukhari and numerous booklets containing verses from the Koran and sayings of the prophet.”

According to Apastovsk district RT prosecutors, Sahih Bukhari is being targeted because it promotes “exclusivity of one of the world’s religions,” namely Islam, or, in the words of a senior assistant to the prosecutor of Tatarstan Ruslan Galliev, it promotes “a militant Islam” which “arouses ethnic, religious enmity.”

This is significant.  While one may expect modern day books and tracts written by the likes of al-Qaeda or the Islamic State to be banned, Sahih Bukhari, compiled in the 9th century, is fundamental to Sunni Islam (that is, 90 percent of the world’s Muslims).   Indeed, the nine-volume book is often seen as second in importance only to the Koran itself and contains the most authentic sayings attributed to the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

And yet, that this important scripture promotes “exclusivity”—that is, supremacism—and “arouses ethnic, religious enmity”—that is, “terrorism”—should not be missed on anyone.  The following few statements contained in Sahih Bukhari and attributed to the prophet of Islam speak for themselves.  Muhammad said:

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Grace: Owner of Looted Pastry Shop Vows to Carry On

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by David Steinberg

Natalie Dubose, owner of Natalie’s Cakes and More on on 100 South Florissant Road in Ferguson, had her store looted last night, then appeared on a local Fox affiliate hours later after what must have been a torturous, sleepless night, and could not possibly have been any more lovely and demonstrative of her obviously exceptional spirit. I simply could not have made such an appearance without expressing rage; Natalie is instead primarily concerned that she may not get her Thanksgiving orders out on time to what must be a loyal group of customers.

Al Sharpton could not be reached for comment.

Watch her interview here, then visit her Facebook page here and send her some business. The likelihood that her insurance policy would cover a riot is next to nil — she’ll need a heck of a lot of extra business to get back on her feet.

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Negotiating Partner Iran Declares Victory in Nuke Talks, Reaffirms Support for Terrorists

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

After Iran bought seven more months of nuclear negotiations, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared victory against the U.S. and Tehran’s support for terrorism.

 

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Michael Brown Is a Victim. But Not in the Way That You May Think.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

According to the grand jury in Ferguson, MO, 18-year-old Michael Brown lost his life on August 9, 2014 when he charged police Officer Darren Wilson.

Wilson had his gun drawn. When Brown charged the police officer, who was much smaller than he was, the officer feared for himself and fired.

But how did Brown get to that point?

Moments prior to the fatal shots, the grand jury found that Brown had had an altercation with Officer Wilson at* the back of the officer’s car. Brown went for the officer’s weapon. Wilson fired two shots at that point. Forensic evidence — gunpowder residue on Brown’s hand, a wound on Brown’s hand, Brown’s blood on the gun and in the car — says that there was a fight between the teenager and police officer. After the first shots, he fled, then turned back toward Wilson.

But how did things get to that point?

Moments before the altercation in the squad car, Officer Wilson had stopped Brown and a friend, Dorian Johnson, who were walking down the middle of the road and disrupting traffic. Wilson did not know what Brown and Johnson had done just prior to that, or why they were disrupting traffic.

Moments prior to that, Brown and Johnson had robbed a liquor store. They didn’t take cash, though. They stole less than $50 worth of Swisher Sweets cigars. Brown was supposedly heading off to college soon. Why did he risk everything for a petty robbery?

And why did he act like a thug and steal that specific type of cigar?

It turns out that Swisher Sweets cigars have a specific purpose to marijuana smokers. Some pot smokers take Swisher Sweets, which are among the cheapest cigars on the market, hollow them out, and fill them with pot. That disguises the pot as an ordinary cigar. Brown’s social media included strong hints that he used Swisher Sweets cigars in that way.

Stealing Swisher Sweets cigars doesn’t necessarily make Michael Brown a drug user. Social media posts suggesting that he was a drug user don’t make him a drug user. But the amount of THC, the chief active ingredient in marijuana, found in Brown’s autopsy does mean that he was a drug user. Just prior to the robbery of the convenience store, Brown had used so much pot that he could have had hallucinations, according to the autopsy. He may have been hallucinating when Officer Wilson confronted him in the middle of the street. We will never know.

How did Brown get to the point where he was a heavy pot user, at least once, and strong-arm robbed a liquor store to obtain cigars used to conceal drug use? And from whom was he concealing that drug use?

Answering those questions may finally get us to understand what happened to Michael Brown, and why. We need to rewind far past August 9, 2014, back as many as 18 years.

Did Brown’s parents know who his friends were? Did they know about his drug use? Did they know about his social media habit of pretending to be a gang banger? Was he one of those kids born into a “good family” that taught him well, only to reject those values? Was he taught any values at all?

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Holder Says DOJ Has ‘Resisted Forming Premature Conclusions’ in Ferguson Investigation

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department’s investigation into the Michael Brown shooting is still “ongoing” despite the conclusion of the St. Louis County grand jury proceeding.

“Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now,” Holder said in a statement late Monday. “Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence. And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.”

Holder, who visited Ferguson in August, called Brown’s death a “tragedy.”

“This incident has sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve,” he said. “While constructive efforts are underway in Ferguson and communities nationwide, far more must be done to create enduring trust.”

“The Department will continue to work with law enforcement, civil rights, faith and community leaders across the country to foster effective relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and to improve fairness in the criminal justice system overall. In addition, the Department continues to investigate allegations of unconstitutional policing patterns or practices by the Ferguson Police Department.”

Holder said in early September that during his visit to Ferguson he heard people “consistently” express “compelling” concern about law enforcement incidents and a “lack of diversity on the police force.” He added that the review of “constitutional policing” practices would be undertaken by the Civil Rights Division.

“Though there will be disagreement with the grand jury’s decision not to indict, this feeling should not lead to violence,” Holder continued in his Monday statement. “Those who decide to participate in demonstrations should remember the wishes of Michael Brown’s parents, who have asked that remembrances of their son be conducted peacefully. It does not honor his memory to engage in violence or looting.” CNN reported this morning that more than a dozen stores were burned in the aftermath of the verdict.

“In the coming days, it will likewise be important for local law enforcement authorities to respect the rights of demonstrators, and deescalate tensions by avoiding excessive displays—and uses—of force.”

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FDA to Mandate Calorie Counts on Prepared Foods

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Liz Sheld

Thanks to our nanny government, Americans will be faced with the unavoidable reality of a calorie count should they chose to purchase prepared food in restaurants and other venues.

The Food and Drug Administration will announce today the new calorie labeling rules for all establishments that sell prepared food. The calorie counts must be displayed “clearly and conspicuously” on the menus. Business have until November 2015 to comply with the new rules.

AP reports: “The regulations will also apply to convenience stores, bakeries, coffee shops, amusement parks and vending machines.” There’s no escaping it.

The idea is that consumers will pass on a delicious cheese steak and opt for a healthy sprout-filled salad, hold the dressing, if they were to know exactly how many calories are in their meal. Conversely, the government is hoping that restaurants will be conscientious, and make food with lower calorie counts. It sounds like the government is trying to turn the entire country into one of Michelle Obama’s lunch rooms full of starving students eating healthy, government-approved slop.

“Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home and people today expect clear information about the products they consume,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said. The effort is just one way Americans can combat obesity, she added.

If people really expected that, business would provide it to them voluntarily. Many establishments provide nutrition information on their websites as it is.

Grocery stores and convenience stories lobbied to get out the requirements, but to no avail.

It’s not just the consumer who will be punished by the government.

“Representatives for the supermarket industry have said it could cost them up to a billion dollars to put the labels in place – costs that would be passed on to consumers. They said the rules could cover thousands of items in each store, unlike restaurants, which typically have fewer items.”

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Congressional Black Caucus Chair: ‘Unwritten Rule That Black Lives Hold No Value’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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On Monday Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) called the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown a “miscarriage of justice.”

In a statement released through the Congressional Black Caucus, which she chairs, Fudge said the decision not to indict Wilson “is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail.”

“This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions,” Fudge said. “This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America.”

“My heart goes out to Michael Brown’s loved ones, and to the loved ones of all the Michael Browns we have buried in this country,” Fudge said.

Last week, G.K. Butterfield, the incoming chair of the Congressional Black Caucus — and former Superior Court judge — said that a crime “probably was committed” in the shooting and he warned that “if [grand jurors] turn their backs on justice …there will be pushback from those who are concerned about it — and I’m one of those who’s concerned about it. There will be pushback. We will be asking questions.”

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Where’s Our Mockingjay?

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 opened in theaters around the world over the weekend and earned a hefty $275 million. In a year where domestic box office has been down overall, the film also earned more money in its opening weekend than any other film in 2014. The popularity of the Hunger Games series can’t be disputed, and has prompted a handful of similar franchises like the Divergent series and this year’s The Maze Runner and The Giver.

With plucky rebellion against dystopian tyrannies all the rage, an opportunity exists to draw some comparisons between these popular fictions and the real world. Indeed, the film has become a touchstone for protestors in Thailand. Fox News reports:

“The Mockingjay movie reflects what’s happening in our society. … When people have been suppressed for some time, they would want to resist and fight for their rights,” Nachacha Kongudom, 21, one of [three students detained at a screening], told AP. “Going to the cinema is the basic rights of the people. I’m here today to call for and to protect my rights.”

On Wednesday, five university students were arrested in northeastern Thailand after giving the three-fingered salute [from the film] during a speech by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup [against the elected government] as army commander.

It’s easy to see parallels between the Hunger Games stories and reality when you live under a military dictatorship. Panem, the fictional nation where these tales are set, operates as a fascist state where the individual languishes under subjugation. Dissent is brutally put down, and the enslaved populace is forced to offer up their children in tribute to a capitol which pits them against each other in a vicious death match.

Life in the United States is far from that portrayed in Panem. However, when the root issues at stake in the Hunger Games saga are identified, it becomes clear that Americans have much worth rebelling against.

At the core of nearly every policy pursued by the current administration has been a profound subjugation of the individual to the will of the state. Young people stand particularly victimized, forced to sacrifice their present and future happiness to fund promises made to the sick or the old, promises which actually benefit those in power. How does the individual mandate in Obamacare differ fundamentally from the slave labor in Panem? Sure, instead of the lash, we have the IRS. But the effect proves the same, individuals forced to feed the state.

In these years between elections, the opportunity exists to define the stakes in such terms. Young people may be socially liberal, a fact not likely to change. But they retain a sense of individual liberty which fiction like The Hunger Games stokes into conviction. Let’s build on those themes to present a vision for the nation where the pursuit of happiness becomes sacrosanct again.

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Brown Family Statement Vows Campaign for Police Body Cameras

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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On Nov. 20, in the video above, Michael Brown Sr. called for any protests of the grand jury verdict to be peaceful. Tonight, after the grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Michael Brown’s family issued this statement:

We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.

While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.

Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.

We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.

Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.

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Scott: Allow ‘Thorough Search for Justice and Truth for the Brown Family’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) reminded those displeased with the lack of an indictment against Officer Darren Wilson that there are still investigations pending in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

“Today’s announcement by the grand jury is one among a number of federal and state investigations related to this case. As federal and state officials continue to examine all the facts surrounding this tragedy and the subsequent events, I encourage the public to allow a thoughtful and thorough search for justice and truth for the Brown family and the community of Ferguson,” Scott said in a statement issued as unrest unfolded in the streets of Ferguson. “Each investigation and inquiry must be allowed to run its full course and do so without leaks or an attempt by one side or another to skew the public’s opinion.”

Scott said he encouraged “all people concerned about the death of Michael Brown and the events in Ferguson to channel their frustration, hurt and anger into productive, meaningful ways to build our communities, no matter where we live.”

Protests were also unfolding in Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, Seattle and outside of the White House in Washington.

“Earlier this evening, Michael Brown’s parents – Michael Brown, Sr. and Lesley McSpadden – respectfully requested that those who seek to have their voices heard, do so peacefully and without violence. I stand with them in that request, because it is time to rebuild and restore the Ferguson community, and others, which have been so hurt by these events. I stand ready to add my voice and actions alongside those that seek to do that,” the senator said.

“I am hopeful for more peaceful and constructive expression – whether people agree or disagree with today’s outcome – because the community of Ferguson has been through enough. Those that seek to use the death of Michael Brown or today’s grand jury decision to riot, loot or create lawlessness in any community only distract and divert attention away from important questions that remain to be answered,” Scott continued.

“As this long and complicated process continues, let us not forget that at its core, a family and community has lost a young man – Michael Brown. My thoughts and prayers are with his parents and those who loved him as they grieve their loss. And while I know their loss is heightened by many unanswered questions surrounding his death last August, I hope that good can come out of this tragic situation.”

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Ferguson Officer Wilson Releases Statement on the Grand Jury’s Finding

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Through his attorney, Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson has released a statement reacting to the grand jury’s decision not to indict him in the shooting of Michael Brown.

Today, a St. Louis County grand jury released its decision that no charges would be filed in the case involving Officer Darren Wilson. From the onset, we have maintained and the grand jury agreed that Officer Wilson’s actions on August 9 were in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern the procedures of an officer.

In a case of this magnitude, a team of prosecutors rightfully presented evidence to this St. Louis County grand jury. This group of citizens, drawn at random from the community, listened to witnesses and heard all the evidence in the case. Based on the evidence and witness testimony, the grand jury collectively determined there was no basis for criminal charges against Officer Wilson.

Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions. Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law. We recognize that many people will want to second-guess the grand jury’s decision. We would encourage anyone who wants to express an opinion do so in a respectful and peaceful manner.

On a side note, Officer Wilson would like to thank those who have stood by his side throughout the process. This continued support is greatly appreciated by Officer Wilson and his family. Moving forward, any commentary on this matter will be done in the appropriate venue and not through the media.

Small numbers of rioters are causing major trouble and violence in Ferguson. At least three stores have been burned and several police cars destroyed, despite the Brown family’s and President Obama’s call for peace.

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New York Daily News, You’re Part of the Problem

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

This biased front page speaks for itself. It is the NYDN’s irresponsible reaction to the grand jury’s decision in the Brown case.

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Obama on Ferguson: ‘Communities of Color Aren’t Just Making These Problems Up’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama emerged in the White House briefing room soon after the announcement of a grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Obama noted that “either way” the verdict “was going to be subject to intense disagreement,” so he wanted to concentrate on dialogue that “won’t be done by smashing car windows.”

“First and foremost we are a nation built on the rule of law, so this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” he said.

He reminded all that the parents of the deceased 18-year-old had called upon Ferguson to protest peacefully regardless of the verdict. “Michael Brown’s parents have lost more than anyone,” Obama said. “We should be honoring their wishes.”

The president noted “our police officers put their lives on the line for us every day,” adding, “As they do their jobs in the coming days they need to work with the community — not against the community — to distinguish those who want their voices hear on legitimate issues” from rioters or vandals.

“In too many parts of this country deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color,” Obama said, adding this is “tragic” because poor communities need good policing the most. Law enforcement should be trained to ensure officers conduct themselves “in a way that is fair to everybody,” he said.

“…Communities of color aren’t just making these problems up… we do have work to do here, we shouldn’t just try to paper it over.”

The president was asked if he intends to visit Ferguson once things settle down.

“Let’s take a look and see how things are going,” he said, noting that Attorney General Eric Holder already made the trip. “We have to make sure that we need to focus at least as much attention on all those positive activities that are taking place” as on those committing violent acts, he added.

Missouri’s two senators also responded quickly to the grand jury’s decision.

“There will be many people who are disappointed in today’s decision, even though it is a result of a deliberate legal process that’s being independently checked by Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Justice Department,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said.

“While we await the conclusion of that independent investigation — and continue working together for solutions to systemic issues highlighted by this tragedy — I’m praying that the good people of St. Louis and local law enforcement will remain peaceful and respectful of one another.”

As McCaskill released the statement protesters began clashing with police in the streets of Ferguson.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said he’s been “in close touch with clergy members and other local leaders” since Brown’s August death, “and I believe we all agree our first priority is peacefully healing and rebuilding the community after months of unrest.”

The Senate Republican Conference vice-chair stressed “we must balance the rights of Americans to exercise their free speech alongside the rights of people to live peacefully and safely in their communities.”

“My thoughts are with Michael Brown’s family today, as well as those in law enforcement who continue to protect the rights of all they serve, the National Guard members we ask to step forward during difficult times in our state, and all of their family members,” Blunt continued.

“Michael’s death was tragic, and the months since this tragedy have marked a challenging time in Ferguson and across Missouri. Together, I know we can move forward and heal as we work to find better job opportunities in and more investment for challenged communities.”

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Ferguson Grand Jury Declines to Indict Officer Wilson (Video Added)

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

After three months of deliberations, a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri voted not to indict police Officer Darren Wilson in the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown.

Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the grand jury’s decision Monday evening. As he made the announcement, thousands were assembled in Ferguson’s streets and threats of a return to riots and violence hung in the air.

The announcement was scheduled for 8 PM Central time, but the prosecutor was about 15 minutes late. During the waiting time, rumors swirled on cable news and social media that Officer Wilson would not be indicted.

In his lengthy statement, McCulloch noted that the grand jury and the federal investigators examined “all of the available evidence,” including witnesses, physical evidence from the scene, evidence from autopsies of Michael Brown, and all other relevant evidence. He also criticized the media for excessive speculation and sensationalism, despite the fact that he schedule the announcement to be in prime time, when it would surely attract massive media coverage, and after thousands had gathered in the city’s streets.

McColluch stated that he delivered his lengthy statement to ensure everyone that the grand jurors and the federal investigators had “examined every witness and every piece of evidence.” He noted that the grand jury deliberated for two days before reaching its decision.

“No probable cause exists to indict Officer Wilson,” McCulloch said. The grand jury had voted not to indict the police officer.

McCulloch then described the events of August 9, in which Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown.

While McCulloch continued to lay out the evidence that Brown had in fact attacked Officer Wilson, Brown’s family released a statement:

Update: Watch video of Prosecutor McCulloch’s statement.

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An Alternative View of the Issues Surrounding the Ferguson Grand Jury

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I don’t agree with this take on issues surrounding the Ferguson grand jury by Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe. But it is a valid interpretation based on his worldview that police are gunning for black kids and that nothing is being done about it.

The national hysteria over the Ferguson grand jury is a fresh indictment of America. The core issue is a charge of police brutality by a white officer shooting an unarmed black 18-year-old man. Yet all around the country, the talk is about black violence.

Here in Boston, police are sending out robocalls to public school students and sending messages to college students to stay calm. In Oakland, California, businesses are putting steel plates on their doors. In Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck said he hopes to get advance notice from Missouri authorities about whether or not the grand jury indicts Ferguson officer Darren Wilson for Brown’s shooting. And in Ferguson, some schools are already closed in anticipation of the decision, gun sales have skyrocketed and a state of emergency was declared by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

To be sure, Attorney General Eric Holder and many black clergy have also asked for police restraint for any protests after the grand jury decision is announced. But such balanced pleas have been drowned out by the drama of an FBI warning that the grand jury’s decision “will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure.” The memo said people “could be armed with bladed weapons or firearms, equipped with tactical gear/gas masks, or bulletproof vests to mitigate law enforcement measures.”

Meanwhile, police restraint is hard to come by.

Jackson points to the incredible shooting in Cleveland involving a 12-year-old boy with a pellet gun who was gunned down by officers. Another incident in New York City involved the shooting of a man in a dark stairwell  by a rookie cop.

Understandable confusion and an accident? Not according to Jackson:

Until the nation frets more about actual police killings than it does speculating on potential black violence, questions like Mallory’s will continue to be asked.In 1968, the literary critic Hoyt Fuller wrote, “Black people are being called ‘violent’ these days, as if violence is a new invention out of the ghetto. But violence against the black minority is in-built in the established American society.”

As if to prove that Fuller continues to be right, USA Today two weeks ago reported that the number of fatal police shootings around the country last year was nearly nine a week, the highest in two decades. Earlier this year, the newspaper reported that nearly two black people a week were killed by police in a seven-year span ending in 2012. While one in five black people killed by police are under 21, only one in 11 white people killed by police are so young.

And many criminologists say we hardly know the full truth as USA Today found that only 750 of 17,000 police departments around the nation file killings by police with the FBI.

Jackson concludes:

So far, the nation has settled for the worm’s eye view on police while maintaining an eagle watch for an explosion by black people. Although few want riots, the disparity between these views is so blatantly unequal that it guarantees that violence against the black minority will remain built into established American society.

Does all the talk about potential violence because of the Ferguson grand jury decision constitute a kind of intimidation in and of itself? I think it does. But it’s a tactic by authorities to keep the peace. The speculation about violence is meant to warn the radical elements that the police will be ready for anything. As for ordinary citizens, the warnings and preparations make it advisable for them to avoid the protests altogether.

I’m just wondering if all this speculation about violence breaking out isn’t actually contributing to an atmosphere where violence becomes inevitable. It certainly raises the tension to unbearable levels where a release of some kind becomes necessary. You would hope that release takes the form of peaceful protests — but there are a lot of wild cards in the mix and quite literally, anything can happen.

I don’t share Mr. Jackson’s perspective, but I understand it. His positions may be based on a skewed worldview, and faulty reasoning, but it’s very difficult to walk a mile in his shoes.

Trying to understand the frame of reference of someone who holds polar opposite views of your own is never a wasted exercise.

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VA Manager at the Center of Phoenix Scandal Gets Fired

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

It only took six months of taxpayer-funded leave…

Department of Veterans Affairs officials on Monday said they had “formally removed,” Sharon Helman, the director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, where the largest nationwide scandal in the agency’s history first came to light this summer.

Helman has been on paid administrative leave for nearly six months, following findings that employees at her hospital lied about health-care wait times for former troops seeking treatment for everything from cancer to post-traumatic stress disorder.

The action comes amid complaints from a growing chorus of Republicanswho said the agency was not acting quickly enough to discipline officials responsible for the wrongdoing, despite legislation this summer to expedite the process for firing VA senior executives.

“This removal action underscores VA’s commitment to hold leaders accountable and ensure that Veterans have access to quality and timely care,” the agency said in a short e-mailed statement.

The Justice Department had signaled that Helman’s firing would be fine, on Nov. 6. The VA had claimed that it could not legally fire her, because the scandal was still under FBI investigation.

Weeks before that, in October, the VA had officially recommended firing four officials who were involved in the scandal — but Helman was not on that list.

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‘We Want to Terminate the Sanctions’: Kerry Says Iran Playing Fair, Critics Disagree

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Vienna that, on the seven-month extension of nuclear talks, if Iran and the P5+1 haven’t reached an agreement on ”the major elements” by the four-month mark “and there is no clear path, we can revisit how we then want to choose to proceed.”

But lawmakers know exactly how they want to proceed — with sanctions legislation decried by the administration as a deal-killer.

“Now I want to underscore that even as the negotiations continue towards a comprehensive deal, the world is safer than it was just one year ago. It is safer than we were before we agreed on the Joint Plan of Action, which was the interim agreement,” Kerry said, proclaiming that Iran “is indeed living up to its JPOA commitments.”

“…A year ago, we had no idea whether or not real progress could be made through these talks. We only knew that we had a responsibility to try. Today, we are closer to a deal that would make the entire world, especially our allies and partners in Israel and in the Gulf, safer and more secure.”

Kerry claimed they are “not going to sit at the negotiating table forever, absent measurable progress.”

The next meeting will be in December, he said, “to drive this process as hard as we can.”

“A viable agreement would have to include a new level of transparency and verification beyond the expanded access that we’ve had under the JPOA. And as these conditions are met, a viable agreement would also include for Iran relief from the international nuclear-related sanctions that help to bring them to the table to negotiate in the first place,” he said.

“…We want to terminate the sanctions. Yes, we want to terminate the sanctions which were put in place to get us to these negotiations and ultimately to be able to bring about a deal. But the world – and I underscore this – not just the United States, not just the P5+1 – the world still has serious questions about Iran’s nuclear program.”

Kerry also threw some words at “my friends in Congress,” who on both sides of the aisle have grown increasingly critical of the administration’s strategy and reluctance to consult lawmakers.

“I believe in the institution and the critical role that the Senate has to play, and the House. We have stayed in close consultation throughout this process, and we will continue to do so. And we look for your support for this extension and for continued talks,” he said.

“And I would say to those who are skeptical, those who wonder whether we should rush ahead down a different course, I believe the United States and our partners have earned the benefit of the doubt at this point,” Kerry continued. “Many were quick to say that the Joint Plan of Action would be violated; it wouldn’t hold up, it would be shredded. Many said that Iran would not hold up its end of the bargain. Many said that the sanctions regime would collapse. But guess what? The interim agreement wasn’t violated. Iran has held up its end of the bargain, and the sanctions regime has remained intact.”

Even though the State Department is trying to keep all details around the talks and agreement close to the vest, there’s buzz around Washington on whether Iran has violated the deal.

Around the same time IAEA revelations leaked about Iran feeding uranium gas into a centrifuge, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted about “how can Israel be eliminated” and tweeted about why he supports the nuclear talks, including “repelling the evil of the Great Satan.”

AIPAC said in a statement that, contrary to Kerry’s claims, “there is evidence that Iran has not fully complied with the Joint Plan of Action with respect both to its research and development of advanced centrifuges.”

Kerry confirmed Iran will be receiving “pro-rated” sanctions relief during the extension from an “already agreed upon fund that is dispersed, and since we’re living under it, we’ll live up to that agreement. But we’re not doing anything additional beyond that that I know of.”

He added that he hopes Congress will “come to see the wisdom of leaving us the equilibrium for a few months to be able to proceed without sending messages that might be misinterpreted and cause miscalculation.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who took over the committee from Kerry, called it “disappointing and worrying that after a year of serious talks with Iran that we do not have a deal, while Iran simultaneously stonewalls international weapons inspectors seeking access to suspicious sites in Iran.”

“The cycle of negotiations, followed by an extension, coupled with sanctions relief for Iran has not succeeded.  I continue to believe that the two-track approach of diplomacy and economic pressure that brought Iran to the negotiating table is also the best path forward to achieve a breakthrough,” Menendez said. “I intend to work with my Senate colleagues in a bipartisan manner in the coming weeks to ensure that Iran comprehends that we will not ever permit it to become a threshold nuclear state.”

The powerful lobbying group AIPAC called it “particularly troubling that this new extension will yield Tehran even more economic relief without increased pressure on the Islamic Republic.”

“Iran has now received direct sanctions relief valued at approximately ten billion dollars since the negotiations began, and there is no sign those benefits have produced favorable results,” they added in a statement.

“Congress delayed enacting additional sanctions over the past year to give negotiations a chance,” AIPAC said. “It is now essential that Congress take up new bipartisan sanctions legislation to let Tehran know that it will face much more severe pressure if it does not clearly abandon its nuclear weapons program. We urge Congress to play its traditional and critical role to ensure that a final agreement truly eliminates any path for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.”

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), co-author with Menendez of the sanctions legislation feared by the White House, agreed that it’s time to charge forward.

“Today’s announcement means that the Administration will continue to block sanctions and allow the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime to make $700 million a month—roughly $23 million per day—even as Iran advances its nuclear bomb-making program and sparks an arms race in the Middle East,” Kirk said. “Now more than ever, it’s critical that Congress enacts sanctions that give Iran’s mullahs no choice but to dismantle their illicit nuclear program and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency full and unfettered access to assure the international community’s security.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset today that crisis was averted — for now — without a bad deal coming by today’s deadline.

“It is very important that this agreement has been prevented as of now but a struggle is yet before us and we intend to continue this struggle in order to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state that would endanger us and others,” Netanyhau said. “Israel will always act on this matter and reserves its right to defend itself by itself.”

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New Caption Contest: ‘Here’s How You Know Chuck Hagel Didn’t Really Resign, in 1 Picture’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Myra Adams

 

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) speaks as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Vice President Joe Biden look on during a press conference announcing Hagel's resignation in the State Dining Room of the White House November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) speaks as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Vice President Joe Biden look on during a press conference announcing Hagel’s resignation in the State Dining Room of the White House November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

 

Our latest contest photo and headline come to us from the Washington Post’s  Chris Cillizza, who wrote at “The Fix” blog:

But, all of the reporting on the departure suggests that it was not really Hagel’s decision at all. And, judging from the body language and facial expressions on display at the announcement this morning, the reporting is right. Big time.

And to that I say, “Who needs a secretary of Defense anyway when we have such a strong commander in chief — winner of the Nobel Peace Prize?”

Caption-contest fans will find my declaration very comforting because we know a “Peace Through Strength” sign hangs in the Oval Office. (Shhhhh, Obama does not want you to know that he crossed out “Through Strength” with his famous “red line” using a Sharpie.)

For more on why Hagel “resigned” be sure to read  Bridget Johnson’s report here at PJ Media.  Here is my favorite line:

“You’ve always given it to me straight and for that I’ll always be grateful,” said Obama.

Now for more “straight” talk, click to the next page to find  out the winners of our last contest, which posed the question:

“Is Our King Playing with a Full Deck?”

Credit: Drudge Report

Credit: Drudge Report

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CNN Throws Objectivity Through A Window Before Ferguson Grand Jury News Is Released

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

The headline:

Another lost son, another call for justice

The day after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer, Syreeta Myers drove from her South City home to the northwest suburb of Ferguson. She marched on the street demanding justice for Brown’s death. She wanted to stand by his parents.

Two months later, Brown’s father was calling her. This time, it was Myers who was receiving support.
Like the Browns, she had lost a son.
VonDerrit Myers Jr. was 18, just like Michael Brown. He was a young black man killed by a white police officer.

“My issue is with crooked cops who won’t hesitate to kill a black man,” Syreeta Myers tells me on this dreary Sunday afternoon.

That kind of nuance permeates this little op-ed trial of law enforcement.

The tone in the past several months has become decidedly anti-law enforcement. From libertarians wailing about the militarization of police to minority groups basically saying all cops are cold-blooded killers just looking for opportunities to shoot young black men.

While there are certainly bad cops out there, this media savaging of the entire profession is a slippery slope that we probably shouldn’t head down. The reality is that the good far outnumber the bad, and all of them run the risk of getting killed every day at work.

In the Ferguson situation, the media almost seems desperate for violence to break out and have been doing everything they can to ratchet up the tension. It’s irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

If a riot breaks out on your street, who are you going to call? The cops or Don Lemon?

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Kerry Tells Russians to ‘Just ignore Obama’s statements’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Watch what Barack Obama does, not what he says — that was reportedly Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent message to Russian leaders.

Though it went entirely unnoticed in the Western press, all major Russian news outlets – RIA Novosti, Sputnik, RT, and others – were only too happy to report on what US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in private: “Just ignore Obama’s statements.”

According to Mr. Lavrov, John Kerry advised him not to pay too much attention to the US President’s harsh rhetoric directed toward his state. As recently as September, during his speech to the 69th UN General Assembly in New York, Mr. Obama puzzled and shocked Mr. Lavrov by placing “Russian aggression in Europe” in second place among the world’s threats, behind only the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, resigning to third place the “brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq.” “Aggressive Russia” again was included in Mr. Obama’s world top-danger list during November’s G20 Summit in Australia.

According to a translation commissioned by the Observer, Mr. Kerry advised Mr. Lavrov to “just ignore Obama’s statements.” Google translator phrases the nuance slightly differently: “Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says US Secretary of State John Kerry called on him to ‘pay no mind’ to a statement by President Obama.” But the take-home message is clearly the same.

Indeed it is. President Obama makes public comments for consumption and reaction in the United States, but has no intention of following through on what he says. His statements on Russia automatically and immediately expire.

The truth is, after erasable red lines and all, the entire world is pretty much ignoring what Obama says these days.

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Sunni and Shiite Clerics Meet to Discuss Ways to Combat Extremists…in Iran

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

How about taking a look at your hosts…

QOM, Iran (AP) — Shiite and Sunni clerics from about 80 countries gathered in Iran’s holy city of Qom on Sunday to develop a strategy to combat extremists, including the Islamic State group that has captured large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Shiite-majority Iran has been helping Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish forces battle the Sunni extremist group on the ground while the U.S.-led coalition has been bombing it from the air. The Islamic State group views Shiites as apostates deserving of death and has massacred hundreds of captured Syrian and Iraqi soldiers, as well as Sunni rivals.

Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, the chief organizer of the conference, appealed for consensus among Islam’s two main branches, urging all Muslim clerics to work to discredit groups espousing extremism.

Such as, the regime that routinely calls the United States the “Great Satan,” Israel the “Little Satan,” and calls for the latter to be wiped off the face of the earth? No?

Some of the clerics there said helpful things about taking ISIS down. Others…not so much.

Others repeated widely-circulated conspiracy theories holding that the United States and Israel created the Islamic State group to sow discord in the Muslim world.

“IS is a pawn whose job is to deepen divisions among Muslims,” said Mahdi Alizadeh Mousavi, a lower-level Iranian Shiite cleric.

Yahoo news helpfully notes that Iran isn’t really the model state for combating terrorism.

Iran is a strong backer of the Lebanese Hezbollah — viewed as a terrorist group in the West — and supports Iraqi Shiite militias that rights groups say have abducted and killed scores of Sunni civilians in reprisal attacks.

Iran also kept the Iraqi insurgency going for years. So there’s that.

 

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Chairman: On Fourth Defense Secretary, Obama Needs to Ask, ‘Is It Me?’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said President Obama needs to look in the mirror as yet another secretary of Defense leaves his administration.

“The Obama administration is now in the market for their 4th secretary of Defense,” Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said. “When the president goes through three secretaries, he should ask, ‘Is it them, or is it me?’”

McKeon said “with the cards stacked against him,” Hagel “led the department with efficiency and aplomb.”

“He was given a thankless task of an underfunded Defense Department, growing threats, and intrusive White House micromanagement,” the chairman added.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who will lead the Senate Armed Services Committee in the 114th Congress, said despite policy differences with Hagel over the years he views the secretary as “a friend, a patriot, and a dedicated public servant who has always put our country first and the needs of our men and women in uniform above his own.”

“His predecessors have spoken about the excessive micro-management they faced from the White House and how that made it more difficult to do their jobs successfully. Chuck’s situation was no different,” McCain said.

“I hope the president will nominate a secretary of defense with the strength of character, judgment, and independence that Bob Gates, Leon Panetta, and Chuck Hagel all exhibited at their best. But ultimately, the president needs to realize that the real source of his current failures on national security more often lie with his administration’s misguided policies and the role played by his White House in devising and implementing them. That is the real change we need right now.”

The outgoing Senate Armed Services chairman, retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), simply thanked Hagel’s “dedication to the security of our nation and the welfare of our troops and their families has always been steadfast.”

“I have always enjoyed a great personal relationship with him, and I commend him on a lifetime of service to his nation in war and in peace,” Levin added.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said Obama needs to “move quickly” to nominate a new Defense secretary. “The threats we currently face, be it ISIS, Iran or others, involve some of the most dangerous actors in the world,” he said.

“The new secretary must be willing and able to develop a cohesive long-term strategy to combat these threats and keep our nation safe. This has not proven to be a strong point for this administration in the past, and that must change. America cannot continue to lead from behind on issues of national security at home and abroad.”

“Whether a resignation or a firing of Secretary Hagel, this decision reflects the uncertainty of this administration as it relates to foreign policy in general, and in particular the destruction of ISIS,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). “Given the crisis with ISIS, along with situations of unrest in the Ukraine, Iran, and west Africa, this president and his administration need to send a clear message of strength and commitment.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said a recent memo from Hagel about the administration’s failing policy against ISIS “was welcome news to those of us who have harbored these thoughts for some time.”

“Whether it was leaving a residual force behind in Iraq or assisting the Free Syrian Army at a time when it would have been most beneficial, our failing strategies in Iraq and Syria are President Obama’s fault. On numerous occasions he has chosen to ignore sound military advice,” Graham said.

“I hope President Obama will now do the same soul-searching regarding our failing strategies in Syria and Iraq.  He too must be willing to make the necessary changes.”

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Cartoon: Hagel Fiddled with Climate Change While the World Burned

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Departing SecDef Chuck Hagel may have fired some shots at President Obama on his way out, but cartoonist Rob Lang reminds us that Hagel has done his boss’ bidding on political priorities, while serious national security threats emerged around the world. Click to enlarge.

Fiddling with climate change

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‘New Car Smell’? MSNBC Pundit Says Hillary Clinton Is the Democrats’ ‘Only Hope’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

In an ABC interview broadcast Sunday, President Obama said two things that are contradictory to each other.

When asked about his declining popularity and what Americans might be looking for in the 2016 presidential election, Obama said that voters will be looking for that “new car smell.” In other words, not someone like him, who has now been in the national eye for a decade and in the presidency for six years.

“I think the American people, you know, they’re going to want — you know, that new car smell. You know, their own — they want to drive something off the lot that doesn’t have as much mileage as me,” Obama told Democrat operative turned ABC host George Stephanopoulos.

But Obama also said that Hillary Clinton would be a “terrific” president. Clinton has been in national politics since her husband won the presidency in 1992. The former first lady, senator and secretary of state has spent decades on the national stage, yet has very few accomplishments — but major controversies like “sniper fire,” the Russian “reset” and Benghazi — to burnish her resume.

MSNBC pundit Mark Halperin sees a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy differently. Halperin told his colleagues on Morning Joe today that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party’s “only chance” to retain the presidency in 2016.

YouTube Preview Image

“They’ve got a bench,” host Mika Brzezinski said of the Republicans’ 2016 hopefuls, noting that Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush and many others are considering running and have records to run on. “Unlike, I mean, do the Democrats have a bench?” she asked Halperin.

“Oh no they’ve got one big front-runner,” Halperin replied.

“But do they have a bench?” Brzezinski asked again.

“No, she’s their only hope,” Halperin replied, shaking his head and chuckling.

Hillary Clinton is currently 67 years old, and would be 70 by the time she takes office if she were to win the presidency in 2016. That would make her one of the oldest presidents in American history, something quite different from Barack Obama’s “new car smell.”

h/t DC Examiner

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Flournoy Unchained: SecDef Shortlister Defended Obama’s Iraq Withdrawal

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy is said to be on the short list to replace Chuck Hagel. Hagel is being forced out of the Obama administration, the first cabinet-rank change since voters roundly rejected Obama’s policies in the Nov. 4 elections.

Flournoy bears the distinction of having publicly defended Obama’s withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. During the 2012 election, Flournoy attacked Mitt Romney over the issue.

Romney, in comments that have turned out to be prescient in light of the rise of ISIS, ripped Obama’s troop withdrawal as “tragic.” That withdrawal left a vacuum of power into which the Islamic State has risen and seized territory the size of England.

“Governor Romney called the ending of the Iraq War and the bringing of our troops home ‘tragic,’ which is really hard to understand,” Flournoy said in an Obama campaign video. “He wanted to keep our troops there longer, tens of thousands of them.”

Such loyalty to Obama may be rewarded with an appointment to lead the Pentagon.

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While We Were Distracted by the Hagel Press Conference, Iran Nuke Talks Were Punted to Next Summer

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

SQUIRREL!

Iranian and Western diplomats said nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers will be extended until July 1, 2015.

The diplomats spoke in Vienna on the final day of the group’s self-imposed, year-long period to agree on a comprehensive deal to ensure Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.

They said they will work toward a framework agreement by March 1, outlining progress made and identifying points still be to be resolved. A final deal would be reached by July 1.

Talks are expected to resume before the end of this year, though it was not clear when or where they would be held. This would be the second extension, after an original, six-month deadline expired in July.

Well, now we know why Chuck Hagel absolutely, positively had to conclude that his service to the country was finished this morning. The Easter Island Head in charge of State has been floundering on the diplomatic front so badly that Republicans might soon miss Hillary Clinton. Nothing says, “We want to thwart your nuclear ambitions,” like giving more time to the potentially dangerous party.

There is no real evidence that Kerry and our allies will get what we want from these negotiations, so the administration better appoint another Republican that they can fire next summer.

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Hagel Unchained: Departing Defense Secretary Fires Parting Shots in Interview Last Week

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel may have sealed his exit in this interview with Charlie Rose last week. Rose conducted the interview at the Pentagon.

In the interview, Hagel made two key points that serve as accusations that President Barack Obama is mismanaging the United States military and the ISIS threat.

Rose asked Hagel to elaborate on comments that he made in a speech at the Reagan Library last weekend. In that speech, Hagel said that America’s military capability, while still the best in the world, is being threatened.

Hagel re-iterated that to Rose, but also left viewers to wonder about the direction that President Obama is taking the military.

“I am worried about it, I am concerned about it, Chairman Dempsey is, the chiefs are, every leader of this institution,” Hagel said, including Pentagon leadership but leaving both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s names out of his list of officials who are worried about the U.S. military’s declining capability. Hagel said that the Congress and the American people need to know what while the U.S. military remains the strongest, best trained and most motivated in the world, its lead is being threatened because of policies being implemented now.

Hagel went on to note that a good leader prepares their institution for future success, saying that “the main responsibility of any leader is to prepare your institution for the future. If you don’t do that, you’ve failed. I don’t care how good you are, how smart you are, any part of your job. If you don’t prepare your institution, you’ve failed.”

In the past couple of years, Hagel has warned that defense budget cuts implemented under President Obama were hurting readiness and capability. The “how smart you are” line may be a veiled shot at President Obama, who basks in a media image that he is a cerebral, professorial president.

In the same interview, Hagel also commented on the rise of ISIS and how it must be fought. Hagel charged that Obama’s handling of the ISIS threat is now indirectly assisting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

While President Obama has downplayed the ISIS threat, even calling the group “jayvee” as it rose to power, Hagel warned last week that it is a threat unlike any other we have ever faced.

“We’ve never seen an organization like ISIL that is so well-organized, so well-trained, so well-funded, so strategic, so brutal, so completely ruthless,” Hagel said. “We have never seen anything quite like that in one institution.

“And then they blend in ideology — which will eventually lose, we get that — and social media. The sophistication of their social media program is something that we’ve never seen before. You blend all of that together, that is an incredibly powerful new threat.”

Related: 

Flournoy Unchained: SecDef Shortlister Defended Obama’s Iraq Withdrawal

 

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Obama Says It’s ‘Appropriate Time’ for Hagel to Go; Lawmakers Say Defense Secretary Disagreed with White House

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Saying he was “lucky” to have Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in his administration, President Obama said it’s now the “appropriate time for him to complete his service.”

Obama was flanked by Hagel and Vice President Joe Biden during the Monday morning announcement in the State Dining Room.

He credited Hagel with helping build a coalition to fight ISIS and combat Ebola in West Africa, and said the troops see themselves in the Vietnam veteran.

Obama said Hagel came on board when the Pentagon was “entering a significant period of transition” including the drawdown in Afghanistan and budgetary constraints.

The president called Hagel “an exemplary Defense secretary” and added he’s admired him since he was a “green-behind-the-ears freshman senator.”

“If there’s one thing I know about Chuck, he does not take this or any decision lightly,” Obama said.

Hagel will stay on until a successor is confirmed.

“You’ve always given it to me straight and for that I’ll always be grateful,” said Obama.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) noted to CNN that he saw growing policy rifts between Hagel and Obama, including over boots on the ground to battle ISIS.

“Secretary Hagel did not believe that the foreign policy is working or is going to work,” King said.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told Fox that Hagel’s firing “makes very clear that this administration continues to be far more concerned about controlling the message than they are about controlling the threat that the United States faces.”

“What we understand that the real catalyst for this move was not so much what the secretary’s done or not but really that he’s given the White House advice that they don’t want to hear, and that’s what concerns me,” Forbes said.

“Because whether I agree with the secretary of Defense or not, we want him to be able to give his honest advice to the president of the United States. And we’ve had testimony where our leaders have been saying this president’s White House has been ignoring the military advice and advice coming out of the Department of Defense. That concerns us a great deal.”

Obama added that today the U.S. can “claim the strongest military the world has ever known.”

In his remarks, Hagel thanked the troops and lawmakers, and promised to work hard until his successor is confirmed. He called building a team effort “part of the fun of it.”

“It’s been the greatest privilege of my life,” he said.

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Paul Unveils ‘Declaration of War’ Against Islamic State

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) today released a “declaration of war against the Islamic State” with the intention of introducing when Congress comes back into session after Thanksgiving.

The resolution would kill the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force and put a one-year expiration date on the 2001 Afghanistan AUMF. The administration has been leaning upon those war on terror statutes to conduct current operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

It notes that “the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State has declared war on the United States and its allies” and “presents a clear and present danger to United States diplomatic facilities in the region, including our embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.”

“The state of war between the United States and the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared pursuant to Article I, section 8, clause 11, of the United States Constitution,” the resolution states.

“The President is hereby authorized and directed to use the Armed Forces of the United States to protect the people and facilities of the United States in Iraq and Syria against the threats posed thereto by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”

It clarifies that it can’t be “construed as declaring war or authorizing force against any organization” except ISIS or direct affiliates.

It limit the use of ground forces except “as necessary for the protection or rescue of members of the United States Armed Forces or United States citizens from imminent danger posed by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); for limited operations against high value targets; or as necessary for advisory and intelligence gathering operations.”

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