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State Department Catches on to Russia’s Nefarious Intentions in Ukraine

Monday, April 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Several weeks after Russia invaded Crimea and annexed the peninsula, the State Department says it has evidence of Russian support for the “destabilization” of Ukraine.

“On April 12, armed pro-Russian militants seized government buildings in a coordinated and professional operation conducted in six cities in eastern Ukraine. Many of the militants were outfitted in bullet-proof vests and camouflage uniforms with insignia removed and carrying Russian-origin weapons. These armed units, some wearing black and orange St. George’s ribbons associated with Russian Victory Day celebrations, have raised Russian and separatist flags over the buildings they seized, and called for referendums and union with Russia,” the department said in a note to media on Sunday.

“Even more so than the seizure of main government buildings in Ukrainian regional capitals Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv last weekend, these operations bear many similarities to those that were carried out in Crimea in late February and culminated in Russia’s illegal military intervention and purported annexation of Crimea. In the earlier Crimean case, highly organized, well-equipped, and professional forces wearing Russian military uniforms, balaclavas, and military gear without identifying insignia moved in first to take control of Crimean government and security facilities before being later replaced by regular Russian military forces.”

The State Department said simultaneous takeovers in Donetsk, Slavyansk, Krasnyi Liman, Kramatorsk, Chervonoarmiysk, and Druzhkovka are an indication that the April 12 operations were planned in advance.

“There are reports that additional attempts to seize buildings in other eastern Ukrainian towns failed. Inconsistent with political, grassroots protests, these seizures bear the same defining features and tactics across diverse locations, including takeover of government administration buildings and security headquarters, seizure of weapons in the targeted buildings, forced removal of local officials, rapid establishment of roadblocks and barricades, attacks against communications towers, and deployment of well-organized forces. In Slavyansk, armed units have now also moved beyond the seized buildings to establish roadblocks and checkpoints in the nearby area,” the note said.

“The Ukrainian Government has reporting indicating that Russian intelligence officers are directly involved in orchestrating the activities of pro-Russian armed resistance groups in eastern Ukraine. In addition, the Ukrainian Government detained an individual who said that he was recruited by the Russian security services and instructed to carry out subversive operations in eastern and southern Ukraine, including seizing administrative buildings. All of this evidence undercuts the Russian Government’s claims that Ukraine is on the brink of ‘civil war.’”

In a statement to European leaders last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Gazprom “is compelled to switch over to advance payment for gas deliveries, and in the event of further violation of the conditions of payment, will completely or partially cease gas deliveries.”

“In other words, only the volume of natural gas will be delivered to Ukraine as was paid for one month in advance of delivery,” Putin said. “Undoubtedly, this is an extreme measure… However, the fact that our European partners have unilaterally withdrawn from the concerted efforts to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, and even from holding consultations with the Russian side, leaves Russia no alternative.”

The State Department noted that the “events of April 12 strongly suggest that in eastern Ukraine Russia is now using the same tactics that it used in Crimea in order to foment separatism, undermine Ukrainian sovereignty, and exercise control over its neighbor in contravention of Russia’s obligations under international law.”

“In the face of these provocations, the legitimate government of Ukraine in Kyiv continues to show restraint and has only used force when public safety was at risk and attempts to resolve the situation through dialogue failed. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk was in the region on Friday, April 11, to discuss the central government’s willingness to work with regions on decentralization – including such issues as local elections, local control of budgets and finances and education, and enshrining Russian as an official language – in advance of the May 25 presidential elections.”

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DCCC Chairman: ‘Significant’ Number of GOPs ‘Animated by Racism’

Monday, April 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said that a “significant” part of the GOP base is overwhelmed by racist beliefs that are stalling immigration reform.

On CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) was asked about a recent quote from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): “I think race has something to do with the fact that they’re not bringing up an immigration bill,” she said. “I’ve heard them say to the Irish, if it were just you this would be easy.”

“The American people want solutions in Congress. They want people to oppose certain policies for the right reasons,” Israel responded before being pressed on whether he believed Republicans in Congress are racist.

“Not all of them, no, of course not. But to a significant extent the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism and that’s unfortunate,” Israel said.

“Well look, we don’t need to get our base out because frankly we’re ready to pass an immigration bill. And we’d rather pass an immigration bill than worry about the election. We have got 190 Democrats ready to vote on a comprehensive immigration bill today. We can do it today. And we know that not every Republican is going to agree with us on that. It passed the Senate with 67 bipartisan votes. All we need is 20 Republicans, just 20 to vote for that bill and it will be law and we don’t have to have this debate anymore,” he continued.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, called Pelosi’s assertion “both wrong and unfortunate.”

“You know, there have been a lot of executive overreaches by this administration. We see the latest with Lois Lerner and the whole IRS scandal. We’re now finally getting to see the email traffic back and forth. The American people just want to know the truth. They want to know the truth about what really happened and the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS. They want to know what happened in Benghazi. They want to know answers and that’s all that we’re trying to do. Just give us — just cooperate with the Congress. Cooperate with the investigations. Give us the information we’ve requested so our constituents can know the truth,” Walden said.

“Fewer witch hunts, more solutions would be good for America right now,” Israel interjected.

“This is not a witch hunt when you’re trying to find out why the IRS — whether it’s Republican or Democrat, I don’t want the IRS targeting any group, whether it’s liberal or conservative,” Walden said. “And if they have, somebody should be held accountable, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

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SPLC Says Kansas Shooter a ‘Raging Anti-Semite’ Who Plotted Assassination of Center’s Founder

Monday, April 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Southern Poverty Law Center said the suspect in the deadly shootings at a Kansas Jewish center and assisted living facility is a “raging anti-Semite” who has been on their radar for a while.

Frazier Glenn Miller, 73, of Aurora, Mo., who also goes by the last name Cross, allegedly drove to Overland Park, Kansas, and killed a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. He then drove to the Village Shalom Retirement Community in Leawood, where a woman was shot to death.

The SPLC sued Miller, the former “grand dragon” of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, in the 1980s for “operating an illegal paramilitary organization and using intimidation tactics against African Americans.”

“After subsequently forming another Klan group, the White Patriot Party, he was found in criminal contempt and sentenced to six months in prison for violating the court settlement. He went underground while his conviction was under appeal but was caught by the FBI with a weapons cache in Missouri. He served three years in federal prison after being indicted on weapons charges and for plotting robberies and the assassination of SPLC founder Morris Dees. As part of a plea bargain, Miller testified against other Klan leaders in a 1988 sedition trial,” the SPLC said.

“Miller is a raging anti-Semite who has posted more than 12,000 times on Vanguard News Network (VNN), whose slogan is ‘No Jews, Just Right.’ VNN founder Alex Linder has openly advocated ‘exterminating Jews since December 2009. Miller, a close partner to Linder, has called Jews ‘swarthy, hairy, bow-legged, beady-eyed, parasitic midgets.’ Miller is also one of VNN’s largest donors and he printed and distributed thousands of copies of VNN’s newsletter, The Aryan Alternative.”

The SPLC said it spoke with Miller’s wife, Marge, “who has apparently never been active in the white supremacist movement,” and confirmed that Miller had gone to a casino in Missouri.

In a statement late last night, President Obama said he had his team “to stay in close touch with our federal, state and local partners and provide the necessary resources to support the ongoing investigation” in this “horrific shooting.”

“While we do not know all of the details surrounding today’s shooting, the initial reports are heartbreaking,” Obama said.
“I want to offer my condolences to all the families trying to make sense of this difficult situation and pledge the full support from the federal government as we heal and cope during this trying time.”

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) said he was “shocked and sickened” by the slayings.

“Kansas is a place where every person of every kind should be safe from violence or persecution,” Moran said. “My deepest regrets are with the victims’ loved ones and my thoughts are with the entire community, which has had its sense of comfort and safety threatened by today’s events. I join all Kansans in proclaiming that these horrific acts of violence have absolutely no place in our communities, our state or our country.”

Miller has run for public office three times: as a Democrat for North Carolina governor in 1984, as a Republican for the Senate in North Carolina in 1986, and as an independent write-in candidate in 2006 for the House seat held by now-Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

The SPLC said it is preparing to release a two-year study showing that “nearly 100 people in the last five years have been murdered by active users on another prominent racist website, Stormfront.org.”

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Breaking: Three Dead in Shootings at Two Kansas City Jewish Centers

Sunday, April 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

This is absolutely ghastly — and on the eve of Passover.

A gunmen is in police custody after shootings at two Jewish Community Centers resulted in at least 3 dead and one teenage boy critically injured.

Kansas City Star:

Three people were killed Sunday when a gunman opened fire at the Jewish Community Center and a senior living facility in Johnson County.

Police arrested the suspected shooter outside Valley Park Elementary nearby by 2:45 p.m. He smiled and reportedly made anti-semitic statements as he was led away.

The victims were killed in gunfire at the center at 5801 W. 115th Street and the Village Shalom senior living facility 5500 W. 123rd St. about 1 p.m.

The gunfire at the west side of the Jewish Community Center came as hundreds of high school singers from across the metro area were expected to audition for the KC SuperStar contest and actors were rehearsing for a production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“There were tons of kids because this was about to start at 1 o’clock,” said Ruth Bigus, the publicist for KC SuperStar.

Parents were gathered at a nearby fast food restaurant waiting for word while the campus was locked down.

Matt Davis was shopping for bar mitzvah suits with his son when he heard about the shooting at the Jewish Community Center, where his daughter was dancing. He headed to the center and saw the suspect, a heavyset man in handcuffs, being arrested at the school nearby. The man was smiling.

“I was wondering why is the guy smiling when he’s being arrested,” Davis said.

The unidentified suspect shouted “Heil Hitler” to reporters as he was led away by police.

What’s impressive is that there appeared to be well planned, perhaps even rehearsed emergency procedures for just such an eventuality:

With urgency — “Let’s go, let’s go!” — staff hustled about 60 people into a room where they were preparing to hold the SuperStars auditions, Nessel said.

“They did a great job,” he said. “It was not a panic, it was ‘We have a procedure here, let’s follow it,’ ” he said.

The community center staff kept the group informed as best they could. After about 15 minutes in the room, a worker came in and told them, “There’s been a shooting in the parking lot between here and Sprint. We’ll keep you on lockdown. You’re safe here. The police are on top of the situation,” Nessel recounted.

“That’s what you want to hear, that we’re safe,” he said.

Later, someone explained to them that the situation had been cleared up but said they had to stay a while longer while invesigators combed the area for evidence. In all, they were locked down for about an hour and a half.

It will be a melancholy Passover across the land this week.

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Obama Administration Files Brief Supporting Placement of Mount Soledad Cross

Sunday, April 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Department of Justice filed a brief with the Supreme Court indicating that it would support advocates who are fighting to keep the Mount Soledad Cross on federal land outside of San Diego. But Justice stopped short of endorsing a ruling by SCOTUS at the present time. Instead, they urged the high court to send the case back to the 9th circuit for further review.

However, if the lower court rules against the cross and the case ends up in the Supreme Court, the administration indicated that it would side with cross advocates.

At issue is whether the cross violates the separation between church and state because it sits on federal land. That land, purchased by Congress when the cross first came under threat, was designated a war memorial and the administration argues that for that reason, it is not an unconstitutional promotion of religion.

LA Times:

The administration’s position, sent to the court this week, means the high court will likely have to decide the fate of the San Diego cross, but not this year.

The cross atop Mount Soledad was erected in 1954, but it has been under legal attack since 1989. A decade ago, Congress tried to resolve the matter by taking possession of the land and declaring it a national memorial to honor veterans.

But several vets, including the Jewish War Veterans of the United States, sued, contending the Christian cross was a religious symbol.

The 9th Circuit agreed, and last year U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ruled the cross must come down. But he also put his ruling on hold while the government appeals.

Recently, several groups urged the Supreme Court to allow them to skip the 9th Circuit appeal. The high court has rejected similar requests in the past to intervene in the matter.

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. advised against this procedural shortcut, noting there is no great urgency because the judge put his ruling on hold.

But he added the 9th Circuit’s earlier ruling was “wrong” and needs to be overturned, either by the appeals court or by the Supreme Court.

“The United States remains fully committed to preserving the Mount Soledad cross as an appropriate memorial to our nation’s veterans,” he said.

This is one of those happy circumstances where political calculation goes hand in hand with doing what’s right. It will please veterans groups as well as religious liberty advocates while putting some subtle pressure on the 9th circuit if SCOTUS, as expected, sends it back to the lower court.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule later this year.

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For Unproven Theory, Scientists Propose Unproven Solutions

Sunday, April 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

What’s even more dubious than claims of catastrophic warming? Claims that scientists know what to do about it.

The IPCC released a report warning that unless a “rapid shift” to green energy is undertaken, we’re all going to die…or, something.

And even that may not be enough. The group is saying that we “might even need to enlist controversial technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

We’ll get started right away on those gigantic atmospheric scoops to remove all those offensive greenhouse gases.

It’s more of the same from the IPCC, with a little more hysteria to get our juices flowing.

USA Today:

“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Germany’s Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who co-chaired the IPCC report, the third in a series released in the past year. The Working Group III report, written by 235 scientists from 57 countries, looks at myriad ways to fight climate change and serves as a potential road map for policymakers who plan to negotiate a new climate treaty next year in Paris.

“If we do nothing, temperatures will continue to rise,” co-author Leon Clarke, a scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said from Berlin after wrapping up a week of discussions there to finalize the report’s wording. “It’s not necessarily a phaseout of fossil fuels,” he said, but rather “a phaseout” of power plants and other facilities that don’t capture the carbon they emit.

Holding emission increases to 3.6 degree Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels — a goal sought in international agreements — will require “heroic efforts” and a “massive” shift in the energy sector, says another U.S. co-author, David Victor, professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego. “It’s doable in theory … but it will be extremely difficult.”

Despite efforts to mitigate climate change, the report says global greenhouse gas emissions rose 2.2% annually in the past decade — nearly twice the annual rate of 1.3% from 1970 to 2000. It says fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes, which rose as the global population and economy grew, accounted for 78% of the emissions’ increase between 1970 and 2010. It says about half of cumulative man-made carbon emissions since 1750 has occurred in the last 40 years.

The IPCC report says delaying action will only escalate the costs of transitioning to energy that emits less or zero greenhouse gases. It doesn’t endorse any single approach but cites the value of planting forests, boosting energy efficiency and — by 2050 — at least tripling the share of energy from zero-carbon sources such as nuclear, solar and wind.

It also points to more ambitious measures such as “bio-energy with carbon capture and storage” or BECCS, in which power plants produce fuel by burning biomass — trees, plant waste, wood chips — then capture and store the CO2 emissions underground. Victor says BECCS holds appeal for the future because it produces energy while actually reducing emissions.

So we denude the planet of trees to save us from global warming? What’s not to like?

In truth, there is no proof — experimental proof, mathematical proof, or proof via any known scientific process — that any of these “solutions” will work. Models may be suggestive that reducing emissions will mitigate climate change, but do we invest trillions of dollars into marginal technologies based on modelling? Given the IPCC’s track record of models predicting temperature rise, perhaps we ought to try a little harder to gather hard evidence of possible success before going off half-cocked.

Besides, reducing man’s imprint on the climate may not be enough. Perhaps the scientists could invent a machine that shuts down volcanoes. It would probably be easier than trying to run a modern economy on solar and wind power.

But this is not about the economy. It’s about control — and enriching people like IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri who is massively invested in green energy schemes.

All in a day’s work for the IPCC.

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Firefight Between Ukraine Government Forces and Pro-Russian Rebels

Sunday, April 13th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

There has been a firefight in the Eastern Ukraine city of Slaviansk as pro-government forces sought to dislodge pro-Moscow militias from a police station. Groups of armed men sympathetic to Russia have taken over government buildings throughout the Eastern Ukraine in an attempt to force an overreaction by Ukraine’s government that would give Vladimir Putin an excuse to invade.

The Kiev government reports dead on both sides in Slaviansk.

Reuters:

One Ukrainian state security officer was killed and five wounded on the government side in what interior minister Arsen Avakov called Sunday’s “anti-terrorist” operation.

“There were dead and wounded on both sides,” Avakov said on his Facebook page, adding that about 1,000 people were supporting the separatists.

The Russian news agency RIA reported that one pro-Moscow activist was killed in Slaviansk in clashes with forces loyal to the Kiev government. “On our side, another two were injured,” RIA quoted pro-Russian militant Nikolai Solntsev as adding.

The separatists are holed up in the local headquarters of the police and of the state security service, while others have erected road blocks around Slaviansk, which lies about 150 km (90 miles) from the Russian border.

However, details of the fighting remain sketchy. A statement from the administration of the eastern Donetsk region indicated the security officer may have been killed between Slaviansk and the nearby town of Artemivsk. Putting the number of wounded at nine, it said “an armed confrontation” was going on in the area.

Kiev accuses Moscow of trying to deepen violence and chaos in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic it once ruled. The Kremlin, it says, wants to undermine the legitimacy of presidential elections on May 25 which aim to set the country back onto a normal path after months of turmoil.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Kiev was “demonstrating its inability to take responsibility for the fate of the country” and warned that any use of force against Russian speakers “would undermine the potential for cooperation”, including talks due to be held on Thursday between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union.

With Russian troops still massed on Ukraine’s border, President Obama has once again warned the Russians against military action. Vice President Biden will visit Ukraine for the second time in 3 months later in April.

As pro-Russian activity rose in eastern Ukraine over the weekend, the White House voiced concerns that Russia might once again advance past Ukrainian borders.

Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Kiev on April 22, the White House announced, to meet with leaders in and outside of the government to reinforce American support and talk about Ukrainian security. Last month, Biden traveled to Europe and met with leaders of NATO members Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to reassure them after Russia’s initial incursion into Crimea.

President Obama’s National Security Council warned that similar developments were seen in Crimea before Russian forces moved in — and warned Russian President Vladimir Putin not to invade.

“We are very concerned by the concerted campaign we see underway in eastern Ukraine today by pro-Russian separatists, apparently with support from Russia, who are inciting violence and sabotage and seeking to undermine and destabilize the Ukrainian state,” NSC spokeswoman Laura Lucas Magnuson said in an e-mail. “We saw similar so-called protest activities in Crimea before Russia’s purported annexation. We call on President Putin and his government to cease all efforts to destabilize Ukraine, and we caution against further military intervention. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Multiple news outlets reported pro-Russian demonstrations in eastern Ukraine, and ABC’s Dragana Jovanovic and Alexander Marquardt reported a number of government buildings were taken over by apparent militiamen wearing mismatched camouflage in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk.

Putin would prefer to gobble up a few more Ukrainian provinces by forcing the Kiev government to hold plebiscites in several Russian majority regions. But putting pressure on the Ukraine government by unleashing the pro-Russian militias could easily backfire if Kiev overreacts or goes too far in their effort to regain control of the restive eastern provinces. Putin could “justify” his military intervention if that were to occur, but the Ukraine government appears not to be rising to the bait.

What seems clear is that Putin appears willing to play the long game — waiting out the Kiev government who will eventually be forced into capitulation.

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Obama’s America: Children Liable for the Government Debts of Their Parents

Saturday, April 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Hit and Run’s J.D. Tuccille calls the practice “feudal” — requiring the children of parents who owe money to the federal government to pay the bill years later. If so, don’t be surprised if the Obama administration brings back the rack. Or perhaps they won’t go all Medieval on us and just reinstall the stocks as corporal punishment.

One of the truly unique and exceptional things about America in the late 18th century was that the sins of the father could not be visited on the son. That tradition stood — until now. And as Tuccille explains, it was a two step policy change that brought this stinkburger about:

The new multi-generational debt collection practice required a two-step policy change. One was the elimination of the 10-year statute of limitations on debts to the federal government. The other involves the Social Security Administration insisting that if tiny tots indirectly benefited from public assistance collected by adults decades ago those now-grown ex-tots are responsible for any overpayments the feds may claim.

The elimination of the statute of limitations may, on its face, allow the government to go after individuals responsible for incurring debt, but the longer time horizon means accurate records can be hard to come by. According to Fisher, “Social Security officials told Grice they had no records explaining the debt.”

How do you collect a debt that you can’t prove exists? Through the sheer grinding weight of the state, of course.

Going after the next generation—which never made the decision to incur a debt to begin with—really is a massive break from previous policy.

Most financial websites advise heirs that they are responsible for parents’ debt only if they cosigned loans, held joint accounts, or shared community property with the deceased. Beyond that, the debt adheres to the debtor’s estate and may devour any inheritance. The estate belonged to the debtor and passes to heirs only after bills are paid. But the debt stops there.

What’s interesting about this policy is that other federal agencies aren’t following it; only the Social Security Administration and Treasury Department seem to be engaged in this generational theft. Others, like the FTC, aren’t enforcing the change.

In a Washington Post article, one victim of this astonishing policy tells her story:

A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.

When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.

Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.

Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check.

I couldn’t find anything on this issue published before today. And yet, it’s apparently been a rule for 3 years. Why hasn’t this issue been challenged in court?

Grice found a lawyer willing to take her case without charge. Vogel is exercised about the constitutional violations he sees in the retroactive lifting of the 10-year limit on debt collection. “Can the government really bring back to life a case that was long dead?” the lawyer asked. “Can it really be right to seize a child’s money to satisfy a parent’s debt?”

But many other taxpayers whose refunds have been taken say they’ve been unable to contest the confiscations because of the cost, because Social Security cannot provide records detailing the original overpayment, and because the citizens, following advice from the IRS to keep financial documents for just three years, had long since trashed their own records.

In Glenarm, Ill., Brenda and Mike Samonds have spent the past year trying to figure out how to get back the $189.10 tax refund the government seized, claiming that Mike’s mother, who died 33 years ago, had been overpaid on survivor’s benefits after Mike’s father died in 1969.

“It was never Mike’s money, it was his mother’s,” Brenda Samonds said. “The government took the money first and then they sent us the letter. We could never get one sentence from them explaining why the money was taken.” The government mailed its notice about the debt to the house Mike’s mother lived in 40 years ago.

Are you getting the feeling that we’re living in Venezuela or some other banana republic rather than America? No due process. No explanation. Just intimidation and the realization that you would probably spend your life savings to fight for a couple of hundred or thousand dollars.

Welcome to the Transformed United States of America.

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Breaking: Bureau of Land Management Won’t Enforce Court Order Against Bundy Cows

Saturday, April 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Bureau of Land Management announced that it would not enforce a court order to round up cows owned by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, effectively ending the siege at the southern Nevada ranch.

Associated Press:

“Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public,” BLM Director Neil Kornze said.

“We ask that all parties in the area remain peaceful and law-abiding as the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service work to end the operation in an orderly manner,” he said.

The roundup began April 5, following lengthy court proceedings dating back to 1993, federal officials said. Federal officers began impounding the first lot of cows last weekend, and Bundy responded by inviting supporters onto his land to protest the action.

“It’s not about cows, it’s about freedom,” Utah resident Yonna Winget told ABC News affiliate KTNV in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“People are getting tired of the federal government having unlimited power,” Bundy’s wife, Carol Bundy told ABC News.

By Sunday, April 6, one of Bundy’s sons, Dave Bundy, was taken into custody for refusing to disperse and resisting arrest, while hundreds of other protesters, some venturing from interstate, gathered along the road few miles from Bundy’s property in solidarity. Dave Bundy was later released.

A spokesman for the Bundy encampment told ABC News roughly 300 protesters had assembled for the protest, while a BLM representative estimated there were around 100 people.

“We want a peaceful protest, but we also want our voices heard,” said Cliven Bundy’s sister, Chrisie Marshall Bundy.

Victory for Bundy? Not exactly. Perhaps the government will now do what they should have done in the first place instead of descending on an American citizen’s property with 200 armed agents.

If the issue is monetary — Bundy not paying grazing fees — then there is absolutely no reason the government can’t sit down with Bundy’s lawyer at a neutral site and negotiate while not under threat of a gun. Even if the issue is that poor, picked upon Desert Tortoise, accommodations can be made as well. The turtles don’t need 600,000 acres to thrive — but neither does Bundy need 600,000 acres to feed his cows.

When government chooses to intimidate instead of negotiate in good faith, they should expect this kind of resistance. I’m not sure it’s necessarily a good thing for citizens to threaten government officials, but the situation would never have gotten to this point if the government had treated its people as citizens instead of subjects to be bullied and pushed around.

The BLM may wait for things to die down and then return to enforce the court order. If they try the same tactics, it’s likely they’ll meet the same resistance. “It’s about the freedom of America,” said another of Bundy’s sisters, Margaret Houston. “We have to stand up and fight.” If the only thing they accomplish in the end is put the government on notice that citizens won’t sit still for this kind of bullying, something positive will have come out of this mess.

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Beyond Soviet: Some Decorating Tips for Jay Carney and Claire Shipman

Saturday, April 12th, 2014 - by J. Christian Adams

Drudge linked to this story which revealed that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and his wife (CBS News reporter) Claire Shipman adorn the walls of their home with Soviet propaganda posters.  a

No home decorated in mid-century modern totalitarianism is complete without some German themed posters.  Why stop at the 20 million killed by the Soviets that Clarie and Jay like to display while they cook up a Sunday morning brunch of muffins, toast and OJ? (The Carney’s note their favorite thing to do on a Sunday morning is sleep in.)  To round out their decorative theme, I’ve got some suggestions.

Here’s one that looks like the Red Army poster in the Carney’s kitchen.  Not as colorful, but it has that woodblock feel that Claire must be striving for:

a

The Carneys seem to like feminine themes, albeit totalitarian ones.  Here’s a wonderful poster showing the tenderness of motherhood in 1930′s Germany they might hang in their den:

b

Here’s an end table that might work perfectly in the Carney’s living room:

a

Why not thrown in some sculpture? This piece next to the Red Army poster could create a delightful contrast, sort of like Stalingrad.

a

Naturally, the Carney/Shipman household will not sport images and art representing bloody Nazi totalitarianism.  That the White House press secretary doesn’t recognize the moral equivalence of hanging art representing the bloody Soviet version of totalitarianism says a great deal.

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We’re Number One…Again…Sorta

Saturday, April 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Gee…I guess that “smart diplomacy is beginning to show dividends after all.

According to Gallup, we’ve regained our position as the least hated world power in, well, the world. Bragging rights for being the most despised world power in the world goes to Russia, with China a close second.

Of course, none of the five entities — US, Russia, China, Germany, and the EU — get more than 46% approval in the annual survey, which makes the honor of leading the pack somewhat dubious. Still, what with the Ukraine, Syria, Obamacare, the economy, and all the other problems facing the administration, a little bit of not-so-bad-news can’t hurt.

The world felt a little better about U.S. leadership last year, giving it the highest global approval ratings out of five global powers, including Germany, China, the European Union, and Russia. For the seventh straight year, Russia had the lowest median approval ratings in the world.

Disapproval ratings of the world leaders essentially mirror the approval ratings, with the U.S. (24%) and Germany (20%) garnering the lowest median disapproval and China (29%) and Russia (31%) earning the highest disapproval. The leadership of the EU falls in the middle (26%).

Gallup asked residents in as many as 137 countries last year to say whether they approve or disapprove of the job performance of the leadership of the U.S., the EU, Germany, China, and Russia. Gallup has been tracking how the world feels about each of these international leaders since 2007, with the exception of the EU, which Gallup first measured in 2008. The image of U.S. leadership was the only one that improved between 2012 and 2013.

High Approval Ratings for All in Sub-Saharan Africa

Nearly all global powers evaluated receive their highest approval ratings from residents of countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The exception is Russia, which gets its highest marks from its neighbors (formerly Soviet Union countries). The high ratings in sub-Saharan Africa may at least be partly related to the amount of foreign aid that countries, such as the U.S., send to Africa. Researchers Benjamin Goldsmith, Yusaku Horiuchi, and Terence Wood found in a recent paper that certain types of foreign aid “positively affect[s] how publics in recipient countries regard the U.S.” The commercial foothold that countries like China are getting in the region might also help explain some of these high ratings.

But despite the overall high approval ratings, some global powers are losing ground in sub-Saharan Africa. The U.S., for example, saw its ratings in the region return to their lowest level since Gallup started tracking this in 2007.

The U.S. and Germany receive their highest approval ratings in the world from the same country — Guinea. Guinea also ranks among the top five highest scores for each of the five global powers. On the opposite end, the country that expresses the highest disapproval for nearly all global powers measured is the Palestinian Territories. Palestinians hold the highest disapproval rating in the world for the U.S., the EU, and Germany.

Maybe we should make the “Made in USA” designation on those aid containers a lot bigger.

The curious case of Germany, who appears on this list both as a single country and as part of the EU, raises some questions. When people give their opinion of the EU, are they told to forget that Germany is a part of it? Since some people believe the EU is Germany, why have a separate designation at all? Just one of the oddities of this poll.

With the anti-American propaganda machine working 24-7 all over the world, it’s surprising we garner as much approval as we do in this poll. Most of the thug regimes in the world use America as a whipping boy and scapegoat the US to account for their citizens’ miserable lives. And, of course, there’s a lot of envy of America and fear — both real and imagined — of our military and what it might do.

Ultimately, only some liberals and 13-year old girls care what other nations, caught in the grip of an unreasoning and illogical anti-Americanism, think about the US. That’s the price we pay for being a (declining) superpower.

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Iran Continues to Rub America’s Nose in 1979 Hostage Drama

Saturday, April 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Iran would never come out and say openly, “Here’s a reminder of how we humiliated you 35 years ago by seizing your embassy and holding your people hostage.” Even for the cloistered leadership of Iran, that would be too obvious.

But neither are they basking in subtlety when they name a participant in that terrorist act as UN ambassador.

On Friday, the US State Department denied a visa to Hamid Abutalebi, an admitted member of the group of students who masterminded the taking of our embassy in Tehran in 1979. Mr. Abutalebi was destined to become the new Iranian ambassador to the UN.

Now the Iranians are saying that there isn’t anyone else who can do the job and they plan on taking the denial of the diplomat’s visa to the UN.

Reuters:

“We have no replacement for Mr. Abutalebi and we will pursue the matter via legal mechanisms envisioned at the United Nations,” Abbas Araghchi, a senior Foreign Ministry official, was quoted by Iran’s official IRNA news agency as saying.

“Based on an agreement with the United Nations, America is bound to act according to its international commitments,” Araghchi said, as quoted by IRNA. The United Nations said it had no comment at this time on the U.S. decision.

American law allows the Washington government to bar U.N. diplomats who are considered national security threats. But Obama’s potentially precedent-setting step could open the United States to criticism that it is wielding its position as host nation to improperly exert political influence.

Araghchi is also a top negotiator in Iran’s talks with big powers on defusing a stand-off over its disputed nuclear activity. Iran has said Washington’s rejection of Abutalebi will not affect the talks, whose next round is set for May 13.

Abutalebi says he served solely as a periodic translator for the Islamist students who seized the U.S. embassy hostages, and he has since evolved into a moderate figure favoring, like President Hassan Rouhani, a thaw in Iran’s ties with the West.

Since an uproar among former U.S. hostages and U.S. lawmakers over Abutalebi broke out, Tehran has steadfastly stuck by its choice, describing him as a seasoned diplomat who has served in various capacities in Western countries.

“Dr. Abutalebi is one of the most capable, experienced and rational diplomats in Iran,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told IRNA. He served as Iran’s U.N. envoy for eight years before taking his current job last year following Rouhani’s election on a pledge to ease Iran’s international isolation.

In comments posted on Facebook late on Friday, Abutalebi said the U.S. move against him set a “wrong new precedent.”

Vahi Ahmadiah, a hardline conservative cleric who heads the Iranian parliament’s foreign affairs and national security committee, said: “America has no right to inject its issues into an international matter. It has shown (here) its hostile nature again. It uses every chance to hit out at the Islamic Republic.”

It was unclear whether the matter might play into the hands of hardliners in Iran’s unwieldy power structure. They are keen to discredit Rouhani’s campaign to improve long-hostile relations with the West, especially Washington, but have been held in check for now by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Get that? It’s America’s fault if nuclear talks blow up because so-called “hardliners” in Iran will gain the upper hand if Abutalebi is denied his UN seat. If the imaginary “moderates” in the Iranian leadership came up with this clear, deliberate insult by sending a hostage taker back to America in triumph, how much worse can the hardliners be?

Does anyone really believe that the Iranians weren’t fully cognizant of the ruckus that would ensue by naming Abutalebi to a post in America? This is a government that, 35 years after the event, still requires its citizens to scream “Death to America” after Friday prayers. The hostage taking has been raised to mythical heights by the leadership, making it the seminal event in the creation of the Islamic state.

But the Iranians are surprised at our attitude?

I call bullcrap on that. Subsequently, no nation should be forced to endure such a deliberate and calculated insult as that being offered by the Iranians. How would they like it if we named William Rogers, captain of the USS Vincennes that mistakenly shot down an Iranian passenger aircraft in 1988, as our ambassador to Tehran if relations are ever restored?

The Obama administration should ignore whatever diktat comes from the UN about granting this hostage taker a visa. Most of the UN would like to see the US humiliated anyway, so rather than play into their hands, the administration should send a message that such insults will not be tolerated.

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Obama Lies about Voter Fraud and DOJ Investigations Before Paranoid Audience

Saturday, April 12th, 2014 - by J. Christian Adams

A tragic phenomenon has affected President Obama since he became President.  The more radical his audience, the more outrageous his lies.

At his appearance before Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Obama called voter fraud claims “bogus” and said his Justice Department has “taken on more than 100 voting rights cases since 2009.

This is a bald faced lie.  One need merely click this link at the Justice Department’s own website to see it is a lie.  The truth is that 39 cases have been brought, not 100, and only 13 relate to protecting minority voting rights – usually foreign language ballot issues.  The rest of the cases involve states sending out military ballots (an effort only begun after blistering coverage at PJ Media and elsewhere in 2010).

Thirty-nine does not equal 100, and 13 even less so.  Will Stephanie Condon at CBS News correct the false numbers which she so willingly reported?  Of course not.  She isn’t just biased.  She’s part of the administration’s public relations team, even if the federal government doesn’t sign her paycheck.

Here’s the dirty secret no sycophantic reporter will mention: the Bush Justice Department had a significantly more robust enforcement record in voting rights than the Obama Justice Department.

Regarding Obama’s lie that voter fraud is “bogus,” (impressive insightful language from a Harvard man), PJ Media has covered voter fraud so extensively that it is hardly worth rehashing the hundreds of cases of fraud reported over the last few years.  If you haven’t been paying attention, Google Melowese Richardson.  Her “bogus” case of voting six times for President Obama remains uncharged by Mr. Holder’s Justice Department.  President Obama is back to giving cover to criminal behavior in American elections.

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But you can forgive President Obama if he felt comfortable lying to Al Sharpton’s audience.  They’d believe anything.  Remember, Sharpton is a man who blamed the Jews in New York for all manner of conspiracies.  Riots he inspired led to chants of “kill the Jew.”  The “No Justice, No Peace” mantra emerged out of this violence as a not-so-subtle racial threat to New York Jews and the NYPD that had to deal with the Sharpton-motivated chaos.  Both Holder and Obama appeared before a wall containing the same slogan this week.  The audience Obama spoke to was already primed to believe outlandish fantasy and racially soaked paranoia.  That the President of the United States set foot in the room tells you everything you need to know about the man.

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Obama Admin: Fighting Terrorism but Supporting Terrorists?

Saturday, April 12th, 2014 - by Raymond Ibrahim

News recently emerged that “the Obama administration is imposing sanctions on an Egypt-based group that has claimed responsibility for attacks against Egyptian officials, Israeli interests and foreign tourists in Cairo and the Sinai peninsula. The State Department said Wednesday [4/9/14] it has designated Ansar Bayt al-Muqadis a ‘foreign terrorist organization.’”

While ostensibly a laudable move, some—many in Egypt—think this announcement is a ruse to portray the Obama administration as committed to combating terrorism, even as it supports the head of the terrorist-snake, the Muslim Brotherhood.

For instance, according to Mustafa Zayid, the Coordinator of the Sufi Coalition Forces in Egypt, “The expectation was for the United States of America to announce its designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization—as opposed to Ansar Bayt al-Muqadis, which takes its lead from it [Brotherhood].”

The Sufi leader further added in published comments to Watan “that Ansar Bayt al-Muqadis is a pseudonym for the terrorist Brotherhood organization, clarifying that what the U.S. State Department did was one of the administration’s tricks to deceive the world, mocking it into believing that the U.S. is combating terrorism.”

He further added that “the U.S. supports the Muslim Brotherhood and sponsors its terrorist activities throughout Egypt.”

Nor is the Sufi the only one making such charges.  According to Nabil Na’im, a Salafi, former member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and confidante of al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri, Ansar Bayt al-Muqadis is funded by Khairat al-Shatter, the currently imprisoned, multi-millionaire Brotherhood leader.

Of note is the fact that, although al-Shatter was never part of the Morsi government, U.S. diplomats often met with him, including Ambassador Anne Patterson and Sen. John McCain.

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Texas Governor Candidate Slaps White House with a FOIA

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

This is pretty good.

AUSTIN – Texans for Greg Abbott sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the White House today requesting they release any photos of Sen. Wendy Davis and President Obama taken by the White House during their meeting on Thursday, a meeting closed to press and photographers. Communications Director Matt Hirsch issued the following statement about Sen. Davis’ troubling lack of transparency:

“Despite stating unequivocally just last month that she would not avoid having her photo taken with President Obama, this week Sen. Davis did just that. Instead, she met with the President behind closed doors and did not allow any press coverage. We’re hoping that a White House that claims an ‘unprecedented’ commitment to transparency will hold itself to a higher standard than Sen. Davis apparently does.”

To view the request, click here.

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CAIR Attacked Ayaan Hirsi Ali Because They are Islamic Supremacists with Links to Terrorists

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Bob Beckel just went on a rant against CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, on Fox’s The Five. Beckel accused CAIR of lacking “guts” in not standing up for Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s rights after Brandeis University shamefully rescinded an honorary degree that it had planned to give her. Brandeis made that decision under pressure from Muslim students, and ultimately CAIR itself, after those groups accused Ali of being anti-Muslim.

Ali is anti-Muslim, but with good reason. She was mutilated as a young girl, and then forced into marrying a close relative by her family in Somalia. She escaped to Europe, has spoken out against Islam, and faces death threats because of that. Ali left Islam, adding to the “crimes” for which some Muslims would like to see her dead. The Dutch government could not even guarantee Ali’s safety, despite her career in parliament. So she had to move to the United States and still faces credible death threats.

CAIR’s problem is not that it lacks “guts.” CAIR’s problem is that it exists to attack people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. CAIR has been linked in a federal court trial with Hamas.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been connected to the terrorist organization Hamas, a federal judge said in a July 2009 rulingunsealed last week.

“The government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA, NAIT, with NAIT, the Islamic Association for Palestine, and with Hamas,” U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Solis said in the July 1, 2009, ruling.

CAIR was named as a co-conspirator in the landmark Holy Land Foundation Trial. Despite the fact that Hamas is the government of Gaza, it is still a terrorist group according to the United States government.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s overall strategy for conquering the United States through propaganda was exposed in the HFL trial.

“CAIR’s status as a co-conspirator is a matter of public record,” Solis explained. Examining the trial proceedings, he recounted the numerous ties between ISNA, NAIT, and CAIR.

During the trial, the government introduced documents detailing the Muslim Brotherhood’s beginnings in the United States. Amongst those was the May 22, 1991, “Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” authored by Mohamed Akram. The memorandum includes a section titled “Understanding the role of the Muslim Brother in North America” which states that the work of the Ikhwan in the United States is a “kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all religions.”

Also contained in the document was a list of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “organizations and the organizations of our friends,” which includes ISNA, NAIT, the Occupied Land Fund (HLFs former name, and others.

In another exhibit, titled “Preliminary vision for preparing future leadership,” dated Dec. 18, 1998, ISNA is listed as an “apparatus” of the Brotherhood. When the Holy Land Foundation first began, it raised money and supported Hamas through a bank account it held with ISNA and NAIT. ISNA checks deposited into the account were often payable to “the Palestinian Mujahiden.”

In addition to the financial connections, the trial also revealed cooperation between the organizations and their respective leadership. During the trial, the government introduced documents relating to the creation of the “Palestine Committee,” which was established to support Hamas. The Committee was run by Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, and included representatives from the Islamic Association of Palestine, the Holy Land Foundation, and CAIRrepresented by founder Omar Ahmad.

Ahmad also attended the 1993 Philadelphia conference, where leaders of the organizations under the Muslim Brotherhood umbrella met to discuss the future of the Brotherhood in the United States. The Philadelphia conference was attended by several members of the Palestine Committee, which supported and collected money for Hamas.

The above was compiled by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

When you understand what CAIR really is — not a civil rights group, but a Muslim Brotherhood front — then its actions against Ayaan Hirsi Ali make perfect sense. She criticizes Islam from a position of absolute moral authority. She was mutilated. She saw Islam’s mistreatment of women up close. She faces death threats to this day.

CAIR exists to discredit and marginalize people like Ali. That’s why CAIR’s top man, Ibrahim Hooper, did this.

For much more about Ibrahim Hooper, look him up on Discover the Networks. I’ll leave with an ironic quote from CAIR’s founder.

When the Washington Post in November 2001 asked Hooper if he would disavow the terrorist activities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he responded, “It’s not our job to go around denouncing.”

Right. Then why is he attacking Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

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That Terrible, No Good, Horrible Internet Security Flaw You’ve been Hearing About? The NSA Exploited it.

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Well, this is just great. The Heartbleed security flaw impacts a whole lot of web sites that everyone believed were secure. The NSA knew about it at least two years ago, but rather than alert Americans (and the rest of the world, of course) about it so that we could protect ourselves, No Such Agency decided that the flaw was a feature, and not a bug.

Heartbleed appears to be one of the biggest glitches in the Internet’s history, a flaw in the basic security of as many as two-thirds of the world’s websites. Its discovery and the creation of a fix by researchers five days ago prompted consumers to change their passwords, the Canadian government to suspend electronic tax filing and computer companies including Cisco Systems Inc. to Juniper Networks Inc. to provide patches for their systems.

Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost. Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers.

What’s our government supposed to do? Oh right, provide for the common defense of its citizens. One would think that defending citizens against criminal hackers and who knows who internationally would have been part of that. Apparently not.

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Conor Friedersdorf Offers Some Clarity To Those Who Equate SSM Opponents To White Supremacists

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Nuance in a gay marriage debate?!? Is that even allowed?

Friedersdorf is one of those writers I agree with once in every twelfth blue moon or so, and I found myself nodding in agreement with much of this article.

He takes apart the fallacious comparison of religious opposition to same sex marriage to white supremacists’ opposition to interracial marriage (emphasis mine):

A narrow point we disagree on is the comparison of opposing interracial marriage to opposing gay marriage. Opposition to interracial marriage was all but synonymous with a belief in the superiority of one race and the inferiority of another. (In fact, it was inextricably tied to a singularly insidious ideology of white supremacy and black subjugation that has done more damage to America and its people than anything else, and that ranks among the most obscene crimes in history.)

Opposition to gay marriage can be rooted in the insidious belief that gays are inferior, but it’s also commonly rooted in the much-less-problematic belief that marriage is a procreative institution, not one meant to join couples for love and companionship alone.

This is largely because most leftists don’t get outside of the hive mind much, something that is sort of alluded to in a footnote at the end of the piece.

It is important to keep countering the reflexive leftist “BIGOT!” tactic with nuance, facts and whatever other interjections of reality apply. Their stranglehold on social narratives won’t disappear overnight, but they can be undermined over time.

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Unhinged, Resentful San Francisco Progs Targeting Individuals Who Are Successful

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

The frothing animals will soon be at your doorstep.

Demonstrations against the grip on San Francisco held by wealthy technology workers took a personal turn on Friday with protesters taking aim at a Google lawyer they say personifies the tensions being stirred by abundant tech money.

Jack Halprin, a landlord in the city’s gentrifying Mission district, became the focus of the latest blockade of a tech company commuter bus, with protesters demanding Google ask Halprin to rescind eviction notices he has sent his tenants.

Protesters told Reuters they will increasingly target individuals as part of a strategy to draw attention to the growing divide between rich and poor in San Francisco, a rift widened by a tech industry boom that is inflating rents and exacerbating social problems such as evictions.

This isn’t an anomaly, it is the endgame for progressive redistribution. There is some delicious irony in the fact that the income inequality angst is bubbling over in the city that also serves as the leftist mothership. But it is a dangerous precedent. They are going after individuals and, as we have seen with almost all prog protests, it will eventually turn violent.

The sad thing is that most of the Democrats who like to stir the class warfare pot are too stupid to know they are advocating for precisely this kind of behavior. It is all part of the consequence-free dreamland they live in.

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German Retailer: Yeah, Maybe The Hitler Mugs Were A Bad Idea

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Ya think?!?!?

A German furniture store chain has apologised for selling mugs with Adolf Hitler’s face on them.

The ceramic cups feature a faint image of a Nazi-era postage stamp with Hitler’s profile on it, postmarked with a swastika stamp.

The mug also features a rose and handwriting in English.

The Zurbrueggen furniture chain apologised for the “terrible” mistake, which it blamed on “a stupid chain of unfortunate circumstances”.

The cups’ Chinese designer had mistakenly chosen the image of the former dictator, it said, which the chain then ordered in error – 5,000 of them.

Sure, blame it on the Chinese.

I’m pretty sure they know who Hitler is too.

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Cruz for the Win: White House Denies Visa for Iranian Hostage-Taker

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Once Congress had voted to keep Iranian hostage-taker Hamid Aboutalebi from visiting the US as Iran’s ambassador to the UN, the Obama White House had a choice: Bow to the Iranians anyway, or accede to the wishes of Republicans and Democrats who went on the record to oppose Aboutalebi.

Congress went on the record under the leadership of one Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. The state’s junior senator crafted a bill that sailed through Congress with impressive bipartisan support. That bill landed on Obama’s desk.

The president did not sign that bill, at least not yet. The White House is simply refusing to grant Aboutalebi’s visa.

Why act in concert with Congress and in harmony with the Constitution, when it can get away with yet another unilateral action?

 

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Jeffrey Herf Writes the President of Brandeis

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Ron Radosh

My friend Jeffrey Herf, a brilliant historian and prize-winning author, has written a most powerful letter to the president or Brandeis University. He writes the following:

 I have had occasion to address the role of Islam and Islamism in fanning the flames of Jew-hatred. In publishing work that documents the role of the Islamist interpretation of the Koran in promulgating the most absurd and idiotic ideas about the Jews, I have faced intolerance from scholars working on the Middle East. They have denounced well-founded scholarship as “Islamophobia” or “Zionist propaganda” and denied that the Koran or Islamism could possibly have anything to do with anti-Semitism. Like Tony Kushner and Desmond Tutu, to whom Brandeis has given honorary degrees, they have erroneously argued that Arab and Islamist antagonism to Israel is exclusively the result of the alleged sins of Israel. As far as I know, neither has had anything of substance to say about the role of Islam and Islamism in fanning the flames of hatred of the Jews and of Israel. These critics have said that those of us who point to the anti-Jewish elements of the Koran and the Jew-hatred of modern Islamists are guilty of intolerance towards Muslims. I have seen this up close for years now. The last place I expected to find groveling, embarrassing appeasement of this rubbish was from the president of Brandeis University.

Read his entire letter at The Weekly Standard.

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New York Times Gives Harry Reid’s ‘SCARY KOCH BROTHERS!’ Story A Subtle Hand

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

It is no secret by now that Harry Reid spends his work hours in a semi-waking state, drooling and muttering “Koch brothers” whenever he senses a camera nearby. And, as the Democrats can’t really point to any accomplishments this election year, they desperately need to make the electorate focus on various nonsensical distractions, like the Koch brothers taking over American politics or “income inequality”.

As it is difficult for most Americans to take the Senate Majority Leader seriously, a little help is in order. Enter the official publication of the Democratic National Committee, aka the New York Times.

Democrats in races that will help determine control of the Senate are rapidly burning through their campaign cash, whittling away their financial advantage over Republican opponents as they fend off attacks from conservative groups, according to figures released through Friday.

The spending on both sides underscores the critical role that outside conservative groups are playing as Republicans try to retake the Senate. In state after state, organizations like Americans for Prosperity, the nonprofit linked to David and Charles Koch, have kept Democrats on the defensive with a barrage of negative ads while establishment-backed Republican candidates raise money and navigate their way through primaries.

In yet another piece lamenting money in politics (the Republican kind), the Times takes all of three sentences to drop in a Koch brothers reference. Coincidence? Sure, just like a diet of Twinkies, beer and pizza and obesity are a coincidence.

It is somewhat telling that the “BIG REPUBLICAN MONEY” stories are starting this early in the year. The Democrats usually only get this canard going when they know they’re about to get their clocks cleaned. They can’t ever admit that the GOP might be appealing to people with ideas, it has to be the money. Of course, Big Labor’s infusion of cash and bodies for get out the vote efforts is never mentioned.

For the record, Americans for Prosperity (which is only partially funded by the Kochs) and all of the other Republican stalwarts when it comes to contributions were spending just as much, if not more, money in 2012 and we know how that turned out. So much for the Moneybags Illuminati buying an election whenever they want to.

This entire piece in the Times was written just to get in the Koch brothers mention. It’s how they work. Some media entities like MSNBC are heavy-handed with their biases. The Grey Lady, however, has been doing this longer than any of the others and knows how to slip it right by people.

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WATCH Sebelius Get a ‘Page Missing Error’ On Her Way Out of HHS

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Healthcare.gov is best known for not working. During the first months of its rollout, the Obamacare website has sent users millions of “Page Not Found” errors.

So resigning HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius meeting up with a missing page error during her exit speech is about as appropriate an exit as there could have been.

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Think Progress Upset To Find Out That Intrusive Government Regulations Harm Everyone

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Tough day in the real world.

A pastor determined to live out the Bible’s dictate that we feed the poor was shut down by local police because he didn’t have a permit to serve food.

Twice a month, Rick Wood, a pastor at The Lord’s House of Prayer in Oneonta, Alabama, gets in his truck and drives around Birmingham with more than a hundred hot dogs and bottles of water, handing them out to the homeless. Wood has been serving those in need for the past six years because he wants to put Matthew 25:35-40 — “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,” a scripture verse he has plastered on the side of his truck — into action.

But last month, Wood was stopped from handing out food by local police because he was in violation of a new city ordinance, passed in December, that regulates food trucks. The new regulation requires food trucks to get a permit, which can cost as much as $500. Though the ordinance is specifically targeted at retail food vendors, rather than charities, the city nevertheless used it to block Wood.

True, this won’t bring about an epiphany to the progs but it does provide an illustration to maybe begin a conversation with one or two of them.

Bureaucracies need cash flow to provide the big government utopias that leftists crave and they never quite get that the approach to getting this money is rather heartless. If you have any money at all, the government is spending all of its waking hours trying to figure out ways to get to it. Regulatory burdens hurt everyone, whether directly or indirectly, and regulation is the heart of the big dreams of modern American liberalism.

It’s such an unfair way to treat people that the Think Progress folk seem to know in their hearts it’s wrong, even if their little proggy brains can’t figure out why.

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Cut the Clitoral Relativism: Islam, Sharia, and Female Genital Mutilation/“Circumcision”

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Andrew G. Bostom

Despite their ongoing antagonisms—played out, prominently, on Fox News—a bizarre, shared apologetic has emerged which denies the irrefragable sanctioning of female genital mutilation/“circumcision” (FGM/C) by canonical Islamic tradition (“hadith”), and over 1100 years of authoritative, mainstream Islamic jurisprudence. The strange bedfellow antagonists engaged in these overlapping apologetics about FGM/C are the Clarion Foundation and its film “Honor Diaries,” allied with the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation (Ms. Ali is also listed as the film’s executive producer), “versus” the Hamas-linked cultural jihadist organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Fox News has served as overseer of this “conflict” cum consensus, while also reinforcing the fallacy that FGM/C is simply a tragic manifestation of misogynistic patriarchal trends that are generic, and have “no basis” in Islam and the Sharia, Islamic law.

Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR issued the following statement (which Fox News host Megyn Kelly aired on her broadcast), that melds Islamic negationism (in bold, below), with vitriol against the Clarion Foundation-produced film:

American Muslims join people of conscience of all faiths in condemning female genital mutilation, forced marriages, “honor killings” and any other form of domestic violence or gender inequality as violations of Islamic beliefs. If anyone mistreats women, they should not seek refuge in Islam. The real concern in this case is that the producers of the film, who have a track record of promoting anti-Muslim bigotry, are hijacking a legitimate issue to push their hate-filled agenda.

Notwithstanding the obsessive focus on Hooper/CAIR’s predictably gratuitous attack against the producers of “Honor Diaries,” what has been deliberately obfuscated by conservative supporters of the film are mirror image statements denying the centrality of Islamic doctrine such as this blatantly false Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation website pronouncement:

FGM has no foundation in Islamic scripture or law.

Quanta Ahmed, a protagonist in “Honor Diaries,” appearing in one of Megyn Kelly’s Fox News segments on the “CAIR vs. bold filmmakers controversy,” made a Goebbel’s-like inversion of morality. Ahmed not only denied Islam’s sanctioning of FGM in “Honor Diaries,” claiming, falsely, “Female genital mutilation is not advocated in Islam in any way shape or form,” during her March 31, 2014 interview with Megyn Kelly she compounded her mendacity with the morally perverse observation that,

the most Islamic act is to expose this injustice

This shared mendacity by current antagonists CAIR, Clarion, the Ayaan Hirsi Foundation, and Dr. Quanta Ahmed, deliberately obfuscates, as but one salient example, the following canonical hadith (“tradition” of Muhammad) which sanctions FGM/C:

Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah said: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet said to her: “Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.” [Sunan Abu Dawud, Chapter 1888, “Circumcision of Girls”, Number 5251, from Sunan Abu Dawud, one of the six canonical hadith collections, English translation with Explanatory notes by Prof. Ahmad Hasan, 2007, Volume III, p. 1451; this hadith is also available online here, as Book 41, Number 5251]

Professor Hasan’s note adds the following observations:

Some Shafii scholars hold that circumcision of girls is obligatory, but others think that it is recommended. Ahmad b. Hanbal and some Maliki jurists hold that it is obligatory. Abu Hanifah maintains that it is recommended and not obligatory. Mali holds that it is recommended and not obligatory.

The great Muslim theologian and polymath al-Jahiz (d. 869), citing the canonical tradition of Muhammad, noted that female circumcision was specifically employed as a means to reduce female “concupiscence,” unbridled lust—or mere sexual pleasure, derived from a fully intact clitoris:

A woman with a clitoris has more pleasure than a woman without a clitoris. The pleasure depends on the quantity which was cut from the clitoris. Muhammad said, “If you cut, cut the slightest part and do not exaggerate because it makes the face more beautiful and it is more pleasing for the husband.” It seems Muhammad wanted to reduce the concupiscence of the women to moderate it. If concupiscence is reduced, the pleasure is also reduced…The love of the husband is an impediment against debauchery. Judge Janab Al-Khaskhash contends that he counted in one village the number of women who were circumcised and those who were not, and he found that the circumcised were chaste and the majority of the debauched were uncircumcised. Indian, Byzantine, and Persian women often commit adultery and run after men because their concupiscence towards men is greater. For this reason, India created brothels. This happened because of the massive presence of their clitorises and their hoods. [Al-Jahiz, Kitab al-hayawan, Vol. 7, pp. 27-29]

This argument is repeatedly invoked by classical Muslim jurists, and remains at present the most commonly cited rationale for circumcision of Muslim women. For example, here are two opinions from respected Al-Azhar clerics/“Professors,” Al Azhar University and its mosque representing the pinnacle of Sunni Islamic religious education, the de facto Vatican of Sunni Islam. The first observation was by the late Jad al-Haq (d. 1996) who served as Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and as such was a Sunni Muslim Papal equivalent.

Al-Haq insisted the present era makes female circumcision requisite,

because of mixing of the sexes at public gatherings. If the girl is not circumcised, she subjects herself to multiple causes of excitation leading her to vice and perdition. [Jad al-Haq, 1983, Khitan al-banat, in: Al-fatawi al-islamiyyah min dar al-ifta al-masriyyah, Vol. 9, p. 3124, translated here]

Abd al-Rahman Al-Adawi, al-Azhar Professor, writing in 1989, noted that female circumcision is makrumah—a meritorious action. He further claimed the procedure helped the woman,

remain shy and virtuous. In the Orient, where the climate is hot, a girl gets easily aroused if she is not circumcised. It makes her shameless and prey to her sexual instincts except those to whom Allah shows compassion. [from Al-khitan, ra’y al-din wal-‘ilm fi khitan al-awlad wal-banat, 1989, pp 81-2, translated here]

The classical Iraqi jurist Ibn Mawdud al-Musili (d. 1284), in his major Islamic law treatise [Al-ikhtiyar, vol. 4, p. 167, translated here] declared,

If a region stops, of common agreement, to practice male and female circumcision, the chief of the state declares war [jihad] against that region because circumcision is a part of the rituals of Islam and its specificities

Former Al-Azhar Grand Imam Jad al-Haq also insisted repeatedly (twice in a 1981 fatwa, and three times in a fatwa published during 1994; [see Sami A. Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh, Male and Female Circumcision—Religious, medical, social, and legal debate, 2012, p. 173]) that the attempt to prevent female (or male) circumcision was grounds for waging jihad against those renouncing and abrogating the procedures. The October 1994 issue of the magazine Al-Azhar included a booklet distributed as a free appendix. The booklet contained Grand Imam al-Haq’s fatwa whose main elements had already been published in 1981. In this “updated” 1994 fatwa, al-Haq affirmed the call for jihad thrice, reiterating verbatim the opinion of the 13th century jurist al-Musili, and adding his own gloss about the obligatory nature of female and male circumcision (translation, p. 347),

If a region stops, of common agreement, to practice male and female circumcision, the chief of the state declares war [jihad] against that region because circumcision is a part of the rituals of Islam and its specificities. This means that male and female circumcisions are obligatory.

Given such authoritative and adamant Islamic endorsement, it is unsurprising that Egypt’s FGM/C rate persisted at 91% as reported in a July, 2013 UNICEF analysis. Indeed UNICEF’s own attempt to obfuscate the association between Islam and FGM/C was thwarted by the data adduced within the report which underscored the overwhelming predominance of this practice in Islamic societies (such as Somalia, FGM/C rate of 98%; Sudan FGM/C rate of 88%), and even Muslim minority populations within multi-religious societies. Moreover, the UNICEF survey curiously omitted the largest Muslim nation (and population) altogether: Indonesia.

The origins, rationale (i.e., notably a predominance of the Shafi’ite school of Sunni Islamic law—as in Egypt, with its 91% rate of FGM/C), and apparent near universal present extent of FGM/C among young Indonesian Muslim woman by age 18 is a case study which puts the lie to the apologetic—and corrosive—mindset that seeks to willfully dissociate FGM/C from Islam.

Returning to the Islamic law basis for FGM/C, al-Nawawi (d.1277), the seminal Shafi’ite Sunni legist, in his authoritative Al-majmu sharh al-muhadhdhab [translated here; and also here], maintained:

Circumcision is obligatory for our men and women.

Mohamad Atho Mudzhar’s 1990 PhD dissertation, “Fatwas of the Council of Indonesian Ulama: A study of Islamic legal thought in Indonesia, 1975-1988,” includes this relevant observation about his native country:

Indonesian Muslims have always claimed themselves to be Shafi’is…. At the theologico-doctrinal level, Indonesian Muslims are the followers of the Shafi’i school of Islamic law…most of them are aware of their adherence to the Shafi’i school of Islamic law.

The rigorous analyses of Dutch ethnographer G.A. Wilken (1847-1891), and Dutch historian B.J.O. Schrieke (writing in 1921/1922), concluded a century (or more) ago that female circumcision was introduced by Islam to the vast Indonesian archipelago, because the practice was present only in Islamized regions. They further noted female circumcision was absent in the regions not yet (i.e., as of the late 19th and early 20th centuries) penetrated by Islam or, at that time, only superficially Islamized.

Wilken’s article entitled : “De besnijdenis bij de volken van den Indischen Archipel,” (“Circumcision in the nations of the Indonesian Archipelago”) was first published in Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch- Indie, (Contributions to Lingusitics, Lands, and Ethnology of the Dutch East Indies), 34 (1885), pp. 165-206. B. Schrieke, published a two-part essay on the subject, nearly four decades later, whose findings concurred: “Allerlei over de besnijdenis in den Indischen Archipel,” (“Miscellaneous circumcision in the Indonesian Archipelago,” in Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, (Journal of East Indian Linguistics, Lands, and Ethnology), 60 (1921), 373-578 ; 61 (1922), 1-94.)

Schrieke (1921, pp. 549-551). reported that when queried about the meaning of this circumcision, the Indonesian Muslim parents replied that it’s purpose was for their daughters to become Muslims (eerst Mohammedanen worden).

Just over eighty years, by 2003, a comprehensive survey “updated” and confirmed the Schrieke’s findings, adding critical data on the astonishing modern prevalence of FGM/C within Indonesia.

This broad-based Indonesian survey canvassed 1,694 households in eight different sites, representing eight different major ethnic groups of Indonesia, and including both rural and urban locations. Key background findings were as follows (verbatim):

  • Almost all mothers at all sites gave consent for the practice of FC [FGM/C] to be performed on their daughters. When asked whether FC [FGM/C] has beneficial effects on women, 69% responded “yes,” and mentioned benefits including successful completion of religious duty, health and hygiene. Only a very small proportion of mothers felt that there were no benefits of FC [FGM/C] and 26% said they “do not know”.
  • When mothers were asked about their view regarding the future of the practice of FC [FGM/C], the majority supported its continuation and objected to any proposed ban on FC [FGM/C]. Only small proportion of mothers (7%) said that they would support the ban. Even among those who would support the ban, they would support only if reasons for banning are rational, understandable, and not against religion.
  • A significant proportion of mothers (20%) even suggested social sanctions should be imposed on uncircumcised girls. Larger proportions of mothers with this view were found in Padang Pariaman and Gorontalo. Across the study sites, 30 to 96% of mothers held the opinion that FC [FGM/C] is “a must,” even for girls who have already reached the age of 10 or over.

Among all the children aged 15 to 18, 86-100% of the girls were already circumcised, with a mean overall rate of 97.5%. Thus the authors concluded aptly their survey had demonstrated,

that circumcision among girls is a universal practice in the study sites.

During March of 2010, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, issued an edict reinforcing its religious support for FGM/C, albeit with anappeal by a leading Islamic cleric to the NU’s estimated 40 million followers “not to cut too much.” By September of 2011 “medical guidelines” on how to perform female genital mutilation/cutting were issued by the Indonesian Ministry of Health, ostensibly to reduce of the extent of damage to the clitoris when the procedure was performed by traditional non-medical personnel. However an Indonesia-wide survey of FGM/C practices in 2009, revealed that when medical practitioners performed the procedure, there was a trend toward more extensive cutting of the clitoris!

Finally, here in the U.S. (and Canada), surely CAIR, The Clarion Project/The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation, and Quanta Ahmed, who even in their rancor against each other, all oppose FGM/C, and claim it is has “no basis in Islam,” will confront the fatwas sanctioning FGM/C for North American Muslims by the mainstream Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA)?

The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America’s (AMJA’s) mission statement maintains the organization was,

founded to provide guidance for Muslims living in North America…AMJA is a religious organization that does not exploit religion to achieve any political ends, but instead provides practical solutions within the guidelines of Islam and the nation’s laws to the various challenges experienced by Muslim communities…

A report in The Muslim Observer published October 21, 2010 highlighting AMJA’s “seventh annual American conference of imams,” confirmed that the organization is accepted as such by the mainstream American Muslim community. AMJA and its “training” conference for American imams were described in these banal terms:

The organization AMJA (Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America) has a list of scholars associated with it which stretches from Al-Azhar University to Virginia’s Open University, and back across the ocean to the professors at Saudi universities.  Its website, amjaonline.com, provides fatawa on many issues and promises 24-hour access to scholars who can give legal opinions on the issues people face. AMJA focuses on providing fatwas to Americans, and believes it is able to provide culturally appropriate fatwas although many of their scholars are not American–because they have some American scholars and because of the technological ties that bind AMJA’s American scholars with those abroad. AMJA just had, in Houston, its seventh annual American conference of imams, and two local Michigan imams attended, namely Imam Musa of Bloomfield’s Muslim Unity Center, and Imam Ali of MCWS. Mr. Sadiqul Hassan of AMJA explained that “the event was the 7th annual imam workshop…”  Mr. Hassan said that AMJA is “a fiqh council basically,” with “scholars who live abroad and inside the US; we have experts in different fields to educate about life in the US–fatawa are based on life in the US.”

AMJA rulings clearly support the practice of FGM/C (which, appropriately, the United Nations has called “a dangerous and potentially life-threatening procedure that causes unspeakable pain and suffering.”). Fatwa #1639 from Dr. Hatem al-Haj justified the horrific practice, by citing the canonical hadith in which Islam’s prophet Muhammad endorsed its practice, stating:

[…] Some extremists from the west and their devout followers in the Muslim world like to brand all circumcision as female genital mutilation (FGM). For those, we say, why is male circumcision not MGM? Male circumcision is widely practiced in the west. Yet it would be considered by the Chinese MGM (Male Genital Mutilation). The benefits of male circumcision are beginning to be more recognized in the medical societies, even though still contested by a few. Fifty years ago, no one knew that male circumcision has medical benefits. The same could be true with female circumcision. They may figure out the benefits of the practice in fifty or five hundred years. […]

Al-Haj then went on to implicitly sanction the practice of taking a Muslim female outside of her American milieu to have the procedure performed—in violation of the US “TRANSPORT FOR FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION” act.

The question is not to ban female circumcision because of the position of certain nations, but How do we regulate it as Muslims? What should we -western Muslims- do? For Muslims who live in the west, since it is not mandatory and it is at the same time illegal in the west, and would bring about harm to the people who practice it, I wouldn`t advise having it done, as long as you are a resident/citizen of the west. We however should never doubt anything in our religion because of the bad publicity the media creates about it

A concordant fatwa issued in Arabic (translation by Al-Mutarjim) on the website of the Secretary-General of AMJA and the chief member of its Resident Fatwa Committee, Dr. Salah Al-Sawy, declares that FGM is “an honor” for women, Al-Sawy also acknowledges that the procedure—in accord with a continuum of Islamic rationale from al-Jahiz in the mid-9th century, to former Muslim Papal equivalent, i.e.,  Al-Azhar University Grand Imam Jad al-Haq through 1996—is explicitly implemented to reduce a woman’s otherwise unbridled “concupiscence,” i.e., lust:

But for the woman, the purpose [of circumcision] is the benefit that it has in lessening her lust, which is a wholesome request. There is no harm in removing it. In short, female circumcision is an honor (which) does not rise to the level of a duty, in clear language. Stated another way, it is neither forbidden nor required.

Having thus far refused to honestly acknowledge, let alone confront the clear, authoritative Islamic imprimatur for FGM-C—from Muhammad’s alleged utterance, to classical and modern jurists, across a millennium, till today—in Islamic societies, perhaps all these strange bedfellows, The Clarion Project/The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation, Quanta Ahmed, and CAIR, will, pardon the reference, gird their loins within the security of the U.S., remonstrate against AMJA’s apparent “distortion” of Islam, and explain to AMJA’s clerics why they are wrong. Better still, invite all the parties—AMJA’s clerics and any of The Clarion Project/The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation, Quanta Ahmed, and CAIR to debate whether Islam sanctions FGM/C on Fox News’ The Kelly File.

 

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Liberals Are Miserable Creatures, NY Times ‘Draft Day’ Review Edition

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Lately I have been collecting examples of the liberal love affair with misery (especially in the media) for a future project of mine. They are, as most things about modern American leftists are, generally absurd and laughable but worth sharing just to remind ourselves that we don’t want the world run by cranky grade school principals.

This morning, I happened upon this review of the new Kevin Costner movie Draft Day by the New York Times veteran reviewer A.O. Scott. Now, I don’t know for sure what Scott’s politics are, but given the fact that he has risen to the top of the heap at the Times, it is pretty easy to make a guess.

Scott has a lot of nice things to say about Costner, director Ivan Reitman and the movie, ultimately offering that “it sells itself beautifully.”

As if all of the casual enjoyment of what is obviously meant to be a fluff sports movie, Scott has to offer this in the middle of the review:

“Draft Day,” made with what appears to be the very enthusiastic — not to say domineering — cooperation of the N.F.L., is less a football movie than a promotional film. You will see sweeping aerial shots of skylines and stadiums in franchise cities. You will see the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, and a bunch of players and executives, past and present, gamely portraying themselves. You will not hear anything about concussions or sexual assault or the exploitation of college athletes, though you may notice that this is a story of (mostly) white men buying and selling the labor of (mostly) African-Americans.

I guess suspension of disbelief is only a thing for leftists when they listen to their political heroes speaking about policy.

This paragraph is so out of place with the rest of the review that it almost appears as if an editor scribbled it in at the last minute. A veteran movie critic knows the difference between mindless entertainment and gritty documentary movies. Why would he lament that the former isn’t the latter in a review?

Because it’s the New York Times, and it just wouldn’t be right to celebrate an easygoing flick about an American institution that is beloved in flyover country without getting in a dig about racism.

They have rules there, you know.

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Someone Tucked an Obscure Line into the Farm Bill That Allows the Treasury Department to Destroy Due Process

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The Washington Post has an outrageous story about how the Treasury Department is going after thousands of Americans to collect on debts — which may not have ever been real debts — it says deceased family members owed the government.

A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.

When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.

Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.

Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check.

Treasury says it is acting now because it can. The statute of limitations was lifted in 2011. Who lifted it? No one will admit it.

The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam.

No one seems eager to take credit for reopening all these long-closed cases. A Social Security spokeswoman says the agency didn’t seek the change; ask Treasury. Treasury says it wasn’t us; try Congress. Congressional staffers say the request probably came from the bureaucracy.

The only explanation the government provides for suddenly going after decades-old debts comes from Social Security spokeswoman Dorothy Clark: “We have an obligation to current and future Social Security beneficiaries to attempt to recoup money that people received when it was not due.”

Except, it’s illegal. Debts owed by the dead do not transfer to their children, to be paid out of their own assets. Tax refunds are money refunded to Americans because of tax overpayments. That money belongs to citizens, not the government.

These cases come with no notice, just a letter that the government has intercepted the tax refunds, along with threats that failure to comply may be reported negatively to credit rating agencies. In Grice’s case, the government seems to have gone out of its way not to notify her at all.

Grice, who works for the Food and Drug Administration and lives in Takoma Park, in the same apartment she’s resided in since 1984, never got any notice about a debt.

Social Security officials told her they had sent their notice to her post office box in Roxboro, N.C. Grice rented that box from 1977 to 1979 and never since. And Social Security has Grice’s current address: Every year, it sends her a statement about her benefits.

“Their record-keeping seems to be very spotty,” she said.

That’s being generous.

Treasury officials say that before they will take someone’s refund, the agency owed the money must certify the debt, meaning there must be evidence of the overpayment. But Social Security officials told Grice they had no records explaining the debt.

“The craziest part of this whole thing is the way the government seizes a child’s money to satisfy a debt that child never even knew about,” says Robert Vogel, Grice’s attorney. “They’ll say that somebody got paid for that child’s benefit, but the child had no control over the money and there’s no way to know if the parent ever used the money for the benefit of that kid.”

Yes, the irony is obvious. As a government bureaucrat who lives in leftwing Tacoma Park, Grice is probably a big fan of big government. That doesn’t take away from the injustice that’s being done to her and thousands of others — $1.9 billion dollars worth this year.

There is no recourse for Americans who have had their money taken. They can file a claim, but it will probably go nowhere. Only 10% of appeals have been successful so far, even though the government can’t even prove that the debts ever existed in most cases.

The farm bill that enabled Treasury to torch due process is always notoriously long and full of obscure subsidies and other things that the congresspeople who pass it never bother to read. No one will even own up to lifting the statute of limitations, but clearly Treasury got wind of the change very quickly and acted on it.

If your tax refund is smaller than you expected this year, you may be a victim of this criminal government theft spree.

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Rep. Lewis Says ‘History Will Not be Kind’ to America If One Bill Not Passed

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), while stressing that those who think nothing has changed in terms of civil rights should rethink that and walk in his shoes, said “history will not be kind” to the country if Congress fails to pass immigration reform.

Lewis, 74, was one of the original Freedom Riders and famously made peace in 2009 with a former Klansman who beat him at a 1965 march.

MSNBC’s first questions to the congressman, though, were about how he would equate gay rights with the civil rights movement.

“If two women or two men want to fall in love and get married, it’s their business. You cannot have equality for African-Americans or for Latinos or Asian-American, Native-American, white American, and not have equality for gay individuals,” Lewis said.

“…In the final analysis, we are one people and it doesn’t matter whether we are black or white, or whether we are Latino or Asian- American, Native-American, or whether we are gay or straight. As Dr. King said, we have to learn to live together as brothers and sisters or we’re going to perish as fools.”

The civil rights movement of the MLK era, he stressed, “changed America forever.”

“Our country, our people. Our country is so much better. The American people are better. People woke up and said Congressman John, I want to ask you to forgive me for what we did. I hear it in Alabama and Georgia and Mississippi, all across America. There’s a greater sense of community. There’s a greater sense of family in our country today,” Lewis said.

“And people ask me now that — tell me, where is the next step? Where is the next movement? I was not old enough to be with you, but I’m with you now. And then I hear some people saying nothing has changed. I just say come and walk in my shoes and I will show you change.”

When asked what’s left “undone” from the 1960s, he said immigration reform.

“We have millions of people standing and living in the shadow. People need to come out and state them on a path to citizenship. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s not just. It’s immoral to have millions of our citizens — some of these young people, the only place they know is America,” he continued. “And I’m convinced that history will not be kind to us if we fail, as a nation and as a people, to pass comprehensive immigration reform. And we should do it now and not delay.”

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Will Independent Maine Senator Bolt to Caucus with GOP?

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Independent Maine Sen. Angus King votes with the Democrats 94 percent of the time, but if the Republicans take control of the upper chamber in the fall he might switch his caucus affiliation.

King made the suggestion after his surprise vote to support the Republican filibuster of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

“I’ll make my decision at the time based on what I think is best for Maine,” he told The Hill.

“Sen. King only told The Hill newspaper what he’s always said – that his guiding principle is, and always will be, to do what is right for Maine,” his spokeswoman, Kathleen Connery Dawe, said Thursday, according to The Kennebec Journal. “He’s a proven consensus builder and will continue to work with members on both sides of the aisle, regardless of who’s in charge. He believes the people of Maine sent him here to find solutions, and that’s all he’s focused on.”

King, who replaced retired Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after his 2012 victory, saying he wanted an independence guarantee before caucusing.

“I ran on the platform of trying to call them as I see them, not be able — not be locked into a party position one way or the other. And that’s what I want to try to maintain,” he said back then.

But he also acknowledged that it’s about power: getting committee assignments from the ruling party.

King vowed to be a “bridge” between the two parties, but has been a reliable vote for Reid even as moderate Dems such as Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) have fallen away on key votes.

In September, King accused Republicans who were trying to repeal Obamacare of trying to kill people.

“That’s a scandal — those people are guilty of murder in my opinion,” King told Salon. “Some of those people they persuade are going to end up dying because they don’t have health insurance. For people who do that to other people in the name of some obscure political ideology is one of the grossest violations of our humanity I can think of. This absolutely drives me crazy.”

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Operation ‘Cynthia’ — Was the Woman Who Threw a Shoe at Hillary Clinton a Hardcore Leftist?

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Someone threw a shoe at Hillary Clinton yesterday during a speech.

After the shoe whizzed past, several feet away from Clinton, a blond woman raised her hands above her head and walked to the back of the room. Security quickly grabbed her and she’ll apparently face criminal charges.

The Wall Street Journal picks up an interesting bit from the moment: The shoe-thrower also threw something else.

An attendee later handed a reporter a piece of paper that was apparently also thrown by the woman. It appeared to be a copy of a Department of Defense document labeled confidential and dated August 1967; it referred to an operation “Cynthia” in Bolivia. There was a Bolivian army operation of that name in 1967 to capture revolutionary Che Guevara.

Global Security has a brief bit on Operation Cynthia.

The Samaipata raid on July 6 by Che’s men shocked the army into launching two offensives against the guerrillas. The first, “Operation Cynthia”, directed the Fourth Army Division from Camiri to conduct operations south of the Rio Grande River (see map #3, page 108). In early August the second offensive, “Operation Parabano”, was initiated by the Eighth Army Division in the area north of the river. The Fourth Division soldiers pursued Joaquin’s group northward throughout the months of July and August, periodically clashing with the guerrillas. The “Cynthia” soldiers, however, were denied the final victory when Joaquin’s band crossed the imposed boundary at the Rio Grande. Their counterparts of the Eighth Division, waiting at the river, destroyed their prey at the El Vado
del Yeso ford.

Che’s face adorns T-shirts on countless college campuses all over the world today, despite the fact that he was a racist, murderous Communist thug. People who are likely to support OkCupid’s and Mozilla’s ouster of Brendan Eich over “tolerance” are likely to wear or have worn Che shirts at some point in their lives.

Operation Cynthia doesn’t appear to have anything at all to do with Hillary Clinton. The shoe throwing must have been, well, crazy, but also an attempt to use Clinton to draw attention to Che Guevara.

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The First GOP Woman in the 2016 Ring?

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A trip by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to early primary state New Hampshire this weekend will be about more than just a speech at a Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity rally.

A Blackburn aide confirmed to RealClearPolitics that she’s flirting with the idea of a presidential run:

“If there’s a door to kick down, she’s willing to kick it down,” the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. “These are the kinds of events you go to — test the waters, and see what the reaction is.”

…“There is kind of a void to fill there,” the Blackburn aide said of the likely GOP presidential field. “Whenever there’s been a need for leadership or someone to get out there and fight the fight, she’s always been the first in line and she’s not afraid of it. She’s not afraid to go toe to toe with anybody.”

Both a social and fiscal conservative, the 61-year-old congresswoman has served in the House since 2003 and ran unopposed in 2012. She serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and was formerly communications chair for the conservative Republican Study Committee caucus.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was the only woman who ran for the GOP nomination in 2012. She won the Ames Straw poll, but placed sixth in the Iowa caucuses, eventually dropped out and endorsed Mitt Romney.

Bachmann has expressed no interest in a 2016 try.

Other women who could possibly seek the nomination are Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the highest ranking GOP woman in Congress and chair of the House Republican Conference who gave the official party response to the State of the Union address this years, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and governors Susana Martinez (N.M.), Nikki Haley (S.C.) or Mary Fallin (Okla.).

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If You Only Watch One Clip of a Democrat Getting Destroyed on National TV Today, It Should Be This One

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

At nearly 6 minutes, the following clip of Democrat Mike Dickinson losing, badly and repeatedly and embarrassingly, to Fox’s Greta Van Sustern last night is on the longish side. But it’s awesome.

Mike Dickinson is a Democrat running for Rep. Eric Cantor’s seat in Congress. In his campaign materials, Dickinson claims that he’s the CEO of a chain of strip clubs. A dubious credential, and yet it’s fake. Greta gets him to admit that he’s a fraud.

Dicksinon claims that he just wants politicians to stop all the “partisan bickering,” yet his Twitter account got suspended because he uses it to engage in nothing but bickering. The man who wants everyone to stop all the bickering already has declared “war” on Fox, the Tea Party and the NRA.

He recently promised that if elected, he would use his office to go after the NRA, the Tea Party, and “other trash,” effectively promising he would abuse his power as a member of Congress to go after millions of Americans he disagrees with.

Basically, he’s promising to be a damagogue, corrupt the government and turn it against citizens.

“If elected I promise WAR on the tea party, @FoxNews, @NRA and other trash,” he tweeted.

“When I am elected I will go to war with these groups. I will pursue the @nra & destroy them. I will get the IRS to audit the tea party,” he said later.

Dickinson has also said the Tea Party is a terrorist group, and compared it to al-Qaeda. In another tweet, he compared Sarah Palin to Osama bin Laden.

An article at Red Knuckle Politics said Dickinson has used various alternate identities on Twitter to allegedly send tweets to porn stars and harass others.

So, he’s a mainstream, Anthony Weiner wannabe Democrat.

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Wendy Davis Voted for WHAT in Texas Classrooms?

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Parents of children in Texas public schools need to pay attention to this one.

In the 2011 session of the Texas legislature, lawmakers considered a bill that made it easier for school districts to fire teachers who had been convicted of felony crimes. The need for such legislation, in an age when teachers have been caught having sex with underage students and other terrible misdeeds, is obvious.

The Texas House considered HB 1610 to make it easier for school districts to get felons out of classrooms. Sen. Wendy Davis was among a handful of Democrats who voted against the bill. The bill passed easily, without Davis’ vote. Davis then voted for a loophole that would have allowed felons to continue teaching if their crimes were unrelated to teaching.

A convicted felon is a convicted felon.

HB 1610 passed the Texas Senate and then passed the Texas House almost unanimously. Just one member voted against it in the House. It was one of the most bipartisan bills of the session.

But Wendy Davis voted against it.

Why would she do that? Why would Wendy Davis vote repeatedly to keep felons in our public school classrooms?

The Real Wendy (which is a political attack site — it also gets its facts right, though) speculates that she was voting to satisfy the teachers unions. Davis is the union candidate — teachers unions have donated more to her campaign than all of the three previous Democratic governor candidates combined.

Whatever the reason, Davis’ votes to keep felons in Texas public school classrooms is disturbing and appalling. There’s no way around that.

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Vowing to be ‘True Independent Voice,’ Scott Brown Jumps in the Ring

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) formally kicked off his campaign Thursday to oust Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on a strong anti-Obamacare platform.

Introduced by former Gov. John Sununu (R-N.H.), Brown told a crowd in Portsmouth that a fixture of the Senate campaign in which he filled late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) seat would be around for this campaign as well: his truck.

“I’m pretty proud of that old GMC Canyon. It’s got close to 300,000 miles on the odometer, and it’s sure looking good with those license plates that say, ‘Live Free or Die,’” Brown said, noting how he used it on his “listening tour” through the state after launching his exploratory committee a few weeks ago, going to “bakeries, candy stores, gun shops and outfitters, homes, offices – and, OK, maybe a few pubs in between.”

“As you know, I worked with Senator Shaheen in the U.S. Senate for three years. She is a nice person, but wrong on the issues facing the people of New Hampshire. She made that clear when she cast the deciding vote that forced Obamacare on this state and our country. A lot of people aren’t aware of that vote to pass Obamacare,” he continued. “But it’s important to know if we are ever going to get past Obamacare and get America moving in the right direction. I am running to be a true independent voice for New Hampshire. I am running to hold Senator Shaheen accountable. And I will need your strength, help and votes to succeed.”

“…These days, Senator Shaheen wants to change the subject to anything other than Obamacare. The only problem is, when we turn to other issues, it’s the same story. This is a senator who last year voted with President Obama 99 percent of the time. Whenever President Obama needs her, she’s there, and apparently he needs her a lot.  Is a rubber stamp what the people of New Hampshire want and expect in a senator? … I didn’t think so.”

It’s no secret that Brown’s entrance into the race is causing Shaheen a lot of heartburn.

Shaheen tried without success to get Brown to sign a “people’s pledge” to bar outside money from the race, as Brown signed in his unsuccessful 2012 campaign against Elizabeth Warren.

Shaheen campaign manager Mike Vlacich said Brown is “counting on the big banks to buy him New Hampshire’s Senate seat.”

“The people of New Hampshire know Jeanne Shaheen. They know they can depend on her to fight for them and make a difference for New Hampshire,” he added.

Polls show Brown gaining on Shaheen, who has a 47 percent approval rating.

After his campaign announcement, Brown launched an “Obamacare Isn’t Working” tour at Next Step Bionics and Prosthetics in Manchester.

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