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Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
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Too Cute: Monkey Meets Puppies for First Time

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

I couldn’t resist this one — even though, like most animal videos, it’s probably staged.

If you’re looking for a pick-me-up today, you’ve come to the right place!

Watch as Tommy, a curious Capuchin monkey, meets a litter of adorable puppies for the very first time. He can be seen caressing the tiny pooches and seemingly giving them sweet kisses.

If this interaction doesn’t melt your heart, consider us floored.

Tommy almost certainly saw humans and the puppies interacting, which gave him the right idea on how to behave around them. And yeah, consider my heart melted.

Irresistible.


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Supreme Court Declines to Hear Free Speech Dispute Over Banning American Flag on Cinco De Mayo

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Supreme Court declined to hear a case where students were banned from wearing an American flag T-shirt on Cinco de Mayo at a California high school because administrators believed it might cause violence.

The court’s inaction let stand a lower court ruling that safety and security at the high school trumped free speech rights.

In essence, the decision implies that Hispanic students are unable to control their anger when they see an American flag on a day honoring Mexican’s heritage so others free speech rights must be curtailed.

Reuters:

The court declined to hear an appeal filed by three students at Live Oak High School in the town of Morgan Hill, south of San Francisco. School staff at the May 5, 2010, event told several students their clothing could cause an incident. Two chose to leave for home after refusing to turn their shirts inside out.

The school had been experiencing gang-related tensions and racially charged altercations between white and Hispanic students at the time. School officials said they feared the imposition of American patriotic imagery by some students at an event where other students were celebrating their pride in their Mexican heritage would incite fights between the two groups.

Lawyers for the students said that the fear that the T-shirts would offend others did not trump free speech rights because the act of wearing the shirts did not rise to the level of incitement to violence.

Three of the affected students – Daniel Galli, Matt Dariano, and Dominic Maciel – were involved in the lawsuit, which was filed on their behalf by their parents.

In the February 2014 ruling, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said officials did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech. School officials acted out of legitimate concerns of violence when they sent a handful of students home for refusing to change their American flag-embellished apparel, the court said.

It is the expectation of violence that is most disturbing. Gangs don’t need an excuse to cause trouble and the idea that they would be more likely to pick fights if they saw an American flag being worn is ridiculous. Even if it were true, where are the authorities? If they’re alert for trouble already, wouldn’t they be able to head off altercations as they would during a normal school day?

Note that when the principal banned the flag T-shirts there had been no violence against the students to that point  in the school day.  In fact, the principal had no reason to ban the shirts other than a desire to cover the school’s behind if violence did break out.

Students learned a valuable lesson in this incident; fear and freedom don’t mix very well and if you’re going to indulge in the former, you can forget about enjoying the latter.

 

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Is Tom Izzo the Best College Basketball Coach in America?

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

It may be surprising to some to see a 7th seed make it all the way to the Final Four in the NCAA basketball tournament. But in the case of Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans, it’s almost expected.

Izzo has now led his teams to 7 Final Four appearances in 20 years at MU, equalling the record of North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Louisville’s Rick Pitino. Only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has more Final Four appearances at 12. (Williams 7 semi final appearances include 4 when he coached at Kansas.) Izzo won it all in 2000 and has been runner up twice.

Michigan State will play the #1 seeded Duke Blue Devils in the first semi final next Saturday, featuring a coaching match up for the ages; Izzo vs. Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K has 4 national championships and 3 runners up and is generally recognized as having one of the the best big time program in the country.

Izzo’s program is also on most top 10 lists. You wouldn’t want to live on the difference between the two, but Izzo’s career has been marked by winning games he had no business competing in. To get to this year’s final four, the Spartans beat the East Region’s #2 seed Virginia, as well as the #3 seed Oklahoma. And no one is counting MU out against the Blue Devils.

The Spartans were inconsistent during the regular season, finishing 3rd in the Big Ten after losses to Nebraska and Illinois, as well as being defeated by mid-major Northern Iowa. But MU caught fire in the conference tournament, making it all the way to the final before losing to fellow Final Four participant Wisconsin in overtime.

That momentum carried over to the NCAA tourney — which isn’t unusual. Izzo has a knack of molding his team throughout the year so that they peak in March, saving their best basketball for the Big Dance:

Izzo, in his 20th season leading the Spartans, has reached the tournament 18 times and pushed his team to six Final Fours and the 2000 national championship. But perhaps nothing on Izzo’s résumé is as intimidating as his ability to win games he’s not supposed to, results of a well-known – and much-feared – tendency of Michigan State peaking as the regular season winds down.

“Whatever you saw in November, his players will be better when you see them in March,” said Gary Williams, the former Maryland coach who, along with Florida’s Billy Donovan, joined the fraternity in 2003, the seventh-seeded Spartans reaching that year’s Elite Eight. “A lot of teams, whatever they are when you get to January, that’s what you get. Izzo’s teams just keep improving.”

Izzo is 12-1 all-time in the tournament’s round of 32, which is where the seventh-seeded Spartans (24-11) and second-seeded Cavaliers (30-3) meet again, and no coach with at least 10 NCAA tournament appearances has a better record in the second round. Izzo’s recipe, according to friends and colleagues, is not complicated. He schedules challenging non-conference opponents to test his team, and practices grow shorter, an attempt to preserve his players’ health and conditioning, as the Big Ten conference schedule advances. He schedules frequent one-on-one meetings with players, particularly this time of year, to remind them of their responsibilities — the most important of which is muffling the voice of any player who seems ready for the college basketball grind to end.

[...]

Fife described his boss as a “math genius,” able to calculate large numbers and percentages in a flash, though Izzo struggles to spell and pronounce even the most basic words. The word “discipline” and the name “James,” for instance, are great sources of frustration.

It is the strange but effective Izzo way, and the banners hanging in the Breslin Center make his emphases, motivational tactics and quirks difficult to argue with. So do the disappointing memories that inhabit the minds of some of America’s best basketball coaches: Donovan, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Louisville’s Rick Pitino and U-Va.’s Bennett among them.

Izzo’s accomplishments may have even been greater if, as one former coach and college basketball analyst suggests, he had been willing to cheat to get better talent.

“When a coach gets caught cheating, they ought to throw the book at him,” Fraschilla said. “Because there are a whole lot of other coaches out there, and I’ll give you one example: The reason Tom Izzo doesn’t have a great team right now is because he has not, quite frankly, he has lost some guys, at times, to schools that he wasn’t willing to break rules for. And coaches who don’t cheat will get fired if they don’t win, and that’s part of the problem I have with the NCAA. They ought to throw the book at all these guys that cheat.”

A clean program, a stellar post season record, a demonstrated ability to win games he shouldn’t, and players that will walk through walls for him. Does all this add up to Izzo being the best coach in America?

A subjective answer, of course. Two other coaches in the Final Four can make their own claims on that prize. Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari lead legendary programs and have achieved the highest success over many years.

But Izzo appears to accomplish as much or more with less. He can get the most out of what he has, which separates him from other great coaches. It’s not that his players are devoid of talent, but he can motivate them to have them playing at their very best when it counts the most.

That’s the definition of a good coach. And Tom Izzo fits it to a “T.”

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Looming Pension Crisis Roils Chicago’s Mayoral Runoff

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

It’s the number one fiscal issue facing Chicago and both incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his challenger, Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia are refusing to face up to reality. The city’s $20 billion pension shortfall is partly the result of demographics and partly because of shortsightedness on the part of previous tenants of city hall.

The fact is, many of those pensions were agreed to 30 years ago when Chicago had a population 15% larger. With a fleeing population and shrinking tax base, the numbers simply don’t add up anymore and the city now finds itself on the brink of ruin.

Neither candidate is willing to discuss it, but everyone not involved in the campaign agrees that the only way to deal with the crisis is to raise property taxes.

Bloomberg:

“Limitations on benefit reforms will likely leave large tax increases as the only viable solution, a challenge given the city’s historical reluctance to tap its property tax base,” Matt Fabian, a partner at Concord, Massachusetts-based research firm Municipal Market Analytics, said in a March 16 report.

Chicago isn’t master of its financial destiny. State legislators would have to approve a tax on the 600,000 commuters who work in the city, or any effort to impose an income tax.

Emanuel, former chief of staff for President Barack Obama, floated a $250 million property-tax boost last year to pay for pension obligations. He dropped the plan in the face of City Council opposition, and is taking a different route this time. He’s proposing to build a casino, dedicating the revenue to retirement debt, and extend the sales tax to services. Again, he can’t do either without state approval, and even with that consent, the casino wouldn’t be built in time to contribute to next year’s pension payment.

A property-tax increase, though, is within the city’s direct control. The levy generated $824 million last year, equivalent to about 9 percent of this year’s spending plan, according to Chicago’s annual financial analysis.

The population of the nation’s third-most-populous city fell 7 percent in the last decade to 2.7 million, according to the Census Bureau. The drop increases pressure on the tax base to pay for retirement commitments, some made decades ago.

“The problem is you’re paying the bills of the city of 30 years ago with today’s population,” said Norton Francis of the Tax Policy Center in Washington. “That’s a huge challenge for cities.”

In Chicago, property taxes have risen even as housing values dropped. The effective tax rate jumped 32 percent from tax year 2003 to 2012, according to the Civic Federation, a nonprofit research group specializing in government finance.

Although the national recession ended in 2009, housing values in parts of the South Side have yet to recover, according to the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University. The area is home to many mostly black precincts, where Emanuel’s support has dropped relative to the 2011 election.

Opposition to property taxes is part of the campaign dialogue. Emanuel criticized Garcia for a vote he cast in favor of a higher levy — in 1986.

With new Republican Governor Bruce Rauner proposing to reduce the state’s contribution to Chicago by about $135 million, and a billion dollar shortfall in the budget for Chicago Public Schools, it’s hard to see how any mayor can work the magic necessary to stave off disaster.

 

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O’Malley: Presidency not a ‘Crown to be Passed Between Two Families’

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Yo, Hillary. Hey, Jeb. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has a message for you.

Speaking on ABC’s This Week, O’Malley reminded us all of some fundamental truths about America that the Crown Prince and Princess appear to ignore:

“I think that our country always benefits from new leadership and new perspectives,” he said. “Let’s be honest here, the presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families. It is an awesome and sacred trust.

The former governor, who often trails Clinton by 50 percentage points or more in early-state polls, could end up being Clinton’s only challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is also weighing a race, and Vice President Joe Biden has yet to rule it out.

“We need a president who is ready to take on powerful and wealthy special interests,” O’Malley said.

Asked if Clinton was the right candidate to take on those special interests, O’Malley said: “I don’t know. I don’t know where she stands. Will she represent a break with the failed policies of the past? I don’t know.”

O’Malley, who endorsed Clinton over President Barack Obama in 2008, had shunned questions about Clinton since he left office early this year. But he has lately stepped up his attacks on Wall Street, potentially attempting to woo supporters of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and highlighting an area where Clinton is weak with progressives.

“Right now, it’s not even a fair fight. It’s as if Wall Street owns one party and is trying to totally intimidate the other,” O’Malley said. “We need to stand up and put the national interest first.”

O’Malley also touted Maryland’s high income levels and claimed the state had created jobs at a faster rate than Virginia or Pennsylvania.

The “greatest dangers” faced by the United States, he said, are a nuclear Iran and related extremist violence — “I don’t think you can separate the two,” he explained — along with climate change.

In truth, the situation we find ourselves in with Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush is unprecedented. While we’ve always had powerful political families in America — Adams, Roosevelt, Byrd, Kennedy — we’ve never had two families facing off in the same presidential election.

Even the possibility of that happening should give us all pause. Americans who fought in the Revolution would be appalled at the prospect of a son and brother of former presidents becoming president. The voters threw out John Adams after only one term partly because of Thomas Jefferson successfully smeared him as a monarchist and accused him of wanting to award hereditary titles.

Here we are 215 years later and while the monarchist label might not fit either Hillary or Jeb, “keeping it in the family” is not the republican way. In fact, it makes us look like a banana republic. Polls show that the voters want someone with experience but that they don’t want a replay of the past. And while both candidates top the polls in their respective parties,  that is liable to change as voters are reminded of where these candidates came from.

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Priebus: ‘Even Nixon Didn’t Destroy the Tapes’

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus didn’t mince any words in responding to the news that aides to Hillary Clinton had deliberately deleted 30,000 emails from her private server.

Priebus issued a statement saying that “even Nixon didn’t destroy the tapes.”

The Hill:

Clinton’s lawyer informed the House Select Committee investigating Benghazi on Friday that Clinton no longer had copies of any emails from her four-year tenure as secretary of State, ending in 2013.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the committee, said in a statement Friday that “Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server.”

Gowdy, whose committee had subpoenaed the server earlier this month, charged that Clinton apparently decided to delete her emails after Oct. 28, 2014, when the State Department first asked her to turn over public records.

Clinton has turned over roughly 55,000 pages of documents to the State Department, though Republicans have have seized her admission this month that her aides deleted more than 30,000 “personal” emails.

Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, reportedly told House investigators that after aides determined which emails were private and which were government-related, an account setting was changed to only save emails sent in the past 60 days, adding the setting was changed after she responded to the records request.

“Thus, there are no hdr22@clintonemail.com emails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorized,” Kendall said in a letter to Gowdy’s committee, according to The New York Times.

Still, Republicans are likely to keep up their attacks on Clinton over the emails heading into her official declaration of a 2016 presidential campaign, which is expected in weeks.

Priebus on Saturday echoed calls from Republican lawmakers for Clinton to turn over her server.

“It’s imperative an independent third party review the server immediately. Unless Mrs. Clinton went to extreme lengths to wipe this server, there are ways to recover this data,” Priebus said.

A third party should have reviewed all 60,000 emails before anything was turned over to the State Department. It’s simply incredible that Mrs. Clinton would arrogantly take it upon herself to decide which communications were “official” and which were “personal.”

Priebus pointed out, “There isn’t a separate set of rules the Clintons can choose to play by. It’s time they be held accountable.” Good luck with that, boss. “Accountability” is not in either Clinton’s vocabulary.

So what’s worse? Clinton deleting 30,000 emails or Democrats defending her?

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Benghazi panel, said Kendall’s letter confirmed “what we all knew: that Secretary Clinton already produced her official records to the State Department, that she did not keep her personal emails and that the Select Committee has already obtained her emails relating to the attacks in Benghazi.”

Cummings said it is time for Gowdy and other Republicans to stop what he called a “political charade” and instead make Clinton’s emails public. Gowdy also should schedule Clinton’s public testimony before the Benghazi panel as soon as possible, Cummings said.

No, we didn’t know that Clinton “did not keep her personal emails.” That is a gargantuan surprise. And what independent, third party is guaranteeing that all emails relating to Benghazi have been turned over to the committee? Cummings may trust that Clinton has done so, but less partisan observers might be skeptical.

Bottom line: Clinton is going to get away with it. And Hill and Bill are probably laughing about putting one over on their political enemies.

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Iranian Defector: US Team ‘Mainly There to Speak on Iran’s Behalf’

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

An Iranian editor in Switzerland to cover the nuclear negotiations has defected, according to a report in The Telegraph.

Amir Hossein Motaghi said in a television interview that he defected because being a journalist no longer made “sense” to him due to the censorship in Iran. He was a public relations consultant on the campaign of President Hassan Rouhani last year.

Motaghi also said that the US negotiating team was “mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal.”

“There are a number of people attending on the Iranian side at the negotiations who are said to be journalists reporting on the negotiations,” he told Irane Farda television. “But they are not journalists and their main job is to make sure that all the news fed back to Iran goes through their channels.

“My conscience would not allow me to carry out my profession in this manner any more.” Mr Mottaghi was a journalist and commentator who went on to use social media successfully to promote Mr Rouhani to a youthful audience that overwhelmingly elected him to power.

But he was also subject to the bitter internal arguments within the Iranian regime. One news website claimed he had been forced in to report to the ministry of intelligence weekly, and that he had been tipped off that he might be subject to arrest had he returned to Tehran.

He is said to have been a friend of Jason Rezaian, the Iranian-American reporter for the Washington Post who has been detained in Tehran, and to have campaigned privately for his release.

ISCA, which has come under fire from regime hardliners critical of Mr Rouhani, issued a statement denying that Mr Motaghi was in Lausanne to report for it.

“Amir Hossein Motaghi had terminated his contribution to ISCA and this news agency has not had any reporter at the nuclear talks, except for a photojournalist”, it said.

However, critics said Mr Mottaghi was “prey of the exiled counter-revolutionaries” and had gone to Lausanne with the sole purpose of seeking refugee status in Switzerland.

In his television interview, Mr Mottaghi also gave succour to western critics of the proposed nuclear deal, which has seen the White House pursue a more conciliatory line with Tehran than some of America’s European allies in the negotiating team, comprising the five permanent members of the UN security council and Germany.

Meanwhile, France is alarmed that the deal doesn’t restrain Iran’s nuclear program enough. Apparently, Kerry’s browbeating has not had much effect on them. But it’s not likely that the French would blow up a framework deal, knowing that serious negotiations remain with a June 20 deadline for an agreement.

But White House “bullying” France into keeping its mouth shut about the deal’s weakness threatens to severely impact our relations:

Efforts by the Obama administration to stem criticism of its diplomacy with Iran have included threats to nations involved in the talks, including U.S. allies, according to Western sources familiar with White House efforts to quell fears it will permit Iran to retain aspects of its nuclear weapons program.

A series of conversations between top American and French officials, including between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, have seen Americans engage in behavior described as bullying by sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The disagreement over France’s cautious position in regard to Iran threatens to erode U.S. relations with Paris, sources said.

Tension between Washington and Paris comes amid frustration by other U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. The White House responded to this criticism by engaging in public campaigns analysts worry will endanger American interests.

Western policy analysts who spoke to the Free Beacon, including some with close ties to the French political establishment, were dismayed over what they saw as the White House’s willingness to sacrifice its relationship with Paris as talks with Iran reach their final stages.

Obviously, the French don’t agree with giving away the store just to get a framework deal.

With 72 hours to go before the deadline, expect more concessions, more moving goalposts. Obama has put his legacy on the line in these talks and the Iranians know it.

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Hillary Clinton’s Emails Deliberately Deleted

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

According to Hillary Clinton’s lawyer, requests by Congress to see the emails that the Clinton gang did not consider “official” can’t be honored because they don’t exist anymore.

That’s because after the Clinton team turned over the emails relating to her official business as secretary of state to the State Department, a setting on the server was changed to keep only those emails generated in the last 60 days.

The remaining 30,000 or so emails promptly disappeared.

Nothing to see here…Move along…

From the New York Times:

“Thus, there are no hdr22@clintonemail.com emails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorized,” Mr. Kendall said in a letter to the House select committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

The committee subpoenaed the server this month, asking Mrs. Clinton to hand it over to a third party so it could determine which emails were personal and which were government records.

At a news conference this month, Mrs. Clinton appeared to provide two answers about whether she still had copies of her emails. First, she said that she “chose not to keep” her private personal emails after her lawyers had examined the account and determined on their own which ones were personal and which were State Department records. But later, she said that the server, which contained personal communication by her and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, “will remain private.” The server was kept at their home in Chappaqua, N.Y., which is protected around the clock by the Secret Service.

Mrs. Clinton’s disclosure on Friday only heightened suspicions by the committee’s chairman, Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, about how she handled her emails, and it is likely to lead to more tension between her and the committee.

Mr. Gowdy said in a written statement that it appeared that Mrs. Clinton deleted the emails after Oct. 28, when the State Department first asked her to turn over emails that were government records.

“Not only was the secretary the sole arbiter of what was a public record, she also summarily decided to delete all emails from her server, ensuring no one could check behind her analysis in the public interest,” Mr. Gowdy said.

Mrs. Clinton’s “unprecedented email arrangement with herself and her decision nearly two years after she left office to permanently delete all emails” had deprived Americans of a full record of her time in office, he added.

So, to sum up: Once it became clear that the personal email server and 60,000 of her emails were going to become public last October, two of Mrs. Clinton’s trusted employees were tasked with culling “official” emails from the “personal” communications. No, they didn’t read each and every one, but used a basic search function employing key words and phrases.

The remaining emails were then automatically — deliberately — deleted when the setting on the server was changed.

Even if most of the deleted emails were cutesy missives to Chelsea or other things of a personal nature, if only a few dozen had relevant information on them, Congress should have been the one to determine that, not someone with a compelling interest in hiding embarrassing information.

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Second Grader Faces Suspension Over Military Haircut

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A school named after a Medal of Honor recipient has threatened to suspend a second grade student, calling his military haircut a “distraction.”

Seven-year-old Adam Stinnett got his haircut “high and tight” in honor of his stepbrother who is serving in the Army. But the principal of Bobby Ray Elementary School, Monti Hillis, told Adam’s mother in an email, “We are not a military school and the boy’s haircut is against the rules.” The principal says she banned the haircut because it resembled a “mohawk.”

Not surprisingly, the idiotic policy set off a firestorm of protest.

From the Times-Free Press

Repeated efforts to contact Hillis were unsuccessful. In a statement released Wednesday, the Warren County Board of Education said it couldn’t comment on the controversy.

“Due to the confidential nature of this incident, which addresses a specific student and on advice of counsel, we cannot comment on the specifics of this incident and the investigation we have conducted internally,” the statement said.

The statement also said the Warren County School Board Policy “doesn’t address or prohibit any hairstyle” but “does allow each individual school to make guidelines appropriate for their particular school.” It emphasized the district’s support of all branches of the military, its pride that Bobby Ray Elementary is named after “a true American hero,” and that “Neither Bobby Ray Memorial Elementary nor any school in Warren County School District prohibits military haircuts.”

Adding irony to the situation is the fact that Adam’s school is named for a McMinnville soldier who was killed in Vietnam. And the school’s gymnasium, according to Stinnett, is named after another soldier, a classmate of hers who died in Afghanistan.

Hillis stuck to her guns.

“[Principal Hillis] said it was a distraction, and threatened to have him kicked out of school unless we shaved it off,” Stinnett said. “Like a bald head isn’t a distraction?”

Stinnett complied, but not before taking a photo and sharing her son’s story with the Southern Standard newspaper in McMinnville. The story was picked up by news outlets across the state, and Stinnett and Adam appeared nationally on “Fox and Friends” on Friday. Stinnett said Adam is loving the attention.

“Thursday night he said, ‘Momma, after tomorrow I’m going to be famous,’” Stinnett said.

The kid has a great attitude, but he shouldn’t have to put up with this nonsense. Note that the school district has thrown the principal under the bus, although it’s probable that the rule against such haircuts was written by them. Their pious proclamations of patriotism ring hollow when placed against their actions.

Adam got another military haircut on Thursday and attended school on Friday. The principal never said a word.

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Military Exercise Not a Dry Run for Martial Law

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

An internet rumor about a military exercise scheduled for next summer that involves 1200 special operators training in nine states across the southwest being a prelude to martial law has conspiratorial websites in a tizzy of speculation.

“Operation Jade Helm 15″ is being run by U.S. Army Special Operations Command and, if you believe the conspiracists, is a practice run for either the imposition of martial law or a roundup of administration opponents.

A map identifying Texas and Utah as “hostile territory” is being cited as proof of…something. Also, the “pocket of insurgency” in southern California is a nice touch. The military won’t confirm the authenticity of the map, but one analyst points to the acronyms as being key to figuring out what the exercise is all about.

After speaking to several former and active duty soldiers, The Fifth Column can say with almost certainty that Jade Helm is a massive Field Training Exercise (FTX) to enhance the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) capabilities of American special operations troops.

The uproar of Jade Helm was triggered by a map that surfaced on the internet labeling some areas of the United States as “hostile.”  Had the sites that cast this as some plan for martial law researched the acronyms on the map, they would have quickly realized it was a large scale training exercise involving some of America’s most secretive units. It should have also been immediately evident that there is currently no “insurgent pocket” in Southern California.

In the hostile area of Texas, there will be a JOAX event and a CRF event. This is the starting point of the exercise.

JOAX (Joint Operation Access Exercise): This is where the 82nd Airborne Division will parachute into “hostile territory.” An exercise identical to this phase of Jade Helm was recently conducted in North Carolina.

CRF (Crisis Response Force): This is typically a force that is made up of different units put together to handle a given scenario. The most recent example of a CRF was the group of units sent to the Mideast to protect US facilities. In this case, the CRF appears to be made up of a list of America’s most secretive units. In some cases the units are so secretive that The Fifth Column’s sources were either unaware of their existence or unwilling to talk about them.

MSOT (Marine Special Operations Team):  The Marines have several special warfare units that fall under this acronym. The best known of these units is Force Recon.

NSWTU (Naval Special Warfare Training Unit): This is a unit dedicated to making SEALs better.There is the possibility that this is in reference to Naval Special Warfare Task Units, which are subgroups of a SEAL Team. This seems highly unlikely given the massive size of the operation.

ODA (Operational Detachment Alpha): These are Green Berets. This is otherwise known as an “A-Team.” Sometimes identified as SFOD-A

0000.jpg - Shortcut.lnkStars and Stripes reports that USASOC is pushing back against the conspiracists:

Army Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria, a USASOC spokesman, confirmed that there is an upcoming exercise called Jade Helm 15 which is scheduled to take place this summer at locations in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, California and Nevada. But he denied the event is preparation for some sort of military takeover.

“That notion was proposed by a few individuals who are unfamiliar with how and why USASOC conducts training exercises,” he said in an email. “This exercise is routine training to maintain a high level of readiness for Army Special Operations Forces because they must be ready to support potential missions anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice.”

He said the only thing unique about this particular exercise, which is slated to take place between July 15 and Sept. 15, is “the use of new challenging terrain” which was chosen because it is similar to conditions special operations forces operate in overseas.

Lastoria said coordination with local law enforcement is necessary for safety reasons because some of the training will take place outside of military bases where civilian agencies have jurisdiction.

He said his office has been receiving a lot of calls from people who heard about the exercise and are concerned about “the nature of the training objectives.”

The exercise sounds fairly straightforward and unremarkable. Using domestic sites to train our special operators is a lot cheaper than sending them overseas. Also, in order to practice infiltration, the special operators will have to try and blend in with the population, not arousing suspicion. Dark theories that the special operators will “snatch and grab” conservatives are pretty paranoid.

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‘Smart Power’: Iran Framework Deal Will Not be Written Down

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told reporters on Friday that the deal to create a framework to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions will not be written down and will be short on specifics.

Of course, this leaves both sides with the ability to spin the framework deal any way they wish. Obama can proclaim the mullahs will be in a box and Iran can trumpet their victory over the decadent west once a permanent deal is negotiated by July 1.

Practically speaking, it’s the only way to advance the negotiations. Both sides are still far apart on a number of issues with no hope of resolving anything by the March 31 deadline for a framework agreement.

Politico:

No specifics, nothing written, perhaps not even anything that Iran and the international negotiating partners say as one—that’s the most to expect out of the nuclear talks now running up against the deadline in Switzerland, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Friday.
But even concluding this round of talks with that level of ambiguity, Hammond said, would count as a significant success. And he thinks they’ll get it.

“We envisage being able to deliver a narrative. Whether that is written down or not, I don’t think is the crucial issue,” Hammond told reporters at the British ambassador’s residence during a visit to Washington. “This will be a political statement, or perhaps political statements from the [negotiating partners] and Iran which create enough momentum to make it clear that we’ve now got this boulder over the hill and we are into the detailed work to produce an agreement.”

Whether that will happen by Sunday, as some have indicated, is an open question, Hammond said. He said he’s expecting to fly to Switzerland soon, but wouldn’t commit to a specific date of arrival.

Other sources are also now casting doubt on recent speculation that a deal would come by Sunday.

In short, not much of a “framework” at all. But putting lipstick on a pig and trying to sell the deal as a triumph of diplomacy is better than nothing, as the administration sees it.

Senators demanding details are likely to be disappointed. Might this mean the long delayed vote on forcing the president to keep Congress in the loop and slap additional sanctions on Iran will finally take place?

Republicans say they have veto proof majorities for both bills as Democrats are also tired of Obama’s games.

What form any agreement takes could determine the reactions from senators who have threatened to oppose a nuclear agreement if they deem it insufficiently tough. Some senators have insisted on seeing Iranian commitments in written form before they’d agree not to vote for legislation that the White House says would blow up the talks.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said he sees no need for a written document describing an interim agreement in advance of the June 30 deadline for a comprehensive deal.

Hammond said no one should expect that kind of formal document.
“The challenge is: as soon as you write anything down, you’ve got to write everything down,” Hammond said.

So write it down. If Iran and the west don’t see eye to eye on important issues that would lead to an agreement, what’s the point of continuing negotiations?

The point is, a failure to reach an agreement with Iran means that other ways must be found to stop them from getting a bomb. At least a deal could be spun as the west successfully curbing Iran’s nuclear bomb program — even if it does no such thing. No deal means re-authorizing sanctions or bombing their nuclear infrastructure.

There is no stomach in the west for either of those options, hence, this game of “pretend” where we make believe that a deal could stop the Iranians from developing a “break out” nuclear bomb program, and that we’d actually do something about it even if they did construct a weapon.

The level of cynicism it takes to try and sell this framework deal to the American public and Congress is extraordinary. But failure would be seen as a personal blow to Obama and damage his legacy.

The idea that these things are more important than the safety and security of the US and our allies is something to behold.

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54-Pound, 7-Year-Old Girl Sent Home from School with a Note Saying Her BMI Is Too High

Friday, March 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

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Kylee Moss, a 7-year-old-girl from Belton, Missouri, was sent home from school with a note to her mother saying that the 54-pound child’s Body Mass Index (BMI) was too high.

Aside from the idiocy of using a discredited measurement for body fat, what are these administrators thinking? Obviously, they’re not. If they had two working brain cells, they would take one look at this kid and realize the stupidity of believing their “measurements.”

KMBC:

The leader of the Belton School District is promising changes after a girl came home from school with a note saying that her body mass index was too high.

Kylee Moss’ mother said she was infuriated when her daughter brought home the note from Hillcrest Elementary last Friday, along with a recommendation for healthy snacks and more physical activity.

“She goes, ‘Does this mean I’m fat?’ and I said, ‘No, this does not mean you are fat,’” said Amanda Moss.

Kylee, 7, stands 3 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 54 pounds. Her mother said she’s as active a second-grader as you’re likely to see.

“She is tiny. She has no body fat at all,” said Amanda Moss.

And this kid has energy to burn.

The BMI is a bogus measure of body fat. How bogus?

1. The person who dreamed up the BMI said explicitly that it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fatness in an individual.

The BMI was introduced in the early 19th century by a Belgian named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. He was a mathematician, not a physician. He produced the formula to give a quick and easy way to measure the degree of obesity of the general population to assist the government in allocating resources. In other words, it is a 200-year-old hack.

2. It is scientifically nonsensical.

There is no physiological reason to square a person’s height (Quetelet had to square the height to get a formula that matched the overall data. If you can’t fix the data, rig the formula!). Moreover, it ignores waist size, which is a clear indicator of obesity level.

3. It is physiologically wrong.

It makes no allowance for the relative proportions of bone, muscle and fat in the body. But bone is denser than muscle and twice as dense as fat, so a person with strong bones, good muscle tone and low fat will have a high BMI. Thus, athletes and fit, health-conscious movie stars who work out a lot tend to find themselves classified as overweight or even obese.

4. It gets the logic wrong.

The CDC says on its Web site that “the BMI is a reliable indicator of body fatness for people.” This is a fundamental error of logic. For example, if I tell you my birthday present is a bicycle, you can conclude that my present has wheels. That’s correct logic. But it does not work the other way round. If I tell you my birthday present has wheels, you cannot conclude I got a bicycle. I could have received a car. Because of how Quetelet came up with it, if a person is fat or obese, he or she will have a high BMI. But as with my birthday present, it doesn’t work the other way round. A high BMI does not mean an individual is even overweight, let alone obese. It could mean the person is fit and healthy, with very little fat.

5. It’s bad statistics.

6. It is lying by scientific authority.

Because the BMI is a single number between 1 and 100 (like a percentage) that comes from a mathematical formula, it carries an air of scientific authority. But it is mathematical snake oil.

7. It suggests there are distinct categories of underweight, ideal, overweight and obese, with sharp boundaries that hinge on a decimal place.

That’s total nonsense.

Bottom line: “It is embarrassing for one of the most scientifically, technologically and medicinally advanced nations in the world to base advice on how to prevent one of the leading causes of poor health and premature death (obesity) on a 200-year-old numerical hack developed by a mathematician who was not even an expert in what little was known about the human body back then.”

But it’s only partly the school’s fault — the part where they totally embarrassed a 7-year-old girl and gave a shock to her self esteem. The BMI is still used by public health officials across the country and around the world. This “snake oil,” as the author above calls the BMI, is virtually worthless in cases of extreme malnutrition. Also, it doesn’t take into account relative musculature and body build.

There are other ways to calculate BMI, but those require specialty machines which are more expensive than just plugging in a mathematical formula. So despite the BMI being proved as an unreliable measurement, it looks like we’re stuck with it.

For the sake of Kylee Moss and an unknown number of other kids who are misidentified as having too high or too low BMIs, schools should get out of the business of tagging children as either too fat or too thin and leave the guesswork to the family doctor and to parents.

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UNC-Wisconsin Headlines NCAA Tourney Play Tonight

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

It’s Kentucky vs. West Virginia and Notre Dame vs. Wichita State in the Midwest Regional semis tonight. Xavier vs. Arizona and UNC vs. Wisconsin from the West Regional will complete the night.

Kentucky will be tested by the Mountaineers tough defense, but should have enough to make it to Saturday’s final. The Irish are slight underdogs against a very talented Shocker team. But neither team plays stellar defense so Notre Dame has a good shot at pulling off a mild upset. The Musketeers benefitted when Georgia State knocked off 3rd seeded Baylor in the first round and Xavier then faced the Panthers in the second round, defeating them handily. But 2nd seed Arizona has talent to spare and the Wildcats should be able to handle Xavier’s pressing defense.

That leaves the game of the night; North Carolina against Wisconsin. For North Carolina, the health of their standout forward Kennedy Meeks weighs heavily on their chances. Meeks injured his knee in the Tarheels win over Arkansas, and his availability for the game against the Badgers is questionable:

“We don’t know anything about Kennedy,” Roy Williams said on Wednesday during the pregame news conferences at the Staples Center. “This morning he did some contact on a limited basis for the first time. You saw him out there, if you chose to go out there, he didn’t do much, but our whole team didn’t go because we had already practiced. But the big thing now is we’ll have to wait to see if there’s any more swelling or any pain tonight for what little he did this morning, and probably it won’t be — well, if there is swelling or pain tonight, we won’t play him. If there’s not, then we’ll probably make the decision during warm-ups tomorrow.”

If Meeks can’t go, it’s possible Coach Williams may go small, moving Tokoto to the wing and playing 3 forwards. Or, Williams could put in 6’10″ Joel James who has the bulk to match up with the Badger’s bigs.

The key man in Williams offense is Marcus Paige, a diminutive guard who can get out on the break and make Wisconsin’s life miserable. If UNC has its running shoes on, Wisconsin will be hard pressed to stay with them.

But it is likely to be a game won or lost in the frontcourt.

Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker vs. North Carolina’s Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto and Joel James.

UW’s talented trio contributed a combined 62 points and 22 rebounds in the second round against Coastal Carolina, but the numbers dipped to 47 and 12 in the third round against Oregon. North Carolina surely will pay extra attention to Kaminsky, meaning Hayes and Dekker should get favorable matchups. Hayes might prove to be too strong and/or quick for whomever guards him. Dekker must remain active on both ends of the floor. When he moves without the ball and defends hard good things happen. He must make sure his feet are set when he has an open three-pointer. The 6-foot-9 Johnson is tenacious on the interior. He averages 12.9 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game. He has 88 offensive rebounds, the No. 2 mark on the team, and is shooting 56.0%, second best among the starters. He has not attempted a three-pointer this season and has fouled out five times. Tokoto, a graduate of Menomonee Falls High School, is an outstanding defender who scores better in transition than in half-court sets. He also is No. 2 on the team in assists (4.3). His athletic ability is remarkable but his jumper is wildly inconsistent. With Kennedy Meeks iffy because of a sprained left knee suffered last weekend, it will be interesting to see if James, a 6-10, 280-pound junior who is averaging 2.5 points and 1.9 rebounds per game, can produce. If he gets the call, he has to give the Tar Heels quality minutes. Edge: UW.

Kaminsky is a load because he can score from anywhere on the court. From the free throw line extended to the blocks, his deft touch can get you points in a hurry.

But Kaminsky is prone to getting into foul trouble, and you can bet that Paige is going to test him early by going right at him, especially on the break. If Kaminsky can stay on the court, he could be the difference maker in the game.

The Badger’s other bigs will also be tough to handle for the athletic, but undersized UNC forwards. Hayes is a good rebounder (6.5 a game) with a knack for snaring offensive boards, while Dekker can shoot the 3 ball well for a big man.

UNC’s Brice Johnson is only 6’9″, but weighs nearly 230 pounds. He may guard Kaminsky one on one to start the game, trying to play him physical to wear the Big Ten Player of the Year down. James is a beast at 280 lbs but is better suited to playing a low post game. The perimeter shooting of Wisconsin’s bigs could give him problems.

The Tar Heels aren’t whining about possibly losing Meeks. It will be next man up for UNC in what should be the most entertaining game of the night.

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Another Scott Walker Flip-Flop on Immigration Reform (Updated)

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Sir Thomas More: [to Will Roper] Now, listen, Will. Two years ago you were a passionate churchman. Now you’re a passionate Lutheran. We must just pray that when your head’s finished turning, your face is to the front again.

And, I suppose we can hope that when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s head is finished turning, we might actually know exactly where he stands on the question of granting a path to citizenship for illegals.

In 2013, he told an audience in Milwaukee that the comprehensive immigration reform bill, in which illegal immigrants can become United States citizens by first paying penalties and enduring a waiting period, “makes sense.”

Earlier this month, he told Fox News:

However, he is now saying such a plan is tantamount to amnesty, amid criticism that he has flip-flopped on that issue and others — including right-to-work legislation in his home state.

“I don’t believe in amnesty,” said Walker, who finished second Saturday in the Conservative Political Action Conference’s straw poll for potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates. “We need to secure the border. We ultimately need to put in place a system that works — a legal immigration system that works.”

Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that he told a private dinner in New Hampshire that he supported a path to citizenship:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told a private dinner of New Hampshire Republicans this month that he backed the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and to eventually become eligible for citizenship, a position at odds with his previous public statements on the matter.

Mr. Walker’s remarks, which were confirmed by three people present and haven’t been reported previously, vary from the call he has made in recent weeks for “no amnesty”—a phrase widely employed by people who believe immigrants who broke the law by entering the country without permission shouldn’t be awarded legal status or citizenship.

The changing positions by Mr. Walker, a likely candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, show the difficulty that some in the Republican Party face as they try to appeal both to the conservative GOP primary electorate—which largely opposes liberalizing immigration laws—and business leaders and general election voters who have been more supportive of granting legal status to undocumented immigrants.

This isn’t just a matter of flip flopping. This is chameleon-like — and kind of creepy. Usually, politicians aren’t quite so brazen about telling a specific audience one thing, while telling another audience exactly the opposite.

But Walker, whether he intended for his remarks to get out or not — and if he thought he could keep it a secret, he’s either stupid or naive — picked the wrong issue on which to be all over the map and back again. Supporting a path to citizenship is a deal breaker for a lot of conservatives and now that his support is out in the open, he must either renounce his now twice stated position again (and hope that  few people believe him), or embrace the suck and join Jeb Bush in being the only major candidates supporting “amnesty.”

Twitter hasn’t blown up yet, but I suspect once this information gets out there, Walker is going to be in for a very rough few days.

UPDATE: Spokesman Denies

Reuters is reporting:

Likely 2016 Republican U.S. presidential hopeful Scott Walker’s stance on illegal immigrants remains unchanged, his spokeswoman said on Thursday, disputing a report that he favored letting them stay in the country and eventually become eligible for citizenship.

Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswomen for the Wisconsin governor, labeled as “erroneous” a Wall Street Journal report detailing what the newspaper called Walker’s shift in stance on the matter.

“Governor Walker has been very clear that he does not support amnesty and believes that border security must be established and the rule of law must be followed,” Kukowski said in an emailed statement.

That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.

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Three Members of ‘Taliban 5′ Swapped for Bergdahl Tried to Reconnect to Terror Network

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

At least three of the Taliban 5 terror commanders who were traded for Bowe Bergdahl made attempts to make contact with their former terrorist networks, reports Fox News.

The new allegations come as Bergdahl now faces desertion charges, and as the one-year deal governing the former Guantanamo detainees’ supervised release in the Gulf nation of Qatar is set to expire — at the end of May.

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency recently told Congress that, after that expiration, all his officers can do is warn the U.S. government if the men return to the battlefield.

“I’ve seen nothing that causes me to believe these folks are reformed or [have] changed their ways or intend to re-integrate to society in ways to give me any confidence that they will not return in trying to do harm to America,” Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a member of the House intelligence committee, told Fox News.

The official who described the attempts by three to make contact did not identify the men by name. But the evidence came to light through intelligence from liaison services and monitored communications available to the U.S. government.

A defense official did not dispute the claim, emphasizing that one of the men has come “very close, trying to provide advice, council or inspiration” to his terror network, while the other two had not crossed that line.

In January, CNN was first to report, and U.S. officials later confirmed, that one of the five fighters was making phone calls to militants. The latest claim indicates those efforts were more widespread.

A State Department official, though, disagreed with the characterization of the intelligence and how it relates to the “Taliban Five’s” activities.

“None of the five individuals has returned to the battlefield and none of the five have left Qatar,” the official said. “Since their transfer many actions have been taken to restrict the actions of these individuals, and they are all being closely monitored by the United States and Qatar.

“We are in frequent and high level contact with Qatari government about the implementation of these measures, to ensure our concerns about these individuals are being met. For example, by enabling us to closely track their activities.”

The State Department is putting political spin on the revelation, as is the office of the DNI:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also uses a strict definition for re-engagement, saying they do not “consider mere communication with individuals or organizations — including other former GTMO detainees — an indicator of reengagement. Rather, the motives, intentions, and purposes of each communication are taken into account when assessing whether the individual has reengaged.”

It’s all doubletalk. They raise the bar high enough that they don’t have to do anything unless the terrorists actually carry out an attack.

This was a bad deal from the start and we still don’t have all the facts surrounding it. Was there a ransom paid? Were reports of a possible rescue operation called off true? What were the other options to get Bergdahl out facing the administration?

While Bergdahl’s case was being considered, the DoD begged off answering questions before Congress. Now that the fate of the deserter is known, maybe some of those questions will be answered.

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Controversy Over ‘American Pride’ Themed Dance at High School

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

There was a time in America, not too long ago, when the most controversial question in the country was whether the Yankees should be broken up.

We took a lot of things for granted back then — things I wish now I had appreciated a little more. This is especially true after I read this incredible account of how school advisors in Lexington, Massachusetts, tried to talk the junior class at the local high school out of holding a dance with the theme of “American Pride.”

Yes…THAT Lexington, Massachusetts. THE Lexington, where the “shot heard ’round the world” was fired and the American Revolution got underway in earnest.

Boston.com:

A high school dance will keep its “American Pride” theme after a debate over concerns that people of other nationalities might feel excluded, the school superintendent said Tuesday.

Assistant superintendent Carol Pilarski said in an interview with Boston’s WHDH that school advisors suggested students abandon their chosen “American pride” theme in favor of “maybe a national pride theme, so they could represent their individual nationalities. Maybe it should be more inclusive and it should be national pride.”

Students complained to WHDH, which quoted one student, Ethan Embry, calling the decision “ridiculous.”

Now that the crap has hit the fan, school administrators are backtracking furiously:

But superintendent Paul Ash told Boston.com on Tuesday that as far as he knows, the theme was never officially changed. He said Lexington was “very proud of its history” and that administrators were “delighted” that students had chosen an American pride theme.

Still, he acknowledged a debate.

“There was discussion. I’m not going to deny that,” Ash said.

“Official policy is made by the high school principal. And she didn’t change it,” he added. “I talked to the high school principal and I believe her.”

He declined to comment on Pilarki’s remarks, adding that he was not involved in the discussions.

“As you can imagine, superintendents of schools don’t get involved with school dances,” he said.

Actually, we can imagine superintendents getting involved in anything if they thought it could advance the cause of multiculturalism and diversity. We’ve seen this so many times before. A school does something incredibly stupid like banning flag T-shirts, or preventing men in uniform from walking the halls, and then quickly backs down when the matter becomes public.

It doesn’t get much more politically correct than ginning up controversy over the concept of American pride. It’s one of those things we took for granted growing up. Who could have imagined otherwise?

This is the 40th anniversary of one of the most successful advertising campaigns in American history. Watch this Chevy ad from 1975 — unabashedly pro-American.

Just 25 years ago, in Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones gave a speech about America that spoke of how the country is always changing, but remains basically the same:

People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

You couldn’t put that speech in a film today. It would be laughed out of the theater.

When conservatives talk about “taking America back,” liberals will inevitably say that what they really mean in their heart of hearts is that they want blacks in the back of the bus, women  barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, gays back in the closet, and white privilege the rule.

It may be that way for some. But for most of us, it means we want an America where “American Pride” is not now and never will be a controversial subject. Where we don’t have to walk on eggshells when we speak in public, fearing we’re offending someone — or someone who might pretend to be offended. And we want an America where we can be reasonably certain the Congress and the executive branch pay attention to the tenets and precepts found in the Constitution.

Is that really too much to ask?

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Ted Cruz Speaks the Languages of Hyperbole and Exaggeration Fluently

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

For the media’s so-called “fact checkers,” you must admit that Ted Cruz is a target-rich environment. But so are most politicians, when it comes down to it.

For Cruz, however — a man who speaks the languages of hyperbole and exaggeration fluently — our beloved gatekeepers rejoice in the prospect of a Cruz candidacy. The Texas senator has a special relationship with the truth — he doesn’t sweat the small stuff. So what if he inflates the number of IRS agents or the number of people who have been forced into part-time work because of Obamacare? The important point is that the IRS sucks and Obamacare, well, sucks too.

Just a cursory examination of stories about Ted Cruz today shows that many media outlets are piling on — and not hiding their glee in doing so. I’ve found several sites that insist on “fact checking” the senator’s speech at Liberty University announcing his candidacy.

USA Today reports:

• Cruz railed against a “government … that seeks to ban our ammunition.” The Obama administration sought to ban a certain type of armor-piercing bullet, not all types of ammunition. The proposal has since been postponed.

• Cruz claimed that as a result of the Affordable Care Act “millions … have lost their health insurance.” In fact, about 10 million people on net gained insurance between September 2013 and December 2014, according to the Urban Institute.

• Cruz also claimed that as a result of the law “millions [have been] forced into part-time work.” There’s no solid figure on how many may have had their hours cut to part time, but one analysis of monthly labor surveys said the number was “likely” a few hundred thousand.

I guess this is what passes for “fact checking” — putting words in Cruz’s mouth for starters. Cruz did not say, nor would he ever say, that the government was trying to ban all ammunition. That’s an absurdity that reveals the “fact checker’s” bias.

And I suppose that Americans only matter in the aggregate and not as individuals. Over 5 million people had their insurance taken away from them because of Obamacare mandates. The net total of those covered may have increased, but tell that to the 5 million people who lost their plans. I’m sure it will be very comforting.

As for the senator’s claim that “millions” of people have been forced into part time work because of Obamacare, Cruz is neither wrong nor right. We simply don’t know. No one is going around with a clipboard asking part-time workers why they are working part time.

It probably isn’t “millions,” but what if it’s a million? In this case, the point Cruz is trying to make is well taken. Besides, we’ll really get a feel for how many employers are going to downsize the hours of their employees next year when the small-business mandate goes into effect. Those companies with more than 50 workers but fewer than 100 will be deciding whether to eliminate some or most full-time jobs or refuse to cover the employees anyway, forcing them on to the exchanges.

Fact-checking politicians is a fool’s errand and with Cruz, it’s no different. But you can’t fact-check paranoia. A large portion of Cruz’s exaggerated rhetoric that sends conservatives into paroxysms of joy smacks of fear mongering. He is trying to evoke the Man on a White Horse syndrome and you don’t have to guess who is riding to our rescue.

The Atlantic’s David Ludwig quotes liberally from Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay on the “Paranoid Style in American Politics” and eventually manages to get to some hard truths about Ted Cruz, the candidate:

Historian Richard Hofstadter described the use of “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” in American political life. Hofstadter called this phenomenon “the American paranoid style,” built on the perpetuation of conspiracy theories and the use of apocalyptic prose. “[The] demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals,” Hofstadter wrote. “Since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration.”

While this style has been employed by both the right and the left, one place it finds current expression is in Cruz’s appeals to conservative and Tea Party audiences. The freshman senator’s willingness to stand up and fight for “hopelessly unrealistic goals” was perhaps clearest during his 21-hour-and-19-minute Senate filibuster to defund Obamacare in 2013. “I will say standing here after 14 hours, standing on your feet, there’s sometimes some pain, sometimes some fatigue that is involved,” Cruz told the Senate chamber. “But you know what? There’s far more pain involved in rolling over, far more pain in hiding in the shadows, far more pain in not standing for principle, not standing for the good, not standing for integrity.”

Although Senator Cruz’s speech had no serious chance of derailing the Affordable Care Act, his hours-long rebuke of Obamacare resonated with supporters. “I’m proud of our good friend Ted Cruz, who is doing what he promised voters he would do, which is fight at every turn to protect American families and businesses from the President’s disastrous health care law,” wrote Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer afterwards.

At the time, I referred to Cruz and his supporters as the “King Canute Caucus,” referencing the utter futility of what he was attempting to do: defund Obamacare in the Democratic Senate.

But that’s not the only time Cruz led with his face:

In 2010, the former Texas solicitor general claimed that Harvard Law School had employed a dozen communist professors during the time he studied there. Running for office in 2012, Cruz warned supporters about a George Soros-led United Nations environmental initiative to banish golf courses from the local American communities. And during former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s nominating hearing in 2012, Cruz earned rebukes from both Democrats and Republicans for questioning Hagel’s character. Among other things, Cruz insinuated that Hagel had taken money from foreign governments, didn’t fully support Israel, and that his nomination was being “publicly celebrated by the Iranian government” (a claim that was, at the very least, exaggerated). These intricate conspiracies avoid the ambiguity of reality in exchange for simple and easy to understand narratives. Instead of wading into complex issues and weighing ramifications, Cruz sets up straw men, which are easy—indeed, necessary—to oppose.

It appears that Cruz is the Randall “Tex” Cobb of politics. Cobb was a professional punching bag back in the 1980s whose bout against then-heavyweight champion Larry Holmes was so one sided and bloody that it drove Howard Cosell from the ringside microphone. (Cobb quipped: “Hey, if it gets him to stop broadcasting NFL games, I’ll go play football for a week too!”)

But despite taking on opponents he couldn’t possibly defend himself against, Cobb ended up on his feet: he took his skills to Hollywood and became a professional bad guy in the movies. And yeah…he was a punching bag for the good guys, too.

Cruz may not be as big a loser as Cobb was, but he has precious few victories to crow about. What he apparently possesses more than anything is an ability to raise the temperature of conservatives by suggesting the absolute worst about his opponents. Do the American people need to be told that the world is ending, or that it’s “on fire” as he told a New Hampshire audience recently?

A little less exaggeration and hyperbole, a little more nuance and an acknowledgement of the complexities of the world, and who knows? Ted Cruz could emerge as a top-tier candidate for the Republican nomination.

But I’m not holding my breath.

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Is a Confederate Battle Flag Displayed on a License Plate Free Speech?

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Once again, the Confederate battle flag is the center of controversy as the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, a case involving the display of the flag on a specialty license plate in Texas.

The question facing the court is more complex than it would originally appear: is the “speech” that the flag represents a matter of individual freedom or, since the license plate is issued by the state, is it a question of government speech, where Texas can pick and choose which sentiments and issues it supports?

The case is important because other issues that private citizens wish to highlight on their license plates — abortion, war and peace, minority rights — can also be rejected if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the state.

Bloomberg reports:

The case goes back to 2009, when the Texas branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which honors soldiers who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, submitted a design proposal for a specialty license plate to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles that included a Confederate flag. The DMV board that voted on the proposals fielded angry public comments and twice rejected the plate as an offensive celebration of slavery, according to the Supreme Court-focused news site SCOTUSblog.

The SCV sued, saying the DMV is violating the free speech rights of drivers who would select the license plate. Texas countered that license plates are government property on which the government can decide its own message. (The First Amendment guarantees that the government won’t abridge individuals’ right to free speech, but the government is allowed to police its own “speech.”)

Texas—which does celebrate an annual Confederate Heroes Day—asserted in a case brief that it “is fully within its rights to exclude swastikas, sacrilege, and overt racism from state-issued license plates 14 that bear the State’s name and imprimatur.”

In its own brief, the SCV shot back that having the annual holiday shows that “The State apparently does not believe that the ‘message’ of the Confederate flag is offensive to the public, or, if it is offensive, the State certainly does not shy away from its expression because of such offense.”

The case has attracted some unusual bedfellows, with the American Civil Liberties Union, pro-life groups, and even the satirist P.J. O’Rourke filing briefs in support of the SCV.

The AP said Texas offers 350 varieties of specialty plates (including ones devoted to restaurants, the Boy Scouts, and blood donations) that brought in $17.6 million in revenue last year. The state does offer license plates commemorating “Buffalo soldiers”—black regiments that fought Native Americans in the 19th century.

“There are a lot of competing racial and ethnic concerns, and Texas doesn’t necessarily handle them any way but awkwardly sometimes,” Lynne Rambo, a professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth, told the AP.

Five federal appeals courts have ruled in favor of the non-profit SCV, according SCOTUSblog, including, most recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The battle flag of the Confederacy (actually, it’s one of several battle flags used by southern armies during the war) is perhaps the most misunderstood — usually deliberately so — piece of Americana there is. It is not the national flag of the Confederacy, which you can see here. So the question becomes, what is it?

If we are going to penalize southern soldiers and think awful things about them because they fought and died under that flag, then we might as well ban Old Glory as well. Historian James McPherson estimates that no more than 20% of union regiments were abolitionist regiments formed expressly to free the slaves, or regiments with abolitionist sympathizers. Most northern working men opposed freeing the slaves, fearing they would head north and take their jobs.  And northern whites almost universally opposed giving blacks the right to vote, to be educated in their schools, and to worship at their churches.

The fact is, almost all of America had the kind of casual, racist attitudes back then that modern-day opponents of the battle flag appear to ascribe to southerners only. So why pick on the battle flag?

It’s sad but true that the battle flag was incorporated into the flags of several southern states during the civil rights era not to honor southern soldiers, but to signify opposition to federal interference in what they considered states’ rights. In that sense, the anti-battle flag advocates have a point. It was used as a symbol of oppression and opposition to equal rights which has no place in modern America.

The flag is also employed by the Klan and many hate groups across the country. But as an expression of free speech, should it be allowed on license plates?

Allowing Texas to ban the battle flag from license plates would open the door to banning other, more overtly political speech. Pro- and anti-abortion messages could be banned depending on who is in power. “Drill, baby, drill” could be banned by a liberal administration that opposes fossil fuels. Giving the state the power to regulate free expression is a slippery slope that the Supreme Court will, hopefully, prevent us sliding down.

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The Sad Saga of Tom Flanagan

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Canadian Kathy Shadie writes to inform us of a new documentary from a relatively new website that details what happened to Tom Flanagan, a political operative who helped engineer the election victory of conservatives in Canada. If you think what happened to Liz Mair was unfair, your blood will boil over what happened to Flanagan.

Kathy writes:

You guys — my American friends — might not recognize the name Dr. Tom Flanagan, but up here in Canada, he’s a political legend.

He was the backroom “brains” behind what many said couldn’t be done in “L/liberal” Canada:

The grassroots conservative movement that eventually saw Steven Harper get elected (and reelected) Prime Minister.

But one day, in the time it took him to drive home from a speaking engagement, Tom Flanagan was tossed under the bus by the same people he put in power.

A new — and very timely — documentary looks into what happened.

Here’s the trailer:

TheRebel.media is Ezra Levant’s new Canadian conservative media venture you might have heard about via Ricochet and PJMedia  — the one that crowdfunded all their cameras, computers and mics in around 48 hours.

It’s been a going concern for just over a month, and now TheRebel.media is presenting its first longform doc, “Flanagan,” this Sunday, March 22.

So…Was this political correctness gone mad yet again? A Shakespearean tragedy for our times? Or should a “genius” like Flanagan have known better than to go too far?

Given what just happened with Liz Mair, “Flanagan” will give American viewers something to think about.

Here’s the full length documentary, courtesy of TheRebel.media.

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From Hiram Johnson to the ‘Sodomite Suppression Act’

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Hiram Johnson was a two-term governor of California in the early 20th century who was a big believer in “direct democracy” — giving the voter powers that had formerly been reserved for political elites. He brought the ideas of ballot initiatives, referendums, and recalls to California. And he made the process of filing for these innovations as inexpensive as possible.

Johnson’s legacy was to give California perhaps the most open democratic system of any state in the country. Grassroots movements lowering property taxes, overturning the ban on gay marriage, and reforming government at all levels have given the people of California a powerful voice in their own affairs.

But ballot initiatives have also led to some silly, stupid, and dangerous ideas. The Economist offered this analysis of California’s “direct democracy”:

This citizen legislature has caused chaos. Many initiatives have either limited taxes or mandated spending, making it even harder to balance the budget. Some are so ill-thought-out that they achieve the opposite of their intent: for all its small-government pretensions, Proposition 13 ended up centralising California’s finances, shifting them from local to state government. Rather than being the curb on elites that they were supposed to be, ballot initiatives have become a tool of special interests, with lobbyists and extremists bankrolling laws that are often bewildering in their complexity and obscure in their ramifications. And they have impoverished the state’s representative government. Who would want to sit in a legislature where 70-90% of the budget has already been allocated?

Yes, it’s a mess. Democracy is like that, being “the worst form of government, except for all the others,” as Winston Churchill believed. But clearly, there are times when the ballot initiative becomes an embarrassment. Take the case of  Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin, who is either a jokester with a warped sense of humor, or a fanatical zealot who should probably be in a straightjacket.

McLaughlin plunked down $200 at the Secretary of State’s office, proposing a ballot measure that would authorize the killing of gays and lesbians by “bullets to the head,” or “any other convenient method.”

The wording of the proposal should shock the sensibilities of even the most rabid anti-gay activist:

McLaughlin’s plan refers to “buggery” or “sodomy” as “a monstrous evil that Almighty God, giver of freedom and liberty, commands us to suppress on pain of our utter destruction even as he overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” Under the proposal, “… any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification (would) be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

Anyone transmitting “sodomistic propaganda” to a minor would be fined $1 million per offense, and/or imprisoned up to 10 years, and/or expelled from California for up to life. It would ban lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, or those who espouse sodomistic propaganda, or who belong to any group that does, from serving in public office, holding government jobs and obtaining public benefits.

“This law is effective immediately and shall not be rendered ineffective nor invalidated by any court, state or federal, until heard by a quorum of the Supreme Court of California consisting only of judges who are neither sodomites nor subject to disqualification hereunder,” it states.

Secretary of State Kamala Harris is being asked to deep-six the initiative, despite the fact that the law clearly states she must come up with a 100-word summary and authorize the gathering of signatures. A court may eventually bar the initiative from the ballot, but until then, Californians may be accosted at shopping malls and grocery stores by fanatics, asking them to sign a petition that advocates murder.

McLaughlin’s initiative has set off a debate in California over the entire process. Some want to substantially raise the cost of filing an initiative to discourage just this kind of idiocy. But others think that would be a mistake:

Jennifer Fearing, the president of Fearless Advocacy and a veteran of lower-wattage campaigns, said she isn’t sure “there’s a price that stops crazy.”

“It’s important to preserve access to direct democracy even if some jerks can get over the first and lowest hurdle on occasion,” she said.

While it’s exceedingly unlikely McLaughlin’s measure would qualify, the signature threshold for November 2016, at 365,880, is unusually low.

Fearing said unless he could come up with $1 million to pay signature collectors, and upward of $10 million to advertise, “we are all just going to have to hope he’s having his shameful 15 minutes of infamy.”

There’s a move to disbar McLaughlin, although that, too, appears doomed. Evidently, the rules governing disbarment for such behavior favor the crazies.

Even though he would not approve of the measure, wherever Hiram Johnson is, he’s probably smiling. Direct democracy has wreaked havoc on state government and California society. And that’s just what the old progressive wanted.

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Islamic State Issues Online Hit List of 100 American Servicemen

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A previously unknown group calling itself “Islamic State Hackers Division” has posted a hit list of 100 American servicemen online, urging followers to carry out attacks against the targets.

The names, addresses, and photos of the servicemen are included in the posting. Sources tell Reuters that the information was not obtained by hacking a military website and appears to be from easily accessible online databases.

The Pentagon said after the information was posted on the Internet that it was investigating the matter. “I can’t confirm the validity of the information, but we are looking into it,” a U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday.

“We always encourage our personnel to exercise appropriate OPSEC (operations security) and force protection procedures,” the official added.

In the posting, a group referring to itself as the “Islamic State Hacking Division” wrote in English that it had hacked several military servers, databases and emails and made public the information on 100 members of the U.S. military so that “lone wolf” attackers can kill them.

The New York Times reported that it did not look like the information had been hacked from U.S. government servers and quoted an unnamed Defense Department official as saying most of the information could be found in public records, residential address search sites and social media.

The Times quoted officials as saying the list appeared to have been drawn from personnel mentioned in news articles about air strikes on Islamic State. The group’s forces control parts of Syria and Iraq and have been targeted in U.S.-led air strikes.

The posting, addressed to disbelievers, Christians and “crusaders” in America, included what the group said were the names, military service branch, photos and street addresses of the individuals. The posting includes the military rank of some but not all of those named.

The New York Times quotes from the website:

“With the huge amount of data we have from various different servers and databases, we have decided to leak 100 addresses so that our brothers in America can deal with you,” the Islamic State’s so-called Hacking Division said in the web posting.

It added: “And now we have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what are you waiting for?”

That doesn’t sound like a foreign terrorist who speaks English as a second language. But even if the posters are not directly under the command of Islamic State, the invitation to kill servicemen is deadly serious. As we’ve seen in several attacks around the world, there are plenty of nutcases who are inspired by Islamic State and would be eager to carry out their wishes.

Let’s hope they shut that website down before one of our servicemen is attacked.

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Cyber Snoops Watching Your Kids

Saturday, March 21st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A shocking piece in Politico that details the lengths to which schools go to spy on our children’s online lives.

This is especially true for Common Core administrators who are scouring the internet looking for leaks of questions from standardized tests. This is bad enough, but there appears to be no allowance made for protecting privacy — even when it comes to information not even related to Common Core.

The web patrol team works for Caveon, a test security company charged with protecting the integrity of new Common Core exams developed by the publishing giant Pearson. To that end, they’re monitoring social media for any leaks about test questions. News of the surveillance broke this week, sparking a firestorm. The American Federation of Teachers even circulated a petition demanding that Pearson “stop spying on our kids.”

But Pearson is hardly the only company keeping a watchful eye on students.
School districts and colleges across the nation are hiring private companies to monitor students’ online activity, down to individual keystrokes, to scan their emails for objectionable content and to scrutinize their public posts on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and other popular sites. The surveillance services will send principals text-message alerts if a student types a suspicious phrase or surfs to a web site that raises red flags.

[...]

The rise of online student monitoring comes at a time of rising parent protests against other forms of digital surveillance — namely, the vast quantities of data that technology companies collect on kids as they click through online textbooks, games and homework. Companies providing those online resources can collect millions of unique data points on a child in a single day. Much of that information is not protected by federal privacy law.

School administrators don’t tend to be too interested in that data, because it’s far too granular for them to make sense of it until an ed-tech company mines it for patterns.

But some principals, coaches and college presidents are acutely interested in student tweets.

Enter the surveillance services, which promise to scan student posts around the clock and flag anything that hints at bullying, violence or depression. The services will also flag any post that could tarnish the reputation of either the student or the educational institution. They’ll even alert administrators to garden-variety teenage hijinks, like a group of kids making plans to skateboard on school property .

Some of the monitoring software on the market can track and log every keystroke a student makes while using a school computer in any location, including at home. Principals can request text alerts if kids type in words like “guns” or “drugs,” or browse websites about anorexia or suicide. They can even order up reports identifying which students fritter away hours on Facebook and which buckle down to homework right after dinner.

Obviously, the law has had trouble catching up to the technology. Only five states limit this kind of snooping on our kids and five more are considering it. But what’s really needed is a federal standard that will stop them all from prying into what’s essentially none of their damn business.

Trying to prevent the next Newtown or Columbine is not an excuse. The chances the snooping would head off a school massacre are infinitesimally small. Nor is shaming bullies, or catching bigots in the act of expressing themselves, or policing threats a reason to so egregiously violate the privacy of children or adults.

Perhaps even more worrisome are the tech companies who mine your child’s online life in order to develop data they can sell to all sorts of companies. There are inexpensive programs you can download that can protect your kid from most of this snooping, but the question of why it is legal in the first place lingers.

There are enough hackers, phishers, and Nigerian princes out there already trying to spy on and scam you. We don’t need their legal counterparts adding to our worries.

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O’Malley Turning Heads in Iowa

Saturday, March 21st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was in Iowa, speaking at the Scott County Democrats’ “Red, White, and Blue Dinner” on Friday and showed those present that he is a serious candidate for president no matter what the polls say about Hillary Clinton’s inevitability.

O’Malley, who was not known as a liberal firebrand while governor, has adopted a take-no-prisoners attitude toward Wall Street and the rich.

The Washington Post reports:

During O’Malley’s appearance at the Scott County Democrats’ “Red, White and Blue Dinner,” he offered a prescription for “making the dream true again” that includes raising the minimum wage, expanding Social Security benefits, making pre-kindergarten universally available and ensuring equal pay for women. “Sing it with me people,” O’Malley said. “When women succeed, America succeeds.”

The speech, which drew multiple standing ovations, both underscored O’Malley’s opportunities and the challenges in the nation’s first presidential nominating state, where early polls show Clinton with a commanding lead and O’Malley barely registering. In interviews afterward, many Democratic activists said they were only starting to learn about O’Malley.

“I haven’t really followed him all that closely, but I’m going to be looking at him a lot harder now,” said Ken Krayenhagen, a 56-year-old chiropractor who lives in Davenport. “I like a leader that’s inspiring.”

O’Malley has said he plans to make a decision about whether to move forward with a presidential bid by May. Clinton has yet to visit Iowa this year but is hiring staff and laying other groundwork here and in other early states.

Taking a cue from Senator Elizabeth Warren, O’Malley evoked the class-warfare memes that makes liberals’ hearts flutter:

Many of the more than 200 people who turned out to see O’Malley in the Mississippi River city of Davenport on Friday said they were meeting him for the first time. He touted his time in office during his speech, including his work to raise Maryland’s minimum wage and increase state spending on education. The crowd enthusiastically applauded and rose to their feet several times when O’Malley bemoaned income inequality and called for more oversight of Wall Street and the financial industry.

“Over the last 12 years, wages have been going down, not up,” said O’Malley, who concluded eight years as governor of Maryland in January. “In fact, last year, Wall Street bonuses alone were double the combined earnings of every single American working for minimum wage to take care of their family. Until we solve this problem, we cannot rest – as a party or as a people.”

They were comments aimed squarely at those still pining for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to get into the race, something she has said repeatedly she will not. An effort to draft Warren into the race has been underway for months, organized by the liberal groups MoveOn.org and Democracy for America.

“I’m a lifelong Clinton fan. But the thing is, this isn’t a dynasty – it isn’t a monarchy,” said one attendee. In the end, that might be the best thing that O’Malley — and anyone else who challenges Hillary — has going for them in the campaign.

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Terrorist Propaganda Victory! Photos of U.S. Torture to Be Released

Saturday, March 21st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Congratulations are due to the ACLU and federal judge Alvin Hellerstein for handing the thugs of the world a propaganda coup on a silver platter.

Hellerstein ruled on Friday that photos depicting the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan while in U.S. custody must be released within two months if the government decides not to appeal his decision.

The ACLU, which originally brought the suit more than a decade ago, says the pictures “are manifestly important to an ongoing national debate about governmental accountability for the abuse of prisoners.”

The Associated Press reports:

The fight over the photographs reaches back to the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it invokes the images of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq that sparked international outrage after they emerged in 2004 and 2006. Early in the 2004 lawsuit, the ACLU pointed to the Abu Ghraib photos as priority examples of records the organization was seeking on the treatment of detainees.

It’s unclear how many more photographs may exist. The government has said it has 29 relevant pictures from at least seven different sites in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s believed to have perhaps hundreds or thousands more, Hellerstein said in a ruling in August. He said some photos he had seen “are relatively innocuous while others need more serious consideration,” and he has ruled that any images that would be released would be redacted to protect the identities of people in them.

Some photographs, taken by service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, were part of criminal investigations of alleged abuse. Some images show “soldiers pointing pistols or rifles at the heads of hooded and handcuffed detainees,” then-Solicitor General — now Supreme Court Justice — Elena Kagan wrote in an appeal to the high court earlier in the case, which has taken a long road through the courts and Congress.

The government has long argued that releasing the photographs could incite attacks against U.S. forces and government personnel abroad, and officials have said that risk hasn’t abated as the U.S. military role in Iraq and Afghanistan lessened.

Indeed, “the danger associated with release of these photographs is heightened now,” amid the rise of the Islamic State militant group, Navy Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, the vice director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a December court filing. Islamic State, he said “would use these photographs to further encourage its supporters and followers to attack U.S. military and government personnel.”

Amid the lawsuit, Congress passed a 2009 law allowing the government to keep the photos secret if the secretary of defense certified that unveiling them would endanger U.S. citizens or government or military personnel.

Was there torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan? Yes there was. Should those who carried out the torture and anyone who ordered it be put on trial? Yes, absolutely.

But what possible purpose is served in releasing the photos? Let’s hold those in the government accountable and have a national conversation about it without releasing the photos. The only purpose of releasing these pictures is to satisfy those who glory in seeing the United States laid low in the international community. There is no high-falutin purpose to putting the U.S. government in a bad light in the eyes of the world. There is only a self loathing that requires constant reinforcement that the U.S. is evil, and undeserving of its lofty place in the world order.

And the notion that “airing our dirty laundry” for the entire world to see makes us “stronger” is a nonsensical construct based on a grand illusion that it is somehow heroic to damage our own interests and put our own people in danger. I call bullcrap on that and always will.

The fact of the matter is, in the “Arab street” — and in the streets of every dusty, two bit thugocracy and theocratic backwater in the world — the ignorant fanatics and ox-dumb peasants won’t see the nuance and subtlety about “accountability” claimed by the ACLU and those eager to embarrass the U.S. The release of the pictures will be an out-and-out incitement to riot and to kill Americans. Not that they need an excuse, but in their twisted worldview, the release of the photos would be an order from God — an opportunity to engage in murder and mayhem courtesy of the self-loathing hypocrites who are agitating for the release of this dynamite.

The photos are enemy propaganda. There is no difference between the torture photos and film released by the North Vietnamese showing happy, healthy American POWs eating well and apparently being well treated. Does it really matter which side releases the propaganda? Our enemies will use the photos for their own propaganda purposes. Why give them a helping hand?

The effect — intended or not — is the same. The propaganda is designed to elicit an emotional response and hide the truth. Are we to believe that every one of the tens of thousands of people who have been captured over the last decade were all subjected to the treatment shown in the photos? You can bet our enemies will make that claim.

Those photos are no more representative of the way most prisoners who fell into our hands in the last decade were treated than were the North Vietnamese propaganda films that hid the truth about their brutal treatment of captured Americans.

The torture of prisoners was real. It is a cause for national shame. But no purpose whatsoever is served by releasing photos of the crimes. The vast majority of people around the world will not see the photos as an effort at government accountability, or a sign of the strength of our democracy, or any other elevated notion of civilized behavior the left thinks releasing the pictures will reveal about America.

It will result in fire, and mayhem, and blood. And every drop of it will be on the heads of those who arrogantly believe in their own moral superiority.

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Is an Iran Deal Close?

Saturday, March 21st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

If you listen to both Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani talking about the progress of talks to limit Iran’s nuclear program, you get the feeling that one side in the negotiations made substantial concessions in the last 48 hours. Both men are saying that a deal is “within reach” — an attitude that was missing just 48 hours ago.

You have to believe that one of two things happened: either Iran gave up on its long-held beliefs regarding issues like sanctions and inspections, or the U.S. and the west are caving in to Iranian demands on those matters.

Which do you think is closer to the truth?

USA Today:

The United States and Iran reported significant progress Saturday toward a nuclear agreement, with the Iranian president declaring a deal within reach. America’s top diplomat was more reserved, leaving open whether world powers and Tehran would meet a March 31 deadline.

Speaking after a week of nuclear negotiations in Switzerland, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry challenged Iran to make “fundamental decisions” that prove to the world it has no interest in atomic weapons. Amid conflicting statement by officials about how close the sides were, Kerry said, “We have an opportunity to try to get this right.”

The talks “have made substantial progress,” Kerry told reporters, “though important gaps remain.” Talks with Iran resume next week.

In Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was more optimistic. “Achieving a deal is possible,” he said. “There is nothing that can’t be resolved.”

Other negotiators offered both positive and negative assessments. Top Russian negotiator Sergey Ryabkov and Iran’s atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said in recent days that technical work was nearly done. But French officials said the opposite, declaring the sides far from any agreement.

Kerry was departing later Saturday to meet with European allies in London, before returning to Washington, in part to ensure unity. Kerry said the U.S. and its five negotiating partners — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — are “united in our goal, our approach, our resolve and our determination.”

But France, which raised last minute objections to an interim agreement reached with Iran in 2013, could threaten a deal again. It is particularly opposed to providing Iran with quick relief from international sanctions and wants a longer timeframe for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity.

France is looking to stiffen the backbones of their colleagues by objecting to Kerry moving the goal posts on sanctions. We’ve gone from a position where sanctions would be lifted gradually over a 10-year period to major sanctions on the Iranian oil and finance industries being lifted in a matter of weeks following this framework agreement.

But it’s not likely the French will blow up an agreement for any reason. They don’t want to be faced with the decision to bomb Iran any more than Obama does. They will hope for the best but plan for the worst on an Iranian nuclear program.

Negotiations have been suspended until March 26 — not doubt to give the western nations time to figure out how to spin this deal to make it palatable to those too stupid to know otherwise. So, unless hard liners in Tehran torpedo a deal by putting pressure on Supreme Leader Khamenei to reject it, there is a likelihood of an “historic” agreement with the crazies in Iran.

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Is Anyone Watching Television Anymore?

Sunday, March 15th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

For the fifth straight month, television ratings have declined by double digits over what they were a year ago.

What had started as a gradual slide as Netflix cut into traditional TV viewing habits has become a tsunami as Hulu, Amazon, and other streaming video services compete in a growing market of younger “cord cutters.”

The New York Post reports:

“It’s clear the downward spiral in TV ratings continues with no end in sight,” media analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a research note on Friday.

Overall prime-time broadcast network ratings were off 12 percent last month compared to a year ago, while cable networks dropped 11 percent, according to his report.

Nathanson looked at so-called C3 ratings, which come in later than traditional ratings. They measure average commercial viewership in shows up to three days after the original air date via DVR playback.

While a couple of networks that carried the Super Bowl and the Olympics last year clearly suffered because of tougher comparisons, almost every channel was hurting.

Looking at total-day C3 ratings, only three networks boosted their audience: HGTV, Discovery and TBS, while TNT, History and Nickelodeon fell the most.

Typically, TV ad sales executives can increase prices to compensate for a ratings decline, citing scarcity. But Nathanson said seismic changes are pressuring networks to hold the line on pricing.

Although some of the ratings declines can be blamed on changes to Nielsen’s measuring methods, among other changes, “we believe these terrible ratings trends are also indicative of changing viewership habits,” he wrote.

The numbers underscore the rapid changes in how TV viewers are consuming content.

Americans are increasingly watching TV shows on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon streaming and other services. Some 40 percent of households now have subscription video service, Nielsen reported earlier this week.

We are rapidly approaching a tipping point and no one really knows what’s on the other side of the divide. The device — the television — will still be with us. It’s still far and away the primary choice for viewing, far outstripping phones and tablets. But what happens to the content?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Sony is in advanced negotiations with at least three streaming services for the rights to the Seinfeld series. The asking price may be as high as $100 million:

Among the bidders chasing the rights to the “show about nothing” are Hulu, Amazon and Yahoo. The deal could fetch a price well north of half a million dollars per episode, the people said. There are 180 Seinfeld episodes.

Netflix, which last year took a hard look at “Seinfeld,” is taking a pass on the show, a person familiar with the matter said.

Reruns of “Seinfeld have been on local TV stations and the cable channel TBS for years, but the buyers believe it has potential to continue that run for another several years on the Web. There, it could hold appeal for a generation of cord-cutters who can’t catch Seinfeld episodes on cable, and will allow users to search for their favorite episodes on-demand.

Landing the online video rights could elevate the stature of Hulu, Amazon and Yahoo, all of whom are in the large shadow of Netflix.

When Netflix acquired “Friends” last year from Warner Bros., it paid more than $500,000 per-episode, a person with knowledge of the deal said. Sony is seeking a higher price than what Warner Bros. received for “Friends.”

The price will depend, in part, on the length of the deal. The “Friends” agreement with Netflix runs for four years, which may be too short for some of the “Seinfeld” bidders. One suitor said a price tag higher than “Friends” doesn’t make sense if the contract is for less than ten years.

An agreement with an online video service would not mean the end of “Seinfeld” repeats on other outlets. “Friends” remains in heavy rotation on TBS even though Netflix has the rights and does not have commercials. Despite the addition of “Friends” to Netflix, ratings for the reruns on TBS have held steady.

There are no exclusivity deals for shows like Seinfeld now, largely because streaming services don’t have that kind of clout. But the time is approaching when the only place you’ll be able to watch some of your favorite shows will be on one streaming service or another. And that’s when the real scramble for customers will begin.

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Carville Suggests Political Motive Behind Hillary’s Destruction of Emails

Sunday, March 15th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

James Carville, former aide to President Clinton, told ABC’s This Week that Hillary Clinton not only used a private email account for convenience, but that she also wanted to hide her emails from the Republican opposition.

Appearing on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Carville defended Clinton, saying her e-mail practices were legal. But, he added, she may also have had prying Republican eyes in mind when she chose to do business through a private e-mail server.

“I suspect she didn’t want Louie Gohmert rifling though her e-mails, which seems to me to be a kind of reasonable position for someone to take,” Carville said.

Gohmert, an outspoken conservative from Texas, serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

Speaking at a press conference last week last week, Clinton said she chose to use just one e-mail account when she was secretary of state because it was more convenient.

“I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal e-mails instead of two,” she said. She has turned over all work-related messages to the State Department for review and release, she said, and discarded thousands of other messages deemed personal.

The sense of entitlement shared by both Carville and Clinton is breathtaking. There is a belief that rules that everyone else must follow are not made for them. The law doesn’t matter, apparently. What matters is Hillary’s political fortunes.

It is not “reasonable” to disobey the law because you didn’t want to be politically damaged or embarrassed. What an extraordinary thing for Carville to say. It’s not relevant what Carville thinks of Rep. Gohmert — he’s an elected representative of the people and, like it or not, is entitled to see any relevant information from the former secretary of State that would allow him to do his job.

The hell of it is, if a Republican in a similar position wanted to hide their emails for any reason, Carville would be out front and center screaming for blood. He may have thought he was doing Hillary a favor by hinting that she was trying to hide her emails from evil conservatives, but all he’s done is suggest that political calculus was the real motive for Clinton’s deception.

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You Won’t Believe What Canadian Leftists Are Saying About the New Anti-Terrorism Bill

Sunday, March 15th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has introduced an anti-terrorism bill in parliament that has given the left the vapors.

Indeed, they’re so upset they can’t think straight. Or maybe they haven’t read the bill. Or perhaps they’re so toweringly ignorant they don’t have a clue what terrorism is, or who is at fault.

It’s got to be something. The video below shows some of the most outrageous acts of stupidity you will ever see on film.

The Rebel:

Did you know Bill C-51 will make it illegal to grow garlic in your own backyard? That Canadian cops are the new dope-smoking Gestapo?

When I interviewed protesters at the March 14 #StopC51 demonstration in downtown Toronto, that was just one of the more… interesting answers I received to some pretty simple questions about the Harper government’s proposed anti-terror legislation.

You may not know whether to laugh or cry while watching this footage of Canada’s Left, in their own unedited words.

So much of this video is priceless, beginning with the aging hippies trying to sing the old Buffalo Springfield hit “For What It’s Worth” (“Stop, hey what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down”).

Members of the Young Communist League were particularly giggle-worthy (“poverty is terrorism”) and the old German guy who said that prime minister reminded him of Hitler and the Gestapo because he was there. (He no doubt spent his youth giving the Nazi salute and screaming “Heil Hitler!”.) And, as an extra added attraction, the clueless stoner.

No one appeared to have read the bill. No one knew what was really in it. No one had a clue what they were protesting.

A typical day for typically ignorant leftists.

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Walker a Hit in New Hampshire

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took his shadow campaign on the road to New Hampshire this morning, addressing a large crowd in the Concord High School gym.

WKOW reports that he received an enthusiastic reception from the crowd — including a standing ovation after the speech. Not so happy to see him were union protestors who stood outside the venue chanting “Stop the war on workers” and “Scott Walker: stop trashing the middle class.”

If Walker runs and becomes the GOP nominee, you can expect organized labor to go all out all over the country to defeat him. And this time for labor, it will be personal.

Otherwise, Walker was well received, and the crowd was attentive as the governor tried out themes and issues for the coming campaign.

The Hill:

Walker kicked off his speech by touting his close geography growing up near fellow Republican Wisconsin natives Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, and Rep. Paul Ryan, recalling that he and Ryan “both flipped hamburgers as kids at McDonald’s.”

Walker’s speech relied on familiar themes, touting reforms during his tenure in Wisconsin to argue that success should be measured “by how many people who are no longer dependent on the government.”

He also suggested his two sons could take off a semester of college to campaign with him, should he run.

Fielding a question on whether he would abolish the federal income tax, Walker said the idea “sounds pretty interesting” but stopped short of giving it his endorsement, emphasizing cuts in other areas of the government.

Presented with a blue baseball cap from a pro-gun member of the audience asking about foreign policy, Walker immediately strapped the hat on his head and threw up an air rifle pose, grinning.

Walker said the biggest national security threat facing the U.S. was” radical Islamic terrorism.”

“I am not proposing to engage full-scale boots on the ground, but I’m not taking that off the table,” he said.

“We need a president who will do whatever it takes,” Walker said. “We need to have a clear mission and we need to follow through on that mission.”

Criticizing President Obama, Walker said the U.S. has “an ally in Israel, and we should start acting like it.”

He also took aim at presumed Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, saying she was among those who “I think believe that you grow the economy in Washington.” He also dinged her gift of reset button to Russia as secretary of State.

“Let this be a time in history where we can look back and tell future generations what we did to make America great again,” he concluded.

This appears to be a developing theme for Walker:

Walker also took aim at Democratic President Barack Obama and polices he said measured success based on how many people were dependent on the government.

“We should measure success on just the opposite, on how many are not dependent on the government,” Walker said.

This is the kind of thing that drives liberals crazy and is red meat for conservatives. It never fails to get a huge round of applause.

Here are a few excerpts from the speech today.

In more formal settings, Walker is still a little stiff. But in these town hall type forums, he appears relaxed and on his game. The frontrunner moniker sits very easily on his shoulders and he’s getting very good at making a connection with his audience at an emotional level.

It was Walker’s first visit to New Hampshire since 2012. He promised to return “many times” in the future.

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Kurds Claim Islamic State Used Chlorine Gas

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Kurdistan Regional Security Council is claiming that Islamic State forces have used chemical weapons against their soldiers.

And they say they have the evidence to prove it.

This is not the first allegation that IS has used gas against the Kurds. Last October, Iraqi officials claimed ISIS militants may have used chlorine-filled cylinders during clashes in late September in the towns of Balad and Duluiya.

This particular incident occurred in late January and involved a suicide truck bomb.

New York Times:

The allegation by the Kurdistan Region Security Council, stemming from a Jan. 23 suicide truck bomb attack in northern Iraq, did not immediately draw a reaction from the Islamic State group, which holds a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate. However, Iraqi officials and Kurds fighting in Syria have made similar allegations about the militants using the low-grade chemical weapons against them.

In a statement, the council said the alleged chemical attack took place on a road between Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and the Syrian border, as peshmerga forces fought to seize a vital supply line used by the Sunni militants. It said its fighters later found “around 20 gas canisters” that had been loaded onto the truck involved in the attack.

Video provided by the council showed a truck racing down a road, white smoke pouring out of it as it came under heavy fire from peshmerga fighters. It later showed a white, billowing cloud after the truck exploded and the remnants of it scattered across a road.

An official with the Kurdish council told The Associated Press that dozens of peshmerga fighters were treated for “dizziness, nausea, vomiting and general weakness” after the attack. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the incident.

The Kurds say samples of clothing and soil from the site were analyzed by an unnamed lab in an unnamed coalition partner nation, which found chlorine traces.

“The fact ISIS relies on such tactics demonstrates it has lost the initiative and is resorting to desperate measures,” the Kurdish government said in the statement, using an alternate acronym for the Sunni militant group.

There was no independent confirmation of the Kurds’ claim. Peter Sawczak, a spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has monitored Syria dismantling its chemical weapons stockpile, said his group had not been asked to investigate the attack.

It appears that these weapons are crudely constructed. But that won’t lessen their ability to kill and maim a lot of soldiers. More to the point, they are terror weapons, designed to inflict maximum fear in the opposing army. Using them gives Islamic State a psychological edge on the battlefield.

Chlorine is the poor man’s WMD. And given the likelihood that IS is in possession of large quantities of the gas, defeating them on the ground has become even more difficult than it already was.

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72-Year-Old Catholic Nun Gang-Raped in India

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

An elderly nun in eastern India was brutally gang-raped by eight men.

The rapists entered the Convent of Jesus and Mary School, robbed the premises, then broke into the convent itself. They then trashed the school and convent, vandalized the church, and broke into the tabernacle stealing the chalice containing the sacrament.

Gang rapes have become disturbingly common in India in recent years. But the desecration of the church and convent is a reflection of a growing anti-Christian sentiment in India. Meeting last month, Indian bishops expressed concern about the growing level of violence directed at Christians. Five Delhi churches have been vandalized in recent months.

The first church attack in Delhi occurred on December 1 with the burning of St Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden, east Delhi. A week later, unidentified persons threw stones at Our Lady of Fatima Forane Church Jasola, near Okhla in south Delhi, and broke its window panes during the evening Mass.

On January 3, a mysterious fire reduced to ashes a Christmas crib kept inside the premises of the Church of Resurrection in Rohini, north Delhi. The fourth incident occurred when unknown assailants vandalized the Marian Grotto at the Church of Our Lady of Grace in Vikaspuri. In this case, the recordings of the CCTV cameras helped police to identify the culprits.

The rape of the elderly nun is only the latest outrage:

The men escaped with some cash, a cellphone, a laptop computer and a camera, all belonging to the school, the officer said. They also ransacked the school’s chapel and holy items, the Press Trust of India news agency cited the archbishop of Kolkata, Thomas D’Souza, as saying.

Scores of angry students, their parents and teachers blocked a nearby highway and railroad tracks for several hours demanding swift police action leading to the arrest of the culprits.

Mamta Banerjee, the state’s top elected official, strongly condemned the attack and ordered a high-level police investigation. D’Souza appealed to people to maintain peace and harmony in the area.

India has a long history of tolerance for sexual violence, but the December 2012 fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman aboard a moving bus in New Delhi caused outrage across the nation.

The outcry led the federal government to rush legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalizing voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. The law also makes it a crime for officers to refuse to open cases when complaints are made.

Some analysts in India have suggested that the violence against Christians can be traced to the rise of Prime Minister Modi’s Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata (BJP). Indeed, in some cases the coming to power of Modi’s party appears to have emboldened Hindu fanatics:

Since the rise to power of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ethnic-religious minorities of India speak of an increase in attacks and discrimination against them. Often, the attacks also target the “intimate” sphere of the faith. This is the case of the case Pramod Sahu, the Christian owner of a garage, who January 24 last was attacked by about 25 Hindu extremists because he kept hanging an image of Jesus in his shop. Police have not arrested anyone. “The police reluctance to investigate – Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) told AsiaNews – is a huge problem and a violation of our judicial system. In addition to yet another injustice against the minority Christian “.

It may be jumping to conclusions to place the entire blame for the increased number of attacks on Christians on the BJP. There are socio-economic and cultural factors at work as well.

But Modi doesn’t appear to be doing much about it, which fuels fear among Christians that the authorities won’t enforce the law when it comes to threats against the Christian community.

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Restaurants in Seattle Going Dark as $15 an Hour Minimum Wage Looms

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

I like this simple, elegant explanation from Reason’s Ronald Bailey about the value of labor and the minimum wage:

If all other factors remain equal, the higher the price of a good, the less people will demand it. That’s the law of demand, a fundamental idea in economics. And yet there is no shortage of politicians, pundits, policy wonks, and members of the public who insist that raising the price of labor will not have the effect of lessening the demand for workers. In his 2014 State of the Union Address, for example, President Barack Obama called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. He argued that increasing the minimum wage would “grow the economy for everyone” by giving “businesses customers with more spending money.”

A January 2015 working paper by two economists, Robert Pollin and Jeanette Wicks-Lim at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, claims that raising the minimum wage of fast food workers to $15 per hour over a four-year transition period would not necessarily result in “shedding jobs.” The two acknowledge that the “raising the price of anything will reduce demand for that thing, all else equal.” But they believe they’ve found a way to “relax” the all-else-being-equal part, at least as far as the wages of fast food workers go. Pollin and Wicks-Lim argue that “the fast-food industry could fully absorb these wage bill increases through a combination of turnover reductions; trend increases in sales growth; and modest annual price increases over the four-year period.” They further claim that a $15/hour minimum wage would not result in lower profits or the reallocation of funds away from other operations, such as marketing. Amazing.

Seattle is going to put that theory to a real world test. Starting April 1, businesses in the city will be forced to raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour, reaching $15 an hour by 2017 for large businesses and 2019 for smaller companies. There are allowances if a business offers health insurance benefits, but all businesses will be paying employees $15 an hour in salary, tips, or benefits by 2021.

This has caused great consternation among Seattle area eateries – not just fast food places.

Shift Washington:

Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law goes into effect on April 1, 2015. As that date approaches, restaurants across the city are making the financial decision to close shop. The Washington Policy Center writes that “closings have occurred across the city, from Grub in the upscale Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, to Little Uncle in gritty Pioneer Square, to the Boat Street Cafe on Western Avenue near the waterfront.”

Of course, restaurants close for a variety of reasons. But, according to Seattle Magazine, the “impending minimum wage hike to $15 per hour” is playing a “major factor.” That’s not surprising, considering “about 36% of restaurant earnings go to paying labor costs.” Seattle Magazine,

“Washington Restaurant Association’s Anthony Anton puts it this way: “It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem.”

“He estimates that a common budget breakdown among sustaining Seattle restaurants so far has been the following: 36 percent of funds are devoted to labor, 30 percent to food costs and 30 percent go to everything else (all other operational costs). The remaining 4 percent has been the profit margin, and as a result, in a $700,000 restaurant, he estimates that the average restauranteur in Seattle has been making $28,000 a year.

“With the minimum wage spike, however, he says that if restaurant owners made no changes, the labor cost in quick service restaurants would rise to 42 percent and in full service restaurants to 47 percent.”

Restaurant owners, expecting to operate on thinner margins, have tried to adapt in several ways including “higher menu prices, cheaper, lower-quality ingredients, reduced opening times, and cutting work hours and firing workers,” according to The Seattle Times and Seattle Eater magazine. As the Washington Policy Center points out, when these strategies are not enough, businesses close, “workers lose their jobs and the neighborhood loses a prized amenity.”

A spokesman for the Washington Restaurant Association told the Washington Policy Center, “Every [restaurant] operator I’m talking to is in panic mode, trying to figure out what the new world will look like… Seattle is the first city in this thing and everyone’s watching, asking how is this going to change?”

By decoupling the value of labor from the real world of supply and demand, the consequences are a reduction in the overall value of labor and the forced increase in prices that will lessen demand. If your electric, gas, water, phone, and other overhead costs go up 35%, you are going to be forced to raise prices on your products, and reduce your workforce numerically as well as the number of hours worked per employee. Why would an increase of that magnitude in labor costs not result in the same outcome?

Bailey chalks up this nonsense to economic ignorance. Hard to disagree with that. Relying on crackpot theories to push this ruinous policy will soon be shown to be a monumental mistake. Not only will restaurants and other small businesses be forced to close. But there will be few entrepreneurs willing to take a chance and open a business in the city.

That means a net loss in jobs and economic activity. But for the rich voters in King County, that hardly matters. It’s so “progressive” to pay someone a wage unrelated to the value of their work. Too bad those who can least afford to be a casualty of this progressive experiment will suffer the most.

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Suspect in Nemtsov Assassination Cornered, Blows Himself Up

Sunday, March 8th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Things relating to the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov are getting curiouser and curiouser.

The sixth man sought in the killings was cornered in Grozny, Chechnya and promptly blew himself up.

Beslan Shavanov, 30, was holed up in a building in Grozny when police arrived to arrest him Saturday afternoon, Russia 24 reported. Police surrounded the building and Shavano tried to escape, throwing a grenade at police officers before blowing himself up, the station said.

The news came as Russian authorities reported making five other arrests in connection with Boris Nemtsov’s killing.

One of those arrested claims to have an alibi, according to Russia’s Sputnik News.

“At the time of the murder, I was at work as I usually am every day. There are many people, my colleagues, who will confirm this,” the news agency quoted Tamerlan Eskerkhanov as saying in Moscow’s Basmanny District Court.

Two of the suspects have been formally charged and three “remain under the status of suspects,” court spokeswoman Anna Fadeyeva told Sputnik.

Nemtsov, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critics, was shot in the back on a Moscow bridge as he walked with his girlfriend near the Kremlin in late February.

Surveillance video showed someone darting from the sidewalk and into a nearby car right after Nemtsov collapsed.

Putin has been informed of the arrests in connection with Nemtsov’s death, Russian media said, citing Federal Security Service director Alexander Bortnikov.

Two of the other suspects are Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadayev, Bortnikov said in a televised statement. The others are Ramzan Bakhayev and Shagit Gubashev, Anzor’s younger brother, according to a Sputnik report that also said Dadayev was the only one of the five to plead guilty — though to what crimes was not clear.

Bortnikov said those detained are from the southern region of the North Caucasus, which for years has been a hotbed of unrest and rebellion against Moscow.

For the record, Nemtsov was a vocal opponent of the war in Chechnya. But what if the assassination was an attack by Islamic terrorists?

The Guardian is reporting that the Chechen policeman who confessed, Zaur Dadayev, is an associate of Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. He is also a Muslim:

Zaur Dadayev, a Chechen, was one of five men to appear in a Moscow courtroom on Sunday, all from Russia’s north Caucasus region.

“Dadayev’s involvement in committing this crime is confirmed by, apart from his own confession, the totality of evidence gathered as part of this criminal case,” said Judge Natalia Mushnikova.

Dadayev raised his index finger in the courtroom, a common Islamist sign, and said “I love the prophet Mohammed”, according to reporters present.

“I knew Zaur as a genuine Russian patriot,” the Chechen leader wrote on his Instagram page on Sunday evening, confirming that Dadayev had served in one of his battalions. “He was the deputy commander of the battalion, and one of the most fearless and courageous soldiers of the regiment.”

Kadyrov said Dadayev was “fully devoted to Russia” and suggested the murder may have been in response to anger over Nemtsov’s support for the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

“Everyone who knows Zaur says he is deeply religious person and like all Muslims was very shocked by the actions of Charlie [Hebdo] and by comments supporting the printing of the caricatures,” wrote Kadyrov. “If the court finds Dadayev guilty then by killing a person he has committed a grave crime. But I want to note that he could not do anything that was against Russia, for which he has risked his own life for many years.”

So the tangled web of associations in this case continues to confuse and obfuscate the truth. It’s almost like someone planned it that way.

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Dem Rep. Grayson Accuses Estranged Wife of Bigamy

Sunday, March 8th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Bomb throwing Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson is in the midst of a nasty, nasty divorce case win which he has accused his wife of bigamy while she counters with accusations of financial abandonment.

To top this weird affair off, neither party has been able to find Mrs. Grayson’s first husband, Robert Carson. If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll lay low until it’s settled.

Associated Press:

Rep. Alan Grayson says his wife, Lolita, was still married to Robert Carson when she and the multimillionaire congressman married in 1990 in Virginia. Grayson, a Democrat and highly successful trial lawyer, said the marriage to Carson wasn’t dissolved until 1994 in Broward County, Florida.

But Lolita Grayson says she divorced Carson in Guam in 1981, and she disputes that she was divorced in Broward County. She also said she isn’t the “Lolita B. Carson” cited in a dissolution of marriage final judgment that Alan Grayson, 56, says is proof that she was still married to Carson when they wed. Neither side has found Carson.

If the marriage is annulled, Alan Grayson would avoid having the court divide personal property or decide whether he owes Lolita Grayson alimony. In court papers, Lolita Grayson puts her husband’s worth at $31 million.

An outspoken liberal, Grayson gained national attention during the debates over health care reform when he said the Republicans’ opposing plan was “don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.”

Besides bigamy, the divorce has featured mutual allegations of battery, accusations by Lolita Grayson of financial abandonment by the congressman and a trial delay caused by Lolita Grayson’s leaking breast implants.

During a recent pretrial hearing, when attorneys were arguing over who had access to the couple’s financial documents, Circuit Judge Bob LeBlanc likened the scenario to the well-known Netflix political drama.

“This is starting to sound like ‘House of Cards,’” LeBlanc said.

Attorneys at the hearing suggested that politics, in part, may be preventing any effort to reach a quiet, confidential settlement that the judge hinted is the best option for both Graysons.

“When lies are told about you and you’re in the media, your detractors are going to use it and use it forever more. You have to neutralize that and the only way to do that is to get the truth out,” said Mark NeJame, one of Grayson’s attorneys.

When the judge said that both sides had “calmed down” from the initial acrimony of last year’s divorce filing, NeJame shot back, “Except the Republican Party.”

Lolita Grayson’s attorney, Mark Longell, said the congressman was going to “drag her through the mud” so that he doesn’t look bad.

It’s hard not to look bad when you’ve got leaky breast implants.

Grayson is a despicable politician and apparently not much of a man. Lolita Grayson appears to be a real harridan, who obviously wants to soak her rich husband and pry every penny she can from him. The two deserve each other, and both deserve the most wildly contentious, vicious, scratch and claw divorce that money can buy.

Paging Robert Carson…Are you there, Robert?

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Some Surprising Thoughts on Race from Former UK Rights Chief

Sunday, March 8th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Trevor Phillips, who was head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission under Tony Blair, has some second thoughts on believing that preventing people from expressing prejudiced views will make the prejudice go away.

Daily Mail:

In an upcoming Channel 4 documentary, called Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True, he says attempts to stop prejudice instead encouraged abuse and endangered lives as well as contributed to the rise of parties like Ukip.

In the 75-minute documentary, he delves into Britain’s racial tensions and stereotypes as well as hostilities towards immigrants.

He explains: ‘It was my job to to make sure that different racial and religious groups got on.

‘Campaigners like me seriously believed that if we could prevent people expressing prejudiced ideas then eventually they would stop thinking them.

‘But now I’m convinced we were utterly wrong.’

Mr Phillips, a Labour party member, says anti-racism began with good intentions but turned into ‘thought control’.

He says the London 2005 bombing by British Muslims, forced him to do rethink his views.

Now, he insists that only a willingness to talk more openly about race, despite risk of causing offence, will help those in need.

‘This film points to ways in which we can say what’s on our minds without being accused of being bigots.’

Channel 4 head of specialist factual David Glover, who commissioned the documentary, said: ‘This film contains some very uncomfortable facts about race.

‘Trevor Phillips now strongly believes that it’s important to get them out there, so ultimately we can understand and tackle them.

‘Trevor is arguably the best-qualified person in the country to examine these issues,’ he continued.

‘What’s fascinating is that having thought so deeply about them, he now has a very different approach to the subject than he used to.’

Remarkable. Would that such a revelation could come over some of our more passionate racialists in this country. Phillips dares to say what no one — black or white, right or left — in this country would say; that government can’t legislate or regulate the way someone thinks. And trying to shame someone for not thinking “correctly” about race doesn’t work.

He also realizes that anti-discrimination efforts turned into “thought control” — something most of our students on college campuses are familiar with.

The big problem with Phillips’s solution if applied to the US is that you need two people who are sincere about discussing racial issues. The left is rarely sincere about discussing any racial issue unless you proceed using their base assumptions; white people are always guilty, people of color can do no wrong, and that all whites are racist — even if they don’t know it. “Check your privilege” has cut off any rational discussion of race — which is exactly what the left wants.

Phillips has made a fascinating conversion to rationality on race issues. But given the political advantage the left perceives itself to have on the issue, don’t expect any such thing to happen here.

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