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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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Breaking: Rioting, Burning, Massive Looting in Baltimore (Updated: National Guard Called Out)

Monday, April 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Following the funeral of a young black man, Freddie Gray, who died in police custody, several hundred rioters confronted police and began to tear up West Baltimore.

I’ve been watching the WJLA live coverage of the rioting, and the scenes being shown are incredible. “Like a war zone” said the reporter of a business section of one neighborhood, as businesses are burning because firefighters refuse to respond until police can assure them they can be kept safe.

Looters are targeting pharmacies, grocery stores, liquor stores, cell phone stores — apparently any business selling anything that rioters want. Police have virtually disappeared in some neighborhoods, giving the rioters a free pass.

The Washington Post is giving regular updates:

Protesters are looting a check-cashing business and other stores in Baltimore, busting through the windows and climbing inside to take items.

Cars have been lit on fire and a large group of youths threw rocks, bricks and other items at police. As people arrived home from work, some yelled at the youths to stop causing trouble.

“I never thought I’d see something like this happen in my neighborhood,” said Ted Bushrod, 32, who’s lived in the area all his life.

Bushrod, who said his father died in an officer-involved shooting involving the Baltimore Police Department, criticized the violence.

“It’s disappointing. I understand the kids’ frustration. We go through this every day,” he added, referring to black people being targeted for their race in Baltimore.

Freddie Gray, who is black, died after he suffered injuries while in police custody.

___

5:35 p.m.

Police are urging parents to locate their children and bring them home after youths clashed violently with police in Baltimore.

Baltimore police made the announcement on its Twitter feed. A group of youths threw bricks, rocks and other items at police during a violent clash hours after the funeral of Freddie Gray. At least seven police officers were injured.

A lot of the youths clashing with police had backpacks and were wearing khaki pants, which are a part of many Baltimore public school uniforms.

The activity broke out just as high school let out, and at a key city bus depot for student commuters.

Gray died April 19. He suffered injuries in police custody. Authorities are investigating.

___

5:15 p.m.

Groups of youths are looting a convenience store near downtown Baltimore.

They busted out the window of the closed businesses, and piled in. Police in riot gear began forming a line nearby.

A helicopter circled overhead as groups of roving youths moved through the city. Television footage showed one group of demonstrators pile on top of and ride a car as it drove in the street.

We will update this post when necessary.

Update:

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has issued a state of emergency and called out the National Guard to deal with the growing violence and mayhem in Baltimore.

More than 2,000 police from several different jurisdictions, including state police, Prince George’s County police, and county sheriffs, have been pouring into the city for the last several hours. But as the violence has grown, police have been unable to keep up with the rolling gangs of youths torching businesses and cars, looting, and threatening bystanders. That’s why Governor Hogan has called out the National Guard to restore order.

Update II

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that the rioting was a planned event,  urged by social media and flyers at area high schools.

The incident stemmed from a flier that circulated widely among city school students via social media about a “purge” to take place at 3 p.m., starting at Mondawmin Mall and ending downtown. Such memes have been known to circulate regularly among city school students, based on the film “The Purge,” about what would happen if all laws were suspended.

The flier included an image of protesters smashing the windshield of a police car Saturday during a march spurred by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who suffered a spinal cord injury earlier this month after being arrested by city police.

The paper is also reporting that many of the rioters are wearing the uniform of  the Baltimore public high schools.

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Obama Forgets to Mention Second American Held Hostage by Iran

Monday, April 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Before the president went into his stand-up routine at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, making unfunny jokes about himself and his opponents, he urged the release of Jason Rezaian, a journalist being held by Iran on charges of espionage. Obama said “we will not rest” until Rezaian is released from prison and returned to the U.S.

But the family of Marine Corps veteran Amir Hekmati, who is under a death sentence in Iran, says that Iranian guards taunted him over the weekend, telling him that the American government has forgotten him because President Obama mentioned Rezaian and not Hekmati.

ABC News:

The prisoner, Marine Corps veteran Amir Hekmati, called his mother over the weekend from the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, terrified that gaining his release is not a priority for the U.S. government, his family said. Now, in an emotional letter to the White House, Amir’s sister is demanding to know why the president has never said her brother’s name in public. He has been imprisoned for nearly four years.

“He has already been mistreated, abused, and tortured,” writes Sarah Hekmati, Amir’s sister, in a letter to White House counter-terrorism advisor Lisa Monaco. “Now the mental torture continues as he is made to feel that the country he put his life on the line for, the one he defended, and the president he voted for has left him behind and are not actively trying to secure his freedom.”

American Detained in Iran Urges US to Impose Consequences
Of the three Americans known to be imprisoned in Iran, Hekmati has been held the longest. He was arrested in 2011 when, according to his family, he was visiting his ailing grandmother in Iran. He was sentenced to death in January 2012 for “espionage, waging war against god and corrupting the earth.”

President Obama spoke out for the release of American journalist Jason Rezaian at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and earlier this year he spoke out for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini at the National Prayer Breakfast. The Hekmati family said they have repeatedly asked the White House to push for Amir Hekmati’s release.

“Why has President Obama yet to utter the name Amir Hekmati?” his sister wrote. “Why on days significant for Amir — Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, the anniversary of his death sentence, the anniversary of his imprisonment — President Obama cannot say the name Amir Hekmati out loud, but he can say it for Jason Rezaian and he can say it for Pastor Abedini? Why when we make a request is it ignored? Why am I forced to write this email to you AGAIN, the same subject AGAIN, the same plea AGAIN?”

Incredible. While the president was yucking it up with the lapdog press at the so-called “Nerd Prom,” Iranian guards were putting an American Marine veteran through hell by taunting him with his own government’s inaction in trying to secure his release.

When asked about Hemkati, White House spokesman Josh Earnest gave a halting, lame answer:

“Certainly when considering how best to secure the release of these individuals, a calculation is made about the wisdom of the publicity that surrounds the efforts to secure their release,” Earnest said.

That’s not good enough for the family:

“Please spare us this dignity and give us a straightforward answer as to why in nearly 4 years President Obama has [not] raised Amir’s plight individually outside of the context of the others imprisoned. Not even once. Not even when he was sentenced to death. The only question at this point is why,” Sarah Hekmati wrote.

This is an old game being played by Iran. They are holding the three Americans on trumped-up charges in order to get something valuable in exchange for them. All thug nations do this, knowing that America will move heaven and earth to get our people home.

Usually.

In Obama’s case, there’s always something more important, like enabling Iran’s nuclear program or buddying up to the Iranian leadership. Iran will continue to pluck Americans off the street or drag them out of their homes until the cost of keeping them becomes too high.

Don’t expect that cost to rise while President Obama is in office.

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Brian Williams: Death by a Thousand Leaks

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Late last week, a slew of anonymous leaks, presumably from NBC news sources, plunged a few daggers into the decomposing carcass of former anchorman Brian Williams. The leaks were designed, says another source, to lessen Williams’ negotiating power as the network readies the ax to fire him.

Politico’s Mike Allen reports:

Longtime broadcast executives say a triple crown of leaks about Brian Williams late last week appear to be an effort by NBC News to shame him into resigning, to avoid the messiness and possible additional expense of the firing. The brutal leaks were designed to send the message to Brian Williams and his superlawyer, Robert Barnett: “You’re dead. Now negotiate.”

This is the effect of the leaks, if not the intention. NBC insiders say his return is still possible. Look for a resolution over the next several weeks.

Williams was reported to be under a contract of as much as $50 million (five years, at up to $10 million each). Speculation is that he’ll get $20 million to $30 million to leave. The $20 million camp says that he’s so weak, he’ll get less than 50 cents on the dollar. The $30 million camp says Brian has plenty of ways to embarrass the bosses and colleagues who threw him under the bus, and NBC should stop the bleeding/leaking. “He knows things, too,” a wise man pointed out.

–A FEW PROBLEMS with this theory: Some of the leaks are arguably inaccurate. The Williams camp believes that it can disprove them, and that only a small number of incidents will prove to be problematic. And even those are explainable.

THE LEAKS:

–WashPost’s Paul Farhi reported on the front of Friday’s Style section, “NBC’s D.C. news bureau opposed Brian Williams’s return as anchor” (online: … D.C. bureau strongly opposed … Williams’s return in February”)http://wapo.st/1QwlBdy

–NYT’s Ravi Somaiya reported above fold of Saturday’s Business front (with A1 tease), “NBC Inquiry Into Anchor Is Said to Get New Grist”: “[Discrepancies are evident in accounts given by Mr. Williams in February 2011 [about his reporting from Egypt’s Tahrir Square] … In an appearance that month with Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show,’ Mr. Williams described his reporting from the square. …

“Subsequent reports said that Mr. Williams was reporting ‘from a balcony overlooking Tahrir Square,’ rather than from inside the square itself … [E]mployees in the news division provided examples for the investigating team to look into, flagging instances in which they thought Mr. Williams had exaggerated.” http://nyti.ms/1z8EE8B

–Farhi reported online Saturday: “NBC News finds Brian Williams embellished at least 11 times.” http://wapo.st/1JHj4bo

“He knows things too” is an interesting threat. Remember the car NBC’s Dateline deliberately set on fire? How about the edited recording of George Zimmerman? And those are the lies we know about. Might Williams be sitting on some blockbuster stories NBC deliberately skewed or created?

That may be one reason Williams is likely to get a huge settlement despite his tall tales. NBC News is going to be absolutely sure that Williams keeps his mouth shut once he’s gone. In fact, there may be some kind of non-disclosure agreement attached to his lump sum payment.

The writing is on the wall for Williams. The leaks serve only to further soil his tattered reputation.

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Video: College Students Can’t Identify Reagan

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Idiocracy was a pretty dumb movie, but it had its moments. The opening narration offers a cautionary tale for the future:

As the 21st century began, human evolution was at a turning point. Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down. How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species.

The Wikipedia entry for the film describes the level to which humanity has sunk 500 years into the future:

The human population has become morbidly stupid, speak only low registers of English competently, and are profoundly anti-intellectual.

Why wait 500 years when you can go to the University of Maryland and show students a picture of Ronald Reagan, asking them to identify the photo?

President Ronald Reagan is one of the most famous Americans of the 20th century. Between his acting career and his eight years as president, you would think that his face would be instantly recognizable to anyone with even a basic knowledge of recent American history.

You would think.

As it turns out, a lot of college students at the University of Maryland had absolutely no clue who Reagan was when they were shown a picture of America’s 40th president.

A few historically-literate students recognized Reagan right away. But, the majority of those I showed the picture to were completely flummoxed or provided me with wild guesses. Some of those guesses included: John Wayne, Kenny Rogers, George Bush and some guy named Fred Moore. (I have no idea who Fred Moore is, but he sounds like a pretty cool dude.)

Some got close – including one young lady who asked if he was “…some kind of president.”

At a certain point, I decided that informing the students that they were totally ignorant of recent American history would just be too embarrassing. So, when they gave me a wrong answer, I just told them they were right and let them go about their day, having no idea that they know less about American history than a 4th grader who sits in the back of the classroom and eats paste.

 

Two or three times a year, a similar experiment is carried out at other campuses and we are shocked, shocked,  I say, that young people attending college can be so profoundly stupid.

Surveys going back to the 1950s show alarming numbers of college students being unaware of when the Civil War was fought, who Thomas Jefferson was, or what the Declaration of Independence is (many confuse it with the Constitution).

I will bet that some of those kids in the video who don’t have a clue who Reagan was are going to make a gazillion dollars inventing something that would never occur to you or me. They will be captains of industry, or tech moguls. They will be lawyers, doctors, or even engineers.

The point being, they are probably plenty smart in the field they have chosen to study. That’s why even though school has been dumbed down, these and other students retain knowledge that is essential to them, rather than information that we think should be essential. It makes them stupid voters and stupid citizens, but we’ve always had low-information voters and probably always will.

It’s sad, but most Americans care little for their past. And while this has allowed us to look to the future unencumbered by ghosts of past failures, it also blinds us to some realities that end up causing us to repeat historical mistakes.

 

 

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Hubble Telescope at 25: Revolutionizing Our View of the Universe

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

00.00It was 25 years ago this week that NASA was finally able to launch its most ambitious robot explorer: the Hubble Telescope. Delays caused by software glitches and the Challenger disaster had pushed the launch date back from 1986 to 1990.

The original price tag of $400 million eventually ballooned to $2.5 billion — a massive cost overrun even for NASA. The agency was betting that once the telescope experienced “First Light,” it would be seen as worth the investment.

It wasn’t.

The company in charge of manufacturing, shaping, and polishing the 2.5 meter mirror assembled a measuring device incorrectly, leading to an error in polishing of about 1.3 millimeters. There were several opportunities to catch the error before launch, but the company — PerkinElmer — failed to do so. When the telescope took its first photos a month later, scientists realized to their horror that the Hubble was nearsighted.

The project became the butt of jokes and Congress was outraged. But NASA came up with a fix for the mirror — complex “spectacles” that would clear up about 98% of the image problem. In December 1993, after training for two years for the complex and dangerous mission, legendary astronaut Story Musgrave and six others rendezvoused with Hubble in space and installed the correctives.

The result was awe-inspiring. Here are a few examples:

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The Horsehead Nebula is a dense cloud of gas and dust embedded in a much larger structure

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Taken with the Hubble Deep Field lens, this is a tiny portion of the sky showing thousands of galaxies billions of light years away.

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The Butterfly Nebula. What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

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DEM L 90: Resembling the puffs of smoke and sparks from a summer fireworks display, these delicate filaments are actually sheets of debris from a stellar explosion in a neighboring galaxy.

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Mystic Mountain: A stellar nursery with thousands of new suns forming.

* * * * * * * * *

The telescope doesn’t only take pictures in visible light. It  is also capable of looking at distant objects in the infrared and ultraviolet spectrum, giving scientists an incredible look at the inner workings of the universe.

There is no doubt that the Hubble has performed spectacularly. But has it been worth it?

The Hubble has revolutionized our view of the universe. 

“Even the most optimistic person to whom you could have spoken back in 1990 couldn’t have predicted the degree to which Hubble would rewrite our astrophysics and planetary science textbooks,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at the image-unveiling event. “A quarter-century later, Hubble has fundamentally changed our understanding of our universe, and our place in it.”

At its current pace, the Hubble telescope produces 10TB of new data per year — enough to fill the entire collection of the Library of Congress, Bolden said. At that same event, Kathy Flanagan, interim director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which operates Hubble’s science program, said scientists using data from the telescope have produced “nearly 13,000″ science papers.

This week, NASA hosted a Hubble symposium to discuss major science results from the telescope. The space agency also has hosted Hubble-themed events for the press and the general public, as well as a Friday night (April 24) gala to honor many of the people who made Hubble what it is today. Few, if any other, NASA projects have garnered such an ovation.

If you make the argument that $2.5 billion spent on a science project is too much, it would be hard to argue against the point. But can you put a price tag on the human need to explore and understand our universe?  The money was spent over a decade, meaning that it cost about a dollar a year per American to build the telescope. Given the huge return on this investment, this is a small price to pay to immeasurably add to the storehouse of human knowledge.

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Tsarnaev Family Flown to U.S., Housed in Boston at Taxpayer Expense

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The family of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have been flown to the U.S. from their home in Chechnya, are being housed at a Hampton Inn outside of Boston, and are being guarded 24 hours a day by at least three federal agencies.

The taxpayer-funded junket to the U.S. for the family of a Muslim terrorist is costing well over $100,000, according to a former U.S. attorney.

Survivors and their families are outraged:

“I think you’re probably talking about $100,000 plus in that neighborhood in terms of security and out of pocket costs associated with travel,” former US attorney Michael Sullivan said.

And that’s just for this trip.

Lawyer fees or even what all witnesses during the trial cost is still unclear. One defense witness, Mark Spencer of Arsenal Consulting, charged $375 per hour and billing taxpayers for $150,000.

Governor Charlie Baker said, “It’s a federal trial, it’s a federal case, the feds ultimately need to make the decisions about this.”

Baker was non-committal about how resources are being used, even state ones.

Sullivan told Sacchetti that while he understands taxpayer outrage, the whole point is to make sure it’s done right.

“The court wants to make sure that at the end of the day, the defendant gets a fair trial and would not want to add any potential issues on appeal in the penalty phase, prosecutors finished making their case yesterday,” he said.

Marathon survivor Marc Fucarile reached out to us Friday night, reacting to this news, saying that he’s outraged that Tsarnaev’s family’s expenses are being paid for when “myself and some of the other survivors and our families have to pay for our own parking at court, lunch, and we were told that if the trial was moved out of state, we’d have to pay for our own travel and lodging, there.”

The statement went on to say: “Why should our country pay for them when that family committed a violent act against our country? Not to mention, all of the free government services this family previously enjoyed on the backs of the taxpayers including government assistance and a free ride to UMass Dartmouth. In contrast, I was denied housing assistance I sought after the bombings, even though I needed a handicapped accessible apartment, and my wife lost her job as a result of the events.”

He ended by saying he feels badly for the taxpayers that have to pay for this after they were so generous to all the survivors and the One Fund.

Once this news got out, it wasn’t only the victims and their families who were upset. The Hampton Inn where the Tsarnev family is staying is being hit with complaints and cancellations.

Hosting the relatives of convicted terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is proving to be very bad for business, the manager of the Hampton Inn in Revere is finding out as complaints and cancellations pour in.

When asked how many people had called to drop their reservations since news broke that six of Tsarnaev’s relatives are staying at the Route 1A hotel while they wait to testify in his blockbuster death penalty trial, general manager Cathy Cucchiello simply said, “Enough.”

A half-dozen TV news satellite trucks lined the sidewalk outside the hotel and reporters and cameramen were bunched in a group near the exit, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Tsarnaev clan. The Boston Marathon bomber’s family members were whisked to the hotel in vans Thursday from nearby Logan International Airport.

Cucchiello banned the media from the hotel and its grounds and repeatedly asked the press to stay off the grass and on the sidewalk.

Your tax dollars are paying for the trip to the U.S. for Tsarnev’s mother’s–a woman who has constantly threatened the U.S. with Islamic-backed violence:

The outraged mother of the terrorist Tsarnaev brothers charged the Boston Marathon jury got the verdict wrong — and the U.S. will suffer for its mistake.

“They will pay for my sons and the sons of Islam, permanently!!!” threatened Zubeidat Tsarnaeva in a bitter rant sent to the media/technology website Vocativ.

“The tears of their mothers will be fuel for them in hell,” continued the lengthy missive penned after Wednesday’s conviction of her younger son, 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The excuse given by prosecutors is that they don’t want to give the defense an opening in any likely appeal. Defendants with family overseas have gotten by fine in previous trials without the government flying them to the U.S. It’s silly to think an appeals judge would overturn a murder conviction because some killer’s mommy wasn’t there to testify for him.

Whatever happens to Tsarnaev, his entire family should be billed for this little excursion. There’s no good reason why taxpayers should be asked to countenance a trip to the U.S. by these anti-American, pro-terrorist people.

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MSNBC Guest: ‘You Don’t Have to Have a White Person Around to Have White Supremacy Play Out’

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

What makes the academic study of “white supremacy” and “white privilege” so perfect for racialists is that it requires absolutely no parameters of study. There are no standards of proof. There is no way any claims can be vetted in peer-reviewed journals because the “evidence” can be explained by other factors. Anything and everything can be pointed to as being a result of white supremacy or white privilege because of one’s personal worldview — looking at the entire world through a prism of race.

And apparently, you don’t even need a white person around for white supremacy to rear its ugly head.

On Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show, Cherrell Brown, identified as a “community organizer,” was referencing the tragedy in Baltimore where a young black man died in transport on the way to the police precinct. When it was pointed out that Baltimore’s entire power structure is black — the mayor, the chief of police, etc. — Ms. Brown proceeded to spew inane nonsense about white supremacy that shocks a rational mind.

HARRIS-PERRY: “It feels to me like part of what’s happening here is — when I say biking while black, we talked about walking while black, in the case in the Freddie gray watching the video and seeing and hearing his agony I keep wondering is there no benefit of a doubt given to a black person in public space. If that is true, if riding an expensive bike in black body inherently generates suspicion then that is the new Jim crow. That’s what Jim crow was is that black bodies in public space are inherently suspicion.”
BROWN: “Yes. I want to mention two things — I think it’s so ingrained that you don’t have to have a white person around to have white supremacy play out.”
HARRIS-PERRY: “Just pause for a second. What you just said there is going to be difficult for some folks to hear because the discourse of white supremacy can often mean academic discourse. But for ordinary people sitting at home may say did she call all white people racist. So tease that out a little bit.”
BROWN: “I will do my best.”
HARRIS-PERRY: “I recognize that it’s hard on a TV show.”
BROWN: “With an institution like American policing that I believe is founded on anti-blackness, on slave patrols there are things so institutionally ingrained in terms of how we police communities that are anti-black. They may not say in the language that they’ll stop and target black people but when you do this type of proactive policing much akined to stop and risk this effects black and brown and poor communities. This would be almost comical this story in Tampa if it wasn’t so scary. You have 11 year olds, boys as young as 11 being stopped on their bikes in Tampa. This is introducing children to the criminal justice system at an early age.”


(Video courtesy of Grabien)

I really should watch MSNBC more often. It’s very educational. Did you know that “American policing is founded on…slave patrols”?  Who’d have guessed it? Sounds like a fit subject for a paper in my White Privilege class. No doubt the prof will give me an “A.”

In addition to desperately casting about for a scapegoat in the Freddy Gray tragedy because there is no “white power structure” in Baltimore, Brown has to totally invent an invisible racist to blame. It’s perfectly in keeping with the academic notion that all white people subconsciously throw around white privilege and practice white supremacy without even knowing it. We can’t help it — we are inherently anti-black — and we should thank the racialists for pointing out the error of our ways.

Note also Harris-Perry moving the goalposts on Jim Crow. “If riding an expensive bike in black body inherently generates suspicion then that is the new Jim Crow” matches no description of Jim Crow of which I am aware. She just totally made it up out of thin air in order to make the point that things are as bad today for blacks as they were in the 1950s. Jim Crow gone? No problem. We’ll resurrect it in a completely different context and change the definition.

I don’t know that if I were a black man, I wouldn’t view my entire existence through the lens of race, where every glance, every act by a stranger is seen as hate. And certainly not all blacks have this problem.

But racialists like Harris-Perry know better. They give aid, comfort, and rationalization to the victimhood cult in the black community that does more to hold back the social and educational progress of blacks than all the real racists in the U.S. combined.

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Oregon Board Recommends Bakers Pay $135,000 For Not Baking Gay Wedding Cake

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

What’s the cost of refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding celebration? An Oregon commission wants to slap a very uncivil $135,000 fine on the owners of a bakery that refused to supply a cake to a gay wedding reception because of their religious beliefs. The fine would be for “emotional damages” suffered by the gay couple denied service.

Washington Times:

Aaron and Melissa Klein, who are struggling to make ends meet after closing Sweet Cakes by Melissa in September 2013, received the 110-page proposed order Friday from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, which ruled against the couple in February.

Mr. Klein said Friday the figure was “shocking” but not entirely unexpected. The commission has the authority to mete out awards for damages of up to $150,000.

“It’s very discouraging. This is not money coming from a business, this is not money coming from an insurance fund, this is money coming straight from our bank account,” Mr. Klein told the Family Research Council’s Craig James in a radio interview Friday.

“This is money that should be used to pay my mortgage, money that should be used to feed our kids, not something that should be given to others,” Mr. Klein said. “This is a decision I made because of my faith, and now the government is now saying it doesn’t matter, your kids can suffer for it as well.”

He noted that the monetary ruling is for emotional damages suffered by the same-sex couple, who filed a complaint against the Gresham bakery with the state in 2013.

“You have unsubstantiated emotional damages — that’s what this came down to,” Mr. Klein said. “There was never any physical or financial harm done to the plaintiffs. This was specifically to emotional damages. It takes a lot to explain where $135,000 comes from.”

In a press release, the bureau said that an administrative law judge had awarded $60,000 in damages to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 in damages to Rachel Bowman-Cryer for “emotional suffering stemming directly from unlawful discrimination.”

“The amounts are damages related to the harm suffered by the Complainants, not fines or civil penalties which are punitive in nature,” said the release, adding that the proposed fines are “less than what was sought by administrative prosecutors,” who had sought the full $150,000.

“Emotional Damages”? Judging by the amount, both women must be unable to get out of bed in the morning and have developed a pathological fear of cupcakes.

Gay activists are thrilled, of course. People who don’t believe as they do must be punished severely — financially ruined and pauperized. The evil Christians are only getting what they deserve and the fine sends a strong message to others who disagree with gays to sit down, shut up, and do as they’re told, regardless of their personal religious beliefs.

Leaders of Basic Rights Oregon, a gay-rights advocacy group, applauded the proposed order, saying it sends a message that religious beliefs cannot be used to justify discrimination against same-sex couples.

“This case struck a chord with many Oregonians because allowing businesses to deny goods and services to people because of who they are and whom they love is hurtful and wrong,” said Jeana Frazzini, Basic Rights Oregon’s co-director, in a statement.

The couple who owned the closed bakery regularly served gay customers — that is, they baked birthday cakes, graduation cakes, and other treats for gays — so it’s impossible for anyone to argue they refused to bake a cake out of hate. The award for “emotional damages” is beyond punitive — it is reckless and not based on any facts that would require the impoverishment of the defendants.

Gay activists should be proud of themselves. They are celebrating the reduction of a pious couple to penury over a political disagreement. No doubt, the suggestion for re-education camps to force us all to become “tolerant” is just around the corner.

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ISIS Executioners Hug Two Gay Men, Then Stone Them to Death

Friday, April 24th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A lurid account in The Daily Mail about how Islamic State handles their “gay problem.”

Depraved militants fighting for the Islamic State in Syria have brutally stoned two gay men to death only seconds after they were photographed embracing and ‘forgiving’ them.

The shocking images were taken in ISIS-held territory in the province of Homs and show the two accused men being savagely executed by up to four jihadis.

Huge, bloodthirsty crowds are seen in the desert clearing where the group of executioners made a display of hugging the blindfolded couple and telling them they were forgiven of their ‘sins’, before pummeling them to death with hundreds of fist-sized rocks.

How touching.

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Incredibly, ISIS supporters are saying that the hugs show how “compassionate” the fanatics are.

Wearing traditional Arab clothing, the bloodthirsty audience stand in a semi-circle only feet away from the spot where the men will be barbarically murdered.

A number of motorbikes are seen in the background, suggesting that’s how many of the onlookers arrived at the execution site.
The final image shows the two victims’ battered bodies on the ground as a group of at least four ISIS executioners stand over them, raining down rocks.

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Just when you think Islamic State can’t top their last outrage, they find a way to do so.

 

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ACLU Sues to Force Catholic Charities to Provide Abortions to Illegal Alien Minors

Friday, April 24th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

I can’t think of anything that the ACLU has done in its long history that’s quite this outrageous.

Apparently, the ACLU is upset that the Catholic charities taking care of the nearly 60,000 illegal immigrant children who crossed the border last year without an adult refuse to supply contraceptives or abort their babies. Under the auspices of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which signed a contract with the federal government to take care of the children, the charities were tasked with supplying health care services to the illegals.

The ACLU claims that by not giving out contraceptives or performing abortions, the charities are in breach of contract for not giving “reproductive care” to the minors, and they want the federal government to force the Catholic charities to provide those services.

Washington Times:

The suit has sparked outrage among religious, anti-abortion, and civil rights groups who argue the ACLU is more concerned with bullying the Catholic church than helping vulnerable immigrants.

“Lawsuits like the one the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) just filed demanding all of the records on a faith-based provider of care and services to vulnerable children are destructive and divisive,” said Brian Walsh, president of the Civil Rights Research Center in a statement. “When it comes to religious freedom, some organizations that have had a laudable history of defending Americans’ religious civil rights and liberties are looking less and less like their former selves.”

Legal experts say that despite the contract agreement, federal law protects USCCB’s religious rights and say ACLU’s case aims to strip religion from the public sphere.

“The larger issue — religious liberty — is the constitutional issue of our time,” said Jerad Najvar, founder of Najvar law firm in Houston, Texas. “We are coming to a tipping point in this country. Right now it’s an attempt to sanitize religious principles from religious charities and schools that receive government assistance. Next it will be denying religious freedom to even privately-funded charities that are open to the public. It’s time for Catholics to recognize the trajectory here, and stand up before it’s too late.”

But Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney at ACLU told The Times that group is concerned that by accepting federal money to care for immigrants and then denying them reproductive healthcare the USCCB may be in violation of the Constitutional separation of Church and state.

According to Ms. Amiri the government’s contract with USCCB requires the group to abide by a number of federal laws including a settlement agreement that requires children in the government’s custody to receive access to routine medical services, including family planning services.

ACLU has received complaints that USCCB has been denying reproductive healthcare services, such as abortions, for female immigrants, many of whom suffer sexual assault or rape during their journey to the U.S., Ms. Amiri said.

Almost 60,000 unaccompanied minors illegally crossed the U.S./Mexico borer last year. Nearly a third were young girls and up to 80 percent of those girls were victims of sexual assault. USCCB was awarded a $73 million overall contract and received $10 million in 2013 alone to care for those unaccompanied minors.

No good deed goes unpunished, I suppose. But really, does the ACLU have any kind of a case? Abortion is an elective procedure. Why isn’t the ACLU suing to force Catholic charities to offer plastic surgery, or any other elective procedure, for that matter?

Abortion is not a “routine medical service” — except in the eyes of the ACLU and other pro-choice fanatics. And family planning services can include many things besides abortion and contraception.

The bishops issued a statement:

“We ensure children and youth have access to ongoing medical and social services. This extensive health care would include, in the case of pregnancy, prenatal, labor/delivery and well-baby care. For decades, we have provided exemplary services to this vulnerable population without facilitating abortions, and despite ACLU’s extreme assertions to the contrary, the law not only permits our doing so, but protects it,” the statement reads.

No doubt the ACLU will go shopping for a judge who they think will accept their radical arguments. But in truth, it’s hard to see how any judge would countenance this attack on the Catholic Church. The law and religious freedom are on the side of the church in this matter, and the ACLU is blowing smoke if they think otherwise.

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Insulted Native Americans Walk Off Set of New Adam Sandler Movie

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

About a dozen Native American actors walked off the set of Adam Sandler’s new movie The Ridiculous Six because of insulting and degrading language in the script directed toward women and elders.

This piece in the Native American publication Indian Country gives some examples that are incredibly embarrassing and border on racism. At the very least, the film is like something out of the 1950s, as it stereotypes Native Americans.

The examples of disrespect included Native women’s names such as Beaver’s Breath and No Bra, an actress portraying an Apache woman squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe, and feathers inappropriately positioned on a teepee.

The film, which is said to be a spoof of The Magnificent Seven and was written by Adam Sandler and his frequent collaborator Tim Herlihy, is currently under production by Happy Madison Productions for a Netflix-only release. The movie will star Adam Sandler, Nick Nolte, Steve Buscemi, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Lovitz and Vanilla Ice.

Among the actors who walked off the set were Navajo Nation tribal members Loren Anthony, who is also the lead singer of the metal band Bloodline, and film student Allison Young. Anthony says that though he understands the movie is a comedy, the portrayal of the Apache was severely negligent and the insults to women were more than enough reason to walk off the set.

“There were about a dozen of us who walked off the set,” said Anthony, who told ICTMN he had initially refused to do the movie. He then agreed to take the job when producers informed him they had hired a cultural consultant and efforts would be made for tasteful representation of Natives.

“I was asked a long time ago to do some work on this and I wasn’t down for it. Then they told me it was going to be a comedy, but it would not be racist. So I agreed to it but on Monday things started getting weird on the set,” he said.

Anthony says he was first insulted that the movie costumes that were supposed to portray Apache were significantly incorrect and that the jokes seemed to get progressively worse.

“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” he said. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?’”

“They just treated us as if we should just be on the side. When we did speak with the main director, he was trying to say the disrespect was not intentional and this was a comedy.”

Oh yeah, a comedy. Given recent film productions involving Native Americans from that period being meticulously recreated with authentic costumes and great attention paid to cultural details, it appears that Sandler and his production team were either too lazy or too racist to make the effort:

Allison Young, Navajo, a former film student from Dartmouth, was also offended by the stereotypes portrayed and the outright disrespect paid to her and others by the director and producers.

“When I began doing this film, I had an uneasy feeling inside of me and I felt so conflicted,” she said. “I talked to a former instructor at Dartmouth and he told me to take this as finally experiencing stereotyping first hand. We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’ I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way.”

“Nothing has changed,” said Young. “We are still just Hollywood Indians.”

Even liberals in Hollywood have a responsibility to accurately portray the subjects of their films, even if it is a comedy. It’s a simple matter of respect, not a question of political correctness. It’s also disrespectful to the audience to present Native American culture so inaccurately that it becomes a parody of itself.

Perhaps they believed that because their “hearts were in the right place” on race they would be forgiven their exaggerated portrayal of Native Americans and disrespect shown to their culture. We see it often enough when it comes to comments by liberals about blacks. I suppose we shouldn’t expect anything differently when it comes to liberals and Native Americans.

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Comcast Calls Off Mega-Merger with Time Warner

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

One of the largest mergers in US history will be called off, according to Bloomberg News, as Comcast will drop its $45.2 billion offer for Time Warner.

The writing was on the wall yesterday when the FCC staff recommended that hearings be held on the deal and that an administrative law judge rule on whether the proposed merger would be harmful to consumers.

This, along with months of foot dragging by the Department of Justice, apparently spooked Comcast enough that an announcement is expected in the next 24 hours calling off the merger.

CNNMoney:

There was initially an air of inevitability around the merger when Comcast announced its bid back in February 2015.

But doubts grew in recent months as the government’s reviews of the deal dragged on, and the company’s stock prices shifted accordingly.

The key piece of new information after Wednesday’s meetings was about the Federal Communications Commission, which along with the Department of Justice had been reviewing the proposed combination in great detail.

FCC staffers are not convinced the merger is in the public interest, and they are recommending that the case be heard by an administrative law judge, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

It’s a bureaucratic maneuver, one that effectively strangles the merger by swallowing up months and months of time. It happens so rarely that the FCC barely has the staff to do it.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the staff recommendation on Wednesday night. BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield reacted by saying, “This would appear to be a death sentence for the transaction.”

An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment. But another person confirmed to CNNMoney that the five commissioners have been briefed on the recommendation, and that a vote will be scheduled soon.

The commission is comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans, so the hearing will likely be supported by a majority.

But the vote would be rendered moot if Comcast withdraws from the deal.

There is said to be serious skepticism about the deal within the Justice Department, as well.

Critics of the deal are ecstatic:

“Comcast’s withdrawal of its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable would be spectacularly good news for consumers concerned about the spiraling costs of cable and broadband and for millions of citizens who want nothing more to do with gatekeeping and consolidation in the communications ecosystem on which our democracy depends,” said former FCC chairman Michael Copps, who is now special advisor to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.

“Comcast’s apparent failure to take control of Time Warner Cable should be a lesson for the industry,” said Free Press President Craig Aaron. “Communications giants should stop trying to consolidate and instead focus on providing the fast, affordable and neutral Internet services that Americans demand.”

TWC won’t be without a bidder for long. Already, Charter Communications is thought to be planning a bid for Time Warner’s 11 million subscribers. There are losers, however:

That’s not to say either side will be celebrating. (It would be a particularly sad day for TWC chief executive Rob Marcus, who was supposed to receive $80 million upon completion of the deal.) Wall Street banks and law firms contracted by both companies won’t be smiling either—they stand to lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars that they would have made in fees.

There were always pros and cons for consumers in this deal, but in the end, the nixing of a deal to create the largest broadband media company in the US is probably a good thing. Economies of scale are wonderful — if you’re on the heavy end of the scale. Otherwise, competitors would have been squeezed, reducing competition, and more than 30 million consumers would have been at the mercy of a gigantic media conglomerate already holding a monopoly on cable TV service in big markets all across the country.

Comcast was my cable-broadband provider for 6 years before I switched to DirecTV and my experience with their customer service and technical departments was usually frustrating and maddening. I don’t see how that could improve if they increased in size by 50%. Consumers are probably better off without the merger.

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Here Are Some Doomsday Predictions from the First Earth Day that Didn’t Quite Pan Out

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Mark Perry at AEI has dug up some doomsday predictions from the very first Earth Day in 1970 that never quite lived up to their billing.

Here are a few of my favorites (remember, this is from April, 1970):

1. Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”

4. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich confidently declared in the April 1970 Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

6. Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”

7. “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” declared Denis Hayes, the chief organizer for Earth Day, in the Spring 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness.

8. Peter Gunter, a North Texas State University professor, wrote in 1970, “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”

9. In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”

12. Paul Ehrlich chimed in, predicting in his 1970 that “air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” Ehrlich sketched a scenario in which 200,000 Americans would die in 1973 during “smog disasters” in New York and Los Angeles.

14. Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”

18. Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

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Rep. Royce: ‘Not Confident’ if Iran is Caught Cheating that Sanctions will ‘Snap Back’

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, held a hearing today on the difficulties in verifying the proposed Iran nuclear deal.

In his opening statement, Royce nailed the reasons why it’s folly to enter into an agreement without the world community fully prepared to punish Iran if it cheats.

Now, Iran’s long history of clandestine activity and intransigence prevents the U.S. from holding any trust whatsoever in the clerics who run Iran. Indeed, deception has been a cornerstone of their nuclear program since its inception. So when it comes to negotiating and inspections regime over the next two months, the U.S. must gain ground, not retreat, keep a key piece of verification which includes Iran coming clean on its past bomb work. We recall that the IAEA asked those 12 questions about their testing. They got an answer back of half of the first question and none of the others were were responded to.

That still has not happened despite long-overdue commitments on the part of Iran to international inspectors. The IAEA remains concerned about about signs of Iran’s military related activities, including designing a nuclear payload for a missile, a new killer weapon, an ICBM missile. Iran hasn’t even begun to address these concerns and last fall 350 members wrote to the secretary of state expressing deep concerns about this lack of cooperation. Yet the framework agreement is vague on this critical verification step. Intrusive inspections are even more critical when you consider a recent Department of Defense study. It points out that the U.S. capabilities to locate undeclared nuclear facilities or convert nuclear programs are either —in the words of the Department of Defense study —inadequate or more often do not exist.

And critically, that study also reminds us that verification is principally the political judgment in the words of the study to which monitoring and other means contribute. The IAEA and its inspectors will play an essential role in monitoring Iran but it will ultimately be up to the administration and its negotiating partners, which includes Russia and China, likely acting through the UN Security Council or another international body to decide whether Iran is complying with its commitments, and this is another weak link.

If Iran is caught cheating, will this or the next administration be prepared to call them out? I’m not confident. Why? Because during the interim negotiations when Iran was caught testing advanced supersonic centrifuge, it faced no consequences. As one witness will testify, international inspectors can be no tougher than the countries that back them. The history of arms control inspections is that they are easy for political leaders to tout as a solution, but are difficult to fully implement. What looks good on the chalkboard often fails in the real world. (Emphasis mine)

Couple that with the propensity of the IAEA to give the subjects of their inspections the benefit of the doubt when it comes to violations and you can immediately see the problem. Iran’s cheating must be so clear-cut, so obvious that no leader — including and especially President Obama — can spin their way out of re-imposing sanctions.

But, in the “real world” as Royce points out, things are rarely black and white. Even if the IAEA is able to confirm Iranian cheating — by no means a certainty given statements from Tehran regarding access to all their nuclear sites — the government will no doubt throw up a lot of smoke, trying their best to give western leaders the opportunity to ignore the transgressions and continue their work toward a bomb.

So in this case, it’s not only a question of trusting the Iranians. It’s also a matter of trusting western leaders to take a firm stand against Iranian cheating and reimpose sanctions if necessary. At this point, and with President Obama as desperate for a deal as he apparently is, trust is a commodity in short supply.

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USS Theodore Roosevelt May Intercept Iranian Convoy Headed for Yemen

Monday, April 20th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

According to senior Pentagon officials, the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is moving into position to intercept a flotilla of Iranian ships headed for Yemen. The Pentagon thinks that the ships — 7 to 9 warships and cargo vessels — are going to try to re-supply the Houthi rebels.

The Gulf states have ships off the coast of Yemen trying to impose an arms blockade against the Houthis, so the carrier group may not actually stop and board the Iranian vessels. But stopping a hostile power’s warships on the high seas could lead to a rapid escalation by Iran, at which point, an aircraft carrier is a nice back up to have.

NBC News:

There is no indication that U.S. or other coalition warships have been in contact with the Iranians, but one official told NBC News, “They know we’re there.”

Some U.S. officials are concerned that the leak of the information is not good, coming at the same time as the United States and other countries try to reach a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

“Since this is now public, the Iranians may feel they’ve been backed into a corner” and attempt to run through any blockade set up by the coalition warships, one official said.

Publicly, the Pentagon is denying that the carrier group would intercept the Iranian vessels:

Warren specifically denied a media report that the two American ships were being moved so they could assist in the interception of a flotilla of seven to nine Iranian ships headed to Yemen to re-supply Houthi rebels.

“They are not going to intercept Iranian ships,” said Warren. “That is absolutely not the case.”

On April 1, the U.S. Navy boarded a Panamanian-flagged ship that was believed might be transporting supplies from Iran to the Houthis. No weapons were found and there have been no other boardings since then.

Seven other American warships have been operating in the Gulf of Aden for weeks, including the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima.

A public confirmation of the Roosevelt’s role would inflame the situation, so it’s not surprising that officials are saying one thing in public and another in private.

The Saudis have already said they will prevent any arms from reaching Houthi rebels. This sets up a confrontation at sea with the Iranians at which time anything could happen.

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Of Lawfare and Battering Rams

Monday, April 20th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

You have got to read this National Review piece by David French about the Wisconsin “John Doe” investigations that targeted conservative individuals and groups for harassment, intimidation, and state terror.

Yes, this is happening in America today — now.

“IT’S A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH.”

That was the first thought of “Anne” (not her real name). Someone was pounding at her front door. It was early in the morning — very early — and it was the kind of heavy pounding that meant someone was either fleeing from — or bringing — trouble. “It was so hard. I’d never heard anything like it. I thought someone was dying outside.”

She ran to the door, opened it, and then chaos. “People came pouring in. For a second I thought it was a home invasion. It was terrifying. They were yelling and running, into every room in the house. One of the men was in my face, yelling at me over and over and over.” It was indeed a home invasion, but the people who were pouring in were Wisconsin law-enforcement officers.

Armed, uniformed police swarmed into the house. Plainclothes investigators cornered her and her newly awakened family. Soon, state officials were seizing the family’s personal property, including each person’s computer and smartphone, filled with the most intimate family information.

Why were the police at Anne’s home? She had no answers. The police were treating them the way they’d seen police treat drug dealers on television. In fact, TV or movies were their only points of reference, because they weren’t criminals.

They were law-abiding. They didn’t buy or sell drugs. They weren’t violent. They weren’t a danger to anyone. Yet there were cops — surrounding their house on the outside, swarming the house on the inside. They even taunted the family as if they were mere “perps.”

As if the home invasion, the appropriation of private property, and the verbal abuse weren’t enough, next came ominous warnings. Don’t call your lawyer. Don’t tell anyone about this raid. Not even your mother, your father, or your closest friends.

The backstory, as told by French, involves a hyper-partisan, runaway prosecutor whose wife was a teachers’ union shop steward opposed to the public union reforms of Governor Scott Walker. The “investigations” eventually encompassed five counties in Wisconsin, with a partisan, rubber-stamp judge signing off on the targeting subpoenas and search warrants.

Dozens of conservatives experienced almost exactly the same terror as Anne. Many conservative groups were destroyed by investigations that appropriated their donor lists and advocacy files. Funding sources dried up as no one wanted to be associated with people whose lives were destroyed by minions of the state in league with a politically motivated prosecutor.

This is “domestic lawfare” as French points out. It is increasingly being used by liberals in government in league with left-wing legal advocacy groups to target conservatives in order to silence them and criminalize dissent.

It’s an incredible story told with dispassionate clarity by French. Share with your friends. The time for silence on this matter is over.

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30 Ethiopian Christians Executed by Islamic State

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Islamic State released a video on their official media site purporting to show up to 30 Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya being brutally executed.

Last month, IS released another video showing the execution of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt. The victims in both cases appear to be migrant workers captured by Islamic State for the express purpose of executing them in a very public, very horrific way.

Daily Mail:

Initial reports did not make clear who the captives were or when they were captured. 

The video bore the official logo of the IS media arm Al-Furqan and resembled previous footage released by the extremist group.

Redwan Hussein, an Ethiopian government spokesman, said officials were in contact with its embassy in Cairo to verify the video’s authenticity. 

He said he believed those killed were likely to have been Ethiopian migrants hoping to reach Europe. Libya has become a hub for migrants across Africa hoping to cross the Mediterranean to enter Europe for work and better lives.

‘If this is confirmed, it will be a warning to people who wish to risk and travel to Europe though the dangerous route,’ Mr Hussein said. 

He added that Ethiopia, which does not have an embassy in Libya, would help repatriate Ethiopians if they wanted to leave. Libyan officials were not immediately available for comment. 

Abba Kaletsidk Mulugeta, an official with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church’s Patriarchate Office, said he also believed the victims were likely to have been migrants.

‘I believe this is just another case of the IS group killing Christians in the name of Islam. Our fellow citizens have just been killed on a faith-based violence that is totally unacceptable. This is outrageous,’ he said. 

‘No religion orders the killing of other people, even people from another religion.’

Ethiopia’s options to retaliate remain slim, given its distance from Libya. 

However, Ethiopian Ambassador to Egypt Mohammed Edrees said his country could partner with Cairo to strike the militants.

‘That could be an option,’ Mr Edrees said. ‘We will see and explore what is possible to deal with group.’ 

Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate for the Middle East Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: ‘The Islamic State in Libya is still focused on this consolidation phase of announcing its presence through these very high-profile executions. But they face some structural limits in terms of how much local support they can get because they haven’t captured real revenue streams.’

Islamic State has a lot of competition in Libya from other wacko extremists. You have to figure that the pool of twisted fanatics has to be limited, so their executions aims to maximize their efforts. It is important to keep the pressure on them in Iraq and Syria so they can’t send reinforcements to Libya where it would be possible for them to carve out a section of that failed state for their own.

Here’s a link to the very graphic, entire 29 minute video. I debated posting it on the site but I think people would be right to criticize us for posting murder porn. We can be outraged without having images of human beings at the last instant of life having their heads cut off.

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Rand Paul Sounds Like a Democrat Criticizing GOP Rivals’ Foreign Policy

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Bernie Sanders couldn’t have said it better:

“There’s a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now — maybe more,” the Kentucky senator told hundreds of activists at a GOP cattle call that has drawn every major presidential aspirant. “This is something, if you watch closely, that will separate me from many other Republicans. The other Republicans will criticize Hillary Clinton and the president for their foreign policy, but they would have done the same thing – just 10 times over!”

“Six countries – maybe more”? Which countries, Senator? And how many of your rivals have proposed sending troops to Syria? To Yemen? To Libya? (Do we have to count Lindsey Graham?)

Rand Paul is trying to separate himself from other candidates on foreign policy while not appearing to be a head-in-the-sand isolationist. But in doing so, does he have to lie like a Democrat about his opponents?

“Everyone who will criticize me wanted troops on the ground, our troops on the ground, in Libya,” he said. “It was a mistake to be in Libya. We are less safe. Jihadists swim in our swimming pool now. It’s a disaster.”

Did Ted Cruz want troops on the ground in Libya? Did Scott Walker, Chris Christie, or any other GOP governor who might run for president want troops on the ground in Libya? Marco Rubio specifically advised against troops on the ground in Libya, believing that the president could have intervened “more decisively” but rejecting American military intervention.

Paul’s statement is either an ignorant rant or a baldfaced lie. Falsely accusing opponents of things they don’t believe and wouldn’t do obscures Paul’s real problems with rank-and-file Republicans who want a president to stand up strongly for American interests and want to make America the pre-eminent military and economic power in the world once again. Many simply don’t believe his foreign-policy ideas are proactive enough. They are suspicious of his libertarian leanings on national-defense strategy.

One aspect of a Paul campaign Republican regulars can get behind is his position on NSA snooping:

Contrasting himself with most others in the field, Paul also promised to end the federal government’s collection of American phone records if elected president. “I’m a Republican who believes in the right to privacy,” he said. “It doesn’t mean collecting 300 million people’s phone records. The 4th amendment is not consistent with a warrant that says Mr. Verizon on it. Last I heard Mr. Verizon isn’t a person.”

“Your phone records are yours,” he declared. “It’s none of the government’s damn business what you’re doing on your phone.”

“You can say damn in New Hampshire, can’t you?” he quipped.

“Damn straight,” a man yelled back from the crowd.

NSA spying is a peripheral national-security issue and there is disagreement among the candidates about how much of what the NSA has been doing is really necessary. This is a legitimate way for Paul to put distance between himself and his rivals — as long as he accurately enumerates their positions.

But otherwise, Paul’s rank dishonesty in describing what his opponents would do if elected is intolerable. Might we see a sound bite of Paul dishonestly ripping his opponents in a Hillary Clinton commercial? Perhaps the senator should think about that the next time he feels compelled to grossly exaggerate the positions of his opponents.

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Iranian Ship Convoy Heads for Yemen

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Seven to nine Iranian ships are headed for Yemen, according to US military officials. The Pentagon is worried that the ships may dock at a port controlled by Houthi rebels in order to resupply them.

Saudi ships are patrolling off the coast, looking to impose a blockade on supplies to the rebels Obviously, a dangerous situation may develop if Iran tries to run the blockade.

The Hill:

Officials fear the move could lead to a showdown with the U.S. or other members of a Saudi-led coalition, which is enforcing a naval blockade of Yemen and is conducting its fourth week of airstrikes against the Houthis.

Iran sent a destroyer and another vessel to waters near Yemen last week but said it was part of a routine counter-piracy mission.

What’s unusual about the new deployment, which set out this week, is that the Iranians are not trying to conceal it, officials said. Instead, they appear to be trying to “communicate it” to the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf.

It is not clear what will happen as the convoy comes closer to Yemen. Saudi Arabia has deployed ships around Yemen to enforce the blockade, as has Egypt. An official said the ship convoy could try to land at a port in Aden, which the Houthis have taken over.

Although the U.S. is assisting with the Saudi-led air campaign, it is not participating in the naval blockade of Yemen, said U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. Pat Ryder.

However, the U.S. Navy is in the region and has already “consensually boarded” one Panamanian-flagged ship in the Red Sea on April 1 on the suspicion it was illegally carrying arms for the Houthis.

None were found, but the move raised alarm bells in Washington over an increasingly active U.S. military role in the conflict. The Pentagon indicated this week that more boardings could occur.

“We will continue to vigilantly defend freedom of navigation and to conduct consensual searches in an effort to ensure that drugs, human trafficking, weapons trafficking and other contraband are limited,” Army Col. Steve Warren said on Monday.

Officials fear a naval confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia could escalate what has become a proxy war between the two countries.

I don’t think either the Saudis or the Iranians want to go to war. It doesn’t make sense for Iran to negotiate a nuclear deal with the west that will lift sanctions and then start a war that’s sure to bring a response from the US. Not only that, but Iran’s military would be overwhelmed by the Arab army assembled by Saudi Arabia. They may be fanatics in Tehran but they’re not stupid.

From the Saudi point of view, there are several countries in their coalition with large Shia minorities who might cause trouble if there’s a war with Iran. And while the war in Yemen is seen as an effort to help the recognized government, a war with Iran would be seen as a sectarian conflict that might blow up the entire Middle East.

Still, you can have the best of intentions not to go to war and one will start anyway. That’s the nature of confrontation and all it takes is one mistake by one Iranian or Saudi ship’s captain for the shooting to begin.

So why is Iran risking war?

U.S. officials say they are unsure why Iran is making the brazen move. One theory they have floated is that the Saudi-led coalition has effectively blockaded any air routes into Yemen and there are no other ways to resupply the Houthis.

Another theory is that Iran is trying to distract the coalition from another ship it has tried hard to conceal that is currently docked at Oman — a potential land route for smuggling arms into Yemen.

Yet another theory is that Iran wants to force a confrontation with Saudi Arabia that it believes it will win, because Iran views the Saudi military as weak and suspects the U.S. lacks the willpower to support its Gulf ally.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last week on Twitter taunted Saudi Arabia, calling its military puny and smaller than Israel’s. He also said the air campaign was tantamount to genocide of innocent Yemeni civilians and that the U.S. would also fail in Yemen.

The Saudi military may be weak, but they have assembled a 40,000 man Arab army. And Egypt, with the largest military in the region, has said they would contribute troops if called upon. Pakistan has also said they would consider sending troops if Saudi Arabia was threatened.

A confrontation between Iran and the Saudis would quickly escalate. Let’s hope there aren’t any nervous trigger fingers on any of the ships from either side.

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Shroud of Turin Goes on Display Tomorrow

Saturday, April 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The most baffling religious relic of the Catholic Church goes on display tomorrow for the first time since 2010.

The Shroud of Turin is rarely displayed these days because of its deteriorating condition. But starting tomorrow through June 24th, the relic will will be available for public veneration in the Turin Cathedral.

Numerous scientific tests conducted on the shroud have been inconclusive in determining how old it is and how the image of an apparently crucified man was imprinted on the 14-foot-long cloth — except one. A radiocarbon dating test conducted in 1988 proved the cloth to be a medieval forgery — probably. Or maybe. Two separate labs working with small pieces of the shroud snipped off by scientists determined that the linen was manufactured in a 130-year period between 1260 and 1390.

Try as they might, those who believe the shroud to be the burial cloth of Christ have offered no convincing proof that the radiocarbon test was flawed. The latest efforts center on trying to prove that the cloth is actually 2000 years old and that it had been cross contaminated with more modern pollens or bacteria. Another explanation for the later date has to do with the sample taken by scientists coming for a patch used to repair the shroud following a fire that damaged it in the 16th century.

For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.

What makes the shroud such a compelling and mysterious object is the way it appears in photographic negatives. Until 1898, all that was visible was the faint outline, presumably in blood, of a human form. But an amateur photographer, Secondo Pia, was astonished after being allowed to take a photo of the shroud, to see the clear image of a human male that showed up on the negative.

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But no one has an answer to the question of how the image got on the shroud. It’s not paint. It’s not a pigment of any kind. And there is no evidence that the various techniques to produce an image known by medieval artists were used.

But few of the nearly 1 million people who will view the shroud in the next two months care much about the scientific arguments.

Associated Press:

The 4.3-meter-long (14-foot) cloth will be displayed April 19-June 24. Pope Francis will view it on June 21 on an overnight trip to the Turin area, which will include private time with relatives.

Public viewings of the cloth were last held in 2010.

“Many pilgrims who had already seen the shroud in past showings come back, even though some saw it just five years ago,” Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia said on Saturday.

“That’s not a long time. And yet many of the bookings we have are people who have already seen the shroud. That means there is a fundamental need in people’s hearts to renew this incredible experience that they had the first time they saw it,” the prelate told reporters.

Reservations are mandatory but free of charge to see the shroud, displayed in a climate-controlled case, in Turin’s cathedral. Turin’s mayor said recently that more that 1 million people had made reservations. In 2010, some 2.5 million people came, according to organizers of the display.

The pope’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, has described the cloth as an icon “written with the blood” of a crucified man. Benedict said there was “full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus.”

When Pope John Paul II saw the shroud in 1998, he said the mystery forces questions about faith and sciences and whether it really was Jesus’ burial linen. He urged continuous study.

Skeptics say the linen bearing the figure of a crucified man is a medieval forgery.

Nosiglia said people of all faiths will come to see the shroud, not just Christians. “Even non-believers will come. It’s an occasion that brings everybody together and aims to give a precise response to the violence in this world. It tells us that the way to build a fairer world is not violence, but love,” he said.

I am not a believer but I find the shroud the most fascinating religious artifact in the world. There is nothing comparable in any other religion of which I am aware. It is certainly the most debated, the most studied religious artifact  – and for that, a trip to Turin to view it is most definitely worth it.

More at PJ Lifestyle: 

Does New Study of Burial Cloth Add to Existing Proof that Jesus Was Resurrected Around 33 AD?

 

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Celebrate ‘Diversity’ by Having Girls Wear Muslim Head Scarf?

Saturday, April 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

This is one of the most bizarre efforts by diversity freaks to advance their cause.

A high school principal has canceled an exercise dubbed “The Covered Girl Challenge,” where girls would cover their heads with a Muslim head scarf. The event was nixed after intense criticism from people not besotted with idiotic notions of cultural relativism.

But, hey! Her heart was in the right place:

Intense criticism has prompted an Ohio high school’s principal to cancel a student event in which girls would celebrate diversity by spending a day wearing a Muslim headscarf.

Mason High School Mindy McCarty-Stewart also issued an apology in an email Thursday to district families, saying the intent of the April 23 student-led event was meant to be positive, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

“I now realize that as adults we should have given our students better guidance. After much consideration and after talking with the student event organizers, we have canceled the event,” she said.

Well, if the point of the event was supposed to be positive, obviously everything is OK. The fact that it was a display of profound ignorance about Islam and the brutal way it treats women — covered or not — should have had no bearing on the happy happy path to diversity and understanding the event would have promoted.

Sharon Poe, a former school board candidate in the district, told the Enquirer she opposed the “Covered Girl” event.

“My belief is wearing these hijabs represents the oppression of women and Sharia law,” she said, adding that public schools should not be promoting one religious tradition over another.

However, Yasmeen Allen, an Iraqi native with two teenagers at Mason High, told the newspaper that Muslim students at the school “were robbed of an opportunity” to counter negativity their religion faces around the world.

McCarty-Stewart said she decided to cancel the event because it was clear it was not reaching its goal of teaching tolerance, the Dayton Daily News reported.

She also said it was a mistake for the event, which was sponsored by a Muslim student group, to be promoted by the school’s student activities department.

The decision to cancel the event has since prompted its own backlash, with some complaining that the school caved in to anti-Muslim bigotry, The Associated Press reported.

To be intolerant of intolerance is the best lesson those kids can learn out of this. Since when is it “anti-Muslim bigotry” to protest against the reality of Muslim treatment of women? Sheesh.

Only radical multiculturalists promote diversity in a vacuum. When you ignore the reality of Islam’s oppressive 8th century ideas about women and celebrate one of the major symbols of that oppression — the hijab — you give aid and comfort to the very people and ideas you are supposed to be fighting.

Muslims do not celebrate “diversity.” They punish it — harshly. The price for non-conformity is sometimes death, always ostracization. And the hell of it is, the principal is clueless about the gaping dichotomy of celebrating diversity by having girls wear an anti-diversity symbol.

Someone that dense should be fired.

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Last Two Doolittle Raiders Honored on Anniversary

Saturday, April 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Only two men are left alive from the 80 airmen and pilots who took off from the deck of the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, and set out to send Japan a message that the U.S. would stop at nothing to win the war begun by Japan a few months earlier.

Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, 99, and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, 93, are the last of the Doolittle Raiders — the men who struck the first blow against the Japanese empire by bombing Tokyo. They are in Dayton, Ohio, today to present the Raiders Congressional Gold Medal to the National Museum of the US Air Force.

Associated Press:

“It just happens that way, I guess,” Thatcher, of Missoula, Montana, said of being one of the last survivors.

“Something’s just got to give,” said Cole, a Dayton native who lives in Comfort, Texas.

The museum’s director, retired Lt. Gen. Jack Hudson, accepted the medal, the highest honor Congress can give a civilian, for them in Washington on Wednesday. In a video message, Cole said it was an honor to receive the medal “on behalf of 78 fallen Raiders who we proudly served with on that famous raid.”

The latest Raider to fall was Lt. Col. Robert Hite, who died March 29 at age 95 at a Nashville, Tennessee, nursing facility. Hite was also the last of the eight Raiders who were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed and a fourth died in captivity. Three other Raiders were killed soon after the bombing run, as most crash-landed or had to ditch.

Cole was the co-pilot for their mission’s leader, James “Jimmy” Doolittle, in plane No. 1 of the 16. Thatcher was engineer-gunner aboard the 7th plane, nicknamed “The Ruptured Duck,” whose crew’s crash-landing and evasion of Japanese troops in China was depicted in the movie “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.”

Thatcher, who was played by Robert Walker in the movie while Spencer Tracy portrayed Doolittle, chuckled as he recounted how the Raiders had given little thought at the time of the raid about earning a place in history.

“We figured it was just another bombing mission,” he said in a phone interview from his home this week.

In the years afterward, though, he said, they realized: “It was an important event in World War II.”

Thatcher, who said he uses a cane and walker but otherwise is “getting around OK,” was looking forward to weekend events including reunions with family members of the other Raiders to share stories and remembrances.

“You learn something new every time,” Thatcher said.

Sixteen specially outfitted B-25s — a land-based bomber not designed for carrier take-offs — flew the long, perilous mission to drop a few bombs on the Japanese capital, also hitting targets in Yokohama and one each in Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka. They took off 10 hours early after the task force was sighted by a Japanese picket boat, but all 16 crews managed to make it to the coast of China where most of the crews bailed out after running out of fuel.

Friendly villagers rescued all but 10 of the Raiders, which resulted in massive, brutal retaliation by the Japanese.

Smithsonian:

That generosity shown by the Chinese would trigger a horrific retaliation by the Japanese that claimed an estimated quarter-million lives and would prompt comparisons to the 1937-38 Rape of Nanking. American military authorities, cognizant that a raid on Tokyo would result in a vicious counterattack upon free China, saw the mission through regardless, even keeping the operation a secret from their Pacific theater allies. This chapter of the Doolittle Raid has largely gone unreported—until now.

Long-forgotten missionary records discovered in the archives of DePaul University for the first time shed important new light on the extent to which the Chinese suffered in the aftermath of the Doolittle raid.

n the moments after the attack on Tokyo, Japanese leaders fumed over the raid, which had revealed China’s coastal provinces as a dangerous blind spot in the defense of the homeland. American aircraft carriers not only could launch surprise attacks from the seas and land safely in China but could possibly even fly bombers directly from Chinese airfields to attack Japan. The Japanese military ordered an immediate campaign against strategically important airfields, issuing an operational plan in late April, just days after the Doolittle raid.

Survivor accounts point to an ulterior objective: to punish the Chinese allies of the United States forces, especially those towns where the American aviators had bailed out after the raid. At the time, Japanese forces occupied Manchuria as well as key coastal ports, railways and industrial and commercial centers in China.

[...]

By early June, the devastation had begun. Father Wendelin Dunker observed the result of a Japanese attack on the town of Ihwang:

“They shot any man, woman, child, cow, hog, or just about anything that moved, They raped any woman from the ages of 10 – 65, and before burning the town they thoroughly looted it.”

He continued, writing in his unpublished memoir, “None of the humans shot were buried either, but were left to lay on the ground to rot, along with the hogs and cows.”

The Japanese eventually captured eight of the Americans, executing three for “war crimes.” One American died in captivity and the remaining four were eventually rescued by soldiers when Nanking, where the prisoners were being held, was liberated.

The audaciousness of the raid had a big effect on American morale, but it was the Japanese, shaken by the notion that their cities were not invulnerable, who were affected even more. The military actually moved up plans to attack Port Morseby, New Guinea and Midway Island. When our codebreakers, who had cracked one of the Japanese navy cyphers, intercepted the information, the resulting naval engagements in Coral Sea and especially the decisive battle off of Midway Island sealed the fate of Japan and sent us on the road to victory.

The World War II generation is rapidly receding into history, but exploits like the Doolittle Raid will never be forgotten as long as courage and fortitude are celebrated in America.

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The Fall of Ramadi Would Upend US Iraq Policy

Saturday, April 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

It’s the same old story we’ve heard a dozen times. Islamic State targets a key city or region. They attack relentlessly. Iraqi troops flee in terror. And the government tries to cover up the fact that their soldiers are unable to stem the Islamic State tide.

What’s happening in Ramadi is a familiar story, one that has played out across western Iraq since early last year. But the administration had just made the claim this week that Islamic State had lost 30% of the territory it conquered last year, suggesting the war were going better.

The lightning assault on Ramadi would suggest otherwise.

Washington Post:

Rawi said that there had been “realignments” of forces but not retreats and that there were assurances from the U.S.-led ­coalition that airstrikes would increase. Still, he said, support has been sorely lacking.

“We don’t know if it’s neglect or just a lack of capacity,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Tahseen Ibrahim, a spokesman for Iraq’s Ministry of Defense, said reinforcements from counterterrorism units had been deployed.

“Our troops are preparing themselves to attack,” he said. Discussions were underway as to whether to also send what are known as popular mobilization forces, which include Shiite militias, but there was not yet an agreement, he said.

The question of sending the largely Shiite paramilitary forces has been contentious in Anbar, a predominantly Sunni province. But as the security situation has deteriorated, a growing number of local tribal leaders and officials have said they need all the help they can get. In his sermon Friday, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, said “all sons of Iraq” should help the fight, a comment viewed as an endorsement of the militias playing a role.

At a Pentagon briefing Thursday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, played down the importance of Ramadi, saying that it is “not symbolic in any way” and that Baiji, a key location for Iraq’s oil infrastructure, is “a more strategic target.”

But Iraqi military officials have said that securing Anbar province, much of which is controlled by the ­Islamic State, is an essential step before any advance on Mosul, the group’s base of power in Iraq.

That view was echoed Friday by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who called Dempsey’s remarks a “gross mischaracterization.”

“The fall of Ramadi would be seen by Iraqi Sunnis as a failure of the Baghdad government to protect them, and could deal a major blow to political reconciliation efforts that are essential to defeating ISIL,” McCain, using another acronym for the Islamic State, said in a statement Friday that was released jointly by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). “Yet apparently, the current U.S. strategy is to defend an oil refinery in Beiji, but abandon the capital of pivotal Anbar province to ISIL.”

With Shia militias rampaging through Sunni towns and villages, residents of Anbar don’t trust the government, and military forces fleeing the region and not much being sent from Baghdad to help with the fight confirms their suspicions that the government just doesn’t care very much about them.

The fall of Ramadi would only add to their well-founded skepticism:

Should Iraqi forces appear to only be able to win with the help of militiamen that reportedly looted their communities, it could exacerbate the very same sectarian tensions that led to the rise of ISIS.

“It can increase Sunni resentment and can set the stage of future Sunni resistance against Shiite advancement,” Gartenstein-Ross said. Given that the groups were also backed in some way by Iran “creates risks of perception of regional Shite war.”

And with less territory to control, there could be more ISIS fighters available to move to other areas to “surge them somewhere else or try to capture new territory.”

That’s because the terror group doesn’t appear to have lost many of its forces, even as it lost Tikrit.

U.S. defense officials told The Daily Beast that Iraqi forces confronted little resistance and that few fighters left Tikrit. It suggested that remnants of Saddam Husein’s regime—Baathist party members—were as strong a presence in Tikrit as ISIS. (After all, Tikrit is Saddam’s hometown and a Baathist stronghold.) Baathists and ISIS have increasingly worked together in Iraq even as they have varied goals: While Baathists are Iraqi secular nationalists seeking a return to power, ISIS wants a regional, ultra-religious caliphate.

What remains unclear is whether the loss of territory will create a stronger or weaker alliance between the two groups.

If Ramadi falls, it will likely push back Iraqi and US plans to retake Anbar province, including the key city of Mosul, this year. It may also change US calculations on whether we should give the Iraqi army more sophisticated arms.

But the real damage would occur with efforts to unite the country behind the government. Many Sunnis, if not fighting with IS, are not very troubled that the terrorists are giving the government all they can handle. That kind of lukewarm loyalty to Baghdad stands in the way of forging an effective, united front of Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds to throw Islamic State out of the country.

The fall of Ramadi would only exasperate the problem as Sunnis are confirmed in their belief that government forces will only fight and die to protect Shias. Prime Minister al-Abadi would do well to rush a sizable number of troops to the battle in Anbat and make a supreme effort to protect Ramadi from IS.

Otherwise, progress against Islamic State elsewhere won’t mean very much in the end.

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Cardinal Francis George, Leader of American Catholics, Dead at 78

Friday, April 17th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A towering intellectual force in the American Catholic church is dead of cancer at age 78.

Former leader of the Chicago Archdiocese, Cardinal Francis George, succumbed to the disease after a long illness. George retired last year after a third diagnosis of cancer and was replaced by Archbishop Blase Cupich. He was elevated to head the Chicago diocese following the death of Cardinal Joseph Bernadin in 1997.

In his 17 years as head of the third largest Catholic diocese in America, George confronted the sex scandals roiling the church head on, proposing in 2002 a “zero tolerance” policy for sex offender priests. He also became a leading light in the anti-abortion debate and was the driving force behind Catholic bishops opposing President Obama’s contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.+

A Chicago native, George suffered a bout of polio when he was 13 and was denied entrance to the seminary. Instead, he attended a private seminary run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. After becoming a priest, he spent the next 30 years traveling the world representing his order, eventually landing in Portland, Oregon to head the church there. John Paul II tapped him to lead the Chicago diocese in 1997.

Chicago Tribune:

As head of the nation’s third-largest archdiocese, he shepherded the Chicago church through school closings and the priest sexual abuse scandal, striving to reconcile his support for the clergy with the pain of victims.

He also became a point person between the U.S. and the Vatican on the abuse scandal and matters such as liturgy of the Mass, playing a key role in revisions that brought the English translation closer to the original Latin.

George in November 2014 became the first Chicago archbishop to retire, following his third cancer diagnosis, and was replaced by current Archbishop Blase Cupich.

“He stood apart for his intelligence, his ability to make the church’s proposal in a compelling way to contemporary society, his deep faith, personal holiness and courage,” said Catholic scholar and papal biographer George Weigel.

“I think he would want to be remembered as a good and faithful priest,” Weigel said. “That’s all he ever wanted to be.”

George received his first cancer diagnosis in 2006 and had surgery to remove his bladder and prostate. He was diagnosed with cancer again about six years later and underwent more surgery.

His most recent diagnosis came in March 2014, when doctors found new cancer cells in his right kidney. He underwent chemotherapy, but the archdiocese announced in late 2014 that he had stopped taking an experimental drug because it had not been effective.

From his childhood on the Northwest Side of Chicago, George embarked on a spiritual career that took him around the globe as a missionary, then brought him back home in 1997 when he was appointed as the eighth archbishop of the Chicago Archdiocese and spiritual leader of its more than 2 million Catholics.

Born Jan. 16, 1937, George went to St. Pascal School in the Portage Park neighborhood, where he knew early on that he wanted to serve the church.

“The first time I thought about being a priest was my first Holy Communion, when I really came to appreciate the nature of that sacrament as much as a 7-year-old could,” he said in a church documentary in December 2013 commemorating his 50th anniversary as a priest.

Cardinal George was immensely popular in the city due to his good humor and gentle ways. When it became necessary to close dozens of Catholic schools due to declining enrollment, he publicly agonized over his decision, realizing that the people who would be hurt the most were black and Latino parents desperate to keep their children out of the Chicago public school system.

In fact, George made saving Catholic education in Chicago his life’s mission. When he arrived, the diocese was ready to close 45 schools in addition to the 175 they had shuttered in the previous 3 decades.

George, a former professor who graduated from St. Pascal Catholic School on Chicago’s Northwest Side, balked at such a drastic move. He immediately launched fundraising campaigns, ordered academic overhauls and traveled to Springfield to lobby legislators for tax credits and private school vouchers. He also pledged to make teachers’ salaries competitive with those of public school teachers, an inequity he found particularly troubling.

His early efforts met with success, said Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois. By 1999, George had brokered a meeting with House Speaker Mike Madigan, then-Gov. George Ryan and other legislators and secured support for a state income tax credit of up to $500 for parents of private and parochial school students to help defray tuition costs. Legislators also increased money for transportation and textbooks.

“I’m not asking (policymakers) to be open to this for sentimental reasons. I’m asking them to be open to it for public reasons,” George once said. “This is a pivotal, central public service. It is privately provided, but it is a public service.”

But success in Springfield was short-lived, Gilligan said, in part because of the state’s own fiscal crisis. The cardinal’s proposals to fund math and science education for at-risk students, reimburse schools for fulfilling state mandates, provide vouchers and lift the cap on the tax credit never materialized. Even money for transportation and textbooks has disappeared from the budget, he added.

To be sure, the progress has been slower than expected, said Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of Catholic schools.

“It took a little longer than what the two of us had hoped,” she said.

To this day, teacher salaries remain way below those in public schools and schools in other dioceses, and individual Catholic schools still don’t provide parents the same academic accountability that neighborhood public schools offer by publicizing their test scores.

The cardinal, however, has focused on securing outside funds, building a case for parish schools as community stabilizers that serve children in need of a quality education, not just Catholics. He claims that Catholic schools save the public school system $1 billion a year, a cost it would incur if Catholic schools closed and displaced more than 60,000 students.

His was a powerful voice that will be missed by Christians of all denominations.

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Auto Repair Owner to Refuse Service to ‘Openly’ Gay People

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The owner of an auto repair shop in Michigan has become the latest center of attention in the culture wars after writing a post on his Facebook page saying, among other things, that he would refuse service to “openly” gay people.

Dieseltec owner Brian Klawiter also says that he will run his business based on his Christian beliefs.

Klawiter is sticking by his guns:

“I am a Christian,” wrote Brian Klawiter, owner of Dieseltec in Grandville, Michigan. “My company will be run in a way that reflects that. Dishonesty, thievery, immoral behavior, etc. will not be welcomed at MY place of business. (I would not hesitate to refuse service to an openly gay person or persons. Homosexuality is wrong, period. If you want to argue this fact with me then I will put your vehicle together with all bolts and no nuts and you can see how that works.)”

Klawiter also stated that he will offer a discount for customers who bring their gun into his shop — on-duty police officers excluded, he said, because their guns were purchased with tax dollars.

Dieseltec’s new policy seems to have been inspired by recent battles over “religious freedom” laws in Indiana and Arkansas. “Enough is enough,” the owner began his post. “Our rights as conservative Americans are being squashed more and more everyday. Apparently if you are white (or close to it), you have a job, go to church, and own a gun… That translates into racists, privileged, bigot, conspiracy theorist. Too many of us say nothing.”

Naturally, when his Facebook declaration went viral, local NBC affiliate station WOOD-TV got a hold of him and to further elaborate on his new policy. “If you have a vehicle that needs to be repaired, we’d be happy to do that for you,” he told the channel. “But if you want to come in here with your boyfriend and you want to openly display that, that’s just not going to be tolerated here. We don’t believe that here.”

The story was picked up by Huffington Post and ThinkProgress; and, as a result, his post has since shot up to being among the top 10 trending items on Facebook.

A GoFundMe page was started, purportedly in support of the auto shop, but has since been removed.

On Thursday afternoon, Klawiter claimed in a new Facebook post that he had not requested anyone set up a crowdfunding page to support his business. However, he said, “I will stand firm on my views and will not back down” in the face of alleged threats to attack his business.

What if the two guys who come in are just a couple of buds hanging out for the day? If they start making out, that’s one thing (no doubt a gay couple will try that so they can bring a nice, fat lawsuit), but otherwise, define “openly” gay. That kind of stupidity is just one reason this guy’s business deserves to go belly up.

It’s one issue to refuse to take an active part in a gay marriage ceremony or ritual by supplying flowers, or food, or photography, or any other wedding service based on religious convictions. That principled stand should be protected. But to refuse service to someone based on their sexual orientation is clearly illegal. It’s not a question of applying your religious beliefs to your business. It’s a matter of obeying the anti-discrimination law in your state — and if your hatred of gays is so profound that you can’t do business with them, you should probably find another line of work.

Besides, any businessman who refuses perfectly good money based on a personal dislike of a customer is a bad businessman. A gay person’s money is just as green and just as good as a straight person’s cash. Deliberately taking a loss because you disagree with how someone lives their life is senseless.

Now it’s not likely that Klawiter’s business will rise or fall based on the number of gay customers he might turn away in Grandville, Michigan. But his attitude could convince straight people concerned about his overt bigotry to take their business elsewhere. That might, indeed, cut into his profits — which makes me question why he took to Facebook so that all the world would know of his prejudice.

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The Incredible, Disgusting TSA Groping Conspiracy

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Two Denver TSA screeners have been fired for assisting another TSA employee in sexually assaulting male passengers.

CNN:

Here’s how police say the scheme worked: When the male TSA officer noticed a man he found attractive, he would alert a female TSA officer.

The female officer would then tell the screening machine that a female passenger — not a male — was walking through. And that information would trigger a machine to register an anomaly in the groin area, prompting the male TSA officer to pat down the passenger, police said, citing a TSA investigation.

But during the patdown, the male TSA officer used the palms of his hands to touch the passenger’s front groin area and buttocks, which violates TSA policy.

All this came to light after an anonymous tip from a TSA employee in November. The agency launched an investigation, and investigator Chris Higgins monitored the two TSA officers in question, Denver police said in a report.

Higgins watched the plan being carried out on February 9. He interviewed the female TSA officer, who said she had done this with her colleague at least 10 other times, police said.

Both of the TSA officers investigated have been fired, TSA special agent Charles Stone told police. Authorities did not release their names.

The TSA called the incident deplorable.

“These alleged acts are egregious and intolerable,” the agency said in a written statement to CNN.

“All allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated by the agency. And when substantiated, employees are held accountable.”

But it’s unlikely criminal charges will be filed because there is no identifiable victim. The TSA said it has been trying to identify the passenger in the February incident but to no avail.

The TSA said no passengers have come forward with similar cases so far at the Denver airport.

Now how do you suppose they came up with such a clever scheme? Do you think that perhaps they heard of similar methods to get their rocks off at other airports?

And what was the motivation of the two TSA screeners who facilitated these attacks? Did they think it was funny? Did they themselves get a sexual thrill out of their co-workers’ groping? It boggles the mind.

Almost all people would too embarrassed to report this kind of attack by TSA employees. And perhaps they’re not even sure it’s an attack. Most of us are very trusting of law enforcement and especially airline security employees. I think there’s a good chance this kind of attack — on both men and women — occurs far more often than we can imagine and the victims simply dismiss it as intrusive, but part of the price we pay to be safe in the air.

Sick. Sick. Sick.

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Oh, for God’s Sake: A Hunger Strike to Force Confirmation of Loretta Lynch?

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Groups referring to themselves as “civil rights advocates” are beginning a hunger strike because the Senate has not confirmed Eric Holder’s replacement for attorney general, Loretta Lynch.

Actually, these groups have as much to do with “civil rights” as my cat Snowball has with quantum physics. Real civil rights groups call for a hunger strike because of injustice or oppression. These clowns are going on a fake hunger strike so they can act as Democratic Party partisans.

Politico:

The advocacy group founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton, along with female civil-rights leaders, are staging the hunger strike, in which groups of fasters will alternate days abstaining from food until Lynch is confirmed to replace Eric Holder at the Justice Department. Dubbed “Confirm Loretta Lynch Fast,” the new tactic is designed in the mold of actions by civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez, organizers said.

Um…no. The tactic is designed in the mold of Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers. How can you possibly refer to the “action” as a hunger strike when no one is going to go hungry?

“As long as the Senate refuses to take fifteen minutes to confirm someone for Attorney General that they have already confirmed twice for U.S. Attorney,” National Action Network and its allies “will do everything in our power to draw attention to this completely unfair and unnecessary delay to vote to confirm Loretta Lynch,” Sharpton, who founded NAN, said in a statement Wednesday.

The group’s executive director, Janaye Ingram, added: “We stand with Loretta Lynch and are so in support of this cause that we are willing to sacrifice our daily meals to impress upon the U.S. Senate that it’s time to call a vote.”

Those brave souls who went on hunger strikes in southern jails in the 1960s to protest the injustice of their incarceration are spinning in their graves — as are the thousands all over the world who have used hunger strikes to draw attention to oppression and tyranny.

How dare these fake “civil rights” advocates use a fake hunger strike as a purely partisan political weapon. What’s worse is that they are diluting the power of the hunger strike by making a mockery of it. Who ever heard of a hunger strike on alternating days? There will be no suffering, no self-denial. The symbolic power of the hunger strike is vastly diluted by this faux “action.”

The politics involved is roiled by the Democrat’s attempt to strip abortion provisions from the human sex trafficking bill:

The long-going partisan spat over the trafficking legislation took a even sharper rhetorical turn earlier Wednesday when the Senate’s two top leaders fought over the impasse in dueling speeches.

McConnell accused Democrats of choosing to aid doctors who serve Medicare patients, while shunning sex trafficking victims. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shot back that his counterpart’s complaints were “illogical” and devoid of facts.

The sweeping Medicare payments package that the Senate passed overwhelmingly on Tuesday night contains so-called “Hyde amendment” language that would bar funding for community health centers from being used on abortions. The abortion provision in the trafficking bill is similar, but instead of applying those restrictions to taxpayer funds, it would be for fines paid from trafficking offenders — which Democrats say goes too far.

It is the prerogative of the majority to set the agenda for the Senate and McConnell is playing hardball with  obstructionists who care more about abortion than sex trafficking. Democrats believe that because Lynch is a black woman that they can play the race card to get both the abortion restrictions removed and Lynch confirmed.

It’s not surprising to see Al Sharpton behind this bit of political theater. A fake reverend running a fake hunger strike generating fake outrage for a fake cause.

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Turkey Recalls Vatican Ambassador After Pope Uses the ‘G’ Word Referring to Armenia

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Pope Francis marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide by declaring that the mass killings was the first genocide of the 20th century.

Speaking at Sunday mass commemorating the anniversary of the genocide, Pope Francis became the second pope to risk the wrath of Turkey who, despite mountains of evidence, continue to deny that the deaths of 1 million Armenians was genocide.

Wall Street Journal:

Speaking at a Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican to mark 100 years since the Armenian killings, the pope spoke of the massacres in the context of the contemporary persecution of Christians in the Muslim world—a subject that has become an increasingly prominent and urgent theme in Pope Francis’ public statements.

Armenians say that as many as 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed during World War I in today’s eastern Turkey, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire.

Many countries officially recognize the killings as genocide. But Turkey contests Armenian claims about the scale of losses; it argues that hundreds of thousands actually died in warfare and famine, and that many Turks were also killed by Armenians. Turkey argues that the question of genocide should be left to historians rather than politicians.

Pope Francis said Sunday that “it is necessary, and indeed a duty” to “recall the centenary of that tragic event, that immense and senseless slaughter whose cruelty your forbears had to endure…Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”

[...]

Pope Francis went further than the 2001 declaration, calling the killing of Armenians one of “three massive and unprecedented tragedies” in the 20th century.

“The remaining two were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism,” he said. The latter reference was apparently to the 1932-33 man-made famine in Ukraine, part of Joseph Stalin’s effort to collectivize Soviet agriculture, which killed as many as 7.5 million.

The evidence is overwhelming that the Ottoman Turks systematically organized the deliberate deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians. Government documents, photos, testimony from survivors prove that Turkey wished to rid itself of its Christian minorities, largely because they believed that the Armenians and others were siding with Russia against Turkey in World War I. They also needed a convenient scapegoat for the losses suffered on the battlefield.

The greatest number of killings occurred on horrific death marches of hundreds of miles where the Turks drove women, children, and old people (most of the young men had already been massacred) into the Syrian desert. There was no food or water given to the victims along the way — again, by design.

Few recognized historians take Turkey’s side — that the deaths were regrettable but not part of an organized effort to kill all Armenians. And Turkey is fanatical about the subject. After Pope Francis identified the Armenian massacres as genocide, Turkey angrily recalled its ambassador to the Vatican.

CNN:

His use of the term genocide — even though he was quoting from the declaration — upset Turkey.

The nation summoned its ambassador to the Vatican for “consultations” just hours after Francis’ comments, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. Earlier, Turkey summoned the ambassador from the Vatican for a meeting, Turkish state broadcaster TRT reported.

Turkey’s former ambassador to the Vatican, Kenan Gursoy, told CNN in a telephone interview that while it is the first time Turkey has summoned its ambassador home from the Vatican, “This does not mean that our diplomatic ties with the Vatican are over.”

“Since this is a situation that we do not approve of, as a first reaction, (the ambassador) is summoned to get consultation,” Gursoy said, adding that the Pope’s use of the word “genocide” was “a one-sided evaluation.”

In a tweet Sunday on his official account, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the Pope’s use of the word “unacceptable” and “out of touch with both historical facts and legal basis.”

“Religious offices are not places through which hatred and animosity are fueled by unfounded allegations,” the tweet reads.

This is actually a mild reaction compared to when the US House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution in 2010 calling the actions of the Turkish government genocide:

Barack Obama’s administration, which regards Turkey as an important ally, was today desperately seeking to defuse the row. It expressed its frustration with the House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee, which voted 23-22 yesterday in favour of a resolution labelling the 1915 massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians a “genocide”.

A furious Turkey may now deny the US access to the Incirlik air base, a staging post for Iraq, as it did at the time of the 2003 invasion, or withdraw its sizeable troop contribution to the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

On the diplomatic front, the US needs the support of Turkey, which has a seat on the UN security council, in the push for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. Turkey is also helpful to the US on a host of other diplomatic issues in the Middle East and central Asia.

The White House and state department began work today to try to prevent the controversial issue making its way to the floor of the house for a full vote.

In Turkey, Suat Kiniklioglu, the influential deputy chairman for external affairs in the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), warned of “major consequences” if the resolution was accepted by the full House of Representatives.

“If they choose to bring this to the floor they will have to face the fact that the consequences would be serious – the relationship would be downgraded at every level,” he said. “Everything from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iraq to the Middle East process would be affected.

“There would be major disruption to the relationship between Turkey and the US.”

The Obama administration was successful in keeping the measure from the House floor.

It is shameful that the US hasn’t stood up and sided with the victims of this atrocity. Turkey cannot continue to deny its culpability for this crime against humanity any more than the Germans can deny the Holocaust. They have been convicted by their own words and deeds and given the Islamist bent of the Erdogan administration, Turkey is becoming less and less important to the US — and NATO.

The truth is out and the fact that Turkey refuses to acknowledge it should play no part in the world’s condemnation of this horrible crime.

 

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Oooops! Four Episodes of Game of Thrones Leaked Online

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Tonight marks the premiere of Season 5 of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones and, as is becoming common these days, 4 episodes of the drama have leaked online.

Since I am not a spoiler-mongerer, I won’t link to where you can find them. But I don’t think it really matters as far as the viewing audience is concerned. In fact, in the past, HBO has celebrated the piracy.

Forbes:

Bad news today for HBO, which is attempting to marry the recent debut of their HBO Now streaming service with season 5 of Game of Thrones. As of last night, the first four episodes of the new season, nearly half of the ten total episodes, have been leaked online to various torrent sites.

After appearing online yesterday afternoon, the episodes have already been downloaded almost 800,000 times, and that figure will likely blow past a million downloads by the season 5 premiere tonight.

Game of Thrones has consistently set records for piracy, which has almost been a point of pride for HBO. Last year, when it was announced HBO set a world record for illegal downloads after the season four premiere, Time Warner TWX -0.14% CEO Jeff Bewkes had this to say.

“Our experience is [piracy] leads to more penetration, more paying subs, more health for HBO, less reliance on having to do paid advertising… If you go around the world, I think you’re right, Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world. Well, you know, that’s better than an Emmy.”

It’s a refreshing view of piracy as a means of audience engagement, but that was in reference to the ability of pirates to upload episodes of Game of Thrones shortly after they air, and this is a different situation in which four episodes have leaked weeks before the later ones were supposed to air.

How this happened isn’t a mystery. The press has had their hands on four episodes worth of press screeners for a while now, so someone that was trusted with those review materials clearly should not have been. We see this happen every single year with screeners for the top Oscar nominated films, but to my knowledge, Game of Thrones hasn’t had to deal with this kind of leak before.

This is a variation of the famous actor’s dictum, “I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right.” Indeed, the downloads represent advertising that HBO can’t buy at any price. I can’t say that HBO is necessarily pleased that episodes that won’t be seen for a month are available for download, but neither is there likely to be panic at the prospect.

I prefer to get my Game of Thrones as it’s broadcast, spoilers be damned. The bewildering array of characters are nearly impossible to remember and follow, so here are a couple of handy guides to help you. If you’ve follow the series closely, this chart by USA Today will be of great assistance as you watch the show.

But if you’re new to the series, this photo guide from Access Hollywood with thumbnail commentary will bring you up to speed.

In telling us what he likes about Game of Thrones, Jim Geraghty says the multitude of characters is a big plus:

What I love about Game of Thrones:

It’s different. It doesn’t look like any other show on television. Almost every episode looks like an epic movie: The scale is huge, the sets are huge, the number of key characters is enormous. Every season is just ten episodes, and something important and consequential occurs in just about all of them.

It’s complicated. Here’s where Game of Thrones compares to Twin Peaks; my favorite early-90s surreal comic-horror murder mystery had a good thirty-to-forty characters of significance during its run. A lot of shows effectively “talk down” to their audience by simplifying things and creating worlds where everything of importance is done by the same half-dozen people every week. For example, on Castle, we almost never see Castle and Becket interacting with any cops or police personnel outside of the main cast. As far as viewers can tell, the precinct consists of three detectives, a captain, two medical examiners, and Castle the consultant. To keep costs down, anyone in the background – other detectives, uniformed officers, secretarial staff, etc. – rarely, if ever, speak a line of dialogue. Most cop shows are the same, as are most doctor shows and legal dramas.

The limited terms of those shows work well enough, but in real life we interact with lots of people throughout the day – and the world of Game of Thrones presents multiple members of multiple families in an enormously complicated web of rivalries, shifting alliances, secret agendas and vendettas, etc. This is a show that rewards playing close attention – and like most of my cult-hit favorites, you feel as though there’s a lot going on off-screen.

No doubt there will be shocks and plot twists to satisfy the most cynical among us. Characters we’ve come to know and love will be killed off — probably suddenly and brutally. But that is why the series is so compelling.

My DVR is already set. Is yours?

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Watch: Boston University Goalie Personifies the ‘Agony of Defeat’

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!

So began the most iconic, longest-running general interest sports program in TV history. ABC’s Wide World of Sports broadcast sports that Americans rarely saw outside of Olympic programming. Skiing, skating, track and field, and swimming were staples of the broadcast, but hurling, curling, Australian Rules football, bocce, log rolling … even shuffleboard were occasionally featured.

But the common thread running through all of its programming was “the human drama” of competition. And no one man represented that drama quite like Vinko Bogataj.

Bogataj was a Yugoslavian ski jumper of Slovenian descent who etched himself into the consciousness of Americans thanks to a spectacular failure at the World Ski Championships in West Germany in 1970. Wikipedia describes the scene:

A light snow had begun falling at the start of the event, and by the time Bogataj was ready for his third jump, the snow had become quite heavy. Midway down the ramp for that jump, Bogataj realized that the conditions had made the ramp too fast. He attempted to lower his center of gravity and stop his jump, but instead lost his balance completely and rocketed out of control off the end of the ramp, tumbling and flipping wildly, and crashing through a light retaining fence near a crowd of stunned spectators before coming to a halt.

Despite the horrific crash, Bogataj suffered only a minor concussion.

The Slovenian ski jumper then became the symbol of the “Agony of Defeat” on Wide World of Sports from 1971 until the last broadcast in 1998.

The story of Mr. Bogataj comes to mind when viewing what happened to Boston University goalie Matt O’Connor, who was playing in the NCAA hockey championship game against Providence College.

O’Connor had a stellar season for the Terriers, winning 25 of 28 games. But he will always be remembered for pulling the biggest bonehead play in NCAA hockey history. With BU winning 3-2 in the 3rd and final period, O’Connor mishandled an easy dump-in from the blue line by Providence that he promptly dropped, the puck trickling backwards between his legs into his own net for the tying goal. Providence went on to score in the final minutes to ice the 4-3 victory and win the championship.

Is this not the personification of the “Agony of Defeat”?

Those of you who have played sports, even if only at the high school level, know that the difference between victory and defeat is often measured in inches, or tenths of a second. It is that difference that compels us to watch athletic competitions and become captivated by the performances.

Matt O’Connor showed genuine courage when he took full responsibility for the loss and sat patiently for a couple of hours after the game answering every last question put to him by reporters:

They could have spirited Matt O’Connor down the back stairs, into a cab, and whisked him back to Boston University.

And everybody would have understood.

They could have issued a stern and to-the-point directive to the media that, no, sorry, Matt O’Connor would not be available for interviews.

And everybody would have understood.

And, yes, O’Connor himself could have told the first wave of reporters, the second wave, the third wave . . . he could have told them all to please just leave him alone.

And everybody would have understood.

Yet the young man sat there, seemingly for hours, answering every last question, including a few dumb ones. As soon as one group had finished, some of the reporters patting him on the back and thanking him for his time, another group would push forward and the process would begin all over again.

At one point, associate head coach Steve Greeley leaned in to O’Connor and apparently whispered something about stopping this madness.

“No,” O’Connor said. “It’s better to get it over with.”

Hopefully, that’s what’ll happen to Matt O’Connor . . . that he’ll get it over, that he’ll get on with his life. Hopefully he’ll be buoyed by friends, by family, by teammates. He’ll find a way. He’s young, he’s strong, he’s smart.

O’Connor may have lost the game in agonizing fashion. But the kid is no loser.

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Russian Fighter Buzzes U.S. Spy Jet Over Baltic

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Russian air force has become more aggressive over the last few months, invading NATO air space and coming close to civilian aircraft.

But this sort of thing is downright dangerous.

A Russia Su-27 jet fighter flew dangerously close and nearly collided with a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft this week in the latest aerial provocation by Moscow, defense officials revealed to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Su-27 conducted the close-in intercept of an RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, said officials. The incident prompted a diplomatic protest.

“On the morning of April 7th, a U.S. RC-135U flying a routine route in international airspace was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker in an unsafe and unprofessional manner,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez.

“The United States is raising this incident with Russia in the appropriate diplomatic and official channels,” she said in a statement.

A defense official said the Russian fighter jet flew within 20 feet of the unarmed reconnaissance jet in what the official called a “reckless” encounter that endangered the lives of the RC-135 crew.

No details were available regarding the mission of the RC-135, which was in a position to monitor Russian military activities in western Russia and Kaliningrad.

In Moscow, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed the incident.

Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman, said the intercept was carried out after the aircraft was detected by Russian radar.

“Russian air defense radars spotted an unidentified air target over the Baltic Sea making steady progress toward the national border,” he said according to several state-controlled news outlets. The report said the U.S. aircraft was operating without its signal transponder turned on.

“No emergency situation was reported during the fly-by of the American reconnaissance aircraft,” Konashenkov said.

Needless to say, a confrontation of two military aircraft is fraught with meaning — and danger. Given that both sides are on high alert, an “accident” could lead to a misunderstanding which could spiral out of control.

The Free Beacon details some past encounters with Russian military aircraft:

The threatening aerial encounter followed a series of provocative Russian military aircraft encounters, mainly involving the dispatch of nuclear-capable Tu-95 Bear bombers near U.S. and European coasts.

Flights of Russian strategic aircraft near U.S. and allied airspace have sharply increased as part of a campaign of nuclear saber rattling by Moscow.

Adm. William Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, expressed his military concerns about the increase in Russian military flights and provocations during a briefing with reporters the same day of the RC-135 incident over the Baltic.

“The Russians have developed a far more capable military than the quantitative, very large military that the Soviet Union had,” Gortney said, adding that Moscow has adopted a new strategic doctrine that is being demonstrated by the provocations.

“At the same time, they are messaging us,” he told reporters at the Pentagon. “They’re messaging us that they’re a global power—we do the same sort of thing—with their long-range aviation.”

Gortney said the numbers of incidents have gone up but he did not have the percentages.

“And so we watch very carefully what they’re doing,” he said. The Russians need to adhere to “international standards that are required by all airplanes that are out there,” he said, “and everybody is flying in a professional manner on their side and our side as we watch very closely.”

Eric Edelman, former undersecretary of defense for policy, said the latest incident appears to be part of a pattern of activities by Russia that began around 2007 when Russian President Vladimir Putin began protesting U.S. missile defenses in Europe. The provocative activities have taken place in both the skies and on the sea, Edelman said.

Putin can afford to play a confrontational game as long as Obama is in office. He knows there will be no pushback from the U.S.. The question is, will this behavior continue when the next president takes office? I suspect like most bullies, Putin will back off once it is made clear that the new president won’t tolerate such provocations.

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Iraq: We Will Gladly Pay You Later for Billions in Arms Today

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is coming to Washington next week with his hand out. Reuters is reporting that the PM will ask President Obama for billions of dollars in U.S. weapons to fight Islamic State, but wants to defer payment until later.

Wimpy couldn’t have asked more politely for his hamburger.

But is this really a good idea? What guarantee is there that there will even be an Iraqi government a year from now — or at least one that would be willing to live up to its commitments to pay the U.S. back?

But Iraq thinks they have a hole card — Iran. If they don’t get the arms from us, they say they will look to Tehran for assistance.

Reuters:

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is grappling with an insurgency by militants from Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that emerged from the chaos in Iraq and neighboring Syria and seized much of northern and central Iraq last year.

He is also facing a cash crunch thanks to a plunge in oil prices that is ravaging Iraq’s state finances. The government is projecting a budget deficit of roughly $21 billion this year.

Visiting Washington for the first time as prime minister, Abadi hopes to convince a war-weary United States Iraq deserves more U.S. manpower and arms three years after U.S. troops withdrew from the country in December 2011, as his fledgling army confronts Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

“ISIS is everybody’s problem now,” said the senior Iraqi official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “You can’t run away from the problem if it comes to Canada or goes to France,” he said in reference to attacks by people influenced by Islamic State or al Qaeda in those countries.

The senior Iraqi official hinted Baghdad could turn to Tehran if it did not get the aid it wants from Washington.

“If that’s not available, we’ve already done it with the Iranians and others,” he said, saying that was not the first choice. “The PM is committed to the U.S. … What he also wants to make sure is that he has a partner that he can rely on.”

That makes two of us, Mr. Iraqi official. The Iraqi government has yet to show that they have any desire to include the Sunni Muslims in the national life of the country. There is a reason a lot of them are supporting Islamic State: Iraqi Shias are massacring them, stifling economic opportunity, shutting them out of government jobs, and not allowing them to rise through the ranks in Iraq’s security services.

I say let them go to Tehran for arms. The Iranians are already exerting tremendous influence on the government. They even control the half million Shia volunteer militias that make up the most reliable fighters in the Iraqi forces. No amount of U.S. aid will change the dynamic that Iran is going to dominate Iraq for the foreseeable future.

Why waste the money and arms on a country that might not even exist in a few months?

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Lerner Email Shows Attempt to Pressure IG Conclusions in IRS Targeting Scandal

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

About 5 months before former director of the IRS exempt division Lois Lerner casually let slip the revelation that her department had been targeting conservative organizations for special scrutiny, she sent an email to the inspector general investigating the matter, accusing the IG of being “too narrow” in their scope of the targeting investigation, claiming that she was just doing her job.

It is unusual for the subject of an investigation to plead their case so directly with the inspector general. But the email also shows that Lerner was well aware of the problems in her office with targeting and was looking for a break from the IG in reaching his conclusions.

Washington Examiner:

In an email on Jan. 31, 2013, Lerner encouraged Troy Patterson of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to back off of his investigators’ view that the tax agency was targeting political groups for excessive attention.

“We feel your folks are being too narrow in their view and have decided that because of the language on the earlier BOLO list regarding Tea Party, everything that followed was tainted. They seem to believe that if a case was initially sent to the advocacy group, but ultimately determined to be an approval, that our action in putting it into the advocacy group in the first place is incorrect, and illustrates ‘targeting,’” she said.

“BOLO” was the tax agency’s abbreviation for categories of nonprofit applicants to “be on the lookout” for as they were received.

Lerner continued in the email to Patterson, arguing that she was “willing to take the blame for not having provided sufficient direction initially, which may have resulted in front line staff doing things that appeared to be politically motivated, but I am not on board that anything that occurred here shows that the IRS was politically motivated in the actions taken.”

The email was made public Thursday by nonprofit government watchdog Judicial Watch, which obtained it via a Freedom of Information Act request. The email was among multiple documents the tax agency only provided after being ordered to do so by a federal judge.

The IRS had previously claimed all of Lerner’s emails were lost when her computer crashed and the hard drive was subsequently destroyed as a matter of routine practice by the agency’s information technology staff.

Another email released by Judicial Watch shows Lerner wanting a training program for employees of her division so that they could be “sensitive” to the fact that Congress might review what they were doing:

In another email made public Thursday by Judicial Watch, Lerner said she wanted a training program set up to teach underlings reviewing conservative and Tea Party non-profit tax exemption applications to be “sensitive” to “the fact that anything we write can be public — or at least be seen by Congress.”

In a Feb. 16, 2012, email to colleague Holly Paz, Lerner, who was then head of the federal tax agency’s exempt organizations division, said “we are all a bit concerned about the mention of specific Congress people, practitioners and political parties.”

Lerner suggested that Paz’s staff in the IRS Rulings and Agreements department “could put together some training points to help them understand the potential pitfalls, as well as how to think about referrals.”

Judicial Watch sums up the findings:

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the latest email disclosures “show that the IRS scandal is not over. These documents point to document gaps caused by the refusal of the Obama IRS to search for Lois Lerner’s emails. The incredible email from Lois Lerner admitting (and denying) culpability by her and the IRS in the scandal further undermines President Obama’s lie that the IRS scandal was entirely the fault of ‘bonehead decisions in local offices.’”

The more we read of Lerner emails, the less the bumbling bureaucrat she looks and the more the devious, duplicitous manager she becomes.

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Astounding Cave-in by Obama on Venezuela Threat

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

There’s been a  remarkable about-face by President Obama regarding the threat of Venezuela to the national security of the U.S..

Last month, the president issued an executive order imposing some mild sanctions on seven Venezuela officials who the U.S. says were responsible for the growing climate of human rights violations. The White House said of President Maduro’s crackdown on the opposition, “We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents./..Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent.”

In addition to the sanctions, the president declared a national emergency and referred to the Venezuelan regime as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United State.”

Sounds serious, right?

After President Maduro threw a tantrum against “American imperialism” and gathered 10 million names on a petition against the sanctions, President Obama backed down and, in an interview this week, said that “Venezuela is not a threat to the U.S. and the U.S. is not a threat to Venezuela.”

So much for the “national emergency.”

Maduro claimed “victory” — as well he should.

Fox News:

Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, is claiming “victory” after President Obama said in an interview earlier this week that “Venezuela is not a threat.”

Maduro is attributing Obama’s supposed change of stance to his initiative of gathering 10 million signatures protesting “U.S. imperialism.”

[...]

“This rectification of vocabulary means a lot and it was possible thanks to the help we received from other Latin American governments and the entire world,” Maduro said Thursday to a crowd gathered in front of the Miraflores Presidential Palace.

He said that Obama’s change of language could open a “new era” of relations between the U.S. and Venezuela.

It gets worse — or better if you’re Maduro. When some reporter timidly asked if the president’s statement represented something of a retreat from the language in the executive order (Jesus, what else could it be), a State Department spokesman referred to former Obama speechwriter, now foreign policy expert Ben Rhodes, who gave this incredible explanation earlier:

Asked whether the U.S. was walking back from its previous depiction of Venezuela as a national security threat, a State Department spokesman, Justen Thomas, referred to remarks by a deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes, at a press briefing this week in which he said: “The wording [of the executive order], which got a lot of attention, is completely pro forma. This is a language that we use in executive orders around the world. So the United States does not believe that Venezuela poses some threat to our national security. We, frankly, just have a framework for how we formalize these executive orders.”

By his side was Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, a willing signer of the petition that will be delivered this weekend to President Obama at the Summit of the Americas taking place in Panama City.

This is actually good news. Doesn’t this mean that the president’s executive orders on immigration are merely “pro-forma” and they don’t really mean what they say? What a relief. For a while we all thought the president was serious about tearing up the Constitution and doing an end run around Congress.

Obama reminds me of the punch-drunk boxer, cowering in the corner, covering up, as the champ pummels him with blow after blow after blow. It appears that his entire second term will be spent caving in to the thugs and evil fanatics of the world who have been largely kept in a box by presidents of both parties since the end of the cold war. They have been released now, free to run wild and dominate and bully their neighbors — with the president of the United States their chief enabler.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is the foreign policy that the most radical liberals have been wanting for 40 years: a humbled, apologetic United States, playing second fiddle to the United Nations, agreeing with every claim of “imperialism” made by every tin pot dictator in all the benighted cesspools of the world. Obama believes it’s time for the U.S. to be taught a lesson through humiliation. And school has just begun.

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Does the Nuclear Framework Deal with Iran Actually Exist?

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The framework agreement with Iran announced last week by the White House consisted of an outline memorandum of what the deal covered.

But there have been so many differences in interpretation between Iran and the U.S., that it makes you wonder if there’s any agreement at all.

The Hill:

Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s claim that the United States is “lying” about the terms of a framework nuclear agreement will not derail the negotiations, the White House said Friday.

“The test of whether or not that framework can be memorialized in a deal is not going to be a comment on any given day by a particular Iranian leader,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters.

Whether a final deal is reached will depend on the ability of negotiators from the U.S., Iran and five other world powers to produce a document by the end of June that “meets our core objectives of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Rhodes said.

Khamenei on Thursday accused the U.S. of publishing a fact sheet about the framework agreement that misrepresented what was agreed to, particularly on the pace of sanctions relief and inspections of nuclear sites.

The ayatollah’s comments raised concerns that the differences between Iran and other world powers would be too vast to reach a final deal by the June 30 deadline.

Republicans, meanwhile, have seized on his remarks to argue that the “framework” announced last week wasn’t really a deal at all.

“The Ayatollah and President Obama appear to be talking about two separate agreements and unfortunately, I can’t say I’m surprised,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is considering a run for president in 2016, said in a statement Friday.

“President Obama wants a deal way too badly, and his administration has been trying to sell a deal which may not actually exist,” he added.

Under the framework agreement, Iran would accept limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Iran has called for the sanctions to be removed upon the completion of a deal, but the U.S. and its negotiating partners want them lifted gradually as Iran proves it is abiding by the terms of an agreement.

Basically, Rhodes is saying only we can spin what the deal means, not the Iranians.

And it isn’t just that the two sides aren’t on the same page as far as what was negotiated in the framework deal. They are talking about two different deals — one with sanctions lifted immediately upon implementation and one where sanctions are lifted gradually. One where nuclear inspections are severe and complete and another where military sites are off limits to inspectors. One where the facility at Fordow is converted into a kind of nuclear school and another where research can continue and 1000 centrifuges can continue spinning.

And that’s just a few of the massive contradictions coming from both sides. In short, it looks like there was no agreement at all — that the two sides simply gave up and stopped negotiating so that the administration could run out in front of the TV cameras and claim an achievement that is all smoke and mirrors and not real in any sense of the word.

It takes a lot of cynicism to pull off this kind of diplomatic lie, as well as complete confidence that the press won’t make a big deal about it.  But it is a big deal. President Obama is going to negotiate a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that Congress won’t have the opportunity to vote up or down, where the UN Security Council will have the final say, where the ludicrous idea that sanctions, once lifted, can be “snapped back” into place if Iran cheats is pushed on a gullible public, and where the safety and security of the U.S. and our allies may be subject to differing interpretations of what has been negotiated.

Those who say opponents of the framework deal need to come up with an alternative are wrong. There is no deal — never was and never will be unless negotiators on our side cave in and agree that the Iranian interpretation of the framework agreement is correct. There is no way to reconcile what both sides are saying about the deal with reality. The agreement exists in Never-Never Land and with the administration more desperate to complete a deal rather than halt Iranian efforts to get the bomb, Captain Hook has a better chance of beating Peter Pan than the U.S. has of convincing Iran that its interpretation of the agreement is more than just spin.

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