» Rick Moran

The PJ Tatler

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
Follow Rick:

Marines Ready to Deploy F-35B Fighter

Saturday, August 1st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The most expensive weapons system in the history of the Pentagon is being deployed after 13 years of development.

The Marine Corps version of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35B, has been approved for combat and the first squadron of planes is now operational.

They are calling the F-35 a fifth generation fighter. But given how long it’s taken to bring to the flight line, it seems they may have skipped a generation or two.

The program has numerous critics who complain about everything from its cost to questions about its safety. No doubt, it’s expensive. The army version of the plane, the F-35A comes in at a relatively cheap $148 million per plane. The Marine’s F-35B skies to $251 million. And the Navy’s F-35C is costing the American taxpayer $337 million. Most versions of the F-18 Hornet, on the other hand, cost about $80 million each.

The Marine Corps announced Friday that the first squadron of 10 stealthy F-35B Joint Strike Fighters is ready for worldwide deployment.

The announcement marks a significant step in the largest weapons program in history. A total of nearly 2,500 planes are planned in three versions for the Marines, Navy and Air Force, and many foreign countries are buying the fifth-generation aircraft as well.

“The decision was made following a thorough operational readiness inspection, which assessed the Marine Corps’ ability to employ this complex weapon system in an operational environment,” said Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. “This achievement is a testament to the efforts of the F-35 joint program office and industry team, as well as the hard work and support from the Marine Corps.”

The Lockheed Martin-built F-35B, also known as the Lighting II, can take off vertically from assault carriers and fly at supersonic speed while its stealth design hides it from enemy radar. It will eventually replace the Marines’ AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet and the EA-6B Prowler.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 based in Yuma, AZ, is the first to be operational. Marine Corps Commandant Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said the squadron “is capable of conducting close air support, offensive and defensive counter air, air interdiction, assault support escort and armed reconnaissance as part of a Marine air-ground task force, or in support of the joint force.

“The F-35B’s ability to conduct operations from expeditionary airstrips or sea-based carriers provides our nation with its first fifth-generation strike fighter, which will transform the way we fight and win,” Dunford added.

The Pentagon plans to buy more than 2400 of these fighters, and American allies are lining up to purchase them. But its projected $1.4 trillion operating cost over the plane’s lifetime might cause some sticker shock.

Read bullet | Comments »

Huckabee’s Radical, Extremist Proposal on Abortion

Saturday, August 1st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s presidential ambitions all but ended yesterday when he made the radical, shocking proposal that he might use federal troops to halt abortions in America, despite Supreme Court rulings that they are legal.

At two separate stops in Iowa, Huckabee suggested that he would defy the Supreme Court and use federal troops or the FBI to stop abortions.

Topeka Capital-Journal:

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee indicated Thursday that if elected, he wouldn’t rule out employing federal troops or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stop abortion from taking place in the United States.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against bans on abortion, Huckabee said past presidents have defied Supreme Court rulings.

Jesse Choper, professor emeritus of public law at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, said in a phone interview Friday that Huckabee’s statement was “way off-base,” adding, “it does rival Donald Trump.”

“I think he’d better more carefully examine what he’s saying, because it is totally unprecedented,” Choper said Friday.

No matter how much the Supreme Court’s decisions over the years were disliked, Choper said, presidents did very little to fight them. He pointed to civil rights decisions of the 1950s as an example.

“It was simply noncompliance,” Choper said of previous presidential responses. “That’s very different than calling out the troops for abortion.”

Huckabee’s comments came at two public speaking stops on a tour of Iowa.

In response to a question from the audience at the Pizza Ranch in Jefferson, Iowa, Huckabee said he would “invoke the Fifth and 14th Amendments for the protection of every human being.”

Both amendments contain due process protections against depriving people of life without due process of law.

“Would that be a huge controversy?” the former Arkansas governor asked. “Yes.”

But he argued that scientific advancements have now verified that unborn babies are human beings — information he said wasn’t necessarily available when the Supreme Court issued its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

“I will not pretend there is nothing we can do to stop this,” Huckabee said at the event, where a Topeka Capital-Journal correspondent was present.

At his next stop, in Rockwell City, Huckabee answered follow-up questions from the correspondent, saying: “All American citizens should be protected.”

Asked by another reporter how he would stop abortion, and whether this would mean using the FBI or federal forces to accomplish this, Huckabee replied: “We’ll see, if I get to be president.”

He said he would use all resources available to protect U.S. citizens.

Huckabee said past presidents also have defied Supreme Court rulings. He cited Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, and said Lincoln had ignored the court’s 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision — which found that black Americans weren’t citizens — when he emancipated slaves. He didn’t clarify in what way Jefferson had violated any court rulings.

Huckabee’s radical proposal will resonate with those GOP voters who take the most extreme position on abortion. But for most Republicans — and a majority of Americans who may not support abortion on demand but favor limiting it — defying the Supreme Court and using federal troops or agents in American cities to enforce his diktat is going way too far.

Huckabee’s chances of being elected president have dropped to zero.

Read bullet | 9 Comments »

MSNBC’s Cancelled Alex Wagner’s Final Word an Expletive

Saturday, August 1st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Yeah, you stay classy you MSNBC hosts.

MSNBC announced on Thursday that three of their more incendiary liberal shows were being cancelled. “The Ed Show” with Ed Schults, “Now with Alex Wagner,” and “The Cycle” all had their final shows yesterday. “The Cycle” signed off with what might be termed a normal final production.

But Ed Schultz refused to show up for his final show, leaving substitute host Michael Eric Dyson to bid his 25,000 viewers a fond farewell.

First and perhaps most importantly, Ed Schultz wasn’t even present to give his final MSNBC farewell — due to “pre-existing scheduling conflicts,” MSNBC told us.

Instead Michael Eric Dyson guest-hosted the full hour and saved the goodbyes for a question to progressive journalist John Nichols: “What has The Ed Show meant for middle-class Americans over the past six years?”

“If this show wasn’t around, I think some fundamental issues — like trade policy — wouldn’t have been explored,” Nichols replied. At its nadir, The Ed Show only had 25k demo viewers watching.

“He’s a big fellow with an even bigger heart,” Dyson responded. “He’s given his life and devoted commitment to the causes of working-class and middle-class people. That’s something that’s pretty extraordinary.” Nichols added a few words about Schultz’s “courage,” noting that the host had made the humility to change his heart on issues like the Keystone XL pipeline.

“That’s the last Ed Show,” Dyson concluded. “Please follow my brother Ed at WeGotEd.com, goodnight.”

And Alex Wagner, with infantile pique, signed off with an barnyard expletive:

MSNBC’s Alex Wagner, in closing the final edition of her canceled liberal commentary program Now With Alex Wagner, said “Woo! Sh*t,” as the camera faded to black one last time.

It is unknown at this time why she did this.

Wagner finished the broadcast by thanking the behind-the-scenes crew of the show, inviting them on-set with her.

”For one last time, that is all for now,” she said, amidst applause. “The Ed Show is up next. We did it! Oh my God, that was massive. Woo! Sh*t.”

Yes, it’s against the rules to utter that word, even on cable. No doubt the FCC will fine the network for allowing such an immature display to go out live, over the air. And if the network has any balls, it would make Wagner pay it.

Read bullet | Comments »

Illegal Aliens Overwhelm French Port of Calais

Friday, July 31st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The situation in the French port town of Calais has gone from bad to worse as striking ferry workers have added to the problem of massive numbers of illegal aliens desperate to use the chunnel to reach England.

The ferry workers are protesting job cuts and have set hundreds of tires on fire to block the road leading to the passage under the English Channel. Meanwhile, thousands of illegal aliens, desperate to reach England, are easily evading the temporary security fence that was hastily put up and swarming on to trains and trucks headed under the channel.

It’s estimated that 6,000 trucks are lined up on the English side waiting to cross to France, but can’t because of the human tidal wave.

BBC:

David Cameron spoke to French President Francois Hollande on the telephone on Friday and said the pair had agreed to work to tackle illegal immigration.

The PM has warned the situation will be a “difficult issue” throughout summer.

There have been thousands of attempts by migrants to access the Eurotunnel terminal, affecting train services.

The crisis has led to major congestion on both sides of the Channel, with passenger services disrupted and 6,000 lorries parked in queues along the M20 in Kent as part of Operation Stack.

Ministers said they were considering setting up temporary lorry parks to ease the pressure on roads, but the Road Haulage Association said the measures were not enough.

And there were further problems in Calais on Friday when former MyFerryLink workers protesting against job cuts blocked road access to the port area by burning tyres.

On Friday evening, Downing Street said the prime minister and Mr Hollande had “both expressed concern about the immediate security challenges and reiterated their commitment to continue working closely together to tackle the problems”.

“Both leaders agreed on the need to work with Eurotunnel to monitor and secure the area and for respective ministers to continue discussions over the coming days to implement additional measures that could further improve the situation on the ground.”

Speaking earlier after he chaired a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee, Mr Cameron said the provision of extra French police at the Eurotunnel site had already had “some effect” on disruption.

British PM David Cameron has been viciously attacked for describing the swarm of humanity trying to invade his country as a “swarm.” Not much different on both sides of the Atlantic.

What the euro-press euphemistically refers to as a “migrant crisis” isn’t much different than the crisis we’re facing. At bottom, a lot of people don’t like where they’re living and want to move to a better neighborhood. It doesn’t matter what color they are, or what god they worship. What matters is that they have bypassed the laws and regulations set up to provide an orderly process for people to emigrate — something every nation on earth has a sovereign right to enforce.

 

Read bullet | Comments »

Will the Army of Internet Avengers Ever Get Outrage Fatigue?

Thursday, July 30th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Heather Wilhelm wrote a good piece on the “keyboard kops” who patrol the internet, waiting for the “Most Despicable Person in the World” to emerge. This week, it’s that Minnesota dentist who shot the pretty lion, and man — the solipsists of social media went berserk.

This week, Cecil’s story exploded, inciting batten-down-the-hatches outrage. Animal rights group PETA, for instance, declared that Dr. Palmer should be “extradited, charged, and preferably hanged” for killing such a beloved creature. In a heated op-ed, former CNN host Piers Morgan proposed a new sport, “Big Human Hunting,” in which he would kill Dr. Palmer with a crossbow, torture him, and skin him alive, which sounds normal if you just had a brain transplant from, say, Jeffrey Dahmer.

Actress Debra Messing argued for revoking Dr. Palmer’s citizenship; Sharon Osborne, who is married to a man who once bit the head off a bat, called for the eradication of Palmer’s home, business, and money. On Tuesday night, an emotional Jimmy Kimmel questioned Dr. Palmer’s erectile abilities before a chortling television audience, called him “vomitous” and “the most hated man in America who never advertised Jell-O pudding on television,” and then helpfully noted that we probably shouldn’t “start a witch hunt for the guy.” Oh. Okay. We’ll just ignore those first parts, broadcast to millions!

Dr. Palmer, meanwhile, is in hiding. His business is closed, piled with threats and hate mail. Cecil’s killing, the embattled dentist declared in a statement, was a terrible mistake: “I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.” This may or may not be true; Dr. Palmer may or may not be an unsavory and unethical character. It’s a sad situation; we’ll have to wait and see. One thing, however, seems indisputable: The world is, as is its eternal wont—and here I shall quote an eminent showbiz bat-biter—going off the rails on a crazy train.

Paying $54,000 to kill a wild, beautiful animal seems like a strange and questionable hobby at best; at worst, it seems downright cruel. On the other hand, some conservationists applaud the practice, at least when it’s done legally. What’s telling, however, is that the great Cecil conflagration of 2015 occurred on the same day undercover operatives released the third in a series of graphic, disturbing Planned Parenthood videos. This video, unlike the former two, featured body parts. Tiny body parts. Detailed, well formed, and unmistakably human.

But never mind. Let’s talk about Cecil, a lion that has emerged as a benevolent, finely sketched cartoon creature in the global moral imagination, setting our hyperactive but wildly misfiring outrage meter into a wild, chaotic spin.

I don’t buy into the theory that Cecil is a manufactured distraction to pull people’s attention away from the Planned Parenthood videos — just a sad coincidence. But given the ideological proclivities of most internet hooligans, they wouldn’t have become outraged at Planned Parenthood anyway. If it hadn’t been Cecil, it would have been something else making the bile rise in their throats.

That said, how much longer can they keep this up? Each succeeding search-and-destroy mission is more vicious, more over the top than the previous one. Each new target’s demolition more spectacular than the last.

To the normal eye, they’ve already become parodies of themselves. I mean, really now. PETA’s suggestion that Palmer be hanged, and the numerous wild, bloodcurdling death threats — these would be humorous if you didn’t know that it is exactly the end result desired by this scum of what should happen to Dr. Palmer.

Eventually, many of them may wander off, their ant brains focused on something else. Many will no doubt succumb to outrage fatigue. Even the most committed activists burn out over a period of time.

Perhaps we’ll learn to ignore them, or tune them out. It’s possible a counter-army will be raised to do battle on more equal terms. Of this I am certain: these ad-hoc campaigns of personal destruction are not going away anytime soon, and they are likely to become more organized and more vicious.

Read bullet | Comments »

University Language Guide Says Not to Use the Word ‘American’

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

I had a revelatory moment when reading this story. Someone was actually paid to write this “language guide” that recommends not using certain words because they aren’t “inclusive” enough, or don’t reflect “diversity.” Someone sat around dreaming up reasons why some words that were historically innocuous, or even generated pride, had suddenly become objectionable.

What kind of loon would apply for a job like that?

No matter. The University of New Hampshire’s “Bias Free Language Guide” reinforces the notion that the elites at our universities have gone stark, raving mad, with the promise that their insanity will only get worse.

Campus Reform:

“American,” “illegal alien,” “foreigners,” “mothering,” and “fathering” are just a handful of words deemed “problematic” by the University of New Hampshire’s Bias-Free Language Guide.

According to the university’s website, the guide “is meant to invite inclusive excellence in [the] campus community.”

Terms also considered problematic include: “elders,” “senior citizen,” “overweight,” “speech impediment,” “dumb,” “sexual preference,” “manpower,” “freshmen,” “mailman,” and “chairman,” in addition to many others.

The guide defines words such as “homosexual” as “problematic,” offering “Same Gender Loving” as a more inclusive substitute. Similarly, a lack of gender-neutral bathrooms is, according to the university, “ciscentrism.”

The university defines “ciscentrism” as “[a] pervasive and institutionalized system that places transgender people in the ‘other’ category and treats their needs and identities as less important than those of cisgender people.”

“Ciscentrism,” according to the university, “includes the lack of gender-neutral restrooms, locker rooms, and residences.”

Saying “American” to reference Americans is also problematic. The guide encourages the use of the more inclusive substitutes “U.S. citizen” or “Resident of the U.S.”

The guide notes that “American” is problematic because it “assumes the U.S. is the only country inside [the continents of North and South America].” (The guide doesn’t address whether or not the terms “Canadians” and “Mexicans” should be abandoned in favor of “Residents of Canada” and “Residents of Mexico,” respectively.)

The guide clarifies that saying “illegal alien” is also problematic. While “undocumented immigrant” is acceptable, the guide recommends saying “person seeking asylum,” or “refugee,” instead. Even saying “foreigners” is problematic; the preferred term is “international people.”

Using the word “Caucasian” is considered problematic as well, and should be discontinued in favor of “European-American individuals.” The guide also states that the notion of race is “a social construct…that was designed to maintain slavery.”

The guide also discourages the use of “mothering” or “fathering,” so as to “avoid gendering a non-gendered activity.”

Even saying the word “healthy” is problematic, the university says. The “preferred term for people without disabilities,” the university says, is “non-disabled.” Similarly, saying “handicapped” or “physically-challenged” is also problematic. Instead, the university wants people to use the more inclusive “wheelchair user,” or “person who is wheelchair mobile.”

Using the words “rich” or “poor” is also frowned upon. Instead of saying “rich,” the university encourages people to say “person of material wealth.” Rather than saying a person is “poor,” the university encourages its members to substitute “person who lacks advantages that others have” or “low economic status related to a person’s education, occupation and income.”

Creating an entirely new vocabulary that makes communication far more difficult than it need be just to assuage the supposed “offended” feelings of anyone except white male Christians would be hysterically funny — if the authors had any sort of a sense of humor.

But they don’t. They live their lives examining language under a microscope, burrowing ever deeper into meaning and intent, looking for microagressions and transgressions against their rigid, formulaic codes of speech, while slaying imaginary dragons of racism, sexism, and all the other evil “isms” out there.

If there goal is to make it impossible to have a rational discussion about anything, they are almost there.

Read bullet | 74 Comments »

Huckabee: Obama Marching Israel to the ‘Door of the Oven’

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The also-rans in the GOP presidential nomination fight are getting a little desperate. Donald Trump is not only grabbing all the headlines and airtime, he’s also sucking the air out of the race, starving all but two or three top candidates.

The rest of the pack have taken to trying to be outrageous as possible to attract a little attention. But Mike Huckabee took “outrageous” to another level by accusing the president of marching Israel to the “door of the oven” by signing the Iran deal.

The agreement is horrible, dangerous, naive, and a colossal blunder of epic proportions. But equating it with the Holocaust is wrong.

CNN:

“This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven,” Huckabee said.

He continued: “This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal. It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people. I read the whole deal. We gave away the whole store. It’s got to be stopped.”

Asked to elaborate on Huckabee’s “door of the oven” remark, campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart told CNN that “the comment speaks for itself.”

Yes it does — badly. If there’s one thing that “Never again” means to Jews it is that the next time, they will not go meekly into the “showers” to be deloused. Israel has its own nuclear weapons and almost certainly has a first-strike doctrine, given that it would only take one nuke from Iran to virtually destroy the New Jersey-sized nation. Huckabee insults the Jews and mars the memory of the Holocaust by making this ridiculous, incendiary comment.

Nor is it proper to equate any American with Nazis. Only back bench, low life louts like Rep. Alan Grayson compare any of their fellow Americans to national socialists. Many in Grayson’s own party called him out for it — rightly.

Huckabee is desperate for attention but this is the wrong way of going about getting it.

Read bullet | 29 Comments »

‘Jihadi John’ Flees Kinder, Gentler Islamic State

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

You may have heard that the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, reportedly issued a decree banning the release of videos showing the grotesque executions the group has become famous for. While some experts question whether the reports are true (I guess we’ll find out soon), it might explain an Arab news report that the most prominent personality among the executioners — “Jihadi John” — is on the run and in hiding, fearing for his life.

Fox News:

“Jihadi John” – wanted for the beheading murders of Americans and others seen on video – has left the terrorist group ISIS, reportedly fearing attacks from the U.S.-led coalition and jealous jihadists within the Islamic State.

ISIS would drop him “like a stone or worse if they feel he is no longer of any use to them,” a source told the Daily Express. “So it is possible he will end up suffering the same fate as his victims.”

Jihadi John, identified as Mohammed Emwazi, who was born in Kuwait and raised in Britain, is the infamous covered face seen in numerous ISIS videos depicting the beheadings of British and American hostages. The 26-year-old, whose first ISIS video appearance was in August 2014, is typically dressed with a black wrap covering his entire face, with only his eyes peeking through. But the Islamist was unmasked by The Washington Post and the BBC in February, a development that reportedly spurred Emwazi to flee.

He’s wanted by the U.S.-led coalition for the murders of journalists Stephen Sotloff and James Foley and aid workers David Haines, Alan Henning and Peter Kassig. Emwazi reportedly also believes he could be a target for fellow ISIS members who are envious of his notoriety, according to the Express.

If ISIS is not going to release any more execution videos, they don’t need John’s theatrical histrionics. Any old schlub can cut off a prisoner’s head, which probably made Jihadi John expendable.

That’s some major league schadenfreude — the hunter becomes the hunted. Sociopaths like John only thrive in dysfunctional environments like a terrorist outfit (maybe the Democratic Party too), so he probably isn’t trying to settle down somewhere, take a few wives, and start a farm. More likely, he will join up with another terrorist group and continue his murderous ways.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and find his hiding place. Rather than dronify him, we should slip word to the Islamic State of his location. Somehow, I imagine their method of punishment falls outside the norms of civilized behavior — which would be a fitting end for this animal.

Read bullet | Comments »

Story of Dead Man Found in Car Who Owned 1200 Guns Gets Really Weird

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The mystery surrounding a man found dead and decomposing in a car in an upscale area of Los Angeles just got incredibly weird.

Jeffrey Alan Lash lived in Pacific Pallisades with his longtime girlfriend Catherine Nebron. After his body was found down the street from his townhome, authorities searched his residence and found more than 1200 guns, 6.5 tons of ammunition, and $230,000 in cash.

Later investigation revealed that Lash owned 14 vehicles, stored around the Los Angeles area, including an SUV that, James Bond-like, was designed to drive underwater.

You think that’s bizarre?

Veteran defense attorney Harland Braun represents the man’s fiancee Catherine Nebron and identified him as Jeffrey Alan Lash.

That’s also the name authorities are working with and they’re in touch with a relative to try to officially identify the body, said Craig Harvey, the coroner’s chief of investigations.

Lash and Nebron were together for 17 years and she believed him when he told her that he worked as an undercover operative for unnamed government agencies, Braun said Wednesday.

“The story itself sounds totally crazy but then how do you explain all this?” Braun said. “There’s no evidence he was a drug dealer or he stole these weapons, or had any criminal source of income, no stolen property, all the stuff you’d look for.”

There’s no indication the man was doing anything illegal with the weapons, LAPD Deputy Chief of Detectives Kirk Albanese said. Detectives were reviewing everything, but so far the guns appeared to be registered to him. Many were still in boxes or had price tags.

Braun said Nebron and two friends were in a car at a supermarket early July 4, when Lash felt hot and had trouble breathing.

“He wouldn’t go to a hospital and didn’t want any 911 call,” Braun said. When he died, Nebron parked him in a car down the street from the condo they shared, the lawyer said.

Authorities don’t believe there was any foul play involved, but won’t give a cause until there is more investigation.

Lash told Nebron the government agencies would take care of his body and the items in the home.

“He knew he was dying, he had been dying for a year, so he told her: ‘The body will be taken care of by my people … ‘ ” according to Braun.

Meanwhile, Nebron took off on a road trip to Oregon with a woman, Dawn VadBunker, whose family reporter he missing a couple weeks ago. Police have confirmed VadBunker was found in Oregon and is safe.

When Nebron returned 10 days after leaving for her trip she was shocked to still see Lash’s body in the car.

Nebron called the lawyer. who then contacted police.

Read bullet | 64 Comments »

Putin Fires 110,000 Interior Ministry Employees

Saturday, July 25th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

With the Russian economy on the skids, Vladimir Putin took the draconian step of firing 10% of employees at Russia’s interior ministry.

That works out to 110,000 workers. However, most experts believe the austerity measure will serve only to send the economy into a deeper tailspin.

International Business Times:

In a massive austerity move, Russian President Vladimir Putin has removed about 110,000employees from their jobs in the Ministry of Interior.

Last week, the President had signed an agreement to cut the workforce of the ministry to 10 percent, CNN Money reported.

The Russian economy contracted by 2.2 percent in the first quarter of the calendar year 2015.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) to shrink by 3.8 percent this year. The agency projects its GDP to decline by over 1 percent next year.

The Russian government is planning to reduce its spending by nearly 10 percent to revive the economy. But analysts believe that the government’s latest austerity measures will result in further deterioration in the economy.

Russia is currently facing its worst economic crisis in years due to falling crude oil prices and sanctions imposed by the Western countries for Putin’s role in Ukrainian crisis.

International crude oil prices have halved in the past one year owing to oversupply concerns. The slump in oil prices has hit the Russian economy hard, as oil remains a significant contributor to the country’s exports.

The unemployment rate in the country rose to 5.4 percent in June compared to 4.8 percent in the same month last year.

After cutting his salary by 10 percent in March, Putin has asked all the government agencies excluding the Defense Department to cut their expenditure.

The Russian rouble has depreciated about 40 percent against the US dollar, fuelling the inflation rate in the country to over 15 percent.

Foreign investment has dropped to near zero in Russia due to the sanctions. That, and the bottom falling out of the oil market has led to large budget deficits, which are further exacerbated by inflation.

But a contracting economy is not going to dissuade Putin from ending his foreign adventures. In fact, if things get much worse, Putin may be tempted to take a page out of the authoritarian playbook going back decades and engineer a war to distract the populace.

While nearly unthinkable, recent provocations by the Russian president suggest he is probing, testing the resolve of the US and NATO. To what purpose, no one knows.

Read bullet | Comments »

Some ‘Veterans for Trump’ Listed on Website Deny Involvement

Saturday, July 25th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The ultra-left Guardian is stirring up trouble for Donald Trump. The newspaper contacted several U.S. veterans listed as members of “Veterans for Trump” on the candidate’s website and discovered at least three had no clue they were supposed to be supporting him.

A number of people were named as members of “Veterans for Trump” on Trump’s election website. “These veterans have pledged their support to Mr Trump in the primary, and they will be advocating for him,” a press release said.

But when the Guardian contacted several claimed Veterans for Trump members on Friday, three said they had never heard of the organisation and had not signed up as members.

“I don’t know anything about it,” said Ernie Fusi, an 88-year-old second world war veteran from Atkinson, New Hampshire. His name was among 51 “Veterans for Trump” whose details were sent out to the media and listed on Trump’s website.

“I haven’t told anyone I want to get in on that,” Fusi said. “I’m not going to do any campaigning.”

On Saturday, the Trump campaign disputed the accounts of those interviewed by the Guardian.

In an email, a spokeswoman said: “The campaign has written confirmation of support from each of the individuals listed as part of the New Hampshire Veterans Coalition, including those quoted in this story. We are extremely proud to have their support.”

[...]

Donald Richards, a veteran based in Laconia, New Hampshire, was also named on the list of Veterans for Trump members along with his wife, Connie Richards. He said neither had signed up for the group.

“I’m not a member of the campaign, no,” he said. “I have no connection any more than anybody else does to him.”

Richards said he had neither pledged his support to Trump in the primary – as Trump’s campaign had claimed – nor would he be “advocating” for the presidential hopeful.

“I’m not walking around with a sign saying ‘I’m voting for Trump’,” he said. “I’m not doing that. I’m just a regular citizen who hasn’t made up his mind yet who I’m voting for.”

So, what gives? This kind of thing actually happens more than you might suspect. People will sign all sorts of things and then forget that they had done so. This is especially true of activists, who have their fingers in a lot of different pies.

But in Trump’s case, it is right to question not only the makeup of the veterans organization, but the campaign’s denial that there are any ghost members.

The Trump campaign used a consulting company to hire dozens of actors to cheer at Trump’s announcement speech. There’s nothing wrong with this, except the campaign denied they did so. The Hollywood Reporter then released the email sent to casting agents proving the Trump campaign a liar.

So we shouldn’t put it past the campaign to pad the list of Veterans for Trump with people who didn’t know their names were being used. Was this a small transgression against authenticity?

Or a disturbing pattern emerging regarding the candidate’s cavalier attitude toward the truth?

Read bullet | 13 Comments »

Houston ‘Bathroom Law’ Flushed by Texas Supreme Court

Saturday, July 25th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that Houston violated its own city charter by failing to put its controversial “bathroom law” on the ballot. The court suspended the law and gave the city 30 days to either repeal it or schedule a ballot initiative to approve it.

The law gave transgendered people the right to use the bathroom of their choice, while adding “gender identity” to the city’s equal rights law.

The issue surrounds a petition drive by churches and conservative groups to put the law to the voters. Although the proper number of signatures was gathered, the city attorney ruled that 16,000 of the more than 17,000 signatures were invalid. The city secretary, on the other hand, ruled the signatures were sufficient for a vote.

The court ruled the city attorney had no right to interfere in the process. This is the same city attorney’s office that subpoenaed the sermons and other documents of 5 pastors from Christian churches who opposed the law. The order for the sermons was eventually withdrawn under a nationwide public outcry.

Washington Times:

“Today’s decision by the Texas Supreme Court appropriately returns jurisdiction over this matter to voters while reassuring the people of Houston that their personal values remain beyond the reach of government,” said the Republican governor in a statement.

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which defended the pastors, said Friday that the court “has rightly rectified this wrong.”

“Public officials should not be allowed to run roughshod over the right of the people to decide these types of issues, especially when the citizens of Houston clearly met all the qualifications for having their voice heard,” Mr. Stanley said in a statement.

“The subpoenas we successfully fought were only one element of this disgraceful abuse of power,” he said. “The scandal began when the city arbitrarily threw out the valid signatures of thousands of voters. The city did this all because it was bent on pushing through its deeply unpopular ordinance at any cost.”

The city secretary certified the signatures on July 3, 2014, saying that the petitioners had turned in 17,846 valid signatures, exceeding the required 17,269, the Houston city attorney stepped in and declared invalid more than 16,000 signatures.

The court ruled that the city attorney had no official role in the process, which by charter requires the city council to overturn the ordinance or place it on the ballot after the city secretary has certified the signatures.

“The Charter requires the City Secretary to ‘certify’ her findings, and the only findings she expressly certified were her own,” said the court decision. “The City Attorney may, no doubt, give legal advice to the City Secretary, but he cannot assume her duties.”

At that point, the council should have either repealed the ordinance or placed it on the ballot, “[y]et the City Council decided, of its own accord, not to act, disregarding the City Secretary’s certification that the petition had enough signatures,” the opinion states.

“The Charter, however, gives the City Council no discretion to reevaluate the petition; instead, it requires ‘immediate’ action by the City Council following the City Secretary’s certification,” said the court. “To give authority to the council to make the ultimate determination of sufficiency of the petition would commit the decision to a body that could not be considered impartial.”

At first, Houston’s openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, supported the subpoena demanding copies of sermons delivered in church, but later backed down under severe pressure from Austin and the rest of the country. It’s not the first time we’ve seen liberals use the power of subpoena to undermine the Constitution and its protections of free speech and freedom of religion. The recent “John Doe” investigations in Wisconsin were even more draconian in their intent to intimidate and silence the political opposition.

If, as expected, Houston places the measure on the ballot in November, the issue will roil the mayoral election. Parker is prevented from running by term limits, but the opportunity for a conservative to run on repeal of the law, generating a huge turnout of conservatives, probably bodes well for the law’s demise.

Read bullet | 14 Comments »

Hey Seattle! How’s that $15 an Hour Minimum Wage Law Working Out for Ya?

Saturday, July 25th, 2015 - by Rick Moran
minimum wage increase

a katz / Shutterstock.com

The first phase-in of Seattle’s $15 an hour minimum wage has been in effect for a little more than 3 months and there are already signs of trouble.

The wage, to be phased in over several years, is needed, say proponents, because so many workers who have full-time jobs are on public assistance.

Many companies raised their employees’ wages beyond the $11 an hour mandated by the law, which has led to some curious results. Employees are begging their bosses to cut their hours so they can keep their food stamps, housing assistance, and other welfare benefits.

Yes, really.

Fox News:

Evidence is surfacing that some workers are asking their bosses for fewer hours as their wages rise – in a bid to keep overall income down so they don’t lose public subsidies for things like food, child care and rent.

Full Life Care, a home nursing nonprofit, told KIRO-TV in Seattle that several workers want to work less.

“If they cut down their hours to stay on those subsidies because the $15 per hour minimum wage didn’t actually help get them out of poverty, all you’ve done is put a burden on the business and given false hope to a lot of people,” said Jason Rantz, host of the Jason Rantz show on 97.3 KIRO-FM.

The twist is just one apparent side effect of the controversial — yet trendsetting — minimum wage law in Seattle, which is being copied in several other cities despite concerns over prices rising and businesses struggling to keep up.

The notion that employees are intentionally working less to preserve their welfare has been a hot topic on talk radio. While the claims are difficult to track, state stats indeed suggest few are moving off welfare programs under the new wage.

Despite a booming economy throughout western Washington, the state’s welfare caseload has dropped very little since the higher wage phase began in Seattle in April. In March 130,851 people were enrolled in the Basic Food program. In April, the caseload dropped to 130,376.

At the same time, prices appear to be going up on just about everything.

Some restaurants have tacked on a 15 percent surcharge to cover the higher wages. And some managers are no longer encouraging customers to tip, leading to a redistribution of income. Workers in the back of the kitchen, such as dishwashers and cooks, are getting paid more, but servers who rely on tips are seeing a pay cut.

Some long-time Seattle restaurants have closed altogether, though none of the owners publicly blamed the minimum wage law.

“It’s what happens when the government imposes a restriction on the labor market that normally wouldn’t be there, and marginal businesses get hit the hardest, and usually those are small, neighborhood businesses,” said Paul Guppy, of the Washington Policy Center.

The law of unintended consequences is a bitch, ain’t it?

Read bullet | 73 Comments »

Connecticut Dems Drop Jefferson, Jackson Names from Fundraising Dinner

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

News that the Connecticut Democratic Party has dropped the names “Jefferson” and “Jackson” from their annual fundraising dinner is being greeted by incredulity from many historians.

The decision immediately drew criticism from some historians as a politically correct overstep, including Robert Turner, a law professor at the University of Virginia, which was founded by Jefferson.

“It is a sad and short-sighted decision based upon tragic ignorance,” said Turner, who has written extensively about Jefferson’s legacy.

This December will mark the 150th anniversary of the enactment of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which abolished slavery.

“The authors of that amendment purposely chose language drafted by Jefferson in an unsuccessful effort to outlaw slavery in the Northwest Territories as a means of honoring Jefferson’s struggle against slavery,” Turner said.

“If (Democrats) understood Jefferson’s lifelong opposition to slavery, they would have reached a different conclusion.”

The NAACP is pleased to make Democrats in Connecticut grovel:

Scot X. Esdaile, the head of Connecticut’s NAACP, said it was high time for Democrats to rebrand the event.

“I would applaud the current leaders in Connecticut in making the symbolic first step and striving to right the wrongs of the past,” Esdaile said.

“You can’t right all the wrongs, but I think it’s a symbolic gesture of our support for their party.”

Apparently, Missouri Democrats dropped Jefferson-Jackson last week:

The Connecticut Democratic Party on Wednesday voted to change the name of its Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinner (the Bailey name honors a Connecticut Democrat) after the local NAACP raised concerns about the name, the Connecticut Post reported. Last week, Missouri Democrats voted to change the name of their Jefferson-Jackson dinner to the Harry S. Truman dinner in a nod to the only U.S. president to hail from that state, according to St. Louis Public Radio.

The changes come as Louisiana Democrats prepare to hold their Jefferson-Jackson dinner in New Orleans on July 25, which is being headlined by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. There’s no indication that Democrats have moved to change the name of that dinner — it’s still referred to as either “J-J” or “Jefferson-Jackson” on event websites and the Louisiana Democrats’ website.

But given the movements nationwide and locally to take down Confederate symbols and statues of Confederate Civil War figures, it’s hard to imagine the dinner’s name won’t be a topic of discussion among Democrats this weekend. The party’s leaders did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

I am suffering from outrage fatigue. America’s past — warts and all — is under unprecedented assault and it’s getting harder and harder to get worked up when people act like mini-Stalins and try to whitewash our history.

It’s ironic that the kind of freedom that both Jefferson and Jackson worked for all their lives — putting the individual before the state — is being deliberately undermined by a party that celebrated their names.

Yes, Democrats should take the names Jefferson and Jackson off anything that honors the party. But not because they were slaveholders or killed Native Americans. They should do so because they are unworthy of their legacy of liberty. Those who would subsume the rights of individuals for the “greater good” of the collective aren’t fit to polish the commode of either man.

Read bullet | 30 Comments »

Immigration Agency: New Citizens No Longer Need to Pledge to Bear Arms to Defend the United States

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Another scathingly brilliant idea from the president’s minions — this one, a real winner.

All new citizens take the oath of allegiance upon becoming naturalized Americans:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

The oath has been unchanged since 1929, and such oaths have been required upon naturalization since at least 1795.

But in looking around for more “transformations” of America that can be effected, Obama’s busy-bee bureaucrats found the oath of allegiance a perfect target.

So the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said on Thursday that it would no longer require new citizens to pledge that they will “bear arms on behalf of the United States” or “perform noncombatant service” in the armed forces as part of the naturalization process.

Washington Examiner:

Those lines are in the Oath of Allegiance that people recite as they become U.S. citizens. But USCIS said people “may” be able to exclude those phrases for reasons related to religion or if they have a conscientious objection.

USCIS said people with certain religious training or with a “deeply held moral or ethical code” may not have to say the phrases as they are naturalized.

The agency said people don’t have to belong to a specific church or religion to use this exemption, and may attest to U.S. officials administering the oath that they have these beliefs.

USCIS said it would take “feedback” on this policy change through August 4, 2015.

A big deal? In the large scheme of things, probably not. But as a metaphor for the Obama administration, you can’t find a better example.

“It’s not broke, but fix it anyway” should be their slogan. The financial industry’s hubris and swashbuckling business practices of questionable legality led to the credit meltdown of 2008. Their solution? Saddle consumers with a gigantic new intrusive federal agency — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — that makes it harder to get loans and puts financial managers in the cross hairs, while sidling up to the big banks and making sure they are too big to fail. More modest reforms, while making sure the big banks didn’t have a taxpayer “Get out of Bankruptcy” card to play, was what was needed.

Read bullet | 18 Comments »

Neener, Neener…Juvenile Trump Gives out Lindsey Graham’s Cell Phone Number

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Donald Trump continued to accelerate the implosion of his campaign today, as he engaged in the kind of behavior you might call out your 14-year-old son for.

After fellow candidate for president Lindsey Graham began the high school hijinks by calling him a “jackass,” Trump, like any adolescent, fired back with his own juvenile epithets and then went Graham one better and gave out his personal cell number.

Politico:

Trump began his rambling diatribe by calling Graham a “lightweight” and an “idiot.”

“He doesn’t seem like a very bright guy. He actually probably seems to me not as bright as Rick Perry. I think Rick Perry probably is smarter than Lindsey Graham,” Trump added, riffing on prior insults he had lobbed at the former Texas governor.

Then Trump transitioned to an embarrassing anecdote, which the billionaire real estate developer said was from a few years ago, in which Graham called Trump “begging” him for a good reference with Trump’s pals on the Fox News morning program “Fox & Friends.”

Trump said that he promised Graham he would put out a good word, and the South Carolina Republican then gave him his phone number to follow up.

Trump then read out what he said was Graham’s phone number, telling his supporters to “try it.”

“I wonder what caused that,” Graham told a POLITICO reporter who dialed the number, about the influx of calls.

“When it comes to the Donald, nothing surprises me anymore. It’s just too bad, really,” he said, adding that Trump is taking away from a discussion on the Iran deal and more substantive policy issues.

The biggest beneficiaries of Trump’s antics, Graham added, are President Barack Obama and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

The feud between Graham and Trump has escalated in recent days, especially as the South Carolina Republican has ripped into Trump for saying that Graham’s good friend, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is not a war hero because he was captured.

On Monday evening, Graham told CNN that Trump was “becoming a jackass.”

By Tuesday, Graham was appearing on “CBS This Morning” and calling Trump “the world’s biggest jackass.” Even “the jackasses are offended” by Trump’s remarks, Graham added.

Trump seems obsessed with the intelligence of the candidates, suggesting he is insecure about his own intellectual chops. Is he just too stupid to understand policy? He certainly doesn’t talk like he even has a passing familiarity with the vital issues facing the country.

Yeah, but when it comes to name calling, he’s a fricking George Washington.

Read bullet | 44 Comments »

Smithsonian Turns to Crowdfunding to Preserve Neil Armstrong’s Space Suit

Monday, July 20th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Forty Six Years ago today, Apollo 11 landed on the moon, fulfilling President Kennedy’s pledge to land a man on the moon and return him to earth by the end of the 1960′s.

After the mission was over, NASA donated many of the artifacts from Apollo 11 to the Smithsonian, including Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit he used to become the first human to walk on the moon. Now, even though the suit is stored in a climate controlled facility, it is beginning to fall apart. In order to save it, the Smithsonian has turned to Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website, to raise at least $500,000 over the next 30 days to “build a climate-controlled display case and digitize the spacesuit with 3D scanning.” The goal is to ready the suit for permanent display by July 20, 2019 — the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

Why Kickstarter?

Kickstarter gives a wide audience the chance to be a part of this project. We’re inviting you to go behind the scenes and be a part of the process – from fundraising through conservation to display. All backers will receive regular updates on the process and can follow along each step of the way.

The Armstrong suit restoration project is the first of several efforts at crowdfunding with Kickstarter that the Smithsonian will undertake.

Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit – like most of the spacesuits in the Museum’s collection – is currently being stored in a climate-controlled collections storage area that is not accessible to the public.

You may be surprised to learn that spacesuits are among the most fragile artifacts in the Museum’s collection. The Apollo suits were made to take astronauts to the Moon and back safely — not to last hundreds of years in a museum.

To provide public display and access, Armstrong’s spacesuit requires conservation to stop current deterioration and a state-of-the-art display case that will mimic the climate-controlled environment where it is currently being safeguarded.

Will the suit look dramatically different when the project is complete? Not to the naked eye. Conservation is the process of documenting, stabilizing and protecting an artifact, not modifying it to make it “like new.”

So why does it take so long? We’re allowing plenty of time to get this right.The research and documentation we do now will literally write the book on the proper techniques for spacesuit conservation for every suit in our collection. Along the way, we’ll be consulting with those who contributed to making the suit and its materials, those who cared for it during the Apollo program, and materials experts throughout the world. Research, meetings, and mastering new techniques take time.

As we complete this research, we’ll be using state-of-the-art techniques in 3D scanning, photogrammetry, chemical analysis, CT scanning, and other means available to create a detailed map of the suit that will document its condition in the most complete way possible. This work will inform a condition assessment that will help us create the appropriate environment for public display while preserving the suit in its current condition.

The Smithsonian receives federal funding, but only for its “core” functions, so it makes sense to turn to crowdfunding for these sorts of special projects.

Less than a day into the Kickstarter effort, more than $100,000 of the $500,000 goal has been raised. That bodes well for future Smithsonian-Kickstarter collaborations that will seek to preserve the American heritage we all share.

Read bullet | Comments »

Video: Watch as Liberals Eagerly Sign Petition Promoting ‘White Privilege Tax’ on White People

Monday, July 20th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

This is both hysterically funny and frightening at the same time. Mike Dice, the merry trickster whose videos expose liberal stupidity (his most recent “petition” was to tear down Mount Rushmore for being “racist”), hit the jackpot with liberals signing on to promote a 1% “White Privilege Tax” on white people.

Asked to sign the petition to support a 1% income tax on all white Americans in order to “even out the playing field” and redistribute the wealth amongst minority communities, the first man in the clip is incredulous that such a policy would pass but signs his name to it anyway.

After a Puerto Rican man signs the petition, another individual who admits he is a non resident asks for clarification, remarking, “so in other words, tax the white man?” before signing the paper.

“We’re gonna take the silver spoon out of the white people’s mouths and put it back into yours,” Dice tells an African American man who enthusiastically signs the petition before stating, “appreciate it, man!”

A man wearing sunglasses then seems even more keen to support the white privilege tax, telling Dice, “You’re the kind of white dude I like, thank you…white dudes that promote this kind of stuff are aware of the white privilege.”

“Honestly, that’s awesome!” the man enthuses after signing the petition.

Thankfully, a number of individuals refused to sign the petition, realizing that fighting racism by instituting racist policies was a dumb idea.

The timing of the stunt is appropriate given recent revelations of a new government program that isn’t a million miles away from the notion of a white privilege tax.

Liberals just aren’t happy unless they’re inflicting pain on someone else — preferably their political enemies, or a target of their righteous wrath.

What makes this particular petition work as a spoof is that a white privilege tax would be a logical outgrowth of the privilege movement — as would internment camps for wrong-thinking whites, and perhaps even a gulag for those who are too stubborn for “re-education.” This is what the Soviets thought, believing they were doing political opponents a favor by showing them the true light of a communist Utopia.

On the other hand…let’s not give the social justice warriors any ideas.

Read bullet | 27 Comments »

US Negotiator: ‘Virtually Impossible’ for Iran to Hide Nuclear Activity

Sunday, July 19th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

One of the administration’s top negotiators involved in the Iran nuclear agreement told Fox News that it would be “virtually impossible” for Iran to conduct any nuclear activity without the US knowing about it.

The Hill:

Under the agreement, it will be “virtually impossible” for Iran to cover up nuclear activity, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says.

“We are better off forever in terms of Iranian nuclear activity under this agreement than we would be without it,” Moniz told “Fox News Sunday.”

Moniz made the rounds on the Sunday morning political talk shows.

Critics have suggested the nuclear agreement gives Iran too much leeway to secretly build a weapon. One of the chief concerns is that investigators could be forced to wait 24 days before inspecting covert sites suspected of nuclear activity. Some fear this will give Iran enough time to hide any traces of such activity.

“You wouldn’t tell a drug dealers, give them a 24-day notice,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the deal’s biggest critics, said. “They’d just flush the drugs down the toilet.”

But Moniz said three weeks is a “reasonable” amount of time to inspect for nuclear activity.

Flushing things down the toilet “is not so simple with nuclear materials,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “We are very confident in our ability to detect the vestiges of any nuclear work beyond 24 days.”

Eventually, inspectors would collect environmental samples.

“When environmental samples are taken and nuclear activity has taken place, it is virtually impossible to clean up that place,” Moniz said on “Fox News Sunday.” You can paint the floors, you can do what you want. We feel very confident that we would find evidence of nuclear activity.”

The key for western negotiators was “getting a defined timeframe” so Iran couldn’t hold inspectors out for more than 24 days, Moniz said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“The part of the agreement that is absolutely critical is the one that prevents them from having a weapon,” Moniz told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“There’s a lot more you need for a nuclear explosive and if you look at the agreement you will see an indefinite commitment to not pursuing four major activities needed for a weapon,” he added on Fox.

He sounds confident, doesn’t he? He shouldn’t be.  One of the bones of contention critics have with the deal is that it allows the nuclear facility at Fordow to continue to enrich uranium. Fordow’s existence was kept secret by Iran for nearly 6 years with the west none the wiser.

From the Washington Post story in 2009:

In a hastily arranged appearance outside the Group of 20 conference in Pittsburgh, Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy outlined intelligence that Brown said would “shock and anger the whole international community, and it will harden our resolve” to force Iran to change its path.

Iran’s stubborn and charismatic president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, offered no contrition, asserting that the facility is a legal and proper attempt to provide nuclear energy for his people. “We have no fears,” he said at a New York news conference in which he welcomed inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In response to Obama’s description of the facility as designed to produce weapons-grade uranium, Ahmadinejad said, “I don’t think Mr. Obama is a nuclear expert.”

Friday’s announcement capped a week of behind-the-scenes action in which Iran and the United States each maneuvered to reveal the information on its own terms. U.S. intelligence officials briefing reporters in Washington declined to be precise, but they said they had learned about the facility by early 2007. They said it is not yet operational but may be capable in 2010 of producing enough material for at least one bomb per year.

The CIA, along with its British and French counterparts, spent the summer compiling a dossier of information that administration officials said they had not yet decided how and when to reveal. Their hand was forced, they said, by a letter the Iranian government sent to the IAEA in Vienna on Monday.

We can’t measure radiation levels if we don’t even know the site exists. And no one in the administration is guaranteeing we know of every site being used by Iran for their nuclear program. This is especially true since it is strongly suspected that the Parchin military facility — which has been deemed by Iran off limits to inspectors — conducted implosion tests with conventional explosives in the last couple of years. Implosion — squeezing a ball of plutonium the size of a grapefruit to a sphere the size of an orange using shaped charges — is vital in the construction of a plutonium bomb.

Secretary Moniz is going about his selling job dutifully. But who he thinks he’s fooling is beyond understanding.

 

Read bullet | 5 Comments »

British PM Cameron Vows to ‘Destroy’ Islamic State Caliphate

Sunday, July 19th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

British Prime Minister David Cameron said today that he wants Great Britain to do more than just provide logistical support to the US in the fight against Islamic State. It was revealed last week that British pilots have flown missions in Syria using US warplanes — a revelation that didn’t sit well with opposition MP’s who accused Cameron of misleading parliament.

Cameron will also announce tonight a 5 year plan to combat Islamic extremism.

The Australian:

British Prime minister David Cameron is pledging a full-blown Royal Air Force offensive against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq to “destroy the caliphate in both countries”.

In his most explicit comments on the terrorist threat, the Prime Minister reveals he wants Britain to “do more” than just provide logistical support for US attacks.

In a speech tonight, Mr Cam­eron will launch a five-year plan to combat Islamist extremism, with a warning to young Muslims tempted to join Islamic State that they are “cannon fodder” who will be killed or raped if they do.

He will call on moderate Muslims, teachers, police and parents to face down the “bigotry, aggression and theocracy” of extremists who “brainwash” the young.

British pilots embedded with the US military have already taken part in air raids on Syria in Amer­ican warplanes — provoking claims that ministers have ­deceived the public. British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon will be summoned to make a statement to MPs on the issue tonight.

But in an interview with NBC news in the US, to be broadcast overnight, Mr Cameron made clear he wants to go further. The Prime Minister accepted he would “have to take my parliament with me” but added: “We have to ­destroy this caliphate, whether it is in Iraq or in Syria. That is a key part of defeating this terrorist scourge that we face.”

Addressing a US audience, he said: “I want Britain to do more. Be in no doubt, we’re committed to working with you to destroy the caliphate in both countries.”

In his speech tonight, Mr Cameron will acknowledge that some young people find Islamic State “glamorous”. But he will issue a stark warning about the “sick and brutal reality” of joining the group. “Here’s my message to any young person here in Britain thinking of going out there: You won’t be some valued member of a movement,” he will say.

“You are cannon fodder for them. They will use you. If you are a boy, they will brainwash you, strap bombs to your body and blow you up. If you are a girl, they will enslave and abuse you.”

The Royal Air Force is a first class outfit and will be a valuable addition to the fight — if Cameron can convince parliament to authorize British combat operations. There is some residual distrust of the US because of the perception that George Bush sold Tony Blair a bill of goods on Iraq, but Cameron’s request should meet with parliament’s approval. That request probably won’t happen until September.

There will also be a rash of new laws to deal with home grown extremism:

In his speech Mr Cameron will set out new laws to rein in those who “quietly condone” Islamic State and defend bigoted attitudes as well as those who explicitly ­advocate violence against the West. He will announce the ­creation of a new legal definition of extremism encompassing opposition to democracy, the rule of law and religious tolerance.

New money will go to campaign groups who oppose extremism and rules will be tightened to prevent a repeat of the Trojan Horse affair, in which radicals ­infiltrated Birmingham schools.

And there will be new surveillance powers also. Taken all together, there doesn’t seem to be much substance to these proposals — window dressing to show the public he’s “doing something” about the problem. What needs to happen is a total change in attitude by the elites in Great Britain who tolerate Muslim “otherness” and the refusal of immigrant to adopt to living in a western democracy.

All the feel good measures in the world will do nothing unless a clear-eyed reappraisal of British attitudes and tolerance for the enemy in their midst takes place.

Read bullet | Comments »

Trump Refuses to Apologize for Insulting POWs

Sunday, July 19th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Donald Trump was interviewed by ABC’s Martha Raddatz and, to absolutely no one’s surprise, refused to apologize for remarks he made the day before suggesting that POWs were not war heroes.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump, a Republican running for president, said of McCain. “I like people that weren’t captured. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

Much to The Donald’s delight, I’m sure, other GOP candidates almost had apoplexy condemning him for his remarks and calling for him to leave the race. Rick Perry:

“His attack on veterans make him unfit to be Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces, and he should immediately withdraw from the race for President,” Perry said in a statement.

Marco Rubio said basically the same thing:

“He’s saying that somehow if you’re captured in battle you’re less worthy of honors,” Rubio said on CNN’s “State of the Union”. “It’s not just absurd, it’s offensive. It’s ridiculous. And I do think it’s a disqualifier as commander in chief.”

He also said as the campaign goes on and Trump commands attention, “it’s required people to be more forceful in some of these offensive things that he is saying.”

Rubio assumes that Trump will shoot off his mouth again at some point during the campaign. He’s absolutely right. In fact, Trump’s entire campaign is based on “commanding attention,” not necessarily winning the nomination.

Chris Cillizza:

Trump’s appeal in the 2016 race appears to be built on saying things and acting in ways that other politicians would never dream of doing. Trump, to his credit, appears to grasp that fact.

“I will say what I want to say, and maybe that’s why I’m leading in the polls because people are tired of hearing politicians and pollsters telling the politicians exactly what to say,” Trump told Raddatz.

The fact is that apologizing after a comment judged as ill-advised (at best) by most politicians is exact opposite of the Trump brand. The sort of people who misspeak and then try to clean up their messes are the very people that Trump derides — and that he believes the public can’t stand either.

He can get away with that as long as he’s bashing Mexicans. But insulting POWs? We’ll see.

The reaction of Pete Hegseth, the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, doesn’t bode well for Trump’s future prospects:

“What a dumb thing to say–to steal a favorite phrase from Mr. Trump. It’s certainly painfully ironic that a guy with four student deferments during Vietnam would say such outrageous things about a legitimate war hero. It boggles the mind and is the height of arrogance.

“Mr. Trump’s popularity has been tied to his ability to say what people are thinking and feeling; tapping into the near-universal concern about the direction of our country. In this case — he said the opposite of what people, especially conservatives, think. John McCain is a war hero, plain and simple. Moreover, he has taken the lead — for years — in trying to give veterans real health care choices and holding the VA accountability. Trump’s assertion that McCain has ‘done very little for veterans’ is patently false, ill-informed and unhelpful in every way.”

At a press conference after the event. Trump tried to convince people that he didn’t say what he actually said.

Read bullet | 64 Comments »

Stunning Photo Taken During Battle Flag Protests at SC Statehouse

Sunday, July 19th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Klu Klux Klan and the New Black Panther Party held separate protests for and against the Confederate battle flag at the South Carolina statehouse yesterday.

The two sides competed for the “Hate Group of the Year” title and from all reports, it looked to be a draw.

NBC News:

About 2,000 people were at the Statehouse at the peak of the two rallies, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. The department said five people had been arrested after the KKK members showed up for offenses including disorderly conduct, simple assault and breach of peace. Additional officers were on scene at that time.

No officers were injured, but there were 23 calls for emergency services and seven people were transported by medical personnel, according to the Department of Public Safety. The temperatures rose to the high nineties in Columbia Saturday afternoon.

The earlier rally, including members of Black Lawyers for Justice and Black Educators for Justice, a Florida organization with links to the New Black Panther Party, began with about 200 people gathered around a podium and responding to passionate speakers shouting, “Black power!”

 

The two sides hurled insults and racial epithets at each other for about an hour. And then, a state trooper was snapped assisting an elderly neo-Nazi wearing a shirt with a swastika on it, who was apparently overcome by the heat, up the stairs of the statehouse.

The trooper — Leroy Smith — is black.

kkk

What do you suppose those two men were thinking?

Read bullet | 48 Comments »

Obama Administration’s Racial Database Contains Your Personal Information

Saturday, July 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The New York Post is reporting on a little known effort by the Obama administration to mine massive amounts of personal information on American citizens by race. The ostensible reason for the collection of data is to address the problems of “racial and economic injustice.”

Unbeknown to most Americans, Obama’s racial bean counters are furiously mining data on their health, home loans, credit cards, places of work, neighborhoods, even how their kids are disciplined in school — all to document “inequalities” between minorities and whites.

This Orwellian-style stockpile of statistics includes a vast and permanent network of discrimination databases, which Obama already is using to make “disparate impact” cases against: banks that don’t make enough prime loans to minorities; schools that suspend too many blacks; cities that don’t offer enough Section 8 and other low-income housing for minorities; and employers who turn down African-Americans for jobs due to criminal backgrounds.

Big Brother Barack wants the databases operational before he leaves office, and much of the data in them will be posted online.

So civil-rights attorneys and urban activist groups will be able to exploit them to show patterns of “racial disparities” and “segregation,” even if no other evidence of discrimination exists.

The granddaddy of them all is the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing database, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development rolled out earlier this month to racially balance the nation, ZIP code by ZIP code. It will map every US neighborhood by four racial groups — white, Asian, black or African-American, and Hispanic/Latino — and publish “geospatial data” pinpointing racial imbalances.

The agency proposes using nonwhite populations of 50% or higher as the threshold for classifying segregated areas.

Federally funded cities deemed overly segregated will be pressured to change their zoning laws to allow construction of more subsidized housing in affluent areas in the suburbs, and relocate inner-city minorities to those predominantly white areas. HUD’s maps, which use dots to show the racial distribution or density in residential areas, will be used to select affordable-housing sites.

HUD plans to drill down to an even more granular level, detailing the proximity of black residents to transportation sites, good schools, parks and even supermarkets. If the agency’s social engineers rule the distance between blacks and these suburban “amenities” is too far, municipalities must find ways to close the gap or forfeit federal grant money and face possible lawsuits for housing discrimination.

This is a social justice warrior’s wet dream. Imagine the suits that are going to be clogging the dockets of federal courts in the near future as the citizenry trembles in the shadow of a threatening government. This is the real “hope and change” — the true “transformation of America” that President Obama had in mind when he took office.

Armed with the “disparate impact” weapon recently granted by the Supreme Court, it won’t matter if a city is working to alleviate segregated neighborhoods. Intent doesn’t matter now — all that matters is results.

Besides the issues surrounding our privacy, what makes this database so insidious is what it represents: the notion that the content of someone’s character doesn’t matter as much as the color of their skin. There are other reasons for segregated cities than racial prejudice. How about awful government policies? Or inept policing that prevents businesses like grocery stores from operating in poor neighborhoods?

Moving people about as if they’re pawns on a racial chessboard to achieve some Utopian vision of “equality” is an extraordinarily bad idea. Not surprising it’s come from the “hope and change” crew.

Read bullet | 36 Comments »

Authorities Still Say It’s ‘Premature’ to Speculate About Chattanooga Shooter’s Motive

Saturday, July 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A Marine wounded during the terrorist attack on a recruiting center in Chattanooga has died, raising the death toll to 5.

I just referred to what happened on Thursday as a “terrorist attack.” No doubt, most of you would refer to it as a “terrorist attack” also.

In fact, I would guess that about 95% of Americans would refer to the incident as a “terrorist attack.”

The other 5% are liberals in denial, the FBI and Obama administration officials.

We know that Abdulazeez visited the Middle East a couple of times over the last few years. We know he was a devout Muslim. And we now know that he texted a friend just before the attack with a link to a verse from the Koran that suggested the motivation for his actions.

Reuters:

Hours before the Tennessee shooting that killed five U.S. servicemen, the suspected gunman texted his close friend a link to an Islamic verse that included the line: “Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, then I have declared war against him.”

The friend, who requested anonymity, showed the text message to Reuters on Saturday. He said he thought nothing of the text at the time, but now wonders if it was a hint at Thursday’s attack.

The suspect, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, was killed in the gunfight in Chattanooga on Thursday.

Abdulazeez’s friends said he returned from a trip to Jordan in 2014 concerned about conflicts in the Middle East and the reluctance of the United States and other countries to intervene. He purchased three assault rifles on an online marketplace that he used for target practice, the friends said.

“He expressed that he was upset about (the Middle East). But I can’t imagine it drove him to this,” said the friend who received the text message.

U.S. investigators are focusing on Abdulazeez’s travels to the Middle East. The FBI is investigating the Chattanooga shooting as an act of domestic terrorism, though law enforcement officials said it was premature to speculate on the gunman’s motive.

[...]

Abdulazeez’s friends, who asked not to be identified for fear of a backlash, said he was upset about the 2014 Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza and the deteriorating civil war in Syria.

“He felt Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia were not doing enough to help, and that they were heavily influenced by the United States,” said the friend who received the text message.

Another friend said, “He had always talked about it, but I’d say his level of understanding and awareness really rose after he came back.”

Abdulazeez, who was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, purchased three guns on armslist.com after returning from Jordan including an AK-74, an AR-15, and a Saiga 12, his friends said.

Over the past few months, Abdulazeez and his friends practiced shooting in the Prentice Cooper state forest near Chattanooga, sometimes two or three times a week.

It’s incredibly worrisome that Abdulazeez was not in any “terrorist database” according to the FBI. Breitbart reported yesterday that he failed a background check to work at a nuclear plant. Why did a private company realize the potential danger and not the FBI?

Read bullet | 25 Comments »

In Going After Senator McCain, Trump Insults POWs

Saturday, July 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Unlike many Republicans, I am quite at ease about the candidacy of Donald Trump. The guy may be a clown, but at least he’s entertaining. And as far as the chances of him winning the nomination, today’s insights into this blow-hard’s mind should knock a few points off his poll numbers.

In an effort to belittle Senator John McCain, The Donald ended up insulting POWs by saying he didn’t like them because they were captured.

Of course, Trump never served and, given his pampered lifestyle, would have been broken in the first five minutes of being interrogated if he had ever suffered the misfortune of being captured.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump, a Republican running for president, said of McCain. “I like people that weren’t captured. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

McCain, of course, was the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

In 1973, John McCain wrote a first-person account of being shot down over Vietnam and held in prison for over five years. You can read it here. Trump graduated from college in 1968, but avoided serving in Vietnam.

Because the easiest path to the nomination is to insult POWs.

So all you Trump-bots out there, keep on keeping on. Your boy is going to self destruct and be as entertaining going down as he has been going up.

Read bullet | 77 Comments »

7 Mexican Officials Charged with Aiding ‘El Chapo’ Escape

Saturday, July 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Mexican government has announced that 7 prison officials have been charged with aiding the escape of the notorious cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from prison last wek.

The names of those charged have not been released, but how many of you believe that the ringleaders of this plot are among them?

CNN:

Seven people who worked in the maximum-security prison that held Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman have been charged in connection with his escape, Mexico’s attorney general said Friday in a statement.

The prison workers will be jailed in the state of Guanajuato and the investigation continues, the statement said.

On Thursday, Mexico’s interior minister said that on the night Guzman escaped, it took 18 minutes for guards to arrive at his cell after they lost sight of him on surveillance video.

Investigators are trying to determine whether the guards’ response time contributed to his July 11 escape from the facility west of Mexico City.

Gee…ya think? If they’re innocent, they are working at the absolute worst “Super Max” prison in the world.

Guzman’s cell was videotaped 24 hours a day. But the surveillance had two blind spots for privacy — the toilet and the shower.

Closed-circuit video from July 11 shows him going to the shower fully clothed twice and bending down behind a wall. After the second time, he never resurfaced in the cell.

It’s likely prison workers helped Guzman break out, the interior minister said this week. Osorio Chong said he has already fired the prison director and other prison officials.

Mexican authorities announced a $3.8 million reward for information leading to Guzman’s capture.

Yeah — not too suspicious, going into a shower fully clothed. Maybe he wanted to do some laundry?

And that reward is a joke. El Chapo could triple that amount and pay anyone who was going to rat him out. Or, more likely, they would end up with a bullet in the head buried in the desert if they tried to turn him in.

I would arrest the entire compliment of guards and staff at the prison. Are we to believe that no one — not one single prison employee – heard the construction of a mile long tunnel?

Maybe they thought it was prairie dogs.

Mexico isn’t necessarily losing the war against the cartels, but they aren’t winning it either. Until they find a way to get a handle on the massive corruption of law enforcement that allows the cartels to operate with impunity in many areas of the country, they run the risk of seeing their entire society descend into violent chaos.

Read bullet | Comments »

Andrea Mitchell Tries to Portray Abdulazeez as a Gun Nut

Friday, July 17th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Desperately looking for a way to avoid pegging the Chattanooga murderer Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez as anything but a terrorist, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked a childhood friend of the killer what he liked to do in “small town Tennessee”:

“Were guns a big part of activities—social or other activities?” Mitchell asked her interviewee abruptly.

“What?” her interviewee responded.

“Did he hunt, did he shoot?” Mitchell prodded. “Was that just part of small-town Tennessee activity?”

“Um, he actually wasn’t one of the guys I heard about going hunting,” Abdulazeez’s classmate responded. “He wasn’t really that kind of guy.”

Now if I were the reporter interviewing a classmate of a terrorist, those would be the last questions I would ask — if I asked them at all. There is no correlation at all between terrorism and being a gun enthusiast.

Abdulzaeez apparently owned some guns, but it is unknown whether he bought them after his return from the Middle East last year. For a terrorist, guns are a tool of the trade and not a means of self defense or anything to take pleasure from on a hunt. For Mitchell to try and equate terrorism with the gun culture instead of trying to get to the bottom of the shooter’s radicalization is horrible journalism.

About what we’ve come to expect from her.

 

Read bullet | 32 Comments »

As Concealed Carry Permits Skyrocket, Murder Rate Drops

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

That loud, squishy pop you just heard is the sound of liberal heads exploding.

According to a new report issued by the Crime Prevention Research Center, the number of concealed carry permits has skyrocketed over the last 7 years while the murder rate and violent crime rate have fallen by about 25%.

While it’s impossible to make a direct connection between the rise of concealed carry permits and the drop in the murder rate — there’s no way to measure the impact of other factors that may affect the decline — the report suggests that advocates who advanced the notion that concealed carry permits would lead to more murders and more violent crime were wrong.

Washington Times:

Since 2007, the number of concealed handgun permits has soared from 4.6 million to over 12.8 million, according to the report from the Crime Prevention Research Center.

And the number is increasing faster every year. Over 1.7 million new permits were issued last year — a 15.4 percent increase from 2013, according to the report. It is the largest-ever single-year increase in the number of permits.

The number of people that carry concealed handguns is likely even higher, since permits are not required in seven states.

More women are getting permits than men, the report stated. Since 2007, permits for women have increased by 270 percent and for men by 156 percent.

At the same time, murder rates have fallen from 5.6 to 4.2 per 100,000, about a 25 percent drop. Overall violent crime also fell by 25 percent, according to the report.

Gun-rights advocates say the report’s findings refute the left’s claims that more guns lead to more violent crime.

“It puts the lie to the myth promulgated by anti-gun individuals that somehow more law-abiding citizens carrying guns will lead to more crime. In fact, quite the opposite is the case,” said Larry Keene, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “More law-abiding citizens own firearms for self-protection and crime continues to decline.”

But anti-gun advocates point to other studies showing concealed handguns are more frequently used for non-defensive killings.

“Concealed carry killers are a threat to public safety. The evidence is clear that all too often, private citizens use their concealed handguns to take lives, not to save them,” a statement from the Violence Policy Center’s Concealed Carry Killer website reads.

According to the center, there have been 561 incidents in 36 states and the District of Columbia involving concealed handguns that have resulted in 743 deaths.

“Only a tiny fraction of these cases are ever ruled to be in self-defense,” the website states.

The two sides are talking apples and oranges. First, gun control advocates don’t supply a baseline to compare current figures on concealed carry shootings with numbers from the past. Has the rise in permits led to a rise in shootings? If so, there should be a clear correlation, year to year, of an increase in shootings roughly matching an increase in permits. No mention was made of any such correlation.

Secondly, there are several reasons why most of these shootings are not deemed self defense, not the least of which is aggressive prosecutors who look to make an example of those with concealed carry permits and who defend themselves in less than clear cut circumstances. Another reason is that, as we saw in the George Zimmerman case, even when self defense is fairly straightforward, prosecutors will refuse to give the benefit of the doubt to citizens. That case should never have gone to trial, except for the racial angle, which the prosecutor may have tried to exploit for political reasons.

Concealed carry as a deterrent to violent crime is difficult to prove, but the one thing we can say for sure is that the increase in violent crime predicted by opponents of concealed carry has never materialized.

Read bullet | 15 Comments »

New Horizons Spacecraft Races Toward Tuesday Rendezvous with Pluto

Sunday, July 12th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

000

Nine years and three billion miles ago, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral on a mission to explore what we used to call the ninth planet — Pluto. The 1,000 lb, baby grand piano-sized spacecraft is scheduled to make its closest approach to the dwarf planet early Tuesday morning.

The craft was launched January 19, 2006 and immediately made history, becoming the first spacecraft launched directly into a solar escape trajectory. It’s powerful engines allowed it to achieve speeds of more than 16 miles a second, passing the orbit of the moon in less than 8 hours. After slingshotting around Jupiter for a gravity assist, it is now on course to fly within 7,800 miles of Pluto.

Early low res photos of Pluto are causing a great deal of excitement among astronomers, as several strange features have already been sighted, along with some mysterious dark spots.

Fox News:

Guarantees principal scientist Alan Stern, “We’re going to knock your socks off.”

The size of a baby grand piano, the spacecraft will come closest to Pluto on Tuesday morning — at 7:49 a.m. EDT. That’s when New Horizons is predicted to pass within 7,767 miles of Pluto. Fourteen minutes later, the spacecraft will zoom within 17,931 miles of Charon, Pluto’s jumbo moon.

For the plutophiles among us, it will be cause to celebrate, especially for those gathered at the operations center at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. The lab designed and built the spacecraft for NASA, and has been managing its roundabout route through the solar system.

“What NASA’s doing with New Horizons is uprecedented in our time and probably something close to the last train to Clarksville, the last picture show, for a very, very long time,” says Stern, a planetary scientist with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

It is the last stop in NASA’s quest to explore every planet in our solar system, starting with Venus in 1962. And in a cosmic coincidence, the Pluto visit falls on the 50th anniversary of the first-ever flyby of Mars, by Mariner 4.

Yes, we all know Pluto is no longer an official planet, merely a dwarf, but it still enjoyed full planet status when New Horizons rocketed from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Jan. 19, 2006. Pluto’s demotion came just seven months later, a sore subject still for many.

“We’re kind of running the anchor leg with Pluto to finish the relay,” Stern says.

The sneak peeks of Pluto in recent weeks are getting “juicier and juicier,” says Johns Hopkins project scientist Hal Weaver. “The science team is just drooling over these pictures.”

The Hubble Space Telescope previously captured the best pictures of Pluto. If the pixelated blobs of pictures had been of Earth, though, not even the continents would have been visible.

The New Horizons team is turning “a point of light into a planet,” Stern says.

An image released last week shows a copper-colored Pluto bearing, a large, bright spot in the shape of a heart.

Although New Horizons will try to image another dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, it won’t come within a few million kilometers of the object, designated VNH004.

This is literally the last hurrah for NASA exploring new worlds and I feel blessed to have been with the agency all through this glorious first circuit of our solar system. The mountains of information we’ve learned from these missions to the planets have allowed us to understand our planet better, as well as glimpse the very origins of our tiny corner of the universe we call the solar system.

Read bullet | Comments »

Iran Nuke Deal All But Done

Sunday, July 12th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Cue the fat lady in the burqa — the Iran nuclear deal is done.

Two diplomats told the Associated Press that negotiators will announce on Monday that an agreement has been reached for Iran to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

How solid is that information? Even the Iranians are saying a deal is near but may not be ready by Monday.

All of the officials, who are at the talks in Vienna, demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly.

“We are working hard, but a deal tonight is simply logistically impossible,” the Iranian official said, noting that the agreement will run roughly 100 pages.

The senior U.S. official declined to speculate as to the timing of any agreement or announcement but said “major issues remain to be resolved.”

Despite the caution, the negotiators appeared to be on the cusp of an agreement.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who on Thursday had threatened to walk away from the negotiations, said Sunday that “a few tough things” remain in the way but added “we’re getting to some real decisions.”

En route to Mass at Vienna’s gothic St. Stephens Cathedral, Kerry said twice he was “hopeful” after a “very good meeting” Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had Muslim services Friday.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also was cautiously optimistic, telling reporters Sunday: “I hope that we are finally entering the last phase of this negotiation.”

In another sign that a deal could soon be sealed, Russian news agencies reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had arrived in Vienna. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was also expected later in the day. The other foreign ministers of the six nations negotiating with Iran already are in the Austrian capital and in position to join Kerry and Zarif for an announcement.

Movement toward a deal has been marked by years of tough negotiations. The pact is meant to impose long-term, verifiable limits on nuclear programs that Tehran could modify to produce weapons. Iran, in return, would get tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

The current round of nuclear talks is now in its 16th day and has been extended three times since the first deadline of June 30 was missed. The mood among negotiators had turned more somber each time a new target date — first July 7, then July 10 and then July 13 — was set.

As the weekend approached, Kerry declared the talks couldn’t go on indefinitely and warned that the U.S. could walk away from the negotiations.

I don’t think walking away from the negotiations was ever seriously considered. President Obama has far too much of his personal prestige invested in these talks and ending them would have virtually ended his presidency.

Read bullet | 31 Comments »

Are You Ready for the Grexit? Don’t Worry, No One Else Is Either

Sunday, July 12th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Chances are close to zero that European leaders will grant Greece a third bailout. which will almost certainly lead to a Greek exit from the euro currency.

EU finance ministers failed to reach a decision on whether they should recommend acceptance of Greece’s reform plan, which would form the basis for a third bailout of the Greek economy. That bailout has ballooned to more than 74 billion euros over the next 3 years as technical experts now say that Greek banks will need an astonishing 25 billion euros to recapitalize.

The primary issue is one of trust. In simple terms, most of Europe does not trust Syriza, the far left party in Greece that came to power promising to end austerity, to implement the austerity measures that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is proposing. They don’t even trust the statistics on the economy coming from the Greek government. The lack of trust has led to calls by some leaders for the Greek parliament to implement some of the austerity measures now, even before a bailout is agreed to.

Most of all, they don’t trust Tsipras.

All this adds up to the EU leaders moving toward a German proposal that would force Greece out of the euro for 5 years, while simultaneously offering humanitarian aid when Greek society inevitably melts down and some modest debt restructuring.

Wall Street Journal:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said finance ministers won’t recommend starting negotiations for a bailout immediately, warning that a deal on Greece wouldn’t be made “at all costs.”

“The most important currency has been lost and that is trust,” Ms. Merkel said.

Finance ministers from the currency area convened earlier in the day, and discussed a draft statement that contains a “timeout” for Greece from the eurozone as a potential option, two European officials said Sunday. The statement, which may still change, will form the basis for crisis talks of eurozone leaders later Sunday, these officials said.

The statement says that “in case no agreement [on a new bailout program] could be reached, Greece should be offered swift negotiations on a time-out from the euro area, with possible debt restructuring,” one official said. The sentence is still in brackets, indicating that it doesn’t have the backing of all 19 eurozone countries.

However, French President Francois Hollande later said, “There is no temporary Grexit. There is only Grexit or not Grexit.”

Austrian Finance Minister Hans Jörg Schelling said that finance ministers might present eurozone leaders with alternative proposals on whether to give Greece a new round of rescue loans.

The finance ministers’ reluctance to take a decision on Greece’s request for a new bailout—and thereby its future in the eurozone—despite the government’s promise to implement most of the measures demanded by creditors shows how much trust and goodwill has been eroded in recent months. Greece and its creditors—other eurozone governments and the International Monetary Fund—have been locked in negotiations since the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was elected in late January.

A meeting of all 19 members of the European Union has been cancelled because they have nothing to vote on today. The 9 eurozone leaders will continue to meet until some kind of resolution of the Greek crisis is reached.

The key to any additional bailout funds for Greece is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is being whipsawed between her desire to keep the eurozone together and the probability that any Greek bailout proposal would be voted down by the German Bundestag. So far, Merkel is kept her hard line intact, and it doesn’t appear she is ready to bend any time soon.

Read bullet | Comments »

Trump Would Be a Fool to Stop Talking About Illegal Immigration

Saturday, July 11th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Also read: Twitter Users Call for Donald Trump’s Murder Following Mexican Drug Lord’s Prison Escape

Donald Trump has shot into a tie for the lead with Jeb Bush in the GOP presidential nomination sweepstakes almost exclusively because he has deliberately raised the temperature on one issue: illegal immigration.

What’s more, he is forcing other candidates from both parties to address the issue. He may be using bombastic language and questionable statistics, but there is no denying he has drawn a clear, unequivocal line between Republicans and Democrats on the issue.

So why do some Republicans want Trump to stop talking about illegal immigration?

Americans mostly support the Republican view of illegal immigration — with some important distinctions. A majority support a pathway to legal status for illegals but a larger majority support stepped-up border security. And those who support a pathway to legal status do not support a pathway to citizenship.

Of course, there are some Republicans wringing their hands over Trump’s exaggerations and even outright falsehoods. Why bother? It’s ridiculous to assume that the Republican candidate for president in 2016 will get more than 25-30% of the Hispanic vote. But drawing a stark distinction between the two parties on what could be a decisive issue in the presidential election could bring more conservatives to the polls and attract a few more independents.

Read bullet | 98 Comments »

New York State Shelves Plan to Require Background Checks for Ammunition Purchases

Saturday, July 11th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Very quietly and with no fanfare, the state of New York has suspended a plan to require background checks for ammunition sales.

The information was dumped on the media on a Friday afternoon with a “memorandum of understanding” between Governor Cuomo and Republicans in the state senate. Apparently, the reason for the suspension is that the technology to make the program work doesn’t exist yet and “cannot be established and/or function in the manner originally intended at this time.”

You would think someone would have mentioned that to the governor before the law was passed.

The provision was part of a sweeping gun control bill called the Safe Act, which included a ban on certain “assault” weapons and high-capacity magazines, while making it harder for the mentally ill to purchase a gun.

New York Times:

The document was signed by the governor’s director of state operations, Jim Malatras, and the Senate majority leader, John J. Flanagan of Long Island. “This is a clear victory for Second Amendment rights in New York,” said Senator James L. Seward, a Republican from Otsego County, who was one of a number of Republican senators who publicized the agreement.

James J. Baker, an official with the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association, called the memorandum “a step in the right direction to restore a degree of sanity after the Safe Act’s over-the-top demonization of lawful New York gun owners.”

Democrats in the Legislature criticized the agreement. The Assembly speaker, Carl E. Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, said it was “an ill-advised end run around the Legislature and the Safe Act.”

“I did not participate in this ‘agreement’,” he said. “The law may not be ‘suspended’ by a memorandum such as this. I believe the law should be followed and implemented as intended.” A spokesman for the Senate Democrats, Mike Murphy, called the agreement “outrageous.”

“On first read, this appears blatantly unconstitutional,” said Senator Michael N. Gianaris of Queens, the deputy minority leader. “The notion that one house of the Legislature will have greater powers than another, and the governor, with one house only, can agree to change state law, turns our democracy on its head.”

Mr. Cuomo’s office sought to downplay the significance of the agreement. Alphonso B. David, the governor’s counsel, said that all portions of the Safe Act remained in effect.

The memorandum, he said, “has no power or effect on the law,” but “provides assurances to all that the database will not be implemented until it is ready and tested.”

How anyone thought that a background check on someone purchasing ammunition would keep a criminal from buying bullets is a mystery. It’s part of the absurd thinking among gun control advocates that can’t differentiate between law abiding citizens and criminals. It would have placed a burden on gun owners without affecting criminals in the slightest.

Note that Cuomo did not say that the measure was permanently shelved, so they will keep working on the technical requirements until they get it right, or a saner state legislature comes along to repeal it.

Read bullet | 9 Comments »

Poll: Majority Favor Punishing Sanctuary Cities

Saturday, July 11th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A new Rasmussen poll shows a majority of Americans favor the Justice Department taking legal action against sanctuary cities, while most support the idea of denying funds to cities that refuse to enforce immigration laws.

The Hill:

Over half of Americans would support the Justice Department taking legal action against so-called “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigrants, according to a survey released Friday.

Sixty-two percent of likely voters back the DOJ penalizing cities that do not cooperate with federal authorities on immigration laws, according to the conservative-leaning Rasmussen Reports.

The firm found 26 percent of likely voters oppose such legal action. Another 12 percent are undecided on the matter.

Friday’s survey found 79 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of unaffiliated voters support DOJ action against sanctuary cities. Democrats were less enthusiastic, with 43 percent in support.

The new survey also found strong support for the federal government cutting off funding for sanctuary cities. Rasmussen found 58 percent of likely voters would support cutting funds, with 38 percent opposing and 10 percent undecided.

Republicans were once again overwhelmingly supportive, backing funding cuts with 79 percent support. Unaffiliated voters, meanwhile, register at 61 percent, while Democrats are at 46 percent.

Sanctuary cities are receiving new scrutiny following a fatal shooting of a woman in San Francisco last week; the suspect is an illegal immigrant.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, 45, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday to killing Kathryn Steinle, 32, on July 1.

Lopez-Sanchez had reportedly been deported to his native Mexico five times and has seven prior felony convictions.

He was released from jail four months ago under San Francisco policies rather than entering the custody of federal immigration officials.

The line on support for sanctuary cities has now been sharply drawn with Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley coming out strongly in favor and Hillary Clinton walking back her criticism of San Francisco from earlier in the week.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign sought to make clear she supports sanctuary cities following criticism on San Francisco’s release of an immigrant here illegally who is accused of shooting and killing a woman.

“Hillary Clinton believes that sanctuary cities can help further public safety, and she has defended those policies going back years,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a campaign spokeswoman, in a statement made public Thursday. “As she made clear, this particular individual should not have been on the streets…She believes that we need a system where people like this don’t fall through the cracks and that is why she continues to fight for comprehensive immigration reform.”

Clinton, a Democrat, weighed in on the sanctuary city issue after comments from Republican candidate Donald Trump following a fatal shooting in San Francisco. Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, accused of shooting Kathryn Steinle, had re-entered the country several times after deportations, raising questions about policies of cities like San Francisco to leave immigration enforcement to federal officials. Some cities with this sort of policy are called sanctuary cities.

Asked in a CNN interview about the shooting, Clinton said, “The city made a mistake not to deport someone that the federal government strongly felt should be deported.”

But she went on to add that if an immigrant is picked up for a traffic violation or misdemeanor – and has no criminal record – that is entirely different.

This is an idiotic statement because the definition of sanctuary cities is not to cooperate with the federal government in enforcing immigration deportations. Sanchez would not have been deported because the drug charges against him were dropped. The fact that he had been deported 5 times previously was totally irrelevant to San Francisco authorities. It didn’t matter in the slightest to officials that the feds “strongly felt” Sanchez should be deported.

You have to wonder if some kind of tipping point has been reached and support for sanctuary cities will begin to ebb. The egregious disregard for public safety represented by the release of Sanchez won’t be tolerated by any sane American. A GOP administration and Congress in 2016 may make good on threats to withhold funding from cities that refuse to keep their citizens safe.

Read bullet | 22 Comments »

Greek Parliament Approves Bailout Plan But Will the Rest of Europe?

Saturday, July 11th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

European Union finance ministers are now examining the Greek government’s proposals for a $56 billion bailout following a vote in the Greek parliament early this morning that approved the plan proposed by Prime Minister Alex Tsipras.

The debate went on far into the night with the most radical left wing deputies refusing to support their party leader and prime minister. They accused Tsipras — rightly — of completely caving in to the demands for austerity from Greece’s creditors. In many ways, Tsipras’s proposals are actually more painful than the cuts and tax hikes proposed by creditors last week before the referendum. Greek voters rejected the creditor’s demands, but Tsipras, who claimed a mandate to refuse more austerity measures, ended up acquiescing to virtually all the severe medicine being demanded by Germany and other hard liners in the EU in return for a modest debt restructuring plan.

There is no guarantee that the finance ministers will approve the Greek plan. A rejection would throw the ball into the court of EU political leaders who will meet tomorrow in Brussels in the most important summit in the history of the common currency.

It’s a make or break weekend for Greece.

Guardian:

A weekend of what is billed as “last-chance” summitry is to decide Greece’s fate after the government of Alexis Tsipras caved in to creditors’ demands for further austerity measures in return for the promise of limited debt relief. With the support of France, he tabled 13 pages of economic and tax reform pledges as the basis for talks on a new bailout worth more than €53bn (£38bn) over three years.

Live Greek debt crisis: Tsipras has lost creditors trust say finance ministers- live
Finance ministers set to discuss latest Greek proposals after Alexis Tsipras receives backing from his MPs
Read more
In the early hours of Saturday morning the Greek parliament voted to back Tsipras’s proposals. Despite a rebellion by some of his own MPs, Tsipras was given the backing of 250 out of 300 MPs to negotiate this weekend.

Tsipras said the vote gave him a “strong mandate to complete the negotiations to reach an economically viable and socially fair agreement”.

“The priority now is to have a positive outcome to the negotiations. Everything else in its own time,” he said.

In an ominous sign for the stability of the government, however, 10 deputies on the ruling benches either abstained or voted against the measures and another seven were absent, leaving Tsipras short of the 151 seats needed for a majority of his own.

Prominent leftwingers in the governing Syriza party signalled before the vote that they could not support the mix of tax hikes and spending cuts proposed by Tsipras, following the rejection of similar austerity measures by voters in Sunday’s referendum.

Energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, deputy labour minister Dimitris Stratoulis as well as the speaker of parliament, Zoe Constantopoulou, all abstained.

“The government is being totally blackmailed to acquiesce to something which does not reflect what it represents,” Constantopoulou said.

Beyond the plan itself is the issue of trust. The Greek government has been strutting arrogantly across the stage in recent months, calling Germans Nazis, accusing the European Commission of wanting to destroy Greece, and going so far as comparing what was happening to Greece with “terrorism.” Tsipras has been telling the EU one thing and then going in front of TV cameras and saying another. Many EU government are simply tired of the posturing clown whose bombast has resulted in a complete capitulation to the demands of Greece’s creditors:

Less than a week ago, Greece stood defiant.

Thousands of people flooded the square outside Parliament, draping themselves in blue-and-white flags to celebrate the country’s sweeping rejection of the tough austerity measures demanded by its European creditors, which Greece’s fiery young leader had likened to “blackmail.”

But by Friday, the euphoria had faded as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s vows to stand up to ­Europe caved to the harsh realization that the birthplace of democracy stood just 48 hours away from financial ruin — and Greeks were poised to swallow what amounted to the same dose of austerity they had refused in a vote Sunday.

“Each one of us shall be confronted with his stature and his history. Between a bad choice and a catastrophic one, we are forced to opt for the first one,” Tsipras said in a speech before his party’s lawmakers, according to local media. “It is as if one asks you for your money or your life.”

Yesterday’s optimism about reaching a deal has dissipated today as it becomes clear that the Germans may blow up any agreement. Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing a revolt in the Bundestag over the idea of the German taxpayer continuing to fund the Greek government:

But Germany and other governments have remained skeptical and two euro zone sources said on Saturday that the demands for new financing from Athens had alarmed some Eurogroup members.

One source, who told Reuters that he was almost certain late on Friday that a deal would be agreed on Saturday, said he was now not so sure, four hours before ministers meet at 1300 GMT.

Senior officials in the Euro Working Group were still in talks in Brussels on Saturday morning to prepare the Eurogroup.

“The high figures for financing needs over the next three years may be too high and too sudden,” the first source said.

The second said he now put the chances against reaching a deal in the Eurogroup meeting to open negotiations at 60-40.

The sources said experts reckoned that Greece, which asked for a three-year credit from the euro zone’s European Stability Mechanism of 53.5 billion euros, would need 82 billion euros to meet its obligations. It could hope for some 16 billion still due from the IMF before March and could also hope to receive nearly 8 billion in other EU funding that it lost its claim to when it failed to complete an earlier bailout deal last month.

However, further funding from the IMF would depend on euro zone governments offering Greece substantial debt relief, the first source said — something Germany has been very wary of.

A German Finance Ministry spokesman declined comment on a Bild newspaper report that Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, disenchanted with Greece’s presence in the euro, saw Tsipras’s proposals as inadequate and opposed opening new talks.

No deal will get done without Germany because any agreement reached with Greece will have to be approved by several EU parliaments — including Germany’s. Merkel will not present a deal to the Bundestag unless she is convinced it will pass muster with deputies in her own party who are tired of throwing money at the Greek debt problem only to see it go down a dry hole.

Greece is not out of the woods. And blame for a failure to achieve a deal will fall squarely on the shoulders of Alex Tsipras and his radical left wing government.

Read bullet | Comments »