I always enjoy sharing this performance by Indiana University's Straight No Chaser a cappella group around this time each year. Merry Christmas!
"Five golden rings!"
As most of New York faces a possible Christmas snow storm this week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced Tuesday that Florida has officially passed the Empire State as the country's third most populous state.
"By adding an average of 803 new residents each day between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014, Florida passed New York to become the nation’s third most populous state," a Census Bureau press release read.
California is still the nation's most populous state with 38.8 million residents, and Texas retained second on the list with 27 million. Six states actually lost population in 2014, and all of them have colder winters, including: Illinois, West Virginia, Connecticut, New Mexico, Alaska, and Vermont.
North Carolina, a warmer southern state, also outgrew Michigan to take over the ninth spot on the most populous state list.
Also of interest, of the nine states with the fastest growing populations, all nine (North Dakota, Nevada, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and South Carolina) have Republican governors.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.” --Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
The complete transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge is, perhaps like most readers, my favorite part of Charles Dickens’ classic novella. After spending a lifetime in isolation, accumulating wealth for its own sake, he realizes, in the end, what truly matters most: His relationships and friendships with other people.
Since it hit the streets of London, this classic work of fiction has reminded readers for generations that material pursuits and acts of selfishness are totally anathema to the spirit of Christmas, and ultimately unfulfilling, too. As his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, laments during his night-time visit:
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
These simple but oft-forgotten lines are why I try to read Dickens’ famous work every year. They remind me how I should strive to live my life, even if I fail or fall short. You are not, after all, defined by what you have, but instead by how you live your life and treat others; and as bad as you might have it, there is always something to be grateful for.
Think of poor Bob Cratchit, whose financial situation is exceedingly bleak, perhaps even perilous. But what he has, in a sense, cannot be measured in earthly terms: a beautiful, loving family with whom to share the joy of Christmas with.
So, my friends, with that being said, I wanted to wish you all a very blessed holiday season with your friends, family and loved ones this year, and a Merry Christmas.
As Tiny Tim might say: “God bless Us, Every One!”
As The Hill reports, President Obama's trip to Hawaii this year is a part of a vacation he's been taking since before he was President - and he hasn't discontinued that while having the office of perhaps the most prestigious, stressful job in the country:
He arrived on Tuesday morning at the golf course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, according to a pool report. He is playing with his high school friends Greg Orme and Bobby Titcomb, as well as staffer Joe Paulsen.
Titcomb and Orme are part of a group of Obama's friends who reunite in Hawaii every year, a practice that continued even after Obama became president.
Obama also made golf outings, which opponents have criticized throughout his presidency, on Saturday and Sunday, the first two days of the break.
This isn't to say that Presidents can or should never take vacations. But it's to point out that President Obama is almost never criticized for his own refusal to yield on vacations by the mainstream media, while it was a firestorm of controversy for his predecessor.
The NLRB siding with a union against a corporate parent of a franchise would completely change how business is done in the United States - and tip the balance towards unions. As Diana Furchtgott-Roth explains:
In July Griffin stated (without offering a legal argument) that McDonald’s USA was a joint employer of those workers who are employed by local McDonald’s franchises, but he waited until last week to bring charges against the parent company. Before his appointment as general counsel, Griffin was one of the unconstitutional recess appointees to the NLRB, whose appointment was overturned by the Supreme Court.
This decision to charge both the McDonald’s franchise and the parent company with these violations overturns decades of precedent. For half a century, the local franchise was considered the only employer. The NLRB defined employers as those who controlled workers’ “essential terms of employment,” namely hiring, wage rates, firing, and job description. The franchises were the employers, not the owner of the franchise.
So the NLRB unilaterally changes the law without any notice or public comment, uses the change in the law to sue a major corporation, and tells the general public that the legal reasoning behind the change cannot be revealed. That’s Kafkaesque. And this from a president who stated in a memorandum on January 21, 2009, that “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.”
As Furchtgott-Roth notes, this would be yet another example of the executive branch stretching its authority to get an outcome it wants. It would transform McDonald's restaurants from small businesses into organizations that must negotiate with a union like a giant corporation. As Furchtgott-Roth notes, only one-half of one percent of all McDonald's restaurants have legitimate complaints - and Obama's NLRB is using that small gap to ram through a tank.
Of course, this is absurd. Jonathan Gruber is one of Obamacare’s architects, who recently got a tongue-lashing by the House Oversight Committee over comments he made about American voters–he called them stupid–and for saying that this, along with a lack of transparency, were essential to getting Obamacare passed. House Republicans had some questions about his comments on transparency when they became known after a series of videos, featuring the MIT professor, became public.
MRCTV’s Dan Joseph decided to see if Gruber’s insanely condescending attitude towards the American electorate is true. Earlier this month, he ventured onto the hallowed grounds of George Mason University to ask students to support his “petition” to make Jonathan Gruber our country’s next Secretary of Defense.
“It’s like magic when he talks; he’s great at convincing people of things,” said Joseph to a student willing to hear him out on this outlandish proposal.
Joseph did get some signatures for the “Gruber for SecDef” campaign, which is tragic to say the least.
Yet, I’m inclined not to think that the American people are stupid, especially when the media barely mentioned him in the news when “Grubergate” was at its height.
“It’s to bring awareness to those families,” Bray tells Townhall, “to say that we are grateful for the sacrifice and what they’ve given. And not only that, but in a music form, it’s a way to get out to people who may not be affected by war, or who may not be in military families, for them to understand the amount of sacrifice people are putting into this.”
“It’s our war. It’s high time we, especially during the holiday season, we get around to these families and we really hold them close.”
Inspiration came for Bray from Karen Vaughn, whose son Aaron was a member of SEAL Team Six and was lost during “Extortion 17,” the bloodiest single event in the war in Afghanistan - when the Taliban attacked a helicopter and killed 30 Americans. The loss of Aaron Vaughn spurred the creation of Operation 300, a charity that supports children of fallen American soldiers. Proceeds from Madison Rising’s “Soldier’s Christmas” will go directly to benefit the children that Operation 300 supports.
“During our tour with Concerned Veterans for America, I’d watch Karen get up on stage and relive this painful memory to bring awareness to the real sacrifices at hand on a day-to-day basis,” Bray says. “After I finished writing the song, I took it to her and I said Karen, I want to write this song for the holidays and I want to do something special with it… I kind of needed her blessing. She is a gold star mother.”
“The reaction I got from her is that it’s a blessing. It’s the same reason she does what she does.”
The music video for the song was put together with the help of Operation 300 and Minus Red, Jim Hanon’s filmmaking outfit that also aims to bring important messages to the people. Madison Rising is also going to be continuing work with Operation 300 and Concerned Veterans for America in the coming months, hoping to bring awareness and raise money for important military causes. And the outreach they’ve received so far has been astonishing.
"We had a staff sergeant reach out the other day who was on the verge of suicide... she suffers from PTSD, horribly," Bray says. "She listened to this song, and one of her remarks was, 'I'm not sure you tried to do this or not, but this song has given me hope and given me reason to live, to continue on, because if I don't tell the story of what happened to my brothers and sisters who I've lost, then they're gone, and they're gone forever. And it's now my duty to go out and tell those stories.'"
"When you get a message like that from somebody, it'll drop your jaw," Bray says.
Watch the video here:
A federal judge dismissed Arizona county Sheriff Joe Arpaio's lawsuit challenging President Obama's executive amnesty Tuesday, a decision that has absolutely no bearing on the suit filed by Texas and joined by more than two dozen other states.
Federal District Court Judge Beryl Howell, appointed to her current position on the District Court for the District of Columbia by President Obama just four years ago, found that Arpaio did not establish a "concrete and particularized injury" sufficient to establish the legal standing needed to sue in federal court.
"The plaintiff’s case raises important questions regarding the impact of illegal immigration on this Nation, but the questions amount to generalized grievances which are not proper for the Judiciary to address," Howell wrote.
Arpaio's complaint failed to mention if he was suing in his personal or official capacity, and the judge was forced to clarify the matter at oral arguments Monday. Howell found that even in his official capacity as sheriff, Arpaio failed to identify any harms that were not "largely speculative." No one joined Arpaio in his suit.
Separately, on Monday, Tennessee became the 25th state to join Texas' challenge to Obama's most recent executive amnesty. Texas's suit will be heard by U.S. Fifth Circuit District Judge Andrew Hanen, who not only was appointed by President Bush, but also called Obama's immigration policy a "criminal conspiracy" in a 2013 case that correctly predicted the 2014 illegal immigration border surge crisis.
If Obama's amnesty does go forward, not only will states that voted against giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, like Oregon, be forced to to do so, but federal taxpayers everywhere will be on the hook for billions in tax credits to amnestied immigrants and their families.
Santa deliverd the weekly Republican address on Friday. Don't worry, I'm not trying to claim the big red guy is politically affiliated. I'm actually referring to Rep. Mike Kelly's (R-Pa.) Christmas message for President Obama, when he used the opportunity to discuss America's need to tap into her vast energy reserves. Holding a piece of coal, Kelly described how it is one of the most significant materials in the world:
“You see, coal is our most abundant and valuable resource. It lights our homes, it keeps our electric bills low, and it puts food on the table for countless families.”
He then cut to the chase. Our president is not taking advantage of this precious resource:
“Instead of forcing our workers to live with less, the president should let us use our God-given resources and talents to help Americans get back to work and make our nation the energy superpower it can be and, quite frankly, that it needs to be."
There's no telling if the president will take a few minutes to watch Kelly's message this holiday season (only the Elf on the Shelf will know), but considering the congressman's address, maybe coal wouldn't be such a bad thing to find in your stocking this year.
As the Associated Press reports:
Among the top 100 individual donors to political groups, more than half gave primarily to Democrats or their allies. Among groups that funneled more than $100,000 to allies, the top of the list tilted overwhelmingly toward Democrats — a group favoring the GOP doesn't appear on the list until No. 14.
The two biggest super PACs of 2014? Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC — both backing Democrats.
In all, the top 10 individual donors to outside groups injected almost $128 million into this year's elections. Democratic-leaning groups collected $91 million of it.
Among the 183 groups that wrote checks of $100,000 or more to another group, Democrats had a 3-to-1 cash advantage. The biggest player was the National Education Association, at $22 million. Not a single Republican-leaning group cracked the top 10 list of those transferring money to others.
This is well-known by those who pay close attention to the political process. Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer has been funding his pet causes for a long time now, but it's still the Koch brothers that the media is obsessed with.
Hopefully this will get the media to take notice. But we're not holding our breath here.
As Bloomberg reported:
Gross domestic product grew at a 5 percent annual rate from July through September, the biggest advance since the third quarter of 2003 and up from a previously estimated 3.9 percent, revised figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 75 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a 4.3 percent increase in GDP.
This is a revised rate - the Commerce Department previously estimated that the economy had grown at a 3.9% rate in the third quarter.
This doesn't mean that the economy is healthy. Far from it. But the economy has continued rebounding - even after the stimulus' effects are long over, even after the sequester took a huge chunk out of federal spending. It's also doubtful the Commerce Department is intentionally "cooking the books" - this is a revised estimate, after an earlier, more pessimistic one, and one that's dropped right before the biggest holiday season of the year. It's not something that's going to dominate headlines at a politically-potent time.
So it's mild good news. Not jump-for-joy news, but good nonetheless.
Zerlina Maxwell wrote that we should "automatically" (see the URL for the original headline) believe rape victims. That goes against everything our system of justice stands for, as we base cases on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. I’m not going down that rabbit hole–and neither should any American who believes in law and order. Dates, names, and physical evidence, need to be analyzed, cross-examined, and pieced together to build a case against the alleged perpetrator.
Again, you probably already know this, but some liberals seem to think otherwise. Why is that? Why is it that for other crimes they believe in the process, but when it comes to rape, it’s an automatic guilty verdict for the accused.
This might the dumbest thing ever published in a mainstream newspaper http://t.co/jORAcDlRqU— Michael C Moynihan (@mcmoynihan) December 6, 2014
Right now, there seems to be this hysteria over sexual assault on campus. I’m not saying rape isn’t a serious issue, but its frequency may be overblown. We’ll get to that a little bit later.
Currently, the reforms and statues aimed at keeping campuses safe from sexual predators seem to be infringing on the civil rights of men. Emily Yoffe at Slate wrote a great long-from piece about the sexual assault epidemic that’s allegedly running rampant in higher education. She used the 2012 story of Drew Sterrett, an engineering student who used to attend the University of Michigan, as her foundation to delve into how college campuses have devolved into a clown circus when it comes to investigating sexual assaults.
Sterrett was a victim of this process; he engaged in what he says was a consensual sexual encounter with a female colleague at school. His roommate noted in a sworn affidavit that it was consensual, even mentioning his frustration that they were being too loud during the act, which was keeping him from sleeping.
Yoffe had a concise description of the legal fiasco that’s unfolding in American higher education:
Unfortunately, under the worthy mandate of protecting victims of sexual assault, procedures are being put in place at colleges that presume the guilt of the accused. Colleges, encouraged by federal officials, are instituting solutions to sexual violence against women that abrogate the civil rights of men. Schools that hold hearings to adjudicate claims of sexual misconduct allow the accuser and the accused to be accompanied by legal counsel. But as Judith Shulevitz noted in the New Republic in October, many schools ban lawyers from speaking to their clients (only notes can be passed). During these proceedings, the two parties are not supposed to question or cross examine each other, a prohibition recommended by the federal government in order to protect the accuser. And by federal requirement, students can be found guilty under the lowest standard of proof: preponderance of the evidence, meaning just a 51 percent certainty is all that’s needed for a finding that can permanently alter the life of the accused.
More than two dozen Harvard Law School professors recently wrote a statement protesting the university’s new rules for handling sexual assault claims. “Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process,” they wrote. The professors note that the new rules call for a Title IX compliance officer who will be in charge of “investigation, prosecution, fact-finding, and appellate review.” Under the new system, there will be no hearing for the accused, and thus no opportunity to question witnesses and mount a defense. Harvard University, the professors wrote, is “jettisoning balance and fairness in the rush to appease certain federal administrative officials.” But to push back against Department of Education edicts means potentially putting a school’s federal funding in jeopardy, and no college, not even Harvard, the country’s richest, is willing to do that.
As for Sterrett, the school found him guilty of sexual intercourse without the Complainant’s consent and was suspended until 2016; the year his alleged accuser graduates. All of this after Sterrett gave a thorough rebuttal, which didn’t suggest any sexual assault had occurred. His accuser’s roommate didn’t notice any behavioral shifts until her mother discovered her diary that “contained descriptions of romantic and sexual experiences, drug use, and drinking.” Obviously, this didn’t set well with the mother, who drove Sterrett’s accuser to campus to meet with the university’s conflict resolution official. Even Sterrett’s accuser’s roommate believes that a rape story could have been “manufactured” in response to the discovery of her diary and the alleged confrontation Sterrett’s accuser had with her mother over the summer of 2012. Oh, and the accuser’s roommate also mentioned in an affidavit that the mother called her repeatedly, told her not to talk to Sterrett, and take her daughter’s side in the proceedings.
Right now, Sterrett hopes to finish his education…someday. His lawsuit is pending.
Yoffe documents this tragic story in more detail, which also includes a lengthy deep-dive into the statistics as well. Spoiler alert: they’re not accurate.
Despite what feminists and liberal Democrats have been espousing for years regarding the rates of sexual assault, it’s a little dubious to say there’s a rape epidemic. The figures they give on rape and sexual assault rival that of the Congo in Africa, where it’s being used as a vehicle of war.
Additionally, women in define sexual assault differently. In a study of over 5,000 female college student sexual assault ranged from non-consensual intercourse to “rubbing up against you in a sexual way, even if it is over your clothes.” Most importantly, Yoffe notes that we’re experiencing a great trend in this country: violent crime is down, including sexual assaults; they’re down by more than 60 percent since the mid-1990s:
The Sexual Victimization of College Women, a 2000 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, is the basis for another widely cited statistic, even grimmer than the finding of CSA: that one in four college women will be raped. (An activist organization, One in Four, takes its name from the finding.) The study itself, however, found a completed rape rate among its respondents of 1.7 percent. How does a study that finds less than 2 percent of college women in a given year are raped become a 25 percent likelihood? In addition to the 1.7 percent of victims of completed rape, the survey found that another 1.1 percent experienced attempted rape. As the authors wrote, “[O]ne might conclude that the risk of rape victimization for college women is not high; ‘only’ about 1 in 36 college women (2.8 percent) experience a completed rape or attempted rape in an academic year.”
In a footnote, the authors acknowledge that asserting that one-quarter of college students “might” be raped is not based on actual evidence: “These projections are suggestive. To assess accurately the victimization risk for women throughout a college career, longitudinal research following a cohort of female students across time is needed.” The one-fifth to one-quarter assertion would mean that young American college women are raped at a rate similar to women in Congo, where rape has been used as a weapon of war.
No one disputes that only a percentage of sexual assaults get reported, but the studies that have tried to capture the incidence of unreported rape are miles apart.
Yoffe also mentions David Lisak, who’s acted as a consultant in the military, colleges, and other institutions regarding sexual assault, and his 2002 study that’s become the foundation for curbing the frequency of such brutal attacks in our society. In essence, those who commit rapes on campuses fit the profile of a sexual predator. They’re a small group–and they’re repeat offenders. He noted in an article for Sexual Assault Report that “decent” young men do not (although he admits sometimes they do) engage in this barbarism against women since serial offenders are responsible for 90 percent of attacks of attacks. They’re “multi-faceted,” and their attacks are pre-planned and premeditated.
It’s pretty sick stuff. Lisak found in his 2002 that 6.4 percent of men “met criteria for rape or attempted rape;” Yoffe mentioned that 80 percent admitted to taking advantaged of an intoxicated partner.
Yet, while Yoffe credits Lisak for profiling these predators who are adept at evading capture, she’s quick to note that it isn’t representative of all college men. She also mentioned that his sample included more than just this demographic:
To start, though the study was of college men, it was not of college-age men (who are traditionally ages 18 to 24). Lisak’s participants ranged in age from 18 to 71. The average age of his respondents was 26.5, and more than 20 percent were older than 30. How does a study of men in college include so many older men? Lisak recruited people from where he taught, the University of Massachusetts Boston, an urban commuter school with no campus housing. Many students are older working people returning to or just starting college. Currently, 30 percent of its students attend part time and the school’s four-year graduation rate is 15 percent. By comparison, at the state’s flagship university in Amherst, seven percent of students are enrolled part time and its four-year graduation rate is 60 percent.
I spoke with James J. Cochran, professor of applied statistics at the University of Alabama. He said that because the population of male students at UMass Boston may differ in important ways from the population of male college students across all universities, we must be careful in generalizing results from the UMass Boston sample to the population of male college students across all universities.* People tend to think that a single study is definitive, Cochran told me. But generally what a single study tells you, he said, is that we have “evidence of something interesting, let’s study it more.”
Lisak conducted the study between 1991 to 1998, at several year intervals, setting up tables on campus, where he offered men $3 or $4 to complete a study on “childhood experiences and adult functioning.” In all, Lisak and his co-author recruited 1,882 participants (the school had a total of about 5,800 male students during this period). Lisak and his co-author wrote: “Because of the non-random nature of the sampling procedures, the reported data cannot be interpreted as estimates of the prevalence of sexual and other acts of violence.” I asked Lisak about this caveat in an interview and he said, “That’s a standard disclaimer for any study.”
Hence, we come back to the issue of having healthy criticism when rape claims come forward. The mantra of the feminist left is to believe alleged rape victims because women don’t lie, or something.
After the Duke lacrosse fiasco, where the three young men were allegedly involved in sexually assaulting a stripper, they were declared more than just not guilty, but innocent by North Carolina’s Attorney General Roy Cooper.
To automatically believe one person’s account and disregard others when a serious crime is committed goes against everything codified in our system of justice. At the same time, it’s doubly irresponsible to take such a position when the facts and figures on the subject of sexual assault is shaky to suggest that college is a dystopia for women. In fact, DOJ reports show that college students are less likely to be victims of sexual assault.
It does appear that institution in higher learning are not equipped for the arduous, tedious process that our system of justice takes to make sure nothing falls through the cracks, to prevent innocent people’s lives from being ruined by frivolous allegations, to get the facts straight, and allow due process.
It’s hard to do that when raw emotion and a disregard for due process sets in when it comes to investigating such heinous allegations. Feminists trust women. So do I, but investigations into allegations of sexual assault need to include–and respect– due process of law, especially at the college level.
On December 18, 2014, the State Department put Ibrahim al-Rubaysh, a senior leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, on a Specially Designated Global Terrorist watch list. Al-Rubaysh plays a key role in operational planning for the terrorist group and provides justification for their attacks. He’s also made public statements on more than one occasion calling for war against the United States. For these reasons, there’s been a $5 million reward offered since October for information that could lead to his capture.
The problem is not the terrorist per se, or the State Department’s decision to place him on the global watch list; it’s the fact that the U.S. already had him once—and let him go.
Judicial Watch explains:
Hundreds of Gitmo terrorists have been discharged over the years under a program that started with President George W. Bush and continued full-throttle with this administration. Intelligence report after intelligence report has revealed that many rejoin terrorist missions after leaving the military prison. In fact, Judicial Watch has been reporting this for years. Back in 2010 JW wrote about a report that the Director of National Intelligence gave Congress documenting that 150 former Gitmo detainees were confirmed or suspected of “reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities after transfer.” At least 83 remained at large, according to the document.
Now we learn that the U.S. government is secretly admitting that it erred in at least one case, the release of a Saudi national named Ibrahim al-Rubaysh. In late 2006 the Bush administration repatriated him back home under a Saudi Arabian “rehabilitation” program that supposedly reformed Guantanamo Bay jihadists but instead has served as a training camp for future terrorists. In fact, in 2008 counterterrorism officials confirmed that many of the terrorists who return to “the fight” after being released from U.S. custody actually graduated from the laughable Saudi rehab program, which started under Bush and continued under Obama.
It turns out that al-Rubaysh is the poster child for the Saudi rehab’s failures. He’s a dangerous Al Qaeda operative based in Yemen and now, years after freeing him, the United States wants him captured.
As Judicial Watch noted, this is not exactly the first time former Gitmo detainees have rejoined the fight, no matter what type of rehabilitation programs they’re placed into upon release. And yet, this administration seems to have learned nothing. By releasing more and more Gitmo detainees, they’re continuing to place politics ahead of security concerns.
Just over the weekend, for example, four Afghan detainees were released, bringing the number down to 132. Many more transfers are expected in the coming weeks.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell, a suit seeking to stop billions in health care tax credits, on March 4, 2015.
The Court first announced they would hear the case on November 7th, a surprise that many Obamacare supporters took as a bad sign for the law. University Law School professor Nicholas Bagley wrote at the time:
In a significant setback for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court just agreed to review King v. Burwell, the Fourth Circuit’s decision upholding an IRS rule extending tax credits to federally established exchanges.
what’s troubling is that four justices apparently think—or at least are inclined to think—that King was wrongly decided. As I’ve said before, there’s no other reason to take King. The challengers urged the Court to intervene now in order to resolve “uncertainty” about the availability of federal tax credits.
There’s uncertainty only if you think the Supreme Court might invalidate the IRS rule. That’s why the justices’ votes on whether to grant the case are decent proxies for how they’ll decide the case. The justices who agree with King wouldn’t vote to grant. They would instead want to signal to their colleagues that, in their view, the IRS rule ought to be upheld. The justices who disagree with King would want to signal the opposite.
If the Court does rule against the Obama administration, however, Republicans in Congress will be in a bind. Only those states that did not set up state health care exchanges will lose their Obamacare tax credits and most of those states are controlled by Republicans. This means that the citizens of California will continue to get their health insurance tax credits while the citizens of Texas will not.
Republicans in Congress will have until midsummer to come up with a solution to this problem. A Court decision is expected in late June.
As a candidate for re-election, how many times did President Obama take credit for ending the War in Iraq? Perhaps too many to count:
Despite these assurances, however, the war is not over, let alone won. If it was, why on earth is Uncle Sam redeploying troops there?
The U.S. is sending as many as 1,300 more troops to Iraq in late January, the Defense Department announced Friday. The troops will include about 1,000 soldiers in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. The rest will be drawn from multiple services. “Their mission will be to train, advise and assist Iraqi security forces,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters at a briefing. “This deployment is part of the additional 1,500 troops that the president authorized in November.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signed orders Wednesday for the first group of these troops to go to Iraq, the Associated Press reported. “What makes this [deployment] different is simply the geography,” Kirby noted, pointing out the advising teams will operate in the Anbar area and north of Baghdad.
Of course, the administration is adamant these are not “combat troops.” They are merely serving an “advisory role” to help “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. But even if that’s the case that doesn't necessarily diminish the inherent dangers of serving in what is self-evidently a war zone. After all, what are we to make, for example, of reports that US ground troops have recently and already engaged ISIS?
A number of militants have been killed in Islamic State's very first battle with U.S. ground troops after the extremists attempted to overrun an Iraqi military base. The militants attacked Ein al-Asad military base on Sunday where more than 100 U.S. military support troops are based.
Despite launching the surprise attack just after midnight, ISIS's offensive was swiftly repelled when U.S. troops and F18 jets joined in the skirmish in support of the Iraqi Army. Facing both Iraqi and US troops supported by F18 jets, an unknown number of ISIS attackers were killed during the two hour firefight before being forced to retreat.
It’s worth noting, however, that a spokesman for the military called these reports “unfounded.”
Contrary to reports coming out of Iraq, U.S. troops have not engaged in ground combat with the Sunni insurgent group Islamic State, according to the task force in charge of running daily operations in the U.S. and coalition mission known as Operation Inherent Resolve.
"We have seen the recent media stories and there has been absolutely no contact between U.S. military forces on the ground and ISIL (Islamic State) near al Asad airbase or anywhere else in Iraq," said Gary Boucher, a spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. "The reports are unfounded. Throughout the past week, Iraqi security forces have had engagements with ISIL in the vicinity of al Asad Airbase. However, U.S. forces were not a part of those engagements."
Still, it’s perhaps only a matter of time before U.S. ground troops engage the enemy. And even if they don’t, one thing is absolutely certain: This war is not over.
If it was, I suspect re-deploying America's sons and daughters to such a place wouldn't be necessary.
Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference, where he called for a cessation of protests until Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were buried for their service to the city. Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley murdered both officers last Saturday afternoon in Bed-Stuy, a neighborhood in Brooklyn. De Blasio also took shots at the media for “dividing” the city for only reporting about the bad folks, whom he says does not represent the majority of the protestors.
De Blasio has faced mounting criticism for the perception that he doesn’t stand by the NYPD–and for remarks he made to his biracial son–Dante– about being more careful around police officers. The Chicago Tribune wrote that the unions accuse de Blasio for “helping incite a loathing of police through public remarks noting that he understood some of the protesters' grievances.”
So, how bad has relationship become between de Blasio and the police department? Well, officers turned their backs on him when he entered the Brooklyn hospital where Officers Liu and Ramos were taken after the ambush. The city’s largest police union circulated a letter signed by officers asking the mayor to stay away from their funerals should they be killed on duty.
Yet, going after the media is the first sign that a politician knows he–or she–is cornered. On one end, de Blasio, for a lack of a better term, has lost the police. On the other, protestors were aghast that de Blasio called for a moratorium on protests in light of these horrific murders. One group, the Answer Coalition, said such a suggestion was “outrageous” and an effort to “chill” free speech, according to the Tribune. They are not going to cancel a pre-planned Tuesday night march this week.
Though one thing does look inevitable: de Blasio’s relationship with the police will completely breakdown (one could argue it already has) and will create a political problem that his staff seems incapable of ameliorating. Case in point: His press secretary, Phil Walzak, commented on harsh criticism his boss was receiving, including the intense comments made by the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association President, Patrick Lynch, by saying, “It’s unfortunate that in a time of great tragedy, some would resort to irresponsible, overheated rhetoric that angers and divides people.”
Right, so the folks saying, “they [Officers Liu and Ramos] deserved it” are not to part of the problem? This is an appalling lack of self-awareness.
Mike Lupica, who is more of a sports columnist, noted that Walzak came off as “a tone-deaf political hack,” noting that such anti-cop rhetoric has been festering in the streets of New York for weeks:
This is what happens when this mayor acts more interested — or deferential — about what a self-promoter like Al Sharpton thinks about policing than those actually doing it in New York City.
he police officers of this city weren’t always happy with Rudy Giuliani when Giuliani was mayor, starting with how he thought they should be paid. But they knew where they stood with Giuliani the way they knew where they stood with Mike Bloomberg. But then neither one of them ever gave you the idea, when they were running for office, that they were running against cops the way de Blasio did.
The mayor has to understand that if he does not step up and step forward now and admit mistakes he has made with the NYPD because of his obsession with playing to his base, then the image of those cops turning their backs on him will be a part of his permanent record.
But the mayor’s chief flack thinking anybody actually cared what he thought about the kind of anger and mourning we saw at Woodhull Hospital makes you wonder if these people at City Hall have the capacity to admit any kind of mistake, or if they have the capacity to change.
Those cops turned their backs on de Blasio Saturday night because he did it to them first.
Indeed, this war between 1 Police Plaza and City Hall seems to have had its beginnings in the 2013 mayoral election. Staffers of de Blasio were worried that the NYPD officers assigned to his protection detail were eavesdropping on their conversations, sometimes ducking out into the street away from plainclothes officers to have conversations, according to Politico. Yet, there are other events, besides meeting privately with the Eric Garner protestors and remarks he made to his son, that have left the police shaking their heads:
He [de Blasio] took the unusual step — unimaginable under the mayoralties of Rudy Giuliani or Michael Bloomberg — of inviting Sharpton to City Hall, seating him opposite Bratton at a table where the activist proceeded to strongly denounce the police. (“If Dante wasn’t your son, he’d be a candidate for a chokehold. And we got to deal with that reality,” Sharpton said to de Blasio as Bratton looked on.) Last week, de Blasio privately met with organizers of the Garner protests, another moment that antagonized police.
But the action that turned off cops most of all was his defense of City Hall staffer Rachel Noerdlinger, a longtime Sharpton aide whose son and boyfriend posted anti-police messages on their Facebook accounts. The boyfriend allegedly tried to drive a cop off the road in Edgewater, New Jersey, and later pleaded to a lesser offense, according to the New York Post. The mayor stood behind Noerdlinger for weeks until her son was arrested for trespassing – and even then he didn’t fire her. When she left her job, City Hall officials said she was on leave.
“His words and his deeds don’t match,” said veteran cop reporter Leonard Levitt, who runs NYPD Confidential, a website fed by tips from inside the department and widely read by the rank-and-file. “You had Noerdlinger’s son calling cops ‘pigs’ and de Blasio doesn’t think that’s inappropriate? What message are you sending? De Blasio says it’s just the union guys who are angry. It’s not. It’s everybody. I’ve been covering this for 25 years and I have never seen anything like it… The mayor doesn’t have a clue.”
The Politico piece also drew parallels between de Blasio and Obama; both men have low approvals among white voters. And both men seem unable to fully fill the seats of their offices. They can’t act the part. De Blasio reportedly shows up late to ceremonial events that Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, the writers of the piece, wrote are incredibly important to the office. They cite former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who understood these aspects of the mayoralty as the city recovered from the 9/11 attacks.
So, while de Blasio has time to reset relations with the NYPD, though it’s dubious if that will be successful, he’s proven–to no one's surprise–that he’s no Bloomberg.
Yet, as for the notion about the rhetoric, yes, it can get nasty, inexcusable, and make a tense situation worse, but let’s not rush to blame speech for this heinous crime, no matter how outrageous.
I’ll end with this question from a Hot Air post by Jazz Shaw: should de Blasio just resign?
Last note: The daughter of Eric Garner visited the memorial for Officers Liu and Ramos and offered her condolences.
Festivus, the made-up holiday popularized by the television show Seinfeld includes an "airing of grievances" as part of the "celebration." Like last year, Sen. Rand Paul (R) took to Twitter to air some of his grievances with Washington, politics in general, and other politicians. He also dropped a pretty strong hint that he's considering a 2016 run.
While airing his "grievance" that fellow Kentuckian Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) won't let him borrow his "awesome" sweater vest, Paul then tweeted about the importance of fashion in a campaign (noting Santorum's trademark vests), and then...this:
Of course, everyone has to be themselves, and I have my own style. I think this will be a popular item this year pic.twitter.com/ejuPwOAb6E— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 23, 2014
While this certainly wasn't an official announcement, it certainly raised a few eyebrows among Paul's Twitter followers.
@SenRandPaul Is that the formal announcement? haha— Mike C (@Octotron) December 23, 2014
@SenRandPaul Is this an announcement?— Chris (@forewit) December 23, 2014
@SenRandPaul ...sooo is this an announcement?— Shaquille Brewster (@shaqbrewster) December 23, 2014
After making it clear that he will not be airing any (more) grievances against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (saving that for the feats of strength, perhaps?), Paul left Twitter, promising to be back with additional grievances about the Federal Reserve and other topics.
While there are more people working in the United States today than when the recession began, the number of native born Americans working today is still lower than it was when the recession began.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, beofre the recession, the number of people with jobs peaked at 146.2 million in September 2007. Today, 147.3 million people have jobs.
But the job growth has not been even. Foreign born immigrants have fared far better than American citizens.
The number of native born citizens with jobs peaked at 124 million in November 2007, and fell to a low of 115.7 million in January 2010, before rising to 122.6 million today. So while the number of native born citizens with jobs has risen by almost 7 million, there are still 1.4 million fewer native born Americans with jobs today than when the recession began.
Over this same time, the native born population above the age of 16 has grown from 197.7 million in November 2007 to 208.8 million today.
Immigrants, however, have fared far better during the Obama recovery. Before the recession, the number of foreign born workers peaked at 23.3 million in July 2007, before falling to 21.1 million in January 2010. Today, however, the number of foreign born workers with jobs has risen to 25.1 million, a gain of 4 million jobs since the bottom of the recession, and a gain of 1.8 million jobs since the recession began.
When President Obama announced his plans to "normalize" relations with Cuba last week, he got little in return for the move from the Castro regime. Regardless, the announcement opened the door for federal law enforcement to ask the question, "With normalization will Cuba return convicted cop killer Joanne Chesimard, who murdered New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973, to the United States?" New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also sent a letter to President Obama over the weekend saying Chesimard's return should happen before further negotiation and diplomacy with the Cuban government.
This needs to happen before any further consideration of restoration of diplomatic relations w/ the Cuban Government. pic.twitter.com/BH5KNIlPZU— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) December 21, 2014
Regardless, the Castro regime has no plans to return a "persecuted" Chesimard, who is on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list, so she can finish her prison sentence.
Cuba said Monday that it has a right to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, the clearest sign yet that the communist government has no intention of extraditing America's most-wanted woman despite the warming of bilateral ties.
Chesimard was granted asylum by Fidel Castro after she escaped from the prison where she was serving a sentence for killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 during a gunbattle after being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Asked if returning fugitives was open to negotiation, Cuba's head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press that "every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted. ... That's a legitimate right."
"We've explained to the U.S. government in the past that there are some people living in Cuba to whom Cuba has legitimately granted political asylum," Vidal said.
"There's no extradition treaty in effect between Cuba and the U.S.," she added.
If the Cuban government won't even return convicted cop killers to the United States, don't expect them to embrace the values of democracy any time soon.
Well, the day has arrived! On March 4, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on King v. Burwell, which will determine the fate of Obamacare. The King case was decided around the same time as Halbig v. Burwell, which argued similar points over health care subsidies for exchanges “established by the state.”
The Fourth Circuit of Appeals sided with the government, while the D.C. Court of Appeals sided with Halbig, which Guy mentioned would increase the likelihood that this case will head to the Supreme Court (via WSJ):
The Supreme Court said it will hear oral arguments on March 4 in a lawsuit over whether the Obama administration is improperly providing tax credits to consumers who purchase health insurance through the federal exchanges.
The case will determine the fate of the tax credits to millions of consumers who have obtained insurance coverage through HealthCare.gov, the federal marketplace. The Supreme Court decided Nov. 7 to hear the lawsuit from Virginia, King v. Burwell, that challenges a key part of the Affordable Care Act. In all, an estimated 4.7 million people receive billions of dollars in subsidies to buy health coverage on the federal exchange.
Challengers claim the language in the health law only permits people who buy insurance from state-run exchanges to obtain the tax credits. Supporters of the law say it was always intended to provide the subsidies to people who bought coverage on the federal exchanges, too. HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange, now serves 37 states.
On March 4, the Supreme Court will only hear arguments related to the King case.
The tax credits are considered central to the law’s success. Under the ACA, most Americans must have health insurance or pay a penalty. The exchanges let individuals who don’t have insurance from their employer, Medicaid or Medicare to purchase insurance policies, with tax credits for lower-income consumers.
So, mark your calendars fellow health care wonks, journalists, bloggers, and political junkies; the ACA is heading back to court.
A new three minute ad called “Stop Gun Violence” is sending a very mixed message to children—namely, if you’re scared of guns bring them to school.
The ad is as ridiculous as it sounds. The clip, created by independent filmmaker Rejina Sincic, shows a boy sneaking into his mother’s room (while she sits reads demurely in the living room) only to steal the handgun that is hidden in one of her dresser drawers.
The boy then tosses the gun into his backpack and flops back on his bed as though heavily burdened. And, considering he just put a handgun into his backpack without making sure that there was no bullet in the chamber that the safety was on, he should be feeling pretty worried right now.
The next day after class, he walks up to his teacher and drops the weapon onto her desk:
“Can you take this away? I don’t feel safe with a gun in my house.”
This ad just has so much wrong with it, I don’t even know where to begin:
First of all, why would the boy be scared of his mother’s handgun? He should know that the weapon has the potential to save his and his mother’s life.
Secondly, if a child is afraid of guns, the last thing he or she should be doing is bringing one to school. Apparently this thought never occurred to the San Francisco-based screenwriter.
Thirdly, why would the boy turn on his mother and bring the gun into a public authority figure rather than speaking to her about it? And what is a teacher supposed to do? Confiscate the weapon that the mother (perhaps a single mother as the father is never shown) owns by her Second Amendment right?
Clearly, someone did not think this one through.
Outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is in a league of his own and therefore will be almost impossible to replace when he retires from public life in a few weeks. Not only is he a very conservative lawmaker, especially on social issues, but unlike many of his Republican colleagues, he's somewhat amazingly struck up a strong and lasting friendship with the President of the United States.
Yesterday, 60 Minutes did a wonderful profile on him, which covered both his life before politics and some of his later accomplishments. To name just a few, his related crusades to raise awareness and end government waste, cronyism, and careerism are well-known. A few select quotes from the must-see interview:
On his friendship with Barack Obama:
“My relationship with Barack Obama isn’t based on my political philosophy or his…it’s based on the fact that I think he’s a genuinely very smart, nice guy. I just love him as a man.”
On the 2008 election:
“I’m proud of our country that we elected Barack Obama. It says something about us nationally. You know, it’s kind of like crowning your checker when you get to the end of the checkerboard. Here’s another thing that says America's special.”
On firing all members of Congress:
“If you want to fix things, that’s what I would do. If I was king tomorrow, that’s what I would do.”
On mortality and his prostate cancer diagnosis:
“Everybody’s gonna die from something. And so the deal is how do you use each day to move things forward for both you and the people you love, but also the country you love?”
And finally, his response when asked: “Did you know anything about politics [when you first ran for Congress]?"
Interesting stuff. Do yourselves a favor and watch the full clip below:
After launching a cyber attack against Sony—releasing embarrassing emails, employee information, and threatening 9/11 style attacks on theaters that dared show “The Interview,” the country is now reportedly experiencing major Internet problems.
CNBC has the details:
The country, which the FBI accused last week of the cyberattack, is suffering from periodic Internet outages, and experts at DYN Research found that recent problems were out of the ordinary, according to a report from North Korea Tech.
"I haven't seen such a steady beat of routing instability and outages in KP before," Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, told North Korea Tech. "Usually there are isolated blips, not continuous connectivity problems. I wouldn't be surprised if they are absorbing some sort of attack presently."
In an interview with Re/code, Madory said that even typically strong connections are experiencing disruptions. (CNBC's parent NBC Universal is an investor in Re/code's parent Revere Digital.)
"They're pretty stable networks normally," he told Re/code. "In the last 24 hours or so, the networks in North Korea are under some kind of duress, but I can't tell you exactly what's causing it."
While we don’t yet know whether this was in fact some sort of counterattack, keep in mind that in a press conference just last week, President Obama said the cyber attack caused “a lot of damage” and promised to “respond proportionally,” in a “place and time and manner that we choose.”
According to Madory, the connectivity problem in the country has gotten so bad that it's now "totally down." Meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf would not comment on the reported outages in North Korea but, regarding Obama's promise to respond, said "some will be seen, some may not be seen."
Fans of James Franco and Seth Rogen (a legion that does not, apparently include my colleague Kevin) may be in luck: Sony is considering releasing The Interview online following the cancellation of its theatrical release.
From The Guardian:
Sony is considering using YouTube to distribute the film, with Lynton saying it was “certainly an option and certainly one thing we will consider.” He said that none of the major VOD services (like Netflix) had stepped forward to offer to host the film, nor would it use its own on-demand service Crackle.
A lawyer for Sony, David Boies, told NBC: “Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed. It will be distributed. How it’s going to be distributed, I don’t think anybody knows quite yet. But it’s going to be distributed.”
The film's theatrical release was canceled due to supposed threats from North Korea following the hacking of old Sony emails and documents. The decision to cancel was criticized by everyone from President Obama and the Republican National Committee. In a similarly absurd move, Paramount prohibited theaters from having free screenings of Team America: World Police, another movie that lampoons North Korea.
North Korea is now threatening to bomb the White House if the United States keeps blaming them for the cyberattack on Sony.
While I didn't really plan on seeing The Interview in theaters, I likely will watch it if it's released online. This tweet sums things up well:
I wanted to CHOOSE not to see The Interview.— Ready for Brennan (@Brennanator) December 17, 2014
"I wish they had spoken to me first," President Obama said Friday of Sony's decision to cancel the release of "The Interview" in the face of threats from North Korea.
"They made a mistake," he continued. "We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States."
Later in the day, Sony CEO Michael Lynton shot back, telling CNN that Obama was "mistaken as to what actually happened" and it was the theaters, not Sony, that made the release of the movie impossible.
Asked to respond to Lynton, Obama did not back down, telling CNN Friday, "Had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what the story was."
"If we set a precedent," Obama continued, "in which a dictator in another country can disrupt through cyber, a company's distribution chain or its products, and as a consequence we start censoring ourselves, that's a problem."
But if Sony's decisions sets a bad precedent that could lead to self-censorhip, then why did Obama not call Sony?
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters earlier in the week that Obama was receiving daily briefings on the Sony hack which, Earnest said, the White House considered "a serious national security matter."
If the matter was so serious then why did Obama never tell Sony he had their back? Other leaders in similar circumstances have. National Review's Jonah Goldberg recounts:
The first issue of Captain America came out on December 20, 1940. It shows Cap slugging Adolph Hitler in the mouth. ... Subsequent issues kept pitting Captain America against Hitler and his goons.
The angriest reaction came from the German-American Bund, Hitler’s stooges in the U.S. They harassed Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, the creators ofCaptain America, with hate mail and telephoned death threats.
“The theme was ‘death to the Jews,’” Simon wrote in his memoir. “At first we were inclined to laugh off their threats, but then, people in the office reported seeing menacing-looking groups of strange men in front of the building on 42nd Street, and some of the employees were fearful of leaving the office for lunch.”
Simon called the cops, and as soon as the police showed up, the phone rang. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia wanted to speak to the creators of Captain America. Simon got on the line. “You boys over there are doing a good job,” the voice squeaked. “The city of New York will see that no harm will come to you.’”
That is how it’s supposed to work in a democracy.
Sony reportedly called the FBI almost immediately after they found out they were hacked. Where was the White House call to Sony telling them, "The United States government will see that no harm will come to you"?