State Department Won't Confirm If Passports of Americans Fighting With ISIS Have Been Revoked

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Jen Psaki would not confirm if passports belonging to Americans confirmed to be fighting with ISIS/ISIL in the Middle East have been revoked. 

"It's not as black and white as that," Psaki said, adding that there are legal parameters the State Department must work around on a case-by-case basis. "We [State Department] can revoke passports for a number of reasons."

Government officials, intelligence agents and Americans have been concerned for weeks about ISIS fighters, who have now sent two messages directly to America with the beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, will easily use U.S. passports to get back into the country to carry out attacks. 

Just yesterday Saudi Arabia King Abdullah warned ISIS could reach Europe and the United States within two months.A senior regional diplomat told the Daily Mail last week, "The Islamic State is now the most capable military power in the Middle East outside Israel." 

Meanwhile, the State Department and Homeland Security have lost track of 6,000 students inside the U.S. on expired student visas. 

Parting thought:

"Garage": Greg Abbott’s Positive, Moving New Television Ad

My least favorite aspect of election season, I think, is being continually subjected to negative television advertisements. And yet there’s a reason why politicians and their strategists bombard us with so many of them: namely, they impact (if not significantly alter) election outcomes, as the Obama re-election machine keenly understood.

But maybe a more effective strategy for wooing voters is doing the opposite: releasing positive and refreshing campaign spots about candidates overcoming significant hardships in their lives. Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott’s most recent offering is a perfect example. After suffering a running accident in his mid-20s, which paralyzed him from the waist down, he explained what it took for him to recover -- and become a credible and accomplished candidate for governor this election cycle:

Now, compare the ad you just watched with the first television spot his opponent, Wendy Davis, released just last month. Among other things, it’s negative, unseemly, and somewhat misleading (although, in fairness, left-leaning Politifact did rate the ad “mostly true”).

Nevertheless, Team Abbott responded in kind, noting that the ad didn’t tell the whole story:

"This ad is a continuation of the type of rhetoric we've seen from a candidate who is paper-thin on substance and running a failing campaign devoid of any real vision for the future of Texas. Texans deserve better than the gutter politics they are getting from Sen. Davis.

"No one has a stronger record fighting the heinous crime of sexual assault than Greg Abbott. Not only did he create dedicated units to arrest and prosecute sex offenders and protect women and children from assault, he's responsible for putting more offenders in jail than all of his predecessors combined. In the case referenced in Sen. Davis' despicable ad, Greg Abbott's decision left intact the liability against the sex offender and his employer. No amount of desperate distortion attempts or token ad buys by Sen. Davis can change the facts of Greg Abbott's record of fighting for Texans."

At the same time, as the Houston Chronicle pointed out, the Wendy Davis campaign also ran the ad without explicit permission from the victim:

"Absolutely, it is a risk," said Allan Saxe, a political scientist at the University of Texas at Arlington.

The risk may be especially high after the Davis campaign acknowledged Friday it had not spoken with the victim before releasing the ad Thursday night.

Davis spokesman Zac Petkanas said the victim spoke out about her case at the time and he thinks a Democratic organization warned her earlier this year it may be brought up in the governor's race.

Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson said not consulting the woman "sounds like political malpractice."

For obvious reasons, that was a gutsy call to make, albeit one Team Davis felt pretty good about.

We’ll have to see if politicizing this horrible crime without permission pays off for them.

Why Conservatism is Good for Hispanics

Hispanics, we are constantly told, are the most important demographic in American politics today. They provided President Obama his margin of victory in 2012, and, supossedly, all but guarantee that Democrats will control the White House for decades to come.

Hispanics certainly are the reason why the Republican party is essentially dead in California. Not only do Republicans hold zero statewide elected offices, but in 2012, Latinos made up 22 percent of the electorate and went for Obama over Romney by a 72 percent to 27 percent margin.

Considering their strong connection to the Democratic Party, Democrats should be firmly in control of any state where Latinos make up a significant part of the population. 

And yet in Texas, where Latinos make up an identical 38.4 percent of the population, Republicans are firmly in control. 

How did this happen?

Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, addresses this issue, and many more in his new book released today, "A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans."

"Texas's harsh rural poverty combined with an even harsher climate and topography to breed a frontier mentality in which neighbor helped neighbor," Gonzalez writes. "Mexicans in Texas, especially the people who spoke for them, were unabashedly patriotic, joined the army, and fought serration tooth and nail as they sought not a separate identity but a piece of the American pie."

"California's path to equality," Gonzalez continues, "emphasized less patriotism and more separation and identity politics. Its more militant Chicano Movement was about sit ins, bilingual education, and 'Chicano studies.' ... Unlike the [Texas based Order of the Sons of America], the Chicano Movement emphasized pride in Mexicans' distinctiveness and a refusal to assimilate."

Not only did the progressive movement discourage California's Mexican immigrants from assimilating, but its very generous welfare state made it much easier for them not to. Gonzalez details:

California's overly expansive welfare state has landed a higher percentage of its population on public assistance than has been the case in almost any other state in the Union. Texas, in contrast, has consigned fewer of its people to public assistance. With 12 percent of the total US population, California has 34 percent of the welfare caseload, for an overrepresentation of 238 percent. That means that means that though only one of eight Americans lives in California, the state is home to more than one of three welfare recipients. By contrast, Texas with 8 percent of the US population, has only 3 percent of the country's welfare caseload, for and underrepresentation of 35 precent."

The effect of California's progressive welfare state on California's Hispanic population has been dramatic. While California and Texas Hispanics have equal poverty rates, Texas Hispanics are more likely to be employed (California Hispanic unemployment is 12.7 precent compared to 7.7 percent in Texas), more likely to own a home, more likely to start a business, and more likely to be married.

As a result of being better assimilated and less dependent on the progressive welfare state, Texas Hispanics also are fare more likely to vote Republican. There were no exit polls in Texas in 2012, but in 2008, while California Hispanics went for Obama by a 74 percent to 23 percent margin, Texas Hispanics went Democratic by just 63 percent to 35 percent. Eating into the Democrats Hispanic edge by just ten points makes all the difference between a reliable blue state and a reliable red state.

So what can conservatives do to make sure more Hispanics turn out like Texans and not like Californians?

There is no silver bullet. But Gonzalez advises conservatives to engage Hispanic communities as much as possible:

The trick is to offer Hispanics an alternative, not more of the same, to show them that though superficially the liberal version of community may appear more attractive, it is the conservative one that leads to the good life.

To do this, conservatives will have to make a mobility argument to Hispanics. Conservatives will need to go out into Hispanic neighborhoods and explain that liberal policies have held Hispanics back. They came to this country to thrive and join the community at large, not to be balkanized into pockets of poverty. Whatever the appeal of its siren song, what government has offered has had the opposite result.

Gonzalez does not ignore illegal immigration, but he does not let it become a distraction either. "[T]he conversation about illegal immigration takes up all the oxygen in the room, and we shouldn't let it," Gonzalez writes, also noting that the economy, education, and the family all routinely outrank immigration as a priority among Hispanics when polled.

"Hispanic voting patterns will not change if all we do is throw open the gateway and do not adopt a plan for the future," Gonzalez adds. Pick up a copy of the book to find out what that plan should look like.

D'Souza Announces Tour to Bring "America" Documentary to College Campuses

Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative author and filmmaker that some have deemed the "Michael Moore of the right," is launching a college tour this fall to introduce and discuss with students his new documentary, "America: Imagine a World Without Her." The film challenges the notion that America is a "predatory colonial power" that relied on thievery and exploitation to earn its prominent place in the world.

The tour is being sponsored by the Young America's Foundation. From the organization's press release:

Following the release of his breakthrough documentary, America, which has surpassed Michael Moore's "Capitalism" at the box office, Dinesh D'Souza will be taking the message of his film directly to college students. As showcased in the film, America's greatness is under attack by those who argue that our country's founding was based on the theft of America's natural resources and the exploitation of Native Americans and others around the world. Many of these attacks originate on college campuses and Dinesh will bring the message of the film to young people who often only hear a one-sided view of our history.

Critics have called D'Souza's "America" "controversial" and merely an attack on Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States: 1942 to Present." Well, if that is D'Souza's intention, I think that's a reasonable enough motive in itself. Zinn's "history" book is chock full of criticisms of America and her rise to wealth, claiming the country did little more than trample on minorities in its rise to power. D'Souza is determined to try and reverse these liberal lessons often taught in today's classrooms:

"America's campuses are where the Left is free to push its destructive ideas on young people, I am excited to work with my friends at Young America's Foundation to ensure students receive a balanced education" remarked Dinesh D'Souza.

D'Souza's first confirmed stop on his college tour is the University of California, Santa Barbara this October. YAF is speaking with a number of other universities as well. With all of the misinformation currently being divulged in schools, "America" would be a refreshing alternative. It's time for students to hear the positive - not just the negative - details about America's past. Here is the documentary trailer, which students all over the country will soon be able to watch:

Report: Obama Briefed on ISIS Threat for More Than a Year


Fox News national security correspondent Catherine Herridge probes her sources and reports that President Obama received "specific intelligence" about the rise of ISIS in his daily briefings for "at least a year:"

A former Pentagon official confirms to Fox News that detailed and specific intelligence about the rise of ISIS was included in the PDB, or the President’s Daily Brief, for at least a year before the group took large swaths of territory beginning in June. The official, who asked not to be identified because the PDB is considered the most authoritative, classified intelligence community product providing the President with analysis of sensitive international events, said the data was strong, and “granular” in detail, adding a policy maker “…could not come away with any other impression: This is getting bad.” The official who has close knowledge of the process said the President, who reads the PDB unlike his predecessors who traditionally had the document briefed to them, was not known to come back to the intelligence community with further questions or “taskings.” Asked to describe the frequency, the former Pentagon official said “not generally.” After suggestions that the administration may have been blindsided by the rise of ISIS, and that poor intelligence was to blame, the former Pentagon official said some of the intelligence was so good it was described as “exquisite” ... On whether the administration delayed acting on the Foley rescue, as first reported by the Sunday Times of London to be 30 days, the former Pentagon official confirmed there was significant delay, describing a White House that was racked with “hesitancy” and continually asking for “the intelligence to build up more.”

These allegations should be objectively shocking, but is anyone genuinely surprised by any of this?  Obama's hesitancy and vacillation on the Foley rescue mission have been widely reported, so that's old news. But Herridge's reporting includes a number of details that flesh out a portrait of a disengaged president.  First of all, just because the "granular" ISIS warnings were included in Obama's so-called PDB doesn't mean that he ever digested that intel.  Obama routinely skips his in-person briefings, including -- infamously -- on the day immediately following the terrorist attacks in Benghazi.  His aides insist that the president prefers to read his daily briefing book, but this Pentagon source says Obama rarely responds to the intelligence updates with follow-up questions and directives.  If he's scouring these documents on a daily basis, he's not letting on that he's actively responsive to the intelligence they contain. This, remember, is a man supporters hail as one of the most intellectually curious human beings on earth.  Fox isn't the only outlet citing sources and evidence spelling out the revelation that Obama has been fielding incoming information about the advancement of ISIS for some time. McClatchy confirmed in July that US officials had been tracking the terror group's progress since 2012:


A review of the record shows, however, that the Obama administration wasn’t surprised at all. In congressional testimony as far back as November, U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials made clear that the United States had been closely tracking the al Qaida spinoff since 2012, when it enlarged its operations from Iraq to civil war-torn Syria, seized an oil-rich province there and signed up thousands of foreign fighters who’d infiltrated Syria through NATO ally Turkey. The testimony, which received little news media attention at the time, also showed that Obama administration officials were well aware of the group’s declared intention to turn its Syrian sanctuary into a springboard from which it would send men and materiel back into Iraq and unleash waves of suicide bombings there. And they knew that the Iraqi security forces couldn’t handle it.

The current crisis didn't drop from the sky unannounced; it's been building for years -- a fact that puts the lie to some of the excuses we highlighted yesterday.  Our government has been watching developments closely throughout this cascading nightmare, and alarming intelligence has been laid before the president since at least 2013.  That's what makes Obama's dismissive comparison of ISIS to a "jayvee" basketball team in January so galling.  He knew, or should have known, better.  And it's what renders his "no strategy" admission last week flat-out indefensible.  The media -- including Townhall -- began reporting in earnest on the hellish scenes playing out across Iraq in early June.  That was three months ago.  It would be egregious enough if the Commander-in-Chief still hadn't actively and urgently crafted a strategy to deal with ISIS over those weeks alone.  In fact, his inaction on this front dates back more than a year.  ISIS only became a quasi-priority when it started generating politically-problematic headlines, and even then, the president's priorities often seem to lie elsewhere.  If you ask Obama, none of this is his fault.  He's disclaimed the decision to pull all troops out of Iraq, even though it's well established that his administration didn't aggressively pursue an important status of forces agreement, and therefore did not secure one.  I'll leave you with former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs calling the president's "no strategy" gaffe a wince-inducing comment:



Incidentally, the Brits say they're fully behind anti-ISIS US airstrikes in Iraq (though they're reticent to join in) and are sending lethal aid to the Kurds, as are the Germans.

BREAKING: Video Reportedly Shows Execution of Reporter Steven Sotloff

Sad reports from AP this afternoon:

Journalist Steven Sotloff was pictured at the end of the video of James Foley's execution, with ISIS militants warning that he would be executed next. Sotloff went missing in Syria in August 2013.

The executioner in Sotloff's video is thought to be the same man who executed James Foley. Both speak with British accents, and in the new video, he addressed the camera saying, "I'm back."

The unidentified militant in the latest video denounces the Obama administration, saying, “I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State.”

Another hostage, David Cawthorne Haines, was threatened with beheading in the video. Haines is British.

Sotloff's mother released a heartfelt plea to her son's captors and the head of ISIS on the TV network al-Arabiya last week.

The State Department has not yet confirmed the authenticity of the video.

UPDATE: A transcript of the video has been released.

Reports: Obama Considers Postponing Executive Immigration Action Until After Midterms


The president's long-anticipated executive action to unilaterally afford temporary legal status to between five and eight million adult illegal immigrants may be pushed off until after the 2014 midterm elections, according to several reports.  Appearing on MSNBC yesterday, veteran journalist Jim Warren called the plan "off the table through the elections," presumably in reference to a New York Times  story published over the weekend:


President Obama is considering a delay of his most controversial proposals to revamp immigration laws through executive action until after the midterm elections in November, mindful of the electoral peril for Democratic Senate candidates, according to allies of the administration who have knowledge of White House deliberations. The president vowed in late June to act unilaterally, declaring a deep frustration with what he termed Republican obstruction in Congress. He pledged to act to reshape the immigration system soon after he received recommendations from senior advisers at the end of the summer. But now Mr. Obama and his aides appear to be stepping back from a firm commitment to that timing, a move that could draw fire from immigration advocacy groups who are expecting decisive action soon.


The story quotes incensed immigration activists, upbraiding Obama over his refusal to "stand up to Republicans," and calling the rumored delay "unconscionable."  They're livid over a potential nine-week postponement.  So why would Obama risk upsetting a vocal element of key Democratic constituency?  Pure politics:


Some of Mr. Obama’s advisers are urging him to postpone action, fearful of the political ramifications of a broad action to protect millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation and to provide many of them with official work papers. Such a move by the president, some senior officials worry, could set off a pitched fight with Republicans and dash hopes for Democratic Senate candidates running in Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and potentially in Iowa. Control of the Senate hinges on the outcomes of the half-dozen close races in states where Mr. Obama is not popular, notably in Southern states where opposition to an immigration overhaul runs high, and strategists fear that an immigration announcement could hurt Democratic candidates...Democratic senators have reached out to top White House officials, including Denis McDonough, the chief of staff, to argue that the recent crisis with unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the United States justifies a delay. Several Democratic officials on Capitol Hill said the angry reaction to that border crisis eroded public support for changing immigration policy, and in some cases, turned the issue into a negative one for them.


Democrats' goals are twofold: (1) In the medium-term, they want Obama's action to change the 'facts on the ground' in the immigration debate, so to speak.  Once millions are awarded work permits and "temporary" relief from the threat of deportation, it will be exceptionally politically difficult for future presidents or Congresses to reverse that new reality by re-imposing illegal status onto those people. (2) In the short term, some Democrats are hoping that a sweeping executive action from Obama will goad Republicans into a furious response. Within this breathtakingly cynical calculation, they'd actively root for Obama to push the envelope as far as possible in order to prompt an angry reaction, which could then be exploited to fundraise (they hauled in millions with their "impeachment" nonsense this summer), motivate the liberal base for the midterms, and further erode Republicans' image among Latinos.  This is the veritable definition of bad faith.  What a number of purple and red state Democrats are realizing, though, is that the politics of a massive executive amnesty may, at best, be volatile and risky.  Make no mistake, these nervous incumbents and candidates aren't begging Obama not to overreach and bypass Congress on a major policy issue altogether; they're just asking him to execute his power grab after voters would have an opportunity to punish them for it.  Also bear in mind that Obama himself has stated explicitly in the recent past that he lacks the authority to take the precise action that now seems to be a fait accompli:


Obama may have undermined his case because he has insisted time and again that he's the president, not the king, and "can't just make the laws up by myself." In a 2012 interview with Telemundo, Obama defended his decision to defer deportations for children but said he couldn't go any bigger. "If we start broadening that, then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that's not an option," he said then.

But that was then. Regal powers are now legal and legitimate, apparently. Obama performed a similar about-face before imposing his DREAM Act-style 'DACA' amnesty in 2012.  He made that move because the so-called DREAMers are a fairly small and sympathetic group, and carving out an exception for them had bipartisan support. Extending a similar reprieve to millions of illegal adults is a far more aggressive gambit, particularly in light of the still-unresolved border crisis involving tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors.  Those kids all still being held indefinitely, with more arriving each week.  Harry Reid's Senate, unlike the Republican-held House, left town for the summer recess without addressing that urgent issue. Speaking of the crisis, it is an objective fact that rampant (and false) rumors in Central America of an impending blanket amnesty for children was a major contributing factor to the current border crisis.  Obama's 2012 'DACA' action flipped on a powerful magnet.  How much stronger would its pull become if the president expands the same policy to millions of adults? That's a rhetorical question. Even as a supporter of immigration reform, it's abundantly clear that compounding the ongoing crisis by fueling one of its top triggers is extremely irresponsible, especially if it's done in the form of an executive order of questionably legality in order to bypass the legislative process -- which is difficult by design.  Proponents of Obama "going big" on his own say that pushing the move off until mid-November is unacceptable because people will be deported in the interim, "breaking up families" in the process.  While I'm sympathetic to the idea of not separating families, many of these same people are opposed to reuniting families through deportation vis-a-vis the unaccompanied minor situation.  How curious.  I'll leave you with three immigration activists venting their frustration with Obama for not flipping Congress the bird faster, replete with video of DREAMer agitators disrupting events to yell at Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan (two relative allies on these issues):


I'll reiterate that I'm pretty moderate on the immigration issue, but my empathy wavers when I see people who entered our country illegally berating and lecturing duly-elected members of Congress for not furnishing them with their preferred political resolutions fast enough.  They are not entitled to any immigration reform law, let alone one that meets their various demands (for example: legalization first, border security later, if at all).  They should be in no position to make demands.  Oh, and by the way:


What Happens To The Gun Control Debate If Malloy Loses In Connecticut?

There’s one highly competitive gubernatorial race happening this year and it isn’t in Wisconsin; it’s in Connecticut. Right now, incumbent Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy is in a tight race with Republican Tom Foley. Foley ran against him in 2010 and lost by a mere 6,500 votes. Besides the economy, gun control is being debated on the campaign trail. And Mr. Foley isn't being hurt by his position on the subject.

On average, Tom Foley has almost a 5-point lead over Malloy. Ramsussen and CBS News/NYT polls have Foley up 7 points over Malloy. This is a potentially embarrassing political defeat for the anti-gun left; the state that started another national dialogue about gun control, which conservatives won, would elect someone who’s more Second Amendment-friendly for governor almost two years after Sandy Hook. "Even Connecticut voters reject gun control" would be the new narrative in this debate that often ends in defeat for liberals.

What would Bloomberg and his cronies have left to fall back on besides petty open carry bans at grocery stores and retail chains in states that already permit such an exercise of constitutional rights statewide?

In a debate last week, gun control was brought up. Gov. Malloy said the new anti-gun laws he signed into law was keeping the Nutmeg State safe. Mr. Foley obviously disagreed, citing government overreach and that violent crime is down across the county (via WSJ):

Gun control has emerged as a major campaign issue, with Mr. Foley criticizing firearms restrictions the governor signed into law in 2013 in response to the deadly school shooting in Newtown. The package included universal background checks, a ban on sales of ammunition magazines with 10 or more rounds and a ban on the sale of certain types of firearms the state defines as "assault weapons."

The changes, Mr. Malloy said, have contributed to a declining statewide homicide rate: "I believe what we have done has made Connecticut safer."

Mr. Foley countered that violent-crime rates were falling across the U.S., adding that the new laws inconvenience gun owners and wouldn't prevent another mass shooting. "This was so overreaching that it went way, way beyond in what I think would have been an appropriate response to Newtown," said Mr. Foley, an ex-ambassador to Ireland and former private-equity manager. "It's not good leadership. It's grandstanding."

At the federal level, the Manchin-Toomey bill also sought to expand background checks and there was an amendment to ban assault rifles that went down in flames. Even Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said that this bill would not have prevented the tragic Newtown shooting.

There’s also the independent factor. While Connecticut is reliably Democratic, Democrats are note the majority in the voter rolls; it’s independents. Even Clinton pollster Douglas E. Schoen noted that these voters could decide the election in 2014–and that Foley is mounting a campaign that caters to their interests. He also noted Governor Malloy’s inability to campaign on Sandy Hook since it’ll come off as politicizing tragedy and “rub voters the wrong way.” Then again, anti-gun liberals did just that in the months after the tragedy, but got nothing in return for it.

Yet, there was some action taken at the local level.  In February of 2013, the Newtown school board voted in favor to allow armed guards to be stationed at schools, which is an initiative endorsed by the National Rifle Association.

As with any election, we shall see what happens, but if Malloy loses; what does this mean for gun control in America? We all know the movement has suffered significant legislative and legal defeats, but does a Foley win mean this anti-civil rights crusade is on life support? I sure hope so.

Editor's note: This post has been updated since publication.

The Case Against Common Core

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the September issue of Townhall Magazine. 

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was supposedly developed with one goal in mind: to strengthen the United States’ global competitive advantage by rigorously educating the next generation.

It is unquestioned that Americans are falling behind their foreign counterparts in academics. U.S. students tested below average in math and only nudged in close to average in reading and science when compared to 34 other developed countries, according to the 2012 Program for International Students Assessment.

“To maintain America’s competitive edge, we need all of our students to be prepared and ready to compete with students from around the world,” then-Vermont Gov. and National Governors Association vice chair Jim Douglas (D) said at the announcement of Common Core in 2009.

Unfortunately, this visionary overhaul has burgeoned into a federal government power grab. In its current capacity, the standards may end up hurting our already failing education system and overlooking our children’s unique needs and the diversity of the country at large.

WHAT IS COMMON CORE?

The Common Core lobbying push began in 2006, when NGA chair and then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano
(D) launched her Innovation America campaign. Napolitano’s goal was to “give governors

the tools they need to improve math and sci- ence education, better align postsecondary education systems with state economies, and develop regional innovation strategies.”

An ensuing task force composed of the NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the progressive educational group Achieve Inc. produced a 2008 report titled “Benchmark- ing Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World Class Education.” The writers urged state leaders to “upgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12 to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be globally competitive.”

This same advisory group proceeded to jointly develop the standards known today as Common Core State Standards.

The testing rubric sets K-12 grade-specific goals for English, language arts, and math. In theory, these standards would en- sure that students in every state are reaching the same academic level. At the same time, teachers still have the freedom to craft lessons at will, as long as they include the material needed for students to pass the national benchmark. Regardless of where a family relocates, or what school system they transfer into, a student should be able to enter the academic setting with confidence that they can keep up Microsoft guru Bill Gates eventually became one of Common Core’s biggest champions after activists sold him on the idea in 2008. Gates then heavily funded the organizations that pushed the Common Core standards and those same organizations are now set to use Microsoft products for their digital learning programs.

“I want to explain why Common Core is among the most important education ideas in years,” Gates wrote in a February 12, 2014 USA Today op-ed.

“The standards are just that: standards, similar to those that have guided teachers in all states for years, except these standards are inspired by a simple and powerful idea: Every American student should leave high school with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and in the job market.”

Initially, 45 states agreed to join the initiative in 2009. And in many respects, the program started off on the correct foot. It did not take long, however, for states to recognize the product’s false packaging and the potentially detrimental effects it would bring to their state.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

“If you look at the history of Common Core, how it came to be, the pressure and the incentive that were put on states to adopt it, I think it’s easy to conclude that this was federally driven,” Lindsey Burke, Will Skillman fellow in education policy at The Heritage Foundation, tells Townhall.

Follow the money and you will find that the federal government is the biggest backer of Common Core.

“From the get-go, there were $4.35 billion dollars in Race to the Top grants offered up to states that adopted the standards,” Burke says.

President Obama’s 2009 law, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, funded $4.35 billion to the competitive grant program, Race to the Top. This program offered monetary incentives (which for all intents and purposes can be referred to as a bribe) to implement educational reform.

According to the program’s executive summary, one of the criteria for reform just so happens to be using a “common set of high-quality standards” that have been adopted by a “significant number of states.” The only standard that fulfills these criteria is Common Core.

In addition to the Race to the Top carrot, Obama also used a draconian No Child Left Behind stick to whack any states that dared to defy his Common Core commandment. Burke explains:

“There is a looming deadline in No Child Left Behind that states are facing in the 2014-15 school year. No Child Left Behind says that every child has to be proficient in reading and math, and that’s a wonderful goal, but states are nowhere near meeting that goal, and there are a cascade of sanctions that will fall down on states if they come up short.”

“So the Obama administration,” Burke continues, “comes along and says, ‘we’ll waive that requirement from you, and we’ll ostensibly provide you relief from No Child Left Behind, but again, if and only if you agree to adopt common standards and other reforms that the White House prefers.’”

The current administration’s ideology of progressive reform is at the heart of the federal entanglement, Burke explains.

“For conservatives, that’s at odds, both with the tenets of federalism and the extremely limited role, if any, that the federal government is supposed to play in education policy, and it’s at odds just with the practical nature of education financing.”

Having a strong nationalized education system is not even indicative of improved academic performance. For example, Canada, which landed more than 20 places ahead of the United States on the PISA scale, does not even have a centralized education department. Tax money for public education is administered via provinces and territories that work together with local school boards to decide on implementation. Creating yet another federally monitored program can only indefinitely confirm one fact: a large sum of taxpayer money will be consumed.

The United States already spends more than $11,000 on each student, per year, with few tangible benefits for the cost. At the same time the Slovak Republic (spending what amounts to $5,000 per student) has managed to score similarly to U.S. students academically, PISA found.

Aware of the nation’s growing anti-Washington sentiments, the standards were relentlessly marketed as voluntary and state-led. It was this very phrasing that lured lawmakers to agree to the scheme.

ALL STRINGS ATTACHED

Oklahoma state Rep. Mike Turner (R) witnessed this selling point firsthand. Though not yet in the legislature at the time, Turner recalls the time when lawmakers agreed to the Common Core initiative:

“From what I understand everybody thought it was going to be this new era of education accountability and that we were going to have these minimum standards and that they are, quote on quote ‘locally derived.’ That is where Oklahoma, at the time and still, is ranked low compared to other states when it comes to a lot of different education standards. I’m sure a lot of lawmakers voted ‘yes,’ because they figured anything was better than what we had at the time.”

Oklahoma’s education ranking came in at only 43, when compared to other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit public policy organization. Despite having one of the poorest education rankings in the nation, lawmakers were quick to turn on Common Core when they learned more about it.

“The moment people began to see how many actual strings were involved, that’s when everything hit the fan,” Turner states. “The huge amount of outcry, you know, parents, teachers, community activists; they’re infuriated about the Common Core standards because it has completely robbed them of the ability to have any influence at all. And it’s completely re- written, not just the school curriculum, but it has also redone how teachers are evaluated, how we’re teaching to a test.” Common Core requires states to implement assessment tests using either the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Additionally, David Coleman, one of the standard’s lead writers, has more recently become president of College Board, the organization responsible for the SAT. Coleman proceeded to alter the SAT to align with Common Core. This means states, or even home-schooled students who remain out of the broad system, may find the test caters to students who have been raised on the standards.

ANGERING THE LEFT AND RIGHT

Not everyone is as enthusiastic about this new stratagem. The California Teachers Association, for example, spoke out on their website against linking student achievement to testing and highlighted the hypocrisy the Obama administration has shown in backing this technique for learning assessment.

“During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama contended that teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests and that students deserve to learn in an individualized manner. ... The narrow content focus encourages teaching to the test, which artificially inflates test scores while simultaneously narrowing the curriculum taught in the classroom.”

Many education wonks have found the new curriculum only debatably superior to the previous standards of some states. Massachusetts, for instance, one of the nation’s strongest academic achievers, will undoubtedly be worse off with the adoption of Common Core.

The new standards in math, English, and language arts are also not making any significant gains toward international standards. A study conducted by the dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education found that Common Core is failing to live up to its promise.

“The Common Core’s shift in emphasis to higher-level thinking skills is not consistent with curricular standards in countries that currently outshine the U.S. in international assessments,” a summary of the study on UPenn’s website notes. “[P]laces like Finland, Japan, and Singapore don’t put nearly as much emphasis on higher-order skills as does the Common Core.”

STATES WANT OUT

Indiana became the first state to repeal the new testing standards and many states have since followed suit.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), originally a supporter of Common Core, quickly relinquished his views and rejected the standards when he became better acquainted with them.

“Let’s face it: centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education,” Jindal stated in May. “Education is best left to local control.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) also signed a bill to shirk the Common Core standards with overwhelming support from the state legislature (78-18).

“I have to give a lot of credit to colleagues, who, at the original time thought [Common Core] was a great idea,” Turner says. “It’s fantastic to see them come around and see what the actual fruit of their implementation is. They began to realize that where federal government giveth, federal government taketh and control.”

Common Core was supposed to bring accountability and education standards to make our kids brighter, but it did neither, Turner explains.

“It is nothing more than a failed experiment that has cost significant resources, both in man-power and in dollars, only to put us on a one-size fits all agenda. We should have been looking at home-grown standards that takes into consideration each community’s goals.”

The end product does not encourage innovation or skill- setup, it instills in children the school’s need to produce widgets, which fit into a common machine, Turner remarked.

Oklahoma, like the other states that have or are in the midst of rejecting Common Core, is working to create its own set of standards that will be unique to the children, the people, and the local economy.

The very name “Common Core” goes against the heart of America’s rich and diverse population, where each person is valued for their individualism and rare skill set.

“Our kids aren’t ‘common,’” Heritage’s Burke points out, “they are incredibly unique and we want to move towards an education system that is individualized and personalized.” • 

Armed Iraqi Volunteers Help Government Forces Fight Off ISIS

That whole armed citizenry thing is working....in Iraq against ISIS. More from Al Jazeera:

Government forces mainly composed of Kurdish peshmerga fighters and armed volunteers have broken through the Islamic State group siege on the town of Amerli located between Baghdad, and the northern city of Kirkuk.

The news came as the AFP news agency reported on Monday that fighting with the Sunni rebel group continues in Sulaiman Bek and Yanakaja towns north of Amerli, killing at least two peshmerga fighters.

As of Monday, Iraqi forces and the armed volunteers have taken control of Amerli, a day after entering the town, where at least 12,000 people have been trapped for over two months with dwindling food and water.

The breakthrough was aided by expanded US air strikes, which destroyed Islamc State armed vehicles near Amerli as well as near Mosul Dam further north.

And from the BBC:

Outgoing Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who visited Amerli on Monday, said: "Our enemy is retreating and our security forces backed by volunteers are advancing to purge further towns."


Armed citizens: they work to fight bad guys.

Obama Talks About "Immigration Rights"

Under President "constitutional law professor" Obama, nearly everything is a "right." According to Obama everyone has a right to healthcare, housing, a "living" wage, food, transportation, etc. What this really translates to is: government dependence on everything, but that's a whole other topic on its own. 

Now as his illegal immigration and open borders base continues to pressure him to act on his own to bring amnesty to tens-of-millions of illegal immigrants, President Obama is touting illegal immigration as a right. He said as much during a speech on Labor Day. 

"Cynicism is a bad choice. Hope is the better choice. Hope is what gives us courage. Hope is what gave soldiers courage to storm a beach. Hope is what gives young people the strength to march for women’s rights, and worker’s rights, and civil rights, and voting rights, and gay rights, and immigration rights," Obama said (I'm not sure the men who stormed Normandy Beach did so on "hope" but whatever).


The reason the left refers to nearly everything they want as a "right" is so they can justify an entitlement to that right. Once people become entitled, or accept the idea of entitlement surrounding a certain issue, its game over. 

Immigration to the United States is not a right and illegal immigration and breaking the law are certainly not things anyone is entitled to. 

Good News: U.S. Authorities Can't Find 6,000 Students Whose Visas Have Expired

Good news everyone: We're back to pre-911 complacency as Islamic terror armies gain ground all over the world (as a side note, the United States apparently still doesn't have a strategy in place on how to deal with this growing, real threat). An alarming new report from ABC News shows authorities from U.S. Customs and Immigration and the State Department have lost track of 6,000 foreign students whose visas have expired. 


Watch more news videos | Latest from the US

As a reminder, the 9/11 hijackers purposely applied for student visas to get into the United States and knew when those visas expired nobody would come looking for them. To add insult to injury, the 9/11 hijackers should have never been issued visas in the first place. Remember this headline? State Dept. Lapses Aided 9/11 Hijackers. 

A new report accuses the State Department of staggering lapses in its visa program that gave Sept. 11 hijackers entry into the United States.

The political journal National Review obtained the visa applications for 15 of the 19 hijackers — and evidence that all of them should have been denied entry to the country.

Almost all of the hijacker's visas were issued in Saudi Arabia, at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or the U.S. Consulate in Jedda. Terrorist ties aside, the applications themselves should have raised red flags, say experts. The forms are incomplete and often incomprehensible — yet that didn't stop any of the 15 terrorists for whom the visa applications were obtained from coming to the United States.

The only alleged would-be hijacker who failed to get a visa was Ramzi Binalshibh, who was denied entrance to the United States repeatedly.

"This is a systemic problem," said Nikolai Wenzel, a former U.S. consular officer. "It's a problem of sloppiness, it's a problem of negligence which I would call criminal negligence because obviously, having reviewed all these applications, there is a pattern here."

The pattern? None of the 15 applications reviewed was filled out properly.

You get the idea. This is an attack waiting to happen.

Religious Freedom Fighters

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the September issue of Townhall Magazine. 

In 2008, the Romeike family had a big decision to make about the future of home schooling their children: stay in Germany, where the practice has been banned since 1918, and risk losing custody of their children, or seek political asylum in the United States.

As many are aware, they chose the latter.

By January 2010, all seemed well for the devoutly Christian family. A U.S. immigration judge made an unprecedented decision to grant the Romeikes asylum on religious freedom grounds, saying that Germany’s policy of persecuting homeschoolers is “repellent to everything we believe in as Americans,” and that the family was being denied “basic human rights that no country has a right to violate.”

But the victory would be short lived. The decision was challenged and overturned by the Obama administration, and by 2014, after years of uphill legal battles in the American court system, it looked as though the family may be deported to Germany.

Thanks in part to significant political and media attention, however, the administration suddenly relented in March and granted the family permission to stay in the country indefinitely.

The outcome of the Romeike family’s case was one of the Home School Legal Defense Association’s greatest successes in recent years, William Estrada, HSL- DA’s director of federal relations, tells Townhall. HSLDA, which represented the family, has been advocating for the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children since 1983.

“It was an incredible victory for the Romeike family and it really showed Germany is out of the mainstream in the way they do not allow any home schooling in their country,” he says, pointing out that even Russia and communist China allow the practice.

Although home schooling may seem like a deep-seated right in America, it was not long ago that HSLDA was fighting for its very survival in this country.

“The first 10-15 years [of HSLDA’s existence] you could say was actually the battle for home schooling’s survival, that was where we were defending families who were in prison; we were fighting to make home schooling legal,” says Estrada, a home-school graduate. “When we were founded in 1983 only a handful of states allowed home schooling. In pretty much all of them, home schooling was a criminal offense because it would be a violation of the truancy laws.”

By the early 1990s when home school- ing was legal in all 50 states, HSLDA transitioned to national work: battling H.R. 6 of 1994, which would have required all teachers, in all types of schools, to be certified in every subject area they teach; trying to keep the federal government from encroaching on home school- ing freedoms; and working to stop U.N. treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Home schooling is very bipartisan. It’s grown and is now recognized by everyone, and what we’re fighting for is more of a long-term defense to protect parental rights, Estrada says.

The numbers alone demonstrate its increased acceptance.

When the U.S. Department of Education first started conducting a quadrennial report in 1999, there were roughly 850,000 home-schooled students. Now, however, there are approximately 1.8 million students, according to its latest report of the 2011-2012 school year.

As the number of home-schooled students has grown, so too has the diversity of the population choosing this education option.

“When home schooling started in the ‘70s and ‘80s it was primarily fundamentalist Christian families who were home schooling because they didn’t like the direction the public school was taking as far as religious issues,” he says. “We are seeing home schooling rising across the board, among secular families, people who are home schooling who think the school is too conservative or too religious, and that has really started to swing the demographic.”

In addition to religious reasons, parents who choose to home-school most often cite concerns about the school environment and the academic content of the public school, the Department of Education has found. There are also sizeable minorities of people who home- school for other reasons, such as military families or families who have a child with a disability.

And Estrada says that anecdotally at least, dissatisfaction with Common Core has contributed to increasing numbers of home-schooled children in the last year or two.

“The good news is that Common Core does not apply to home-schools,” he says, “the bad news is if we’re unable, and I mean public school, private school, and home-school parents, if we’re unable to stop Common Core, we’re very concerned about the future of home schooling. You know, down the road there will be pressure on home schooling to conform.”

College acceptance could become harder for students who have not gone through Common Core, requirements to receive federal student aid could change, and so could standardized testing. For all these reasons, HSLDA remains actively engaged in the fight against Common Core.

There’s no question home schooling- has come of age, but that doesn’t mean HSLDA’s work is over. The association actively promotes home-school-friendly legislation on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures across the nation, and continues to provide invaluable home-schooling-related legal advice and representation to its more than 84,000 member families.

“We have the greatest members and that’s why we’ve continued to be able to fight for home schooling, for parental rights—those freedoms that are so dear to all parents,” he says. • 

NYT: Democrats Using Ferguson Shooting To Mobilize Voters For 2014

Democrats are using the tragic shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month to mobilize black voters ahead of the midterm elections. It could impact the races in Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas, where black voters represent a significant part of the electorate. African-Americans represent thirty percent of eligible voters in Louisiana and Georgia alone. The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin indicated that African-Americans “played a pivotal role” in 1998 elections. Yet, trying to drive up voter turnout will be tricky since the states that will determine if Democrats keep the Senate are in the south, where Obama is deeply unpopular (via NYT):

With their Senate majority imperiled, Democrats are trying to mobilize African-Americans outraged by the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., to help them retain control of at least one chamber of Congress for President Obama’s final two years in office.

In black churches and on black talk radio, African-American civic leaders have begun invoking the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, along with conservative calls to impeach Mr. Obama, as they urge black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, in which minority turnout is typically lower.

“Ferguson has made it crystal clear to the African-American community and others that we’ve got to go to the polls,” said Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia and a civil-rights leader. “You participate and vote, and you can have some control over what happens to your child and your country.”

The push is an attempt to counter Republicans’ many advantages in this year’s races, including polls that show Republican voters are much more engaged in the elections at this point — an important predictor of turnout.

[T]he terrain is tricky [for Democrats]: Many of the states where the black vote could be most crucial are also those where Mr. Obama is deeply unpopular among many white voters. So Democratic senators in places like Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina must distance themselves from the nation’s first African-American president while trying to motivate the black voters who are his most loyal constituents.

While minority turnout traditionally declines in nonpresidential election years, there have been midterm elections in which Southern blacks played a pivotal role. An example occurred in 1998, when President Bill Clinton was, like Mr. Obama, under fire from Republicans and nearing the end of his White House years.

The last point Martin makes is kind of odd. I would agree that it would’ve been pivotal if Democrats took back the Senate in 1998, but they didn't. There was no swing in the Senate composition at the end of the night; Republicans held 55 seats and the Democrats occupied 45. Each party lost and gained three seats.

Democrats took out Republican incumbents in New York, North Carolina, and Indiana, while Republicans booted Democrats in Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky. These elections would usher in Chuck Schumer and John Edwards into the U.S. Senate.

In Arkansas, Democrats were able to keep the seat Democratic with Blanche Lincoln and incumbent Sen. Paul Coverdell was able to hold the line for the Republicans in Georgia.

So, what’s so “pivotal” about a draw? Not only that, but a draw that ended with Republicans keeping their ten seat majority.

Also, are Democrats really so desperate that they need to politicize someone’s death? Then again, we’re talking about the political left; seldom do they exude any form of shame. Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that exploiting death to drive up voter turnout is, well, abhorrent. 

Biden Uses "Take Back America" Phrase--FLASHBACK: Holder Calls It Racist

Or what could be the Democrat mantra: Racism for thee but not for me.

The NRSC Released A Flash Video Game - But Is It Good?

Little flash-based web games have been around for nearly as long as the internet itself, and distraction-like games are common for political causes. The National Republican Senatorial Committee released "Giopi: Mission Majority" this week to wide coverage across the web. But is it any good?

I beat it in one sitting, in about fifteen minutes, and I can tell you: it's a mild disappointment. You play as Giopi the elephant, whose job is to collect keys and turn light switches in order to win back the Senate for the Republicans. Trying to stop you are two kinds of enemies: "taxers," which walk back and forth and injure Giopi on contact; and "mudslingers," large blue-grey blobs. Both can be defeated by jumping on their heads. When you jump on them, they let out little soundbites, like "phoney scandals" or "what difference, at this point, does it make?"


Also, 8-bit Joe Biden shows up

Which brings us to the most problematic part of the game: the controls. Admittedly, I was playing on my work PC, not a high-end gaming machine, so lag might have been a problem, but Giopi controls pretty poorly. You have to get used to a microsecond lag between when you tell Giopi to jump and when he actually does. Additionally, the hit-boxes on both the Taxer and Mudslinger are oddly wide; this caused poor Giopi much more injury in my playthrough than he deserved.


The little papers are "Taxers", and the grayish blob at the bottom is a "Mudslinger"

The music is good, though. Quite good! I might have detected a Mega Man ripoff sound effect when Giopi spawns in each level. There are a few different themes, all of which go very well with an 8-bit style video game. Problems arise here, too, unfortunately. The themes aren't unique to the levels. They cycle through one after another, rather than have a single theme with each new stage.

The stages themselves are pretty indistinguishable. There isn't even a color swap to tell them apart. In the first level, Giopi collects keys and stomps on Taxers. In the second and third levels, he collects keys and stomps on both Taxers and Mudslingers. In the fourth stage, he flicks light switches.

I'll say this: the game is slightly more competent and entertaining than I was expecting. That might be a low bar, though. As Asawin Suebsaeng wrote at the Daily Beast, partisan flash games have a checkered history:

In 2008, John McCain’s presidential campaign launched a Facebook game called Pork Invaders, which spoofed the arcade staple Space Invaders with a pork barrel-spending theme. In 2004, the Republican National Committee launched John Kerry: Tax Invaders and Kerry vs. Kerry, the latter a nod to the Democratic candidate’s reputation for flip-flopping on key political issues.

But look, the point of Giopi is not to make a good game. It's to get your email address or social media information (one of those must be given as a condition for playing the game) so that the NRSC can market and solicit donations from you.

Still, the game is a mild disappointment. It's a shame, because Giopi is an adorable little mascot. There's a lot of character stuffed into those little pixels! His tanktop is awesome!

.
Oh, and you can merchandise featuring the little guy as well

I'm not asking for the Emogame, perhaps the greatest flash game of all time. But even just tightening the screws and a little paint job in a few different places could have turned Giopi: Mission Majority into a hit. Especially with that little mascot.

Geraldo Rivera: Second Amendment is 'Blind and Stupid'

In covering the tragic story of a young girl accidentally killing her range instructor with an Uzi, my colleague Matt Vespa predicted that the anti-gun lobby would exploit this story to promote their agenda. It appears his prediction has been proven true. This past Thursday, Geraldo Rivera, a noted proponent of gun control, posted the following anti-Second Amendment message on his website and Facebook page: (emphasis added)

Like I always say, the 2nd Amendment, the provision that gives every American the right to keep and bear arms, is blind and stupid. In its relentless pimping for the gun industry, the NRA has unleashed an avalanche of deadly weapons on this gun-crazy country. Just as protects access to weapons for cops and hunters, it also protects access to weapons for domestic abusers, mental patients, jerk-offs on the no-fly list, all-around dim bulbs, and now little children.

As the father of a sweet, smart nine year old daughter myself, the latest example of gross excess is the image of that pony-tailed New Jersey girl accidentally killing her gun range instructor. It is obscene and uncivilized to let a third grader shoot a fully automatic Uzi machine gun. What was she training for, revolution? Invasion? Service in the coming post-apocalyptic social disorder? Stupid, but just another of countless examples of how far into insanity we have let the gun nuts push us.

As Matt noted in his article, there's a general consensus that the shooting range behaved negligently in allowing a young child to shoot a fully automatic weapon. 

I actually agree with most of Rivera's second paragraph: it was absolutely irresponsible for a young child to be shooting an Uzi. I disagree, however, with the assertion that it is the "gun nuts" fault that the girl was on the range. It's not uncommon at all for a child to learn to shoot at a young age, whether it be for hunting or sporting purposes. Giving an Uzi to a child, on the other hand, was absolutely ridiculous and this tragedy easily could have been avoided. 

While it's not exactly a shock that someone against guns thinks that the Second Amendment is "stupid," it is somewhat troubling that in Rivera's eyes the amendment being "blind" is also a negative quality. The U.S. Constitution applies to every citizen regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sex and intelligence level. It would be thoroughly anti-American to have a set of Constitutional rights only for people who meet certain intelligence (or other arbitrary) qualifications. 

This incident was a preventable tragedy, no doubt. But it's not an appropriate tool for outrage against the Second Amendment. 

Ted Cruz 2016?

Is Sen. Ted Cruz considering a 2016 presidential bid? Politico insinuated that Sen. Cruz's new hires might have been made with 2016 in mind. But, of course, his staff tried to quell rumors:

Ted Cruz is beefing up his political staff as speculation heats up that the Texas senator may run for president in 2016.

Joel Mowbray, a consultant for a foreign policy think tank, has been volunteering for the political operation and “will end up playing a role” on the paid political staff, the adviser said. Nick Muzin, a former top House Republican Conference aide that now works in Cruz’s congressional office as a deputy chief of staff, will be working on coalitions building and outreach for Cruz’s political operation.

Jason Miller, who’s advised prominent conservatives like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has been brought on to “to put together a more robust communications operation,” the adviser said, while longtime GOP presidential campaign hand and Axiom Strategies founder Jeff Roe has been brought on board to build out the political organization. Lauren Lofstron will work on fundraising. Those three hires were first reported by the Washington Examiner.

Chip Roy, Cruz’s chief of staff, also received $1,100 in July for political consulting for the senator’s leadership PAC — though this is not Roy’s first work on the political side for Cruz, the adviser said. Both GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida have moved their chiefs from their congressional offices to their political operations — but Roy isn’t going anywhere yet.

Several Cruz aides sought to dispel rumors that Roy is stepping away from Cruz’s congressional office to engage in politics full-time. Roy remains Cruz’s chief of staff, they said.

His address at Defending The American Dream Summit over the Labor Day weekend had some on Twitter predicting that he will toss his hat in the ring. It’s about half an hour. Sen. Cruz’s mantra of “retiring” Harry Reid was a hit with the attendees. He said 2014 is about defending our constitutional rights, namely the right to bear arms, defeating Common Core, protecting the First Amendment, ending the IRS targeting of conservatives, and holding the overly-politicized Department of Justice accountable. He called for the impeachment of Attorney General Eric Holder.

He added this election is also about defending the Fourth and Fifth Amendments’ right to privacy. I’ll let you debate if that’s a bit of a stretch. There is no explicit right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution.

Sen. Cruz also eviscerated Obama’s foreign policy and our lack of leadership around the world, specifically with how we’re dealing with ISIS and controlling Russia’s current belligerent state in Eastern Europe.

He gets the base energized. He surely got the freedom fighters attending Defending The American Dream excited, but is this setting the stage for a 2016 campaign? His address was very 2014-centric, but a lot remains to be seen.  Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who's name's been floating around as a potential 2016 candidate could be taken out of the running if he loses re-election this November.  Rep. Paul Ryan will probably want to stay in Congress to be the point person on policy.  Sen. Marco Rubio's immigration stance could be a liability with base voters. Regardless, let's do one election at a time.  We can start to speculate after November 4.

"Emergency Regulations": NY's Latest Attempt to Suppress Free Speech

Remember when President Obama touted the Affordable Care Act by claiming if you "liked your plan you could keep it"? He earned Politifact's 2013 "Lie of the Year" for that whopper. Amazingly, several other Democrats made the same false promise. Knowing what we know now, wouldn't you want to expose any politician who stood behind that misleading statement? Well, if someone uttered those words in the state of New York, you may now be forced to let it slide. A new law in the Empire State, which some are calling the 'shut up rule,' could allow such lofty claims to go unchallenged.

The New York Board of Elections, in an attempt to regulate political spending by special interest groups during campaigns, has enacted "emergency regulations" that would make it much more difficult to challenge political speech:

The new regulations require individuals and groups spending on races -- independently of candidates and political parties -- to register with the state as a political committee and file financial reports that list so-called “independent expenditures.”

If citizens fail to register as a political committees when trying to voice their political opinions, the Board can fine them at least $1,000.

A $1,000 fine. For exercising your First Amendment right.

New York may be trying to reign in campaign spending, but it doesn't justify suppressing New Yorkers' free speech. Critics say that the regulations would even affect someone simply trying to hand out fliers in his or her neighborhood. 

When politicians stretch the truth - either by falsely accusing their opponents of wrongdoing or exaggerating their own accomplishments - they should be held accountable by their constituents. Yet, in New York, it seems like it's about to get a whole lot easier for politicians' to get away with outright falsehoods. Thanks to this new law, I guess we'd have to accept as fact whenever a politician claims they "took the initiative" in creating the internet.

 

The Collapse of Libya and the Failure of 'Smart Power'


When conservatives criticize the Obama administration over the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks, much of the attention is trained on the security failures preceding the raid, the dishonest public spin campaign after the fact, the lack of accountability nearly two years later, and the still-unanswered questions on a host of fronts.  But that lethal event was merely a symptom of the White House's broader, unraveling foreign policy.  The president intervened in Libya in 2011, deploying US military resources to help a rebel fighting force depose and dispatch murderous dictator Muammar Gaddafi.  The Libya conflict was paradigmatic of Obama's approach to war: 'Leading from behind,' aerial bombardment, extremely light footprint.  War from the air.  War without Congressional approval.  And war, in this case, with no clear strategic objective.  The result of that conflict was, in Obama's judgment, an example of how the international "community is supposed to work," as he declared at the time.  Lesson: Libya was a model of how "smart power" leads.  Well, the struggle to fill the power vacuum triggered by Gaddafi's fall has raged ever since the US "won" in Libya.  The victors, it appears, are many of the radical Islamists that America aided in toppling the regime.  The country has been awash in hardcore radical elements, with Benghazi emerging as a Jihadi hotbed.  When terrorists sacked the US compound on 2012's anniversary of 9/11, that massacre was merely the most high-profile evidence of Libya's descent into ungovernable chaos.  Today, several years on, the journey to full-blown failed state status seems to be complete.  Radicals have seized control of much of Libya's capital city, including the international airport, and -- as Matt noted over the weekend -- the abandoned US embassy:



And Benghazi, for those interested, also remains a bubbling cauldron of violence and mayhem.  The terrible status quo in Libya that we helped to uproot has given way to an even worse reality on the ground.  What was the core American national security interest at stake that justified our involvement there?  Yes, Gaddafi was slaughtering elements of his own population, some of whom were Islamist rebels, so perhaps there was some humanitarian interest -- but what was our geopolitical strategy for life in Libya after Gaddafi?  By the looks of it, there wasn't one.  We intervened minimally, then hoped for the best.  We failed to secure our personnel in Benghazi along the way, perhaps in order to keep up those all-important 'light footprint, no boots on the ground' appearances.  There was no strategy.  In Syria, the president drew a red line against the Assad regime, threatened an air campaign when Assad repeatedly defied it, then failed to follow through on his public threats.  Obama's escape hatch was an accidental policy of chemical weapons disarmament, which we're now told has been successful.  Buying that line requires (a) ignoring the fact that multiple deadlines were missed along the way as chemical weapons were used again, and (b) believing that all of Assad's illegal weapons were throughly catalogued and handed over, which seems highly unlikely.  Again, there was no strategy. One year later, the president is weighing military options in Syria, but this time in de facto support of Assad, against his malignant enemies.  In the fight against ISIS -- which quickly metastasized from a JV squad into a "cancer," in Obama's parlance -- the president openly admitted on Thursday that "we don't have a strategy yet."  The White House has been flailing to walk that phrase back ever since it escaped the Commander-in-Chief's lips, but those efforts are in vain.  The candid admission confirmed every stereotype of his foreign policy: Reactive, aloof, dithering, feckless and incoherent.  On that score, click through to this tough Washington Post analysis of Obama's foreign affairs meltdown.  Read the whole thing, or else you'll miss criticism from a prominent Senate Democrat, and an administration source touting Obama's Iran policy -- yes, this Iran policy -- a "perfect example" of "disciplined" and successful diplomacy.  An excerpt: 


As events cascaded, Obama juggled rounds of vacation golf with public statements addressing the conflicts. But his cool demeanor, and the split-screen imagery of a president at play and at work, seemed ill-matched to the moment. Then came a Thursday news conference and a comment that only reinforced criticism of a president neither fully engaged nor truly leaning into world problems. Speaking of the Islamic State, he said, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” The statement may have had the virtue of candor, as Obama weighs the military and diplomatic components of a U.S. response and seeks support from other nations. But it hardly projects an image of presidential resolve or decisiveness at a time of international turmoil….events seem to have spun out of his control, and Obama must react to the actions of others. Putin’s aggression in Ukraine has sparked the greatest East-West crisis since the Cold War. Islamic State advances have swallowed up a large swath of the Middle East and threaten a global upheaval far beyond the shock of al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks.

As the crises mount, so do the excuses:

Jim Lindsay, senior vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Obama’s inability to inspire confidence among critics has more to do with the complexity of the problems than the president’s leadership style. “He has a sort of perfect storm of messy problems, lousy options, ambivalent allies and a skeptical public,” he said….[Historian David Kennedy] said that Obama, in dealing with multiple crises, also is trying to change perceptions of what U.S. leadership and any president can realistically accomplish. “It’s difficult virtually to the point of impossibility to have a grand strategy in a world that is so fluid and in which we no longer yield the power we once had. In a sense that is Obama’s strategy, a recognition of that fact. So that rhetorically as well as in reality, he’s trying to diminish the expectation that we can control events.”

These points have merit to some extent.  But the posture, attitude, leadership, priorities and policies of the President of the United States aren't irrelevancies.  The quote from the foreign policy analyst above wrongly suggests that Obama's actions have had nothing to do with the messiness of the problems, the lousiness of the options, the ambivalence of our allies, or the skepticism of the public.  He's just the victim of events.  Kennedy's assessment that Obama is simply recognizing America's diminished influence for what it is absolves the president of presiding over, if not encouraging, that new reality.  When America abdicates its leadership role in the name of "smart power," people take notice.  When American chooses weakness and rudderlessness, unscrupulous global actors sense an opportunity to step into the resulting void. Obama's apologists are reduced to suggesting that America has become ungovernable on the domestic front, and that the world is hopelessly complex and messy on the geopolitical front.  Obama hasn't failed as a leader, they insist; new realities have failed him.

Follow Your Money: New App Scores Businesses for Conservative Values

What would you do if you found out your money—the money you spend buying coffee at Starbucks, furniture at IKEA, and gas at Exxon Mobile—was being used to fund abortions, advertise for Common Core State Standards, and limit our Second Amendment rights? Would you change your consumer habits to align them with your voting values? A new innovative app called "2nd Vote" gives you the power to decide. 

Launched in October, the free application contains scorecards for more than 450 commonly used stores and companies such as Netflix, Whole Foods, CVS, U.S. Airways, and Ford Motor. The app explains the scoring in its "How to Use" section: 

"Higher score = more conservative. Lower score = more liberal. Scores are based on financial support to third part organization." 

One of the core founders of 2nd Vote helped conceptualize the app after he was told that March of Dimes, a pro-life organization to which he was making donations, actually sent funds to Planned Parenthood. This shocking discovery made him wonder what else his money was unconsciously funding. 

"When we started taking a look and building our database we realized that it's not just March of Dimes; it's Starbucks and Levi's jeans, and Apple, " 2nd Vote Executive Director Chris Walker told Townhall. 

"All of the companies that we shop with on a day-to-day basis typically fund a lot of left-wing causes. What we wanted to do is figure out how we can educate people and show them that 'look, where you're shopping with your second vote is funding causes and issues that you may not support on your own."

The non-profit organization is currently run by a team of individuals who have a background in politics and public policy. They dig to uncover each company's financial support on issues of pro-life, marriage, the second amendment, the environment, and education. The work is often very labor intensive, Walker stated. 

"We look at tax documents, 990 forms for non-profit organizations, we go through a lot of public statements made by the leadership or by the company itself. A lot of times the companies will put right on their website who they support and why."

In the future, 2nd Vote wants to create scorecards for thousands of companies and provide the general public with information they need to actively hold their dollars accountable. So pull out your phones, and here's to snubbing the claim that conservatives are missing the tech wave. 

Happy Labor Day

Why is Labor Day so important to us?

That's a good question. Perhaps it's because Labor Day gives the American worker a chance to spend some additional quality time with friends, family and loved ones. It’s also, supposedly, the last day you’re allowed to wear white, and, as Karl Rove points out, it's “the unofficial start of the fall campaign season.

These are all good things, or at least good things to know. But its true meaning and purpose is actually quite fascinating (via the US Department of Labor):

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

I don't think Labor Day has quite the same pop as other national holidays. But it is a federal holiday nonetheless, one meant to honor and celebrate American individual achievement and accomplishment:

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

So there you have it. That’s why we celebrate Labor Day. It isn’t to honor Big Government or organized labor, as some might believe; it's to "pay tribute" to individuals working for -- and fighting for -- the American Dream.

So, from all of us here at Townhall, we hope you have a safe, relaxing, and work-free holiday.

Enjoy the day off.

Federal Judge Blocks Louisiana's New Abortion Law

A federal judge temporarily blocked the implementation of Louisiana’s new abortion law since it could have led to the closure of Louisiana’s five abortion clinics. The law required doctors to have admitting privileges for hospitals within 30 miles of an abortion clinic (via Associated Press/Huffington Post):

A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of Louisiana's restrictive new abortion law.

District Judge John deGravelles says the law can still take effect Monday but officials cannot penalize doctors or clinics for breaking it while a challenge is heard.

The law would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics. A Center for Reproductive Rights lawsuit claims doctors haven't had enough time to obtain privileges and the law likely would force Louisiana's five abortion clinics to close.

The law would have fined non-compliant doctors $4,000 and the loss of their medical license.  While the law goes into effect without enforcement measures, the judge noted that it's unclear if the regulatory fallout would lead to abortion clinic closures:

However, deGravelles wrote, clinics' lawyers have not proven that enforcing the law would shut down most, if not all, of Louisiana's clinics, eliminating access to legal abortions in Louisiana. Because the doctors' applications haven't all been acted on and the attorneys don't represent two clinics, that's speculative, he said.

"How many patients do these other two facilities treat? How many doctors practice there? How many of these doctors have applied for admitting privileges and what is the status of their applications?" he wrote. He said he needs answers to those and other questions, including how far patients would have to travel for care if the other two clinics stayed open.

Admitting privileges laws have passed across the South.

A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Louisiana, upheld a similar Texas law. But in July, a different panel of the 5th Circuit voted to overturn Mississippi's law, which would have shuttered the state's only abortion clinic, saying every state must guarantee the right to an abortion.

Editor's note: This post has been updated.

For Romney, Is It Third Time's The Charm?

So, should Mitt Romney run again? It’s a question that frustrates conservative since Mr. Romney wasn’t the best candidate to discuss things, like health care, that could have really energized the base in 2012. As Dan wrote last week, Romney’s killing it in the polls. In Iowa, one-third of the respondents would drop support of their current candidates in the 2016 field to back him.  Is this the beginning of Romney 2.0?

I admit that Romney’s “I told you so” platform could play well; Americans like comeback stories.  He's been right about pretty much everything, especially on foreign policy. But then there’s the issue about his stiffness as a candidate and his inability to fully unite the base. 

Also, health care and immigration will continue to plague Romney. On immigration, we have his statements supporting self-deportation, which would be replayed on a loop by Democrats. We could then say goodbye to Hispanic outreach efforts. 

On health care, even if Romney has a more detailed plan to fix Obamacare, he’ll once again be pelted with how Romneycare was the blueprint for Obamacare. Here’s a 2007 clip of him saying how Romneycare should be taken nationwide.

Lastly, the Heartland Institute’s Ben Domenech tore into the narrative that Romneycare’s economic effects were confined to the Bay State. In 2012, while on the Blaze, he listed off numerous figures showing how Romneycare was just bad policy. “Massachusetts spends more per capita on health care than anywhere else in the industrialized world,” he said. “Right now, under its current track–by 2020–health care costs will make up more than 50 percent of the state budget.” He also noted that within a few years Romneycare has gone over budget. Gov. Deval Patrick went down to Washington to ask for more money and got $4.3 billion more than they had asked for from federal taxpayers. Domenech also mentioned that Romney’s own advisers at the time admitted that his health care plan increased the cost of premiums when he was governor. That's not the best track record for the person who would be running against the president’s health care plan...again.

Oh, as for reaching single, urban women, none of us should expect him to perform better with that demographic either.

Nevertheless, there’s the comparison with Ronald Reagan. Reagan was governor and ran for president twice before his successful 1980 campaign. Supporters of Romney think he could do the exact same thing (via Business Insider):

There is precedent for a two-time loser finally winning the presidency on his third try. Ronald Reagan made a last-ditch effort to secure the GOP nomination in 1968. He nearly wrested it from an incumbent president in 1976. But it was only in 1980 that Reagan, at age 69, finally won. Of course, Reagan was famously charismatic, and he had been a conservative folk hero for years by the time he finally won the Republican nomination. The same can’t be said of Romney.

Nevertheless, there is something to the Reagan parallel. Though he commanded the loyalty of conservatives, Reagan was a decidedly pragmatic governor of California who acquiesced to tax increases, the liberalization of the state’s abortion laws, and other measures that should by all rights have scandalized the right.

By the time Reagan ran against Gerald Ford in 1976, however, he presented himself as a conservative purist, devoted to devolving power to state governments and taking a tougher line against the Soviet empire. Between 1976 and 1980, he again underwent another subtle but important shift, smoothing some of his ideological rough edges and offering a more optimistic brand of conservatism tailor-made to appeal to voters who had grown tired of Carter-era malaise.

Could Mitt Romney pull off a similar feat? I wouldn’t rule it out.

All we can do is hope that Ann Romney and the rest of the family shoot down another presidential run with another emphatic "NO" vote. Then again, as Dan mentioned in his post, Romney “left the door kind of open to running again -- but not really” in his interview with Hugh Hewitt.  Maybe it'll all just be a bad dream.

Is Your Food Conservative?

Every major corporation has a leader, and most of them have political views. This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. Many of them also have Political Action Committees that are actively involved in politics. Again, should not be shocking.

A new mobile phone app allows you to scan the barcodes of consumer products to discover whether their leaders donate to political causes - and which ones they do donate to. John Brownlee went to Whole Foods and made a discovery: many products that fill the Whole Foods shelves could be associated with conservatism:

Spoiler: it's almost impossible to buy anything in Whole Foods without, in a roundabout way, supporting the Republican Party.

Checking my list, I noted the missus also wanted me to pick up some cereal. I grabbed a bag of Bob's Red Mill. *Gleeeble-fleep!* 49% Republican, 31% Democrat, 20% Other. Okay, how about Kashi? *Hooble-dee-zlorp!* That's better, I guess: 37.25% Republican to 33.5% Democrat, which means that the Kellogg's-owned Kashi brand bleeds bluer blood than that malevolently cackling, oatmeal-loving oligarch, Bob Moore.

The intense need for people to associate consumer brands with political ideology is so, so tiresome. We as conservatives should know this. Nearly every film that comes out of Hollywood is laden with a liberal message - and let's not get started on rock and pop music. We learn to appreciate these things if we enjoy them - so we can listen to Bruce Springsteen and eat organic granola without considering the political implications of either.

So I happily shop at Costco and buy Progressive insurance and don't really worry about what causes my money is going to support. If the product is good enough, it shouldn't really matter. So while Koch Industries manufactures Brawny paper towels, I usually buy Bounty - or just generic store brands like Target's.

Obsessing over the political leanings of the leaders of companies whose products you buy is a recipe for going crazy and cutting yourself off completely from society. Don't do it.