Thursday, January 23, 2014

Current Events - January 23, 2014

PK'S NOTE: Well, he can try. Tea Party people, however, aren't really concerned about the haves/have nots type of thinking. Tea Partiers have conservative principles that they never abandon. Tea Party people don't believe that if someone has succeeded, it takes away the opportunities of someone else. 

Schumer to poison Tea Party

By Alexander Bolten
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the Senate Democrats’ political guru, has a plan to poison the Tea Party by driving a wedge between its rich funders and its blue-collar rank and file.
Schumer, one of the Democrats’ most influential strategists, will argue in a major speech on Thursday that super-wealthy Tea Party donors have hijacked the grassroots movement that grew out of the economic anxiety of the 2008 financial collapse to suit their pro-big business agenda. 
He’ll lay out a blueprint for how Democrats can exploit what he argues is a weakness in the opposition in the address at the Center for American Progress, a pro-Democratic think tank founded by John Podesta, who just joined President Obama’s inner circle at the White House.
...Tea Party representatives scoffed at Schumer’s plans, saying they’d heard similar arguments for years.
“Liberals have been trying to claim the Tea Party is something other than what it is from the beginning,” said Sal Russo, co-founder and chief strategist of Tea Party Express, a major Tea Party political action committee. “We heard everything from Karl Rove’s orchestrating it to the Koch brothers are doing it or oil companies.”
Russo said the Tea Party is an indigenous grassroots reaction to “exactly what Chuck Schumer is,” and that the movement resulted from “an oppressive intrusion into the people’s lives by the federal government, runaway spending and an unsustainable national debt.”
Schumer, however, thinks that Tea Party leaders are at a vulnerable crossroads because their unifying ideology centered on the federal deficit has become outdated.

Dems Discuss 'Income Inequality' at Grammys, Posh St. Regis

By Mike Flynn
Democrats have made the issue of "income inequality" the cornerstone of their platform going into the November elections. In less than two months, the House Democrats will discuss this and other issues at the swanky and posh St. Regis hotel in Manhattan. Rooms start at $695 a night if you would like to join them. 
Of course, you can't simply show up at the DCCC's "Issues Conference." According to the email invitation, "[t]his annual Issues  Conference is open to 2014 DCCC Business and Labor Council Platinum Members and to our 2014 Chairman’s Council Members." I'm not certain what it takes to be a "plantinum member," but I imagine it takes the kind of money that doesn't blink at a $695 hotel room. Helpfully, the DCCC says you can contact them to determine one's "eligibility."
...Alternatively, California Democrats concerned about "income inequality" could head to Beverly Hills, where House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will rub elbows with music industry royalty at a pre-Grammy bash. With a net worth of around $100 million, Pelosi will feel at home among stars like Beyonce, Rhianna and Rod Stewart. 
The Democrats can talk about the middle and working classes, but that doesn't mean they have to hang out with them. 

Living Big on the Backs of Grocery Baggers

UFCW honchos staying at $488/night Disney World resort for annual board meeting

By Bill McMorris
Union bigwigs representing some of the nation’s lowest paid workers are holding their annual board meeting at one of Florida’s ritziest resorts just months after increasing membership dues.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents 1.4 million workers, is holding its annual board meeting at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, where “Victorian elegance meets modern sophistication.”
Two-hundred-fifty union officials are attending the 11-day conference ending Jan. 25, although not all are staying at the Grand Floridian. Resort rooms start at $488 per night before taxes and can exceed $2,000 if officials opt for a two Bedroom Club Level suite.
...A union spokeswoman confirmed that union leadership had been in Florida “all this week” for the meeting, but declined to elaborate how many people are attending the retreat, nor would she confirm that they were staying at the Grand Floridian.
...The meeting comes just months after UFCW leadership decided to raise dues payments at its 2013 convention.
...“At a time when labor bosses are hiking union dues on working men and women, it is telling that they have decided to splurge on a luxurious retreat at a swanky, high-end Florida resort,” said Ryan Williams of Worker Center Watch. “The decision to hold this event at such an extravagant location highlights the true priorities of the people who are in charge of the UFCW.”
Union leadership was careful to avoid mentioning some of its more lavish spending when it informed members of the $36 dues hike in October, focusing its appeal on the union’s political goals.
“Our battles against the spread of Walmart and other low-wage, non-union retailers as well as the defense against anti-worker political forces continue to drain our resources. We must continue to fund these and other efforts,” California union executive Ronald Lind said in his letter.
One source familiar with the retreat said that kind of appeal was easier for a worker to swallow than telling them that their dues were going to pay for a swanky resort.

CAP Counts ‘Indirect Jobs’ in Green Energy, Ignores Them for Oil and Gas

Group applies more stringent standard for industries it doesn’t like

By Lachlan Markay
The Center for American Progress said on Wednesday that an accurate accounting of jobs created by the oil and gas industry requires excluding “indirect jobs” created by it, but the group has included such jobs in its calculations of green energy employment.
CAP released a paper on Wednesday attacking figures from the American Petroleum Institute showing that the oil and gas sector supports, directly and indirectly, more than nine million American jobs.
CAP research associate Mari Hernandez claimed a more accurate number is less than two million.
“Our employment count does not include indirect jobs created by the oil and gas industry, such as those in the electric utility industry, because these estimates are often subjective and can be difficult to quantify,” Hernandez explained.
However, the group’s employment statistics for other industries take a less stringent approach.
Numerous CAP papers, many supporting additional federal support for various green energy projects, include the “indirect jobs” number in their employment projections.
“The renewable projects receiving [Energy Department section 1603] grant funds created direct jobs as well as the indirect jobs generated in the local economies where the projects are located,” wrote CAP scholars in one paper.
Reports on conservation of public lands, “clean energy manufacturing,” and federal infrastructure spending have also touted “indirect” job creation.
One CAP study even examined “direct, indirect, and induced jobs created by the conservation economy.”
The group has cried foul when other analysts have failed to account for “indirect jobs” in their assessments of employment in green energy sectors.

Another Day in Chicago: More Threats Toward Citizens by Obama Administration

 By John Ransom
You can add Timothy Geithner to the list of people who have abused Americans in the vain pursuit to keep Obama’s reputation well coiffed.
He joins a distinguished group of Obama scofflaws including the IRS, NSA, Eric Holderbeast, the Department of Energy, Lois Lerner, the Department of Justice, the National Park Service, Hillary Clinton, Debo Adegbile, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Sneezy, Doc and Hopey
Congress are you listening? Do you care?
...But at the time, S&P didn’t indicate they had a problem with the math per se, so much as they did with the politics of the debt-- of which Obama’s out of touch vacations are just another symptom, as I said before.
"We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process," the ratings firm said at the time according to USAToday.
Gee…They nailed that one didn’t they?
....In return for the downgrade, the Department of Intimidation, er, Justice hit S&P with a $5 billion lawsuit, saying “The fraud underpinning the [financial] crisis [in 2008] took many different forms, and for that reason, so must our response,” said Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Department’s Civil Division, a guy who works for Eric Holderbeast. “As today’s filing demonstrates, the Department of Justice is committed to using every available legal tool to bring to justice those responsible for the financial crisis.”
Almost daily I run out of excuses for my liberals friends who don’t understand what government threats, intimidation and coercion are doing to our country.

School claims right to censor pro-life 6th-grader

Administrators tell parents school will decide what students may say

By Bob Unruh
A charter school in Minnesota has told a parent that administrators claim the right to censor whatever they want of a student’s speech outside of class time, including a 6th-grader’s expression of her deeply held pro-life views.

The result? A lawsuit over the school’s alleged violations of the student’s constitutional rights.

Brian Bloomfield, executive director of the Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul told a parent, “The school has a right to censor students without violating their free speech.”

He cited the Tinker and Hazelwood opinions from the U.S. Supreme Court as his support. He also cited “wikipedia” in writing, “In short, public schools have every right to prohibit student speech.”

However, the lawsuit brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom said that’s exactly backwards.

“Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “The law on this is extremely clear: free speech cannot be censored simply because it expresses a certain viewpoint that administrators don’t favor. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.”

The ADF explained that the student, a minor identified as A.Z., and her friends had been discussing the issue of abortion after the topic of childbirth was raised in class. They decided to hand out pro-life fliers at lunchtime to friends who wanted information.

One statement read: “Save the baby humans. Stop abortion.”

According to the ADF, “A few days later, they were called into the school director’s office and told that some students find pro-life fliers offensive and that they were no longer allowed to pass them out during or after school hours, even if students requested them. School policy also requires students to obtain ‘prior approval from an administrator’ before engaging in free speech.”

Bloomfield told the student’s parents that a pro-life message “was inconsistent” with the school’s educational mission and that only students in the “School of Rhetoric” could participate in “political activism.”

Leaning Right in Hollywood, Under a Lens

A collection of perhaps 1,500 right-leaning players in the entertainment industry, Friends of Abe keeps a low profile and fiercely protects its membership list, to avoid what it presumes would result in a sort of 21st-century blacklist, albeit on the other side of the partisan spectrum.
Now the Internal Revenue Service is reviewing the group’s activities in connection with its application for tax-exempt status. Last week, federal tax authorities presented the group with a 10-point request for detailed information about its meetings with politicians like Paul D. Ryan, Thaddeus McCotter and Herman Cain, among other matters, according to people briefed on the inquiry.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the organization’s confidentiality strictures, and to avoid complicating discussions with the I.R.S.
Those people said that the application had been under review for roughly two years, and had at one point included a demand — which was not met — for enhanced access to the group’s security-protected website, which would have revealed member names. Tax experts said that an organization’s membership list is information that would not typically be required. The I.R.S. already had access to the site’s basic levels, a request it considers routine for applications for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. 

Another sign Obama is going to blame Jews for his Iran policy failures

By Thomas Lifson
AT has for some time been warning that President Obama is preparing to set up Jews and the "Israel Lobby" as scapegoats for the failure of his Iran policy to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons. Needless to say, potential catastrophe lurks when mullahs determined to bring about Armageddon acquire the means to plunge the world into nuclear warfare.

In the now famous 17,000 word New Yorker interview with the president, a few barely-noticed lines support our interpretation of what is to come. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post's Plum line blog noticed:

One other nugget from Obama's interview with the New Yorker's David Remnick has direct bearing on the Iran debate:
"Historically, there is hostility and suspicion toward Iran, not just among members of Congress but the American people," Obama said, adding that "members of Congress are very attentive to what Israel says on its security issues." He went on, "I don't think a new sanctions bill will reach my desk during this period, but, if it did, I would veto it and expect it to be sustained."
"Very attentive to what Israel says on its security issues"! Points for subtlety. That aside, with 58 co-sponsors, the bill really is within striking distance of a veto override.

Should that veto prevail and Iran pursue the path toward destruction that it has already vowed, we already know who will be blamed.

Christians in the Middle East have been the victims of pogroms and persecution. Where's the outrage in the West?

Like many Coptic Christians in Egypt, Ayman Nabil Labib had a tattoo of the cross on his wrist. And like 17-year-old men everywhere, he could be assertive about his identity. But in 2011, after Egypt's revolution, that kind of assertiveness could mean trouble.

Ayman's Arabic-language teacher told him to cover his tattoo in class. Instead of complying, the young man defiantly pulled out the cross that hung around his neck, making it visible. His teacher flew into a rage and began choking him, goading the young man's Muslim classmates by saying, "What are you going to do with him?"

Ayman's classmates then beat him to death. False statements were given to police, and two boys were taken into custody only after Ayman's terror-stricken family spoke out.

...The persecuted are not just Coptic and Nestorian Christians who have relatively few co-communicants in the West, but Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants as well.
Throughout the Middle East the pattern is the same. Christians are murdered in mob violence or by militant groups. Their churches are bombed, their shops destroyed, and their homes looted. Laws are passed making them second-class citizens, and the majority of them eventually leave.

...In Egypt, a rumor that a Muslim girl was dating a Christian boy led to the burning of multiple churches, and the imposition of a curfew on a local Christian population. Illiterate children were held in police custody for urinating in a trash heap, because an imam claimed that pages quoting the Koran were in the pile and had been desecrated. Again, the persecution resulted in Christian families leaving their homes behind.

In Syria, the situation is even worse. In June 2013, a cluster of Christian villages was totally destroyed. Friar Pierbattista Pizzaballa reported that "of the 4,000 inhabitants of the village of more than 10 people remain."

Two Syrian bishops have been kidnapped by rebel groups. Militants expelled 90 percent of the Christians in the city of Homs. Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch says that out of a population of 1.75 million, 450,000 Syrian Christians have simply fled their homes in fear.

In Iraq, the story is the same but more dramatic. According to West, between 2004 and 2011 the population of Chaldo-Assyrian Christians fell from over a million to as few as 150,000. In 2006, Isoh Majeed, who advocated the creation of a safe haven for Christians around Nineveh, was murdered in his home. The number of churches in Iraq has declined to just 57, from 300 before the invasion. The decline of Iraq's Christian population since the first Gulf War is roughly 90 percent, with most of the drop occurring since the 2003 invasion.
...And yet the Western world is largely ignorant or untroubled by programmatic violence against Christians. Ed West, citing the French philosopher Regis Debray, distils the problem thusly: "The victims are 'too Christian' to excite the Left, and 'too foreign' to excite the Right."

Church leaders outside the Middle East are afraid to speak out, partly because they fear precipitating more violence. (Seven churches were fire-bombed in Iraq after Pope Benedict XVI quoted an ancient criticism of Islam in an academic speech in Germany.) Oddly, unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Russia, the U.S. and the U.K. are the only powers acting in the Middle East that do not take any special interest in the safety of those with whom they have a historic religious affinity.

PK'S NOTE: I'm posting this article in full because it is important and, being a WSJ piece, access can be difficult.

Gregory Hicks: Benghazi and the Smearing of Chris Stevens

Shifting blame to our dead ambassador is wrong on the facts. I know—I was there.

By Gregory N Hicks
Last week the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued its report on the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The report concluded that the attack, which resulted in the murder of four Americans, was "preventable." Some have been suggesting that the blame for this tragedy lies at least partly with Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack. This is untrue: The blame lies entirely with Washington.
The report states that retired Gen. Carter Ham, then-commander of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, twice offered to "sustain" the special forces security team in Tripoli and that Chris twice "declined." Since Chris cannot speak, I want to explain the reasons and timing for his responses to Gen. Ham. As the deputy chief of mission, I was kept informed by Chris or was present throughout the process.
On Aug. 1, 2012, the day after I arrived in Tripoli, Chris invited me to a video conference with Africom to discuss changing the mission of the U.S. Special Forces from protecting the U.S. Embassy and its personnel to training Libyan forces. This change in mission would result in the transfer of authority over the unit in Tripoli from Chris to Gen. Ham. In other words, the special forces would report to the Defense Department, not State.
Chris wanted the decision postponed but could not say so directly. Chris had requested on July 9 by cable that Washington provide a minimum of 13 American security professionals for Libya over and above the diplomatic security complement of eight assigned to Tripoli and Benghazi. On July 11, the Defense Department, apparently in response to Chris's request, offered to extend the special forces mission to protect the U.S. Embassy.
However, on July 13, State Department Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy refused the Defense Department offer and thus Chris's July 9 request. His rationale was that Libyan guards would be hired to take over this responsibility. Because of Mr. Kennedy's refusal, Chris had to use diplomatic language at the video conference, such as expressing "reservations" about the transfer of authority.

At a memorial service for U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in San Francisco, Oct. 16, 2012. Reuters
Chris's concern was significant. Transferring authority would immediately strip the special forces team of its diplomatic immunity. Moreover, the U.S. had no status of forces agreement with Libya. He explained to Rear Adm. Charles J. Leidig that if a member of the special forces team used weapons to protect U.S. facilities, personnel or themselves, he would be subject to Libyan law. The law would be administered by judges appointed to the bench by Moammar Gadhafi or, worse, tribal judges.
Chris described an incident in Pakistan in 2011 when an American security contractor killed Pakistani citizens in self-defense, precipitating a crisis in U.S.-Pakistani relations. He also pointed out that four International Criminal Court staff, who had traveled to Libya in June 2012 to interview Gadhafi's oldest son, Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, were illegally detained by tribal authorities under suspicion of spying. This was another risk U.S. military personnel might face.
During that video conference, Chris stressed that the only way to mitigate the risk was to ensure that U.S. military personnel serving in Libya would have diplomatic immunity, which should be done prior to any change of authority.
Chris understood the importance of the special forces team to the security of our embassy personnel. He believed that by explaining his concerns, the Defense Department would postpone the decision so he could have time to work with the Libyan government and get diplomatic immunity for the special forces.
According to the National Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Department needed Chris's concurrence to change the special forces mission. But soon after the Aug. 1 meeting, and as a complete surprise to us at the embassy, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed the order without Chris's concurrence.
The SenateIntelligence Committee's report accurately notes that on Aug. 6, after the transfer of authority, two special forces team members in a diplomatic vehicle were forced off the road in Tripoli and attacked. Only because of their courage, skills and training did they escape unharmed. But the incident highlighted the risks associated with having military personnel in Libya unprotected by diplomatic immunity or a status of forces agreement. As a result of this incident, Chris was forced to agree with Gen. Ham's withdrawal of most of the special forces team from Tripoli until the Libyan government formally approved their new training mission and granted them diplomatic immunity.
Because Mr. Kennedy had refused to extend the special forces security mission, State Department protocol required Chris to decline Gen. Ham's two offers to do so, which were made after Aug. 6. I have found the reporting of these so-called offers strange, since my recollection of events is that after the Aug. 6 incident, Gen. Ham wanted to withdraw the entire special forces team from Tripoli until they had Libyan government approval of their new mission and the diplomatic immunity necessary to perform their mission safely. However, Chris convinced Gen. Ham to leave six members of the team in Tripoli.
When I arrived in Tripoli on July 31, we had over 30 security personnel, from the State Department and the U.S. military, assigned to protect the diplomatic mission to Libya. All were under the ambassador's authority. On Sept. 11, we had only nine diplomatic security agents under Chris's authority to protect our diplomatic personnel in Tripoli and Benghazi.
I was interviewed by the Select Committee and its staff, who were professional and thorough. I explained this sequence of events. For some reason, my explanation did not make it into the Senate report.
To sum up: Chris Stevens was not responsible for the reduction in security personnel. His requests for additional security were denied or ignored. Officials at the State and Defense Departments in Washington made the decisions that resulted in reduced security. Sen. Lindsey Graham stated on the Senate floor last week that Chris "was in Benghazi because that is where he was supposed to be doing what America wanted him to do: Try to hold Libya together." He added, "Quit blaming the dead guy."
Mr. Hicks served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli from July 31 to Dec. 7, 2012.

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