Christine Rousselle - Awkward: Pres. Obama Has Bombed Seven Countries Since Accepting Nobel Peace Prize
Posted: 9/24/2014 9:05:00 PM EST

An editorial published yesterday on CNN pointed out the irony of how Barack Obama, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has bombed seven countries since receiving the award.

The seven countries are: Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. The airstrikes were carried out with both drones and manned aircraft.

Others have noted the hypocrisy of the Nobel Peace Prize winner's decidedly unpeaceful activities throughout the years:

Obama was awarded the prize in October 2009 for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

There's no word yet on if the Nobel Committee is calling for a do-over.

Sarah Jean Seman - One in Ten People Living in the United States Can't Speak Fluent English
Posted: 9/24/2014 8:12:00 PM EST

More than 19 million people living within the United States are not fluent in the English language, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institution. That translates to one out of every ten people. While stores such as Wal-Mart and even campaign ads such as those coming from Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), cater to Spanish speakers, the study suggest feeding this improficiency could hurt economic growth.

English proficiency is a strong predictor of economic standing among immigrants regardless of educational attainment. Numerous studies have shown that immigrants who are proficient in English earn more than those who lack proficiency, with higher skilled immigrants reaping the greatest advantage.

Conversely, high-skilled immigrants who are not proficient in English are twice as likely to work in “unskilled” jobs (i.e. those requiring low levels of education or training) as those who are proficient in English. This underemployment represents a loss of productivity that yields lower wages for individuals and families and lower tax revenues and consumer spending for local areas. LEP immigrants also have higher rates of unemployment and poverty than their English proficient counterparts.

Moreover, higher proficiency in English among immigrants is associated with the greater academic and economic success of their children. English skills also contribute to immigrants’ civic involvement and social connection to their new home.

Individuals without English proficiency earn an average of 25 to 40 percent less than their more acclimated counterparts, according to the report.

Jill H. Wilson, Brookings senior research analyst and associate fellow, even went so far as to assert that:

“English proficiency is the most essential means of opening doors to economic opportunity for immigrant workers in the United States.”

If these claims are true, pandering to the language deficiency is not only harming the economic growth of the United States, it is abating the so-called ‘opportunity gap’ between immigrants and natives of this country. 

Daniel Doherty - Hmm: Pryor Up by Two in AR?
Posted: 9/24/2014 6:00:00 PM EST

The PPP poll released yesterday appraising the Arkansas Senate race showed Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) modestly beating incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR). And yet, Suffolk University/USA Today’s findings released today shows the Democrat in the race actually ahead. What gives?

Let’s take a look.

Obviously, the biggest takeaway is that Pryor is now ostensibly the front-runner (45/43). This is especially perplexing because the Suffolk sample breakdown is less generous toward Democrats (D+4) than PPP’s (D+8). In other words, there were a lot fewer self-described Democrats who participated in the survey today than yesterday. And yet Pryor still outperforms Cotton. How?

My theory: Suffolk’s sample size is much smaller. Only 500 likely voters participated in the Suffolk survey. By contrast, almost 1500 likely voters partook in PPP’s. These very different sample sizes, therefore, may account for the disparity.

“At this point Arkansas appears to be shaping up as a ‘purple’ state, with voters see-sawing between Democratic and Republican candidates for top offices,” the director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, David Paleologos, said in a statement.

Perhaps. But remember the president of PPP said only yesterday, “Arkansas is leaning toward supporting the GOP ticket right now.” So who do we trust?

Basically, we'd at least need to see a few more polls, I think, before determining conclusively who's more likely to win at this stage in the game.

Parting (completely unrelated) fact: GOP primary voters in Arkansas prefer Mitt Romney (33%) over Mike Huckabee (29%) for president if both candidates take the plunge in 2016.

Maybe, just maybe, the "Romney 2016!" crowd is on to something.

Cortney O'Brien - Pro-lifers Hold Vigil Outside of Planned Parenthood in DC, Employee Gives Them the Middle Finger
Posted: 9/24/2014 5:40:00 PM EST

Pro-life activists gathered in front of the downtown Planned Parenthood in Washington on Tuesday, just two blocks from the White House, to kick off the 40 Days for Life campaign. In an effort to raise awareness for the right to life, participants passionately spoke and prayed for all the unborn children who have been stolen from this world from abortion.

Jeanne Monahan, the president of March for Life and Arina Grossu, the director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, made a few remarks at the vigil. Here’s what Grossu had to say about the 40 Days for Life movement’s efforts:

“I think of the abortion facility as the front lines of the battle," she said. "There’s a lot that could have or should have or is being done to prevent women from coming here and choosing this and feeling this is their only option. But when you’re standing here, you’re the last contact they have before they potentially make a huge decision that will impact their lives forever.”

Sidewalk counseling is an important centerpiece of the movement. In 30 seconds or less, pro-life activists try and convince young women to give their babies a chance at life before they walk into the clinic for their scheduled abortions. As you can imagine, these advocates aren’t exactly greeted warmly by the young mothers or by Planned Parenthood employees, who often see them as a nuisance. This was no exception on Tuesday.

At one point during the solemn vigil, a participant remarked that a Planned Parenthood employee walked out of the building and gave them all the middle finger. 

The few times I’ve witnessed these counselors praying in front of the DC clinic, I’ve heard people shout profanities at the pro-life activists and physically threaten them. One counselor once told me that she was physically shoved by one young woman’s boyfriend.

Despite the verbal and sometimes physical violence these sidewalk counselors endure, they are encouraged because the reason they’re standing out there and enduring the ridicule is all worth it.

“A lot of people say it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to save a mother and a child from abortion," Grossu said. "We are the village here.”

This is one pro-life village that doesn’t sleep. 40 Days for Life is a presence in 297 cities and 13 countries around the world. The results speak for themselves. Since the campaign began, 40 Days for Life has saved almost 9,000 babies, 101 workers have left the organization, and 57 abortion centers have closed since the movement began.

The 40 Days for Life movement turned ten this year, which means many precious babies did too.

Greg Hengler - PM Cameron: Defeating ALL Extremism Means "Banning Preachers of Hate and Intolerance"
Posted: 9/24/2014 4:46:00 PM EST

"We need to provide an alternative narrative... and we have to say again and again that this has nothing to do with the religion of Islam, a religion of peace."

Kevin Glass - "Banned Books Week" and Muddled Messages
Posted: 9/24/2014 4:12:00 PM EST

This week is "Banned Books Week," according to the American Library Association. It's a time to revel in the power of free speech and the triumph of a democratic polity over censorship. But the message being put on by the ALA and commemorated by a few other organizations comes across a bit muddled.

Throughout modern history, governments have taken it upon themselves to control what ideas that we have access to. Famous examples are Uncle Tom's Cabin, James Joyce's Ulysses, and Lady Chatterley's Lover. The United States has generally been an exemplar here, and we have some of the most friendly free speech laws in the world. "Banned Books Week," as it's put on by the ALA, should be a commemoration of how we've struggled with government prohibition on literature and how tenuous our connection with freedom can be in this area.

But the ALA has also put out its list of its "Top Ten Challenged Books," which contains things like Fifty Shades of Grey, The Hunger Games, and Captain Underpants. Reason and The Fire both wrote about these "challenged" books in an earnest way, and how silly it is that administrators and nannies are "challenging" these books.

"Challenged" books, however, are very different from "banned" books. In an era of Amazon and Kindles and e-readers, it's awfully hard to restrict access to books to anyone in the United States. Parents who have a problem with elementary school libraries or middle school English curricula might be meddlesome or annoying, but this is not an issue of "banned" books. It might be silly for parents to band together to remove "Captain Underpants" from their local elementary school library, but we can all agree that the right for parents to attempt to influence how their children are taught at their local public schools is a legitimate one.

These "challenged" books pale in comparison with actual books banned in other countries around the world. The United States is a vanguard in this area. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis was banned until recently in Germany. The Da Vinci code is banned in Lebanon. Zhuan Falun, a Falun Gong text, is banned in China. The Satanic Verses, a book that got a fatwa put on Salman Rushdie's head, is banned in 14 different countries.

As David Forbes writes, in noting an extreme case in the U.S. about a convicted felon attempting to sell a book about evading federal income taxes:

It's incredibly hard to ban a book in the U.S., even compared to the rest of the industrialized world. Censorship fights in the U.S. usually revolve around a media outlet refusing to acknowledge a particular view or a local school yanking offensive books from library shelves. Federal bans are nearly unheard of...

Compared to actual free speech fights around the world, local school administrative clashes are incredibly small-bore. Peruse a list of books that are banned in China and you might even think that worrying about "challenged books" in the United States is a first world problem.

"Banned Books Week" is a valuable historical reminder of the fights we've had about free speech and should be a celebration that the United States is nearly alone in our remarkable breadth of freedom of speech - compared with both developing and fellow advanced nations. It's important to appreciate the fights that occurred over things like Ulysses and The Canterbury Tales and how other countries still struggle with freedom of speech. It's just unclear that hand-wringing over elementary school curricula belong in the same breath.

Katie Pavlich - ICYMI: D.C. City Council Votes to Allow Concealed Carry
Posted: 9/24/2014 3:45:00 PM EST

In a small step forward for the restoration of Second Amendment rights in the nation's capitol, the Washington D.C. City Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to allow visitors and residents in the District to carry concealed weapons. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray must sign the bill before residents and visitors will be able to apply for permits. 

Sounds like great news, but regulations for carrying and licensing still need to be written by D.C. police and will surely make the process nearly impossible.

"The DC government had been dragging its feet on permitting law-abiding residents to carry firearms since the Supreme Court overturned its handgun ban in 2008. The opinion made it clear that there was an individual right to have handguns and to carry them. The District government not only made the process of obtaining a gun permit as onerous as possible but argued that the right to carry a gun was confined to the inside of one’s home," George Mason University Law School Professor Joyce Malcolm, who specialized in the Second Amendment and constitutional law, said in a statement about the vote. "A lawsuit was filed in 2009 arguing that the ban on carrying firearms was unconstitutional. Now, five years later, after a court found the ban unconstitutional the D.C. Council is finally following the court order, although promising that the rules for carrying a firearm will be made as strict as possible all in the name of public safety. The sad part is that the people of the District would be far safer if they were permitted to protect themselves on the streets of what is a dangerous city."

Echoing Malcom's sentiment, Emily Miller points out City Council members expect only a "few hundred" people in D.C. will be able to obtain permits.

The vote came a month after Federal Judge Frederick Scullen struck down D.C.'s longtime ban on concealed and open carry as unconstitutional. A stay in that case has been issued.

Leah Barkoukis - Rasmussen: Michigan's Senate Race Now a Toss-Up
Posted: 9/24/2014 3:32:00 PM EST

Things are looking up for Republican Senate hopeful Terri Lynn Land in Michigan. A Rasmussen poll released on Tuesday shows Democratic Congressman Gary Peters picking up 41 percent of the vote, with Land at 39 percent. The statewide poll of 750 likely voters for retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin's seat was conducted on September 17-18.

With only 40 days until the election, this poll shows Land is gaining momentum, as she was previously down by six to nine points earlier this summer.

Rasmussen has now shifted its rating of the Michigan race from Leans Democratic to Toss-Up.

“Michigan’s U.S. Senate race is a dead heat and Terri Lynn Land has the momentum,” Land campaign spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement. “Michigan voters recognize that Terri has a plan to put Michigan First by fixing our roads, securing our borders, and creating jobs. Meanwhile, all Gary Peters has to offer is more typical Washington hypocrisy. From outsourcing a Michigan contract to China to profiting off petcoke to paying his female staffers 67 cents on the dollar by his own math, Michigan voters are learning that Gary Peters is most hypocritical on the issues he’s most outspoken on.”

Katie Pavlich - White House Accused of Altering Press Pool Reports
Posted: 9/24/2014 3:05:00 PM EST

By now you're probably sick of being reminded about President Obama's promise to run the "most transparent administration in history," but unfortunately that promise continues to be broken on a regular basis and therefore, we have to keep talking about it. 

Just one year after the Department of Justice was caught monitoring emails and phone lines of reporters and executives (and their parents) from a host of media outlets ranging from the Associated Press to Fox News, the White House is being accused of pressuring reporters into altering independent pool reports. More from Mediaite

The Obama White House is once again at the center of a story on the balance between government transparency and freedom of the press.

Paul Farhi in the Washington Post writes that the press office in the current White House has on several occasions meddled with the pool reports on President Barack Obama.

Pool reports are dispatches of Obama’s public or semi-public appearances written by professional reporters who are selected on a rotating basis by the independent White House Correspondents’ Association. The reports are written throughout the day and sent to the White House press office, which in turn then distributes them to a vast email list comprised of other journalists and government officials.
As a reminder, the Obama administration has been accused by New York Times reporter David Sanger of being the "most closed, control freak administration" he's ever covered. Heck, the White House won't even allow photo journalists into events, but instead uses their own photographer to issue only the most favorable photos to the press. Associated Pres Washington Bureau Chief has accused the White House of"day-to-day" intimidation of reporters and their sources.

Day-to-day intimidation of sources is chilling. AP’s transportation reporter’s sources say that if they are caught talking to her, they will be fired. Even if they just give her facts, about safety, for example. Government press officials say their orders are to squelch anything controversial or that makes the administration look bad.

White House communication staff also has a history of screaming and swearing at reporters for covering unfavorable stories and a recent survey conducted by POLITICO Magazine shows the majority of correspondents are lied to on a regular basis.
Fifty percent of White House reporters say a White House official has lied to them and 42 percent agree that the Obama White House is "the most secretive" they've ever covered while only 20 percent disagree, according to a new survey by Politico Magazine.

The survey, based on a lengthy questionnaire filled out by 61 correspondents who cover the presidency, shows a deep skepticism toward the Obama administration and reflects a tension between the media and the president and his aides – a situation that has been customary over the years regardless of who was in the Oval Office.

The survey finds that 39 percent of the White House reporters have had a White House official swear at them. Forty-one percent say George W. Bush's White House was more forthcoming with information for reporters than Barack Obama's White House; only five percent say the Obama team is more forthcoming; 13 percent say they are about the same, and 41 percent aren't sure.

The efforts to control press and intimidate sources aren't limited to the White House, but permeate throughout the Obama administration to the IRS, Department of Justice and many other agencies. It's a culture of opacity that we haven't seen before that have serious consequences on a number of different levels. Without transparency there is no accountability, which explains a lot about the situation we're in today. 

Ky Sisson - VIDEO: Creators Deny That New CBS Drama "Madam Secretary" Is Hillary Propaganda
Posted: 9/24/2014 2:00:00 PM EST

When the creators of the new CBS prime time show, "Madam Secretary" were sitting down for drinks in Los Angeles, on the TV was Hillary Clinton banging her fists yelling, "We had four dead Americans...what difference does it make?"

This dramatic performance by then Secretary of State Clinton sparked a curiosity to what her life was like in the State Department and at home. So why not create a show about it?

The cast and creators denied that the show is a soft-biography of Hillary, but as she continues to seem like an inevitable candidate for 2016, people can't help but see the show as a rhetorical plea for a Hillary-like president in the near future. 

Watch the video of producers Lori McCreary, Tony Palermo, and actress Tea Leoni discuss the question many are asking, "Is this show about Hillary Clinton?"