Daniel Doherty - Tom Coburn: 'If I Was King Tomorrow,' I'd Fire All My Colleagues
Posted: 12/22/2014 6:00:00 PM EST

Outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is in a league of his own and therefore will be almost impossible to replace when he retires from public life in a few weeks. Not only is he a very conservative lawmaker, especially on social issues, but unlike many of his Republican colleagues, he's somewhat amazingly struck up a strong and lasting friendship with the President of the United States.

Yesterday, 60 Minutes did a wonderful profile on him, which covered both his life before politics and some of his later accomplishments. To name just a few, his related crusades to raise awareness and end government waste, cronyism, and careerism are well-known. A few select quotes from the must-see interview:

On his friendship with Barack Obama:

“My relationship with Barack Obama isn’t based on my political philosophy or his…it’s based on the fact that I think he’s a genuinely very smart, nice guy. I just love him as a man.”

On the 2008 election:

“I’m proud of our country that we elected Barack Obama. It says something about us nationally. You know, it’s kind of like crowning your checker when you get to the end of the checkerboard. Here’s another thing that says America's special.”

On firing all members of Congress:

“If you want to fix things, that’s what I would do. If I was king tomorrow, that’s what I would do.”

On mortality and his prostate cancer diagnosis:

“Everybody’s gonna die from something. And so the deal is how do you use each day to move things forward for both you and the people you love, but also the country you love?”

And finally, his response when asked: “Did you know anything about politics [when you first ran for Congress]?"


Interesting stuff. Do yourselves a favor and watch the full clip below:

Leah Barkoukis - Hmm: North Korea Experiencing Major Internet Outages
Posted: 12/22/2014 3:29:00 PM EST

After launching a cyber attack against Sony—releasing embarrassing emails, employee information, and threatening 9/11 style attacks on theaters that dared show “The Interview,” the country is now reportedly experiencing major Internet problems. 

CNBC has the details:

The country, which the FBI accused last week of the cyberattack, is suffering from periodic Internet outages, and experts at DYN Research found that recent problems were out of the ordinary, according to a report from North Korea Tech.

"I haven't seen such a steady beat of routing instability and outages in KP before," Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, told North Korea Tech. "Usually there are isolated blips, not continuous connectivity problems. I wouldn't be surprised if they are absorbing some sort of attack presently."

In an interview with Re/code, Madory said that even typically strong connections are experiencing disruptions. (CNBC's parent NBC Universal is an investor in Re/code's parent Revere Digital.)

"They're pretty stable networks normally," he told Re/code. "In the last 24 hours or so, the networks in North Korea are under some kind of duress, but I can't tell you exactly what's causing it."

While we don’t yet know whether this was in fact some sort of counterattack, keep in mind that in a press conference just last week, President Obama said the cyber attack caused “a lot of damage” and promised to “respond proportionally,” in a “place and time and manner that we choose.”


According to Madory, the connectivity problem in the country has gotten so bad that it's now "totally down." Meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf would not comment on the reported outages in North Korea but, regarding Obama's promise to respond, said "some will be seen, some may not be seen." 

Christine Rousselle - Sony May Release "The Interview" Online
Posted: 12/22/2014 2:30:00 PM EST

Fans of James Franco and Seth Rogen (a legion that does not, apparently include my colleague Kevin) may be in luck: Sony is considering releasing The Interview online following the cancellation of its theatrical release.

From The Guardian:

Sony is considering using YouTube to distribute the film, with Lynton saying it was “certainly an option and certainly one thing we will consider.” He said that none of the major VOD services (like Netflix) had stepped forward to offer to host the film, nor would it use its own on-demand service Crackle.

A lawyer for Sony, David Boies, told NBC: “Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed. It will be distributed. How it’s going to be distributed, I don’t think anybody knows quite yet. But it’s going to be distributed.”

The film's theatrical release was canceled due to supposed threats from North Korea following the hacking of old Sony emails and documents. The decision to cancel was criticized by everyone from President Obama and the Republican National Committee. In a similarly absurd move, Paramount prohibited theaters from having free screenings of Team America: World Police, another movie that lampoons North Korea.

North Korea is now threatening to bomb the White House if the United States keeps blaming them for the cyberattack on Sony.

While I didn't really plan on seeing The Interview in theaters, I likely will watch it if it's released online. This tweet sums things up well:

Conn Carroll - Why Didn't Obama Call Sony?
Posted: 12/22/2014 2:00:00 PM EST

"I wish they had spoken to me first," President Obama said Friday of Sony's decision to cancel the release of "The Interview" in the face of threats from North Korea. 

"They made a mistake," he continued. "We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States."

Later in the day, Sony CEO Michael Lynton shot back, telling CNN that Obama was "mistaken as to what actually happened" and it was the theaters, not Sony, that made the release of the movie impossible. 

Asked to respond to Lynton, Obama did not back down, telling CNN Friday, "Had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what the story was."

"If we set a precedent," Obama continued, "in which a dictator in another country can disrupt through cyber, a company's distribution chain or its products, and as a consequence we start censoring ourselves, that's a problem." 

But if Sony's decisions sets a bad precedent that could lead to self-censorhip, then why did Obama not call Sony?

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters earlier in the week that Obama was receiving daily briefings on the Sony hack which, Earnest said, the White House considered "a serious national security matter."

If the matter was so serious then why did Obama never tell Sony he had their back? Other leaders in similar circumstances have. National Review's Jonah Goldberg recounts:

The first issue of Captain America came out on December 20, 1940. It shows Cap slugging Adolph Hitler in the mouth. ... Subsequent issues kept pitting Captain America against Hitler and his goons. 

The angriest reaction came from the German-American Bund, Hitler’s stooges in the U.S. They harassed Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, the creators ofCaptain America, with hate mail and telephoned death threats.

“The theme was ‘death to the Jews,’” Simon wrote in his memoir. “At first we were inclined to laugh off their threats, but then, people in the office reported seeing menacing-looking groups of strange men in front of the building on 42nd Street, and some of the employees were fearful of leaving the office for lunch.”

Simon called the cops, and as soon as the police showed up, the phone rang. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia wanted to speak to the creators of Captain America. Simon got on the line. “You boys over there are doing a good job,” the voice squeaked. “The city of New York will see that no harm will come to you.’”

That is how it’s supposed to work in a democracy.

Sony reportedly called the FBI almost immediately after they found out they were hacked. Where was the White House call to Sony telling them, "The United States government will see that no harm will come to you"?

Katie Pavlich - Giuliani: Propaganda From Politicians to Separate Communities From Police is "Shameful"
Posted: 12/22/2014 1:30:00 PM EST

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is reminding the public that the vast majority of police want to help, not hurt communities in an interview with Fox News over the weekend. Giuliani also called efforts by politicians to separate police from the communities they serve "shameful." 

"Police misconduct is a minor part of the problem. Community, serious violent crime is a much bigger part of the problem," Giuliani said. "The people who are saving black lives in the city are [you] the New York City Police Department. I'm not doing it. President Obama's not doing it. Mayor De Blasio's not doing it. He's not out at night walking down housing developments and trying to save children from being killed. Police officers are doing the most, right now, in these very very poor communities and sometime they're white communities, but where there are black communities and police officers are doing the most to save the children that are at greatest risk. The politicians with this propaganda separating the community from the police, are doing something that's shameful and they have to stop doing that. The vast majority of police want to help and the politicians' rhetoric should reflect the truth, not propaganda."

Over the past few months, NYC City Mayor Bill De Blasio, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama have accused police departments all over the country of creating distrust between officers and local communities.

Matt Vespa - Who Was Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley?
Posted: 12/22/2014 1:30:00 PM EST

As Katie and Cortney wrote over the weekend, New York City was the subject of horror when two NYPD officers were murdered “execution style” in their police cruiser in the Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) neighborhood in Brooklyn.

On the day of the shooting, the shooter, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, traveled to New York City from Baltimore. He posted a chilling message on an Instagram account reportedly belonging to him saying, “I’m going to put wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours…Let’s take 2 of theirs #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGardner [sic] #RIPMikeBorwn This may be my final post.” A photo of a handgun accompanied the caption.

At a press conference held by NYPD Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio, Bratton said this was an “assassination,” and that the Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos didn’t have time to draw their weapons. He also said both officers likely didn’t even see their attacker before they were shot and killed. Brinsley would later commit suicide on a subway platform after being pursued by police after the shooting.

During another press conference held yesterday, the NYPD’s Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce noted that Brinsley had 15 prior arrests in Georgia, including misdemeanor assault, grand larceny, shoplifting, and gun possession. The timeline for those arrests range from August 2004 to June of 2013. He was arrested four times in the state of Ohio starting in May of 2009 to September of 2009; he was arrested for robbery and misdemeanor theft.

From August 2011 to July 2013, Brinsley was incarcerated in Georgia for criminal possession of a weapon. He was also in prison in Fulton, Cobb, and DeKalb counties for sentences of 4 months, 30 days, and 8 months respectively for various crimes.

The social media investigation is ongoing. His Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, and two phones are being looked at by the NYPD; one of the phones belonged to his ex-girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson, whom he shot in the stomach before making the trek to New York. Thompson survived.

Most of Brinsley’s tirades were on the Instagram account, where his rage seemed to be directed at the government; one posting had him burning an American flag. And, of course, anger at the police, referencing the death of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

There is no evidence of gang affiliation; there are no tattoos on his body to suggest otherwise. There were no religious statements in his social media posts either.  Boyce gave a detailed timeline of the events that transpired before these heinous murders:


  • 5:30am: Boyce said Brinsley entered Thompson’s apartment in Owings Mills, Maryland with a key he isn’t suppose to have; Thompson knew Brinsley for about a year, but had ended the relationship. Thompson confronts Brinsley, which starts what appears to be a prolonged argument. Thompson calls her mother on her phone to which Thompson’s mother catches part of the confrontation before the call ends. At 5:50am, 911 calls are made reporting a single shot fired at Thompson’s residence. Police arrive and Thompson makes a positive identification that Brinsley was the person who shot her.
  • 6:05am: Brinsley calls Thompson’s mother on her cell phone, saying he shot her by accident and hopes that she lives.
  • 6:35am: Baltimore police are monitoring Brinsley’s movements. They track him going northbound on I-95. Boyce said during this time he calls Thompson’s mother several times.
  • 10:50am: Brinsley arrives in New York City and takes a BoltBus to the West Side.
  • 12:07pm: Brimsley discards Thompson’s phone at the Barclays Center, but not before posting on Instagram the disturbing post mentioned above.
  • 1:30-2:00pm: Baltimore County Police contact the NYPD via fax on the events that had taken place earlier that morning. Boyce said that’s when they started “putting things in motion.” The notifications process begins. Around the same time, Brinsley murders Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. He walked northbound on Tompkins Avenue passed Liu and Ramos, then circled around, went across the street, and came up behind them.

Boyce noted that they’re still working closely with Baltimore County PD and described them as “excellent partners in this investigation.”

The NYPD has contacted Brinsley’s parents, his two sisters, and an ex-girlfriend for background information. Brinsley’s parents noted that they had never seen a scintilla of radicalization from their son, according to Boyce. Brinsley is part of a Muslim family. But, his mother mentioned that her son had a rough childhood, and was often violent. In fact, Boyce noted that Brinsley’s mother was afraid of him–and hadn’t seen her son in a month prior to this weekend’s horrific events.

Brinsley also attempted suicide before; he tried hanging himself last year. The NYPD is tracking his movements in New York for the past week. Boyce noted that he traveled back and forth quite often, but also said they don’t have an official residence. Brinsley’s residence in Georgia actually belongs to his sister–and he hasn’t been in the state for two years; he’s estranged from both of his sisters.

The firearm Brinsley used was a Taurus PT92 model 9mm handgun purchased at a pawnshop in Georgia in 1996. It’s not listed as stolen. A male purchased it at the time, the NYPD knows his identity, and they’re working with the ATF on how Brinsley was able to take possession of this weapon. Brinsley did not buy the firearm since he would have been nine-years old around the date of purchase.

There are 10 eyewitnesses and 35 ear witnesses to the crime. As for the scene of Brinsley’s suicide in the subway, the NYPD also has 10 witnesses and one ear witness.

Brinsley was reported to have a history of mental problems and was prescribed medication at one point in his life.

The NYPD has issues new guidelines in light of the ambush (via NYT):

New York City officers going out on foot patrol were directed to work only in pairs. Sentries were posted at station houses. The department suspended patrols by auxiliary officers — thousands of unarmed volunteers who act as eyes and ears for the department. Detectives, who usually operate alone or in pairs, were told by the head of their union to go out in teams of three.

This event has only intensified tensions within the city; Bratton described it as the worst since the 1970s. Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking a lot of criticism–warranted or not–for the perception that he doesn’t stand strongly enough with New York’ Finest.

De Blasio may have exacerbated the situation when he said at a press conference earlier this month that he instructed his son Dante–who is biracial–to be more careful around police officers. It came after the Staten Island Grand Jury decided not to charge NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the connection to the death of Eric Garner.

Nevertheless, as the city mourns, the Yankees have agreed to pay for the education of Officer Ramos’ sons. But, we’re also reminded that some of the worst of humanity are celebrating the deaths of these officers. For now, it seems Brinsley was a troubled man, with an extensive criminal past; he had anger toward government, the police, and himself.

We will keep you updated on this horrifying crime.  For now, thoughts and prayers for these fallen officers and their families. 

Guy Benson - Interview: Former Senior CIA Official Defends Interrogation Program, Blasts 'Political' Report
Posted: 12/22/2014 12:30:00 PM EST

Jose Rodriguez is a retired CIA officer who devoted his 31-year career to gathering intelligence and protecting Americans.  He spent decades as a covert operative, serving as CIA station chief in four countries.  Upon his return to Washington, Rodriguez rose through the ranks to ultimately lead the Agency's global clandestine service.  After 9/11, the CIA asked him to help run the on-the-fly reconstruction of its counterterrorism operations.  He was a central player in overseeing the Agency's enhanced interrogation program against high value detainees, as well as the administration of its secret network of "black site" prisons.  In 2012, he authored Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.  The contents of that book are more relevant than ever following the release of Senate Democrats' partisan report on so-called "torture."  I interviewed Mr. Rodriguez for the full hour of my radio program last weekend.  Below is a partial transcript of our exchange.  On the threat matrix and crisis atmosphere after 9/11:

“Beginning in the spring of 2002, we started to see that we needed to change our approach because we were facing tremendous risks and threats of a second wave of attacks coming our way. We knew that the Pakistanis were helping Al Qaeda develop some type of nuclear bomb. We knew that Al Qaeda had a biological weapons program that they wanted to use against us. All of these threats were coming to us, and we had general intelligence. We didn’t have specific intelligence on what was coming. And it was very difficult and very hard because we felt that we were going to get whacked again…The reason that we put the enhanced interrogation program together was because in March of 2002 we captured Abu Zubaydah, who was the highest level Al Qaeda detainee ever in our custody. We knew that he had information regarding a second wave of attacks. He was severely wounded when he was captured…he had provided some useful intelligence at the outset, but once he regained his strength, he stopped talking…we felt like if we didn’t do everything we could to get that information from him, and another devastating attack would come to our shores, we would have blood on our hands. We knew that we had to put a program together that was different from what we’d done before.”

On the nature and purpose of "enhanced interrogation techniques:

“It’s psychological. I agree with those who say the use of force is counterproductive in interrogations, and doesn’t work, and is actually probably torture. The reasons that ours worked is because it was not about hurting anybody. It’s about psychologically manipulating them so that they would conclude on their own that they were better off cooperating with us…we had physicians at the black site [CIA prisons] who were monitoring all of this…There were only ten techniques that were approved, and [“rectal feeding” and threats] were not approved. We didn’t use that, and if we did, it was a violation of the rules. There were some people that violated the rules, and they were punished for is. In any endeavor like this, you’re going to find people who do not follow the rules.”

On waterboarding:

“The way that it works is the prisoner is strapped to a board that is slightly inclined, with the head down, and water is poured over the mouth and the nose. And there’s a rag over his mouth and nose. And the effect that it has is it simulates drowning, although it isn’t drowning. But let me tell you one important thing about our waterboarding technique – because we have all seen Sen. John McCain on TV saying that waterboarding is torture, and talking about the Spanish inquisition and the Japanese during World War II. Our waterboarding technique has nothing to do with the water techniques used by the Spanish during the Inquisition or the Japanese. It is based on a military training program called SERE. It basically prepares US servicemen for what to expect if taken prisoner. Pursuant to this program, tens of thousands of US servicemen have gone through it, and have been waterboarded. So if waterboarding is torture, so how come we haven’t indicted the trainers who have participated over the years in waterboarding our own American servicemen? … On 9/11, five of the [airline] pilots that were killed were waterboarded when they were in the US military. That’s pretty ironic. As I said, waterboarding is based on a technique that we use against our own servicemen to train them, and that is why the Justice Department did not find it to be torture.”

On Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad:

“First of all, Abu Zubaydah recovered from his wounds because we brought the best doctors from the US to treat him. Because of our care, he was able to recover. It became evident that he was not going to say anything else…we knew that we had to get information that he had regarding future planned attacks. We also knew that the old techniques – the law enforcement techniques – in which you build rapport with the detainee were not working because we had a problem with timing. Those techniques may work if you have all the time in the world…[AQ detainees have] a religious motivation. They are extremists. And they don’t really care.”

[After AZ broke] ... “He told is, ‘you have to use the waterboarding technique on all he Brothers.’ And the reason why was that all of these detainees felt a need to protect the information that they had. Almost a religious need. And we had to give them a way out. A way to justify them finally agreeing to give us information. So he basically said, ‘look, you will do the Brothers a favor if you put them through so much pressure that Allah would not expect you to resist, and eventually they will be able to become compliant.’ And that’s what happened. He became complaint, and he actually became very, very helpful. We disseminated about 800 reports just from him, on Al Qaeda, on the leadership structure, on their finances, their funding, their methods of attack, their targets, and their sensitive programs like their nuclear and anthrax programs. We learned enough from Abu Zubaydah that we were able to finally track down Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, using all sorts of different intelligence disciplines. That was the biggest coup of them all: Capturing the chief of operations of Al Qaeda, the person responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and the person who was planning a second wave of attacks. The two of them, AZ and KSM, were very valuable and provided, at one point, almost half of all of the intelligence obtained through our interrogation program. They were the hardest detainees as well.”

On saving lives and getting Bin Laden:

“I think most people don’t know that the 9/11 attacks were supposed to be simultaneous attacks on both coasts of the US,” Rodriguez told me, explaining that Osama bin Laden rejected the expanded plan as too complicated. “After 9/11, KSM started to plan for the second wave of attacks, which were aimed at targets in California and the west coast.” Those attacks were being planned and carried out by Al Qaeda's affiliate in the far east, and was to feature a a 17-person cell. “Because of information from Abu Zubaydah and another detainee…we were able to track [AQ’s Asian point person] down. We found him in Thailand. One of these days, they’re going to make a movie about this operation because it was incredible,” Rodriguez recalled.  The much-feared "second wave" assault had been thwarted, saving untold American lives.  EIT's also helped crack the code regarding bin Laden's whereabouts, the key to which was a courier named 'al-Kuwaiti:'

“Khalid Sheikh Mohammad initially told us that he didn’t know who al-Kuwaiti was. He had actually been compliant, telling us all kinds of stuff. We knew he was lying, and we knew that was significant. Why was he protecting this information? … and then – and this is why those black sites were so valuable – we intercepted a message that he sent to his fellow detainees at the black site. We were reading their clandestine [correspondence]; they didn’t know it. [KSM’s message] said, ‘do not say anything about the courier. Our targeting analysts back at home understood then and there that the key to bin Laden was the courier. And through incredible work over many years…we were finally able to track the courier to Abbotabad, [Pakistan].”

On Sen. Dianne Feinstein's "torture report," and Congressional briefings:

“It’s all political. It’s all ideological. And it is their narrative – the narrative of this administration, which is totally false, and in my view, very dishonest."  Rodriguez confirmed that Democratic investigators did not contact a single CIA official connected to the interrogation program in assembling their report.  "No one who was there during this period – directors, deputy directors, lawyers, analysts, operators – nobody was ever contacted and asked about these programs.”  Rodriguez also affirms that Congress was routinely briefed, on a bipartisan basis, about the program: “I was there, and I did some of the briefing myself. I briefed Nancy Pelosi, for example, and I met with different Senators and Congressmen. We had a number of people do the same over the whole period between 2002 and 2009, while the program was in existence.”

On why the Senate report is so irresponsible:

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to actually talk about this. It is important because we might come under another tremendous threat like we did, and we may need to do something like this again, so it is important for us to be truthful and honest about what really happened.”

The full show will re-air this coming weekend.
Daniel Doherty - North Korea to US: Stop Spreading Falsehoods, or We'll Bomb the White House
Posted: 12/22/2014 12:00:00 PM EST

After criminals employed by the North Korean government hacked a private U.S. corporation, inflicting millions of dollars in damages and embarrassing the company, the White House is now forced to consider what retaliatory measures to take.

In a press conference last week, President Obama said he will respond “proportionally” to the cyber attacks, but as of yet has not announced any specifics. Nevertheless, he didn’t need to announce any specifics for the regime in North Korean to take offense at the mere suggestion it was somehow responsible. To wit:

North Korea issued a new threat against the United States late Sunday and accused President Barack Obama of "recklessly" spreading rumors that Pyongyang is behind last month's devastating cyberattack on Sony Pictures.

The long statement from the powerful National Defense Commission warned of strikes against the White House, Pentagon and "the whole U.S. mainland, that cesspool of terrorism."

Intelligence officials and the FBI have concluded that the devastation points back to North Korea. No surprises there. In the end, however, it seems unlikely North Korea’s quixotic efforts to threaten the movie into oblivion will pan out; one of Sony’s lawyers announced as recently as yesterday that the film “will be distributed”:

"Sony only delayed [the film] will be distributed. How it will be distributed I don't think anyone knows just yet."

Still, rest assured it's coming. After all, rumors surfaced over the weekend that the film could be released via Sony “Crackle," although the corporation may now in fact be in talks with another popular, film-friendly Internet platform: YouTube:

As President Barack Obama again expressed disappointment in the company’s decision to withdraw the movie in the face of threats thought to originate from North Korea, Michael Lynton, the studio’s chief executive, insisted on Sunday it had “not caved” to hackers who crippled the company and that it was exploring ways to let audiences see the film.

“We would still like the public to see this movie, absolutely,” he told CNN. “There are a number of options open to us. And we have considered those, and are considering them.”

Asked about releasing the film via YouTube, he said: “That’s certainly an option and certainly one thing we will consider.”

Presumably the best part of the movie has already been leaked online. But if you want to see the movie in full, you’re probably just going to have to wait.

Katie Pavlich - Christie to Obama: Cuba Should Send Back Cop Killer Joanne Chesimard Before U.S. Goes Further With Normalization
Posted: 12/22/2014 11:30:00 AM EST

New Jersey Governor and potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie has sent a letter to President Obama urging him to have convicted cop killer Joanne Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur, extradited from Cuba to the United States to finish her prison sentence. 

In 1973 former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, killed New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in cold blood during a traffic stop. Shakur took Foerster's police issued firearm and used it to shoot him twice in the head. In 1977 Shakur was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Foester's family never received full justice as Chesimard escaped in 1979, fled to Cuba and been protected by the Castro regime ever since. She is listed on the FBI's most wanted terrorists list with a $1 million reward for information leading to her arrest.

"I urge you to demand the immediate return of Chesimard before any further consideration of restoration of diplomatic relations with the Cuban government," the letter states. "If, as you assert, Cuba is serious about embracing democratic principles then this action would be an essential first step."

There are dozens of violent U.S. convicts living in Cuba under the protection of the Castro regime.
Conn Carroll - Obama Approval Among U.S. Service Members Plummets To 15%
Posted: 12/22/2014 9:30:00 AM EST

The men and women of the United States Armed Forces have never had a lower opinion of President Obama, acceding to a Military Times poll of its readers published today. 

Just 15 percent of active-duty Military Times readers approve of Obama, down from 35 percent in 2009 and 28 percent just last year. 

Military Times blames Obama's collapse on "the cultural changes he's overseeing" in the military, including gays in the military, women in combat, and anti-sexual assault training. But Military Times own data does not back this thesis up. Support for women in combat and gays in the military have both risen substantially (41 percent for women in some combat roles and 60 percent for gays) over the past year.

What does seem to be upsetting morale is lack of pay and the loss of sense of mission from the commander in chief.

From Military Times:

Morale in the military is swiftly sinking, with the troops losing both their sense of mission and their faith that their superiors, political leaders — and the nation — still have their best interests at heart...

In the near term, two festering issues loom if Pentagon leaders hope to thwart a worsening internal crisis: the legacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the future of military compensation.

Military Times' survey indicates top officials will find it a big challenge to address the enormous cynicism and pessimism among troops about the wars in which they were asked to sweat and bleed for more than a decade.

The percentage of troops who feel the war in Afghanistan ultimately will be viewed as a success has taken a nosedive since 2007. Similarly, only 30 percent of respondents feel the eight-year Iraq War was a success. And when we asked whether the U.S. should send a large force of combat troops back to Iraq to fight Islamic State militants, 70 percent of survey respondents said no.

The pessimism about Iraq is especially understandable; troops have spent years listening to senior leaders tell them Iraq was emerging as a stable democracy, its army a reliable ally in the fight against Islamic extremism. Just a few years later, both notions turned out to be spectacularly wrong.

"The junior folks have a right to question their leaders and say, 'Hey, you told me to do this U.S.-led counterinsurgency, and it didn't work. What the heck?' They want to know why they were told to do all the dumb stuff they were told do," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, who commanded troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan — and who took a stab at addressing those questions in his controversial new book titled "Why We Lost."

Indeed, Congress just approved, at the request of the Pentagon and the White House, a 1 percent basic pay raise the for the troops next year — the second straight year of such a raise, constituting the two smallest annual increases in the 41-year history of the all-volunteer force. And for icing on the cake, they also approved a cut in housing allowance rates for troops who live off base.

The reduction in housing allowances and other benefits were all part of Obama's plan to significantly cut military spending by reducing the number of Army personnel to pre-World War 2 levels. 

Although released today, the poll was actually conducted in July and August of this year, months before an Obama administration official said of departing-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, "This is why you don’t send a sergeant to do a secretary’s job."