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Matt Vespa - Grimes To Paul: I'll See You In Court
Posted: 12/18/2014 5:45:00 PM EST

I already mentioned in a previous post that Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky) route to the presidency isn’t clear-cut or exactly legal. You cannot run for two offices at the same time in Kentucky. To change the law, Republicans would have to go through the legislature, where the GOP failed to gain the majority in the Kentucky State House of Representatives.

Rand’s team has been working tirelessly to find legal avenues that would permit him running for both offices, but wants to avoid a court battle. But, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes isn’t moving an inch. She bluntly says that Paul cannot run for two offices simultaneously–and said she won’t be “bullied” on this issue (via Politico):

“The law is clear,” Grimes told WHAS-TV in Louisville. “You can’t be on the ballot twice for two offices.”

“We’ll look to the court for any guidance that is needed,” she added. “And at the end of the day, we’re not going to be bullied.”

Grimes also told the Louisville ABC affiliate in the interview published on Wednesday that she has not decided whether to seek a second term as secretary of State in the 2015 election.

The 36-year-old left no doubt that she continues to harbor political ambitions beyond the Bluegrass State’s chief elections official. She would be a top Democratic recruit to run for Senate in 2016 if Paul bows out.

Grimes said she knows “there’s a bigger plan in store” and pronounced herself “excited for 2015.”

She’s also been talked about as a Democratic primary challenger to Attorney General Jack Conway in next year’s Kentucky governor’s race or against GOP Rep. Andy Barr in 2016.

Grimes’ comments about Paul seem aimed as much at rallying her liberal base after a tough loss as anything else. If she doesn’t run for reelection as the state’s chief election official, she would have no legal basis to challenge Paul’s dual candidacy.

So, it seems Paul will have to go to court to settle this dilemma, or he could opt not to run and most likely cruise to re-election in 2016.

Leah Barkoukis - After Sony, House Cybersecurity Chairman Warns Power Grid, Wall Street Could Be Next
Posted: 12/18/2014 5:02:00 PM EST

House cybersecurity chairman Patrick Meehan is warning that the attack on Sony may be just the beginning. Nation-state hackers like North Korea and Iran could also hit Wall Street, the nation’s power grid, or the federal government next, he said, making it all the more important President Obama sign pending cybersecurity legislation into law. 

“The attack on Sony is the latest high-profile example of the growing danger of the cyber threat, and it won’t be the last,” Meehan said.

“American businesses, financial networks, government agencies and infrastructure systems like power grids are at continual risk. They’re targeted not just by lone hackers and criminal syndicates, but by well-funded nation-states like North Korea and Iran. A lack of consequences for when nation states carry out cyberattacks has only emboldened these adversaries to do more harm,” he continued.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the cyberattack on Sony a “serious national security matter” but fell short of acknowledging whether the North Korean government played a role or not.

Others, like Newt Gingrich, went as far as to say that by Sony giving in to North Korea, the U.S. has lost its first cyberwar, which sets a very dangerous precedent. This is why, Meehan said, it’s vital the U.S. upgrade its cyber defenses.

“We need to ease the sharing of threat information between government and the private sector and strengthen our ability to prevent and respond to attacks," the Pennsylvania lawmaker said. “Congress took important steps last week by passing bipartisan legislation that builds our cyber defense capabilities – it’s time for those bills to be signed into law and implemented.”

Conn Carroll - White House Calls Sony Hack "A Serious National Security Matter"
Posted: 12/18/2014 3:15:00 PM EST

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the cyberattack on Sony, Inc. "a serious national security matter," but declined to acknowledge whether or not North Korea had any role in the incident.

"This is a matter that is still under investigation both by the FBI and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice," Earnest said in direct response to a question about whether the White House believes North Korea was behind the Sony hack. "I think for pretty obvious reasons I am not going to get ahead of that investigation or any announcements they may make about that investigation."

Earnest did go on to describe the "cyber incident" as "a serious national security matter" and said President Obama has been getting daily briefings on the matter in meetings led by his Homeland Security advisor and cyber coordinator.

"There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor," Earnest carefully read from his notes. "And it is being treated by those investigative agencies, both at the FBI and the Department of Justice, as seriously as you would expect."

Earnest said the Obama administration is "considering a range of options" and are "mindful of the need for a "proportional response." Pressed to describe what an appropriate "proportional" response might be, Earnest declined insisting on the need to let the investigation finish.

Pressed later in the briefing by Major Garrett of CBS News as to whether the White House considered North Korea "a nation of interest" in the investigation of the Sony hack, Earnest directed the question to the FBI and Justice Department.

Asked near the end of the briefing if Obama would consider screening Sony's movie, "The Interview," at the White House, Earnest did not rule out the possibility, but he did note that the president is scheduled to leave for a two week Hawaii vacation on Friday and that there are no screenings scheduled before his departure.

Christine Rousselle - Paramount Bans "Team America" Showings
Posted: 12/18/2014 3:05:00 PM EST

To borrow a line from the 2004 animated movie Team America: World Police, "Why is everyone so f***ing stupid?"

Following yesterday's cancellation of the movie The Interview because (supposed) North Korean hackers released a few old emails and lobbed threats of attacks on movie theaters that showed the movie (threats, by the way, the Department of Homeland Security says are entirely baseless), some theaters said that they would have free screenings of Team America: World Police instead. Both movies lampooned North Korean dictators.

However, referring back to the quote in the opening paragraph, apparently the United States can no longer have nice things and Paramount has banned screenings of the movie.

Seriously.

Three movie theaters say Paramount Pictures has ordered them not to show Team America: World Police one day after Sony Pictures pulled The Interview from release. The famous Alamo Drafthouse in Texas, Capitol Theater in Cleveland, and Plaza Atlanta in Atlanta said they would screen the movie instead of The Interview but Paramount has ordered them not to do so. (No reason was apparently given and Paramount hasn't spoken.)

This is an extreme and ridiculous act of cowardice. Hollywood shouldn't be afraid of North Korea, period, and film studios shouldn't be bowing down out of fear. There are plenty of controversial movies released that resulted in no protests, no attacks, and no deaths. Hey, here's six movies that involved North Korea that apparently didn't cross the line. This is all just madness.

I'll leave you with this NSFW ditty from Team America to serve as a reminder of how Hollywood once understood humor: [Strong language warning]

Sarah Jean Seman - 'Tis the Season: The Fight Against All Things Christmas is in Full Swing
Posted: 12/18/2014 2:42:00 PM EST

Outrage over Nativity scenes, menorahs, images of Santa Claus, wreaths, and even candy canes have become just about as traditional in America this time of year as eggnog and tree lighting.

Across the nation, controversies and Christmas caution are already underway.

In Indiana, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is seeking a court order for the permanent removal of a Nativity scene outside a local courthouse. Note: this is the fourth year in a row FFRF has tried to get it removed.

Michigan, however, may win the prize for diversity. It’s Capitol Building will not only have a Nativity scene, it will also have a display from the Satanic Temple. What exactly does this ‘display’ look like? It is a snake, wrapped around a tree and coming through a black cross. An open book hangs on the tree with the proclamation “The Greatest Gift is Knowledge” written above it.

What’s a little curious, though, is that while the Satanic Temple received permission to have its display out from Dec. 21-23, the Nativity scene must be taken down every night and put up each morning. Michigan lawmaker Rick Jones (R) has offered to head this nightly venture.

Oh, and as far as diversity goes, don’t forget about the "Festivus" pole, a six foot high stack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer that is on display for the second year in Florida. I guess atheists just really need something to celebrate, and a Seinfeld joke about a “Festivus for the rest of us” was as good as any.

The good news is, that while these outlandish stories will likely make headlines every season, the majority of Americans aren’t offended when they see a baby Jesus display.

Only 20 percent believe there should be no religious displays on government property, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. In fact, most people still consider the Christmas story to be an historical event:

About three-quarters of Americans believe that Jesus Christ was born to a virgin, that an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, and that wise men, guided by a star, brought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. And eight-in-ten U.S. adults believe the newborn baby Jesus was laid in a manger.

In total, 65% of U.S. adults believe that all of these aspects of the Christmas story – the virgin birth, the journey of the magi, the angel’s announcement to the shepherds and the manger story – reflect events that actually happened.

So call me traditional, but whenever a cashier, barista, or anyone working for a "tolerant," politically correct company sends me off with a “Happy Holiday!” I always respond with a bright, unapologetic: “Merry Christmas.” After all, that is what this federal holiday is called (for now at least).

Daniel Doherty - Pure Horror: One ISIS Fighter Reportedly Killed 150 Women and Girls
Posted: 12/18/2014 2:05:00 PM EST

Sickening and truly upsetting:

The Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) group conducted a mass execution of women in Fallujah, according to a statement issued by the Iraqi government. The Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights announced Tuesday that a man identified as Abu Anas al-Libi had killed more than 150 women and girls in Iraq's Fallujah, some of whom were pregnant.

"The women were executed because they refused to accept the policy of Jihad al-Nikah [sexual jihad] that ISIS is enforcing in Fallujah," the ministry's statement added. ISIS has carried out "wide-ranging massacres" in the Anbar province's Fallujah, the ministry also said, specifying that the jihadist group has been burying the dead in two mass graves in the city's Hayy al-Jolan neighborhood as well as the suburb of Al-Saqlawiyyah.

It is worth emphasizing and repeating that one man did this. Unlike the tragedy in Peshawar, wherein several Taliban savages butchered some 132 school children, this act of horror was carried out by one man. One man.

Let’s take this stunning horror story -- picked up by a number of different media outlets -- to its logical conclusion: If one man is capable of such barbarism, imagine how dangerous an Army of these savages is. That is, after all, what we're now dealing with.

ISIS’ brand of terrorism is defined by its ruthlessness. They roam their "caliphate" with reckless abandon killing and torturing at will. And they are recruiting westerners to participate in the bloodletting because they can.

Killing women and children because they will not submit to “sexual jihad” -- and burying them in mass graves -- is a new low even for ISIS that, if anything, merits a military response. But for now, as the fight continues, let us hope and pray that good will ultimately triumph over evil, and that the families affected by these paralyzingly awful events will somehow find comfort in their anguish.

UPDATE: Richly deserved:

U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq have killed three of the militant group's top leaders, the head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

Katie Pavlich - Fast and Furious: [Warning] Graphic, Bloody Photos Show Carnage From 2013 Phoenix Gang Assault
Posted: 12/18/2014 1:45:00 PM EST

Government watchdog Judicial Watch has obtained and released graphic photos from a 2013 gang assault on a Phoenix, Arizona apartment complex. During the assault, an AK-47 firearm sold and trafficked through the Department of Justice's Operation Fast and Furious was used, leaving behind a bloody apartment and at least one Mexican national with severe gunshot wounds to the head. As previously reported, when the incident occurred and during investigation afterward, the Phoenix Police Department [PPD] worked with federal law enforcement agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Department of Homeland Security, FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency in the case, raising suspicions the assault wasn't simply a typical, local gang shootout and prompted questions about the details of where the weapons that were used came from. Documents and the new photos surrounding this crime were turned over to Judicial Watch after the group filed a law suit against PPD due to non-cooperation with valid freedom of information requests. 

"According to press reports at the time of the assault, police investigating the shooting that left two wounded found an AK-47 assault rifle in the front passenger area of a vehicle that had crashed into a fence surrounding the apartment complex. Inside sources informed Judicial Watch at the time of the crime scene investigation that the AK-47 used in the assault had been provided to the assailants as part of the Obama-Holder Fast and Furious program. On October 16, 2014, Judicial Watch announced that, based upon information uncovered through its October 2 public records lawsuit, the U.S. Congress had confirmed that the rifle was tied to the Fast and Furious operation. Attorney General Eric Holder has already admitted that guns from the Fast and Furious scandal are expected to be used in criminal activity on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border for years to come," Judicial Watch stated in a release. "Despite the fact that the crime scene photos obtained by Judicial Watch clearly revealed a serial number that would show that the AK-47 used in the commission of the crime was a Fast and Furious weapon, the City of Phoenix and Department of Justice failed to turn over the incriminating photos to Congress, despite longstanding requests for such information. According to Judicial Watch sources, investigators knew at the scene and subsequently that the AK-47 was a Fast and Furious weapon."

Here are some of the photos Judicial Watch has produced of the crime scene. There are more here and additional photos will be uploaded

“Another Obama administration Fast and Furious cover-up has been undone by Judicial Watch. These crime scene photos graphically illustrate the legacy of President Obama and Eric Holder’s deadly Fast and Furious lies,”Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “Even as the evidence and casualties mount, the Obama administration is still secreting information about its reckless program. These photos show the American people firsthand the bloody consequences when an out-of-control administration will not even admit – or correct – its own mistakes.” 

On Monday the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry marked the four year anniversary of his murder in Peck Canyon, Arizona. His killers were carrying Ak-47s like the one seen above that they obtained through Operation Fast and Furious. Hundreds of citizens inside Mexico have been murdered as a result of the program.

Townhall Magazine - America's Next President
Posted: 12/18/2014 12:50:00 PM EST

The candidate least like President Obama will have the best chance of succeeding him. HotAir's Noah Rothman reports for the December issue of Townhall Magazine. 

For political professionals, the next presidential election begins the minute the last one ends. Even before revelers abandon the cavernous halls in which a new president accepts the public mandate and sleepy custodians sweep up the confetti that rained down upon the victor hours prior, aspiring presidential candidates begin the process of gaining allies, securing the support of donors, and vying for media attention.

The once “invisible primary” has grown more perceptible in recent decades. While the public can enjoy their lives in the years between a presidential and a midterm election unaware that presidential politics is raging, it is a comfort of which all are robbed when the midterms are over. In just nine months, Hawkeye State residents will convene for the Ames Straw Poll. Overt campaigning for that honor begins months earlier.

The 2016 presidential election cycle is upon us.

Barack Obama’s presidency has left the country with one enduring lesson: Campaigning and governing are distinct activities that require divergent, often conflicting, skill sets. As always, the next president will be the candidate who out-campaigns his or her opponents. But history suggests that Americans are seeking more in a president today than merely a campaigner-in-chief. The voting public is already asking themselves which traits would be most desirable in Obama’s successor, and it serves both parties to be aware of what those characteristics might be.

Ensuring that the tepid post-recession recovery does not reverse course, reviewing the prosecution of America’s endless Middle Eastern wars, unfreezing the debate over how to address the failing Affordable Care Act, and preventing nascent revanchism from taking hold in Moscow and Beijing will certainly be on the next president’s agenda. However, any number of unforeseen eventualities is certain to test the character of America’s 45th president.

So, what character traits will Americans most favor in their next chief executive? Recent history suggests the public will back the politician who is the most dissimilar to the current president. The mass media era has turned the quadrennial presidential race into even more of a beauty contest, and the winner a celebrity. After years of unmet promises and the best intentions producing suboptimal results, Americans hunger for efficacy from the next occupant of the Oval Office. The record indicates there will be no appetite for an Obama doppelganger.

Americans knew President Nixon had competently managed America’s affairs abroad. Imagine another president honored with a standing ovation from a joint session of Congress dominated by the opposition party in the summer of an election year, an honor bestowed on Nixon after he opened China. When he resigned as a result of his ethical deficiencies, his once vaunted obsessive attention to managerial details was no longer trusted. He was justifiably seen as manipulative, paranoid, and Machiavellian.

Nixon’s vice president and immediate successor was deprived of a fresh look from the voters, and acquired a few negative traits all his own. The 37th president’s elected successor, President Carter, was everything the long-time GOP standard-bearer was not. He appeared earnest, forthright, faithful, and sincere to the point of naiveté.

The Carter presidency did not deliver on its promise. President Reagan benefited from the perception that he was Carter’s polar opposite; a strong, decisive, competent manager who would not be distracted by trivialities, pitiless when need be, and undaunted by adversity.

When two-term presidents leave office in times of general public satisfaction, voters will often seek out traits in their successor that mirror the outgoing president. President Bush was seen as a sufficient successor to Reagan and a dispassionate manager who would keenly oversee the collapse of communism in Europe.

President Clinton was buoyed by the perception that Bush was rigid, inaccessible, hopelessly dated, and married to a code of conduct that belonged to another age. Clinton—sanguine, affable, and charismatic—represented a welcome change. President George W. Bush, far more so than Al Gore, was an affable everyman who promised to extend the post-Cold War vacation from history he had inherited from Bill Clinton.

September 11 and the War in Iraq changed Bush and the American people. The public’s preferred antidote to a president now perceived as headstrong, provincial, and inept, was the professorial, worldly, meticulous, and self-assured President Obama.

Predictably, those traits that were once Obama’s attractive attributes are now his curse. Obama’s professorial nature seems aloof today. His worldliness is seen as a mirage, a product of self-delusion. His meticulousness perceived as paralysis that betrays a lack of conviction.

History suggests that Obama’s successor will be the candidate who can present the strongest contrast with the president. In 2016 Americans will seek out a figure of demonstrable executive competence; a doer, not a talker.

Value a candidate’s competence, policy prescriptions, and pedigree above all else. But do not discount the intangibles. The fundamentals of war or peace and growth or recession will largely determine who takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017. But in this election, perhaps more than most, character will matter. We cannot determine who will best address crises not yet known or meet challenges not yet manifest, but we can identify the type of person we want to be in a position to face that adversity.

Katie Pavlich - Will Cuba Return Cop Killer Joanne Chesimard To U.S. With New "Normalization"?
Posted: 12/18/2014 12:00:00 PM EST

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. 


Tracking down Shakur under the protection of the Castros has been difficult, but with President Obama's announcement of normalization between the United States and Cuba, many are asking if Shakur will be extradited.

Renewed relations with Cuba brought hope that New Jersey cop-killer JoAnne Chesimard might finally be extradited to the U.S. to finish serving her prison term.

"We view any changes in relations with Cuba as an opportunity to bring her back to the United States to finish her sentence for the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973," State Police Col. Rick Fuentes said in a statement. "We stand by the reward money and hope that the total of $2 million will prompt fresh information in the light of this altered international relationship."

Considering the Obama administration's history of supporting cop killers, Shakur's extradition and return to the U.S. justice system might take awhile.

Daniel Doherty - Government Sources: Yes, North Korea Hacked Sony
Posted: 12/18/2014 11:45:00 AM EST

The cat is out of the bag:

U.S. officials have concluded that the North Korean government ordered the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment — a breach that led to the studio cancelling the planned release of "The Interview". One U.S. official told NBC News that the country "can't let this go unanswered." The officials told NBC News the hacking attack originated outside North Korea, but they believe the individuals behind it were acting on orders from the North Koreans.

"We have found linkage to the North Korean government," according to a U.S. government source. An official said the U.S. is discussing what form a response could take, and couldn't detail what options the government has available.

You’ll recall that North Korea has been warning the U.S. about releasing the film for months. If the film is released, North Korea’s state mouthpiece once threatened, it would be “an act of war.” Now that Sony has basically met the demands of a maniacal dictator, however, the film has been permanently tabled. Put differently: The “Supreme Leader” has brought the “Great Satan” to its knees. Splendid.

As pathetic as that might sound, I’m also left scratching my head about Sony’s decision. The damage has already been done. So why not just release the film now?

Apparently, one could argue, they didn’t really have a choice:

Sony said it was cancelling “The Interview” release “in light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film.” The studio said it respected and shared in the exhibitors’ concerns.

“We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” read the statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

So blame the exhibitors for being cowardly then -- although Ed Morrissey points out that they had legal niceties to think about. Nevertheless, the whole situation reeks of gutlessness. Even President Obama shrugged his shoulders when asked if “The Interview” could threaten the safety and security of the United States:

The US president certainly did not seem overly concerned. Asked about the stern warnings of retribution targeted at screenings of The Interview, which invoked the memory of the 9/11 terror attacks, Barack Obama told ABC News: “For now, my recommendation would be that people go to the movies.”

Now they can’t, of course, and many people are pissed off. Take, for instance, Mary Katharine Ham who has already started a petition to get the film onto the big screen:

Sign it if so inclined. But at least read the whole thing. She makes some excellent points.