You'd think at this point these guys would be afraid of meeting out in the open like this for fear of getting pummeled by a drone, but apparently Al Qaeda wasn't too worried about that during a recent outdoor meeting of hundreds of terrorists in Yemen. The content of the video reminds us again that for these Islamists, attacking the United States and other western targets comes as part of their jihad and radical religious beliefs. More from the Washington Post:
A video that recently surfaced on Islamist militant Web sites shows a large group of al-Qaeda fighters — including the terrorist network’s second in command — taking part in a brazen open-air gathering, apparently unconcerned about the prospect of being struck by a U.S. drone.
U.S. officials said that the video appeared to be both recent and authentic and that analysts at the CIA and counterterrorism agencies are scrutinizing it for clues to potential plots. The officials declined to say why there had been no U.S. strike or whether U.S. spy agencies were even aware of the gathering before the video emerged.
At one point in the footage, al-Qaeda’s leader in Yemen, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, issues a warning that the organization remains focused on attacking the United States. “We must eliminate the cross,” Wuhayshi said, according to a translation of the video, adding that “the bearer of the cross is America.”
A First Amendment battle is being waged in Texas right now that has national implications. Empower Texans, a taxpayer watchdog group that informs citizens about how their representatives in Austin are voting, has become the target of an IRS-style attack by the political Left and moderate Republicans to silence conservative voices.
Because the Texas Ethics Commission is currently trying to force the group to reveal its donor list, Empower Texans filed a federal lawsuit to protect their constitutional rights.
Lawyer and lobbyist Steve Bresnen led the effort against Empower Texans, but complaints were officially filed to the Ethics Commission by two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Jim Keffer and the now former-Rep. Vicki Truitt, both of whom had performed particularly poorly on the organization’s Fiscal Responsibility Index (see links for their grades). They also shared a common political consultant: Steve Bresnen.
In the complaint, Keffer and Truitt took issue with the fact that because people donate to Empower Texans, a 501(c)(4), and because the group has decided to engage in independent expenditures, they qualify under state law as a political action committee, which would then force Empower Texans to disclose their donor list. Additionally, they said that because Empower Texans scorecards lawmakers at the end of the legislative session, and because the group has an online page that puts out a weekly newsletter, Empower Texans’ President Michael Quinn Sullivan should file as a lobbyist and pay an annual fee to the government.
Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life, says there’s actually a personal vendetta at play in some cases. “Disgruntled legislators who are not representing the views of their constituents are mad that we’re going and telling their constituents—our members, citizens of Texas—how they vote. And they’re using [Sullivan] as an example,” she said. “If they can silence him, then the rest of us might be intimidated to stop telling people how they vote.”
After sitting on the complaint for 20 months, a closed-door hearing finally took place in 2013. The Commission told Sullivan that the problem could all go away if he wrote a check, filed some reports, and became a licensed lobbyist.
“We refused,” Sullivan’s attorney Trey Trainor told Townhall, “because he’s not a lobbyist and they’re [Empower Texans] not a PAC, and if we did that, it would have just burdened other organizations that come along.”
Empower Texans has had no choice but to go to federal court, fighting on First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds, to protect the donors to 501(c)(4)s from being disclosed.
“I mean, when these people give their money, they’re told your name’s not gonna be disclosed,” Trainor said.
Texas Right to Life, Texas Home School Coalition, and Texas Eagle Forum plan to file motions to intervene in the suit on the side of Empower Texans to protect the ability of donors to be able to give money anonymously.
The Ethics Commission sought so much information in the initial round of subpoenas, including Empower Texans’ donor list and the email addresses of the group’s subscribers (for public record), that federal judge Sam Sparks said he “[knew] of no courtroom in the land that those subpoenas would be approved,” calling them “absurd” and “overbroad.”
Despite this, the Ethics Commission came back with subpoenas that were even more expansive, going from three pages to nine. And even after sitting down with the attorney general’s office several times offering to ratify the documents they have from the complaints, they haven’t been interested.
“I think it’d be easy to look at this and say, ‘ah, well, this is some skirmish in Texas between conservatives and [the] establishment, stinks to be them,” Sullivan said, before cautioning that if this happens in Texas, it will happen in other states too.
“Bad ideas spread like weeds in the garden in spring.”
John Moore, who is the chief lawyer and head of the Ethics Commission’s enforcement division, said at the last hearing that the constitutional issues don’t matter in the proceedings, and that it’s not an issue the commission needs to be concerned with in addressing the complaints.
“And so they’ve taken our arguments about the Constitution, about the rights of people to associate freely, the rights of organizations to basically inform the public of what’s going on through new media, don’t matter. The First Amendment doesn’t matter in these cases,” Trainor explained.
And it’s easy to see why moderate Republicans and the Left want the information.
“It’s all about being able to go on a witch hunt and track down the people who are funding these operations, and go to their employers and go to the people that they associate with, and put pressure on them because these groups are very effective at moving the Texas Legislature,” Trainor said. “We had a nationally recognized pro-life piece of legislation, we’re one of the best states in country for parental rights in homeschool issues, we’re a very fiscally conservative state that’s got a great business environment because the [grassroots] advocacy that goes on. … The groups on the Left are losing, and they’re losing because of [conservative grassroots organizations’] ability to go out and speak to the public, and now they want to quell that ability to speak to the public by figuring out who’s funding these operations.”
In 2013, left-leaning Republicans and members of the Texas Democratic Party tried to push legislation that would do much the same: force conservative nonprofits to reveal the names of their donors. Since SB 346 also had a special exemption for labor unions, however, ideological motivations can’t be ignored. Fortunately, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the bill last spring, saying it would “have a chilling effect” on freedom of association and freedom of speech.
“At a time when our federal government is assaulting the rights of Americans by using the tools of government to squelch dissent it is unconscionable to expose more Texans to the risk of such harassment, regardless of political, organizational or party affiliation,” he said.
Undeterred, however, the Texas Ethics Commission in February posted for public comment new rules that would essentially do what Gov. Perry vetoed and what they’re trying to accomplish through the subpoenas issued to Empower Texans.
“If you think of Obamacare, what [President Obama] can’t pass through legislation, he’s doing through agency rules,” Graham said. “I mean, the conservative Legislature actually voted against the bill, Perry vetoed the bill, and the agency is now trying to adopt its own rules despite having no legislative authority.”
In the end, this case isn’t about proving whether or not Empower Texans is a political action committee. It’s about how the political effectiveness of Empower Texans, and other groups like them, can be neutered.
The battle seems far from over, but one thing, as Sullivan said, is clear: “They picked on the wrong Texans.”
A system of 23 community colleges in Virginia is about to become more in line with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) is seeking to alter its policy on free-speech zones in response to a lawsuit brought by student Christian Parks.
Last September, Thomas Nelson Community College prohibited Christian Parks from expressing his Christian beliefs in a large courtyard of the college. An officer from the college’s police department told him he must stop preaching because the content of his speech might offend someone. School officials then told Parks that his speech violated the Student Code of Conduct and VCCS policies.
The Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit, Parks v. The Members of the State Board of the Virginia Community College System, explains that sidewalks and open spaces on campus are areas where students have broad free speech rights, including the right to express their views anonymously and spontaneously.
The First Amendment prohibits laws which limit free speech and the free exercise of religion; however, many college campuses put in place codes which violate the U.S. Constitution.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) recently surveyed 427 schools across the nation and found that more than 58 percent “substantially prohibit protected speech.” The good news is that these restrictive policies have been declining for six consecutive years, and this recent lawsuit sparked yet another victory:
In a court filing last week in support of a motion from both sides to put the lawsuit on hold, the community college system said it would not enforce its current policy as it works to develop a new student policy.
"Both parties desire to suspend the … current policy in order to allow (Parks) and all other students to speak freely on campus" until a new policy is adopted, the joint filing said. With continuing talks between the Alliance and the state's attorney general's office, "counsel for the parties believe that they may be able to reach an amicable settlement in this case."
A proposed settlement is expected by early May.
The detached, emotionless statement given by Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday sums up what is wrong with the Obama administration. On the anniversary of the Boston bombings, a national tragedy, the spokesman for this administration said the bombings were "mostly important in Boston."
The logic is unmistakable. When the United States is attacked on its own soil by foreign Islamic extremists, it’s a localized incident. When a man in Florida defends himself with a gun, it’s a nationwide outrage. Why can’t Obama show the same emotion and stern decisiveness when talking about the torn and bloody bodies covering the marathon route, as when he’s imagining what his son would look like?
Anyone looking at Obama’s record on addressing national crises sees the same thing. Whether it was the bizarre "beer summit" early in his presidency, or the suspiciously tearless crying after Sandy Hook, if an incident doesn’t further his popularity or political agenda, Obama discards it. It’s better to mourn the worst terror attack since 9/11 in secret if your motivation is holding on to a deteriorating liberal base.
Americans who understand the threat of Islamic terror will remember the Boston bombings openly, with or without the president.
Fox News on Wednesday announced plans to introduce a new show to its afternoon lineup, “Outnumbered,” which will air weekdays at noon and feature a rotating ensemble of four female hosts and one male host, according to Media Bistro. Townhall’s News Editor and Fox News Contributor Katie Pavlich will be part of the rotating cast of panelists.
In the new daytime lineup, “Happening Now,” anchored by Jon Scott and Jenna Lee, will split into two one-hour blocks at 11am ET and 1pm ET. “America’s News Headquarters,” which has had a temporary place in the lineup since the primetime shuffle last year, will no longer air on weekdays.
Harris Faulkner and FBN’s Sandra Smith will be the rotating hosts that will lead news coverage on “Outnumbered.” Other women featured will be Kimberly Guilfoyle and Andrea Tantaros, along with Fox News contributors Jedediah Bila, Katie Pavlich and Kirsten Powers. The solo male panelist will vary each day.
“Outnumbered combines a distinctive group of FOX talent with unique experiences and insights that will make for compelling news programming,” Fox News Senior Vice President Jay Wallace said in a statement. “We look forward to once again pushing the envelope with the addition of this new show and are confident the revised line-up will only strengthen the FNC brand.”
The show will debut April 28.
Shanesha Taylor, an Arizona woman, left her two year old and six month old children locked in a very hot car for about 45 minutes while she was being interviewed for a job. Someone noticed one of the children crying hysterically and sweating profusely, and police arrested Taylor when she returned to her car. While her children appeared to have escaped serious harm and have been removed from her custody, she is being charged with felony child abuse and faces up to seven years in prison.
According to MSNBC host Chris Hayes, however, it is Arizona's fault this woman left two of her three children in a car as the state had cut child daycare services.
There is a petition circulating asking the county to drop the charges against Taylor, as she was at a job interview at the time.
During the MSNBC segment about the case, Hayes went on a rant saying that American policy towards the poor is "skilled and efficient" at punishing them, citing examples of people attempting to cheat on their taxes (which is illegal), possessing marijuana (also illegal), and leaving their children unattended in cars (again, illegal). These laws don't "punish the poor," they punish the people who break them. Being poor has nothing to do with marijuana possession, tax fraud, or child endangerment. An average of 38 children die each year due to heatstroke in a car. A vast majority of these children are under the age of three. Taylor is lucky her children aren't dead or seriously injured.
While this story is certainly heart wrenching and it's easy to feel sorry for Taylor, who was attempting to better her life, it's more more heart-wrenching to realize that this woman's lack of responsibility very nearly killed her children. It is foolish for Hayes to blame the state for the actions of the mother. If Taylor were to get the job, she would have to find some option for daycare as well. It is not the state's job to ensure that Taylor has other options besides leaving her children in a sweltering vehicle. That would be the literal definition of "nanny state."
I generally refuse to link to Gawker. Today I'll make an exception. This is delicious:
In late February, the City University of New York announced that it had tapped Princeton economist and New York Times blogger Paul Krugman for a distinguished professorship at CUNY’s Graduate Center and its Luxembourg Income Study Center, a research arm devoted to studying income patterns and their effect on inequality. About that. According to a formal offer letter obtained under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, CUNY intends to pay Krugman $225,000, or $25,000 per month (over two semesters), to “play a modest role in our public events” and “contribute to the build-up” of a new “inequality initiative.” It is not clear, and neither CUNY nor Krugman was able to explain, what “contribute to the build-up” entails. It’s certainly not teaching. “You will not be expected to teach or supervise students,” the letter informs Professor Krugman ... (After his first year, Krugman will be required to host a single seminar).
So this publicly-funded university offered Paul Krugman $225k over nine months to essentially preside as a public face of its in-house institute that studies -- ahem -- income inequality. In exchange for the money, Krugman will provide his presence, play a "modest" role in CUNY public events, and "contribute to the build-up" of the initiative to combat -- ahem -- income inequality. Oh, and he'll host one solitary seminar. On top of his salary, the university will furnish the left-wing columnist and economist with $20,000 in fringe benefits, including travel expenses. In a separate email, a CUNY official makes it fairly explicit that they're effectively just handing him a bunch of cash for access to his "brand:"
Along with the offer letter, CUNY released dozens of emails between Krugman and university officials. “Perhaps I’m being premature or forward,” the Graduate Center’s President, Chase Robinson, tells Krugman in one of them, “but I wanted you to have no doubt that we can provide not just a platform for public interventions and a stimulating academic community—especially, as you will know, because of our investments in the study of inequality—but also a relatively comfortable perch.” Which is undeniably true: $225,000 is more than quadruple New York City’s median household income.
Translation: Please let us shower you with money. (Some of which has been extracted from New York taxpayers -- whose burden, incidentally, Krugman would like to increase). In response to a Twitter challenge from a lefty buddy of mine, I want to make clear that I'm not objecting to a prominent, successful person being compensated -- or even over-compensated -- by an institution. My thoughts exactly:
Great for him that by hard work and smarts, he's now rich. He's a good model of how to make it in America. Whether he sees it or not.— Brian Faughnan (@BrianFaughnan) April 16, 2014
Setting aside Krugman's odious, reactionary politics, the dude won a Nobel Prize and enjoys a major platform at the New York Times. He's profiting handsomely from his achievements. Conservatives aren't the ones who typically bellyache about this sort of thing. Paul Krugman is. A cursory online search reveals a treasure trove of blog posts and columns from the former Enron adviser decrying the "one percent" and egging on the Occupy movement. None has a more enjoyable title, though, than Krugman's essay -- from this past January, no less! -- entitled, "The Myth of the Deserving Rich." In the piece, Krugman allows that people earning, say, between $200,000 and $300,000 may be perfectly innocent, then slaps down the idea that the really rich deserve their success. What is Paul Krugman's aggregate annual income, I wonder? Whatever the answer, I am highly amused that a man who's raking in a quarter-million bucks for what boils down to a ceremonial position once penned a piece about rich people not deserving their wealth. I'd recommend that Krugman offer a masters course in irony during his two-semester "comfortable perch" at CUNY -- but again, he's not required to teach.
When a British salon owner and his son hung up an unflattering poster of Kim Jong Un (read: a pretty typical-looking poster of him) as a means of enticing west Londoners to get their haircut at a discounted price, they didn’t expect two shadowy bureaucrats from North Korea’s embassy to show up and demand they take it down. But that’s reportedly what happened, according to the Guardian. The emissaries from North Korea were apparently livid when they saw their dear leader looking rather foolish (as he normally does), and thus fired off a letter to Britain’s Foreign Office exhorting them to (ahem) “stop the provocation”:
"The day after it went up two Asian-looking guys wearing suits turned up. One was taking pictures and the other taking notes," said Nabbach. "I said to my client at the time, 'I think they are North Korean officials.'
"Then they came in. They asked: 'Who put that picture up?' I said I did.
He said the pair told him the poster was disrespectful and must come down. "They said: 'That is a country's national leader.' I explained to them we often used pictures of celebrities, Lady Diana, Victoria Beckham. I told them: 'Listen, this is not North Korea. This is England.'
"They asked for my name and I told them they would have to get their solicitors for that."
Nabbach said he asked them to leave, and later reported the incident to his local police station. The two did not identify themselves as being from the North Korean embassy, he said. But a Metropolitan police spokesman said: "I can confirm that the North Korean embassy have contacted us and that we are in liaison with them. Officers spoke to all parties. No offences have been disclosed."
The real injustice here would be if these hairdressers were ordered by the British government to take down the poster, and bend to the sensibilities of Kim Jong Un's breathless cronies. It would be a gross violation of free speech. And yet, the AP reports the poster has already been taken down:
We haven't had any trouble since then. If anything, the poster has become a tourist attraction," he said Tuesday - but by Wednesday afternoon the salon was shut and the poster was not visible in the window. The salon's phone rang unanswered.
Police said they had spoken to both parties and determined no crime had been committed.
Alas, Fox News reports the owners chose to take down the poster voluntarily, in part because it, er, “blocked out the light,” or something.
What a sad day for the West when we can’t publicly shame Kim Jong Un anymore without bending to (what seems to be) political pressure. After all, with a mop like that, it’s not as if some public chiding isn't well-deserved.
The only thing that makes Tax Day worse is finding out where exactly your tax dollars are going. Sadly, some of our hard earned money is funding abortions. That’s where pro-lifers in Oregon come in. On Tax Day, activists rallied in church parking lots throughout the state to get drivers to stop and sign their Stop Taxpayer-Funded Abortion pledge.
From the Oregon 2014 Citizen Initiative press release (please note the rather significant deadline date):
Organizers have set a goal of gathering 150,000 signatures by Mother’s Day — May 11 — in order to put their measure up for a public vote. If that goal is not met, volunteers will continue to gather signatures until the final deadline on June 30. A minimum of 116,284 signatures are required to qualify for the November ballot, and about 50,000 signatures have been turned in by volunteers so far.
If approved by voters, the initiative would prohibit using public funds for elective, non-medically necessary abortions. Currently, around 4,000 abortions each year are publicly funded with state tax dollars through the Oregon Health Plan.
Chief Petitioner Jeff Jimerson explained why the group used Tax Day to encourage much-needed action:
“Tax Day seemed like an appropriate time to draw attention to this issue,” Jimerson added. “Most people have no idea their tax dollars are funding thousands of elective abortions.”
The initiative managed to collect hundreds of signatures on Tuesday, Jimerson wrote in an email to Townhall.
This humble effort in Oregon is an important step pro-lifers must take on a national level to expose how Americans are unwillingly subsidizing abortions, particularly through the oft-sainted Planned Parenthood.
Just how much? Try $1.5 million per day. Although the organization tries to claim abortion is only 3 percent of its services, it’s hard to defend that when looking at these numbers: abortions made up 93.8 percent of Planned Parenthood's pregnancy services in 2012 and for every adoption referral, the business performed 149 abortions.
Hopefully pro-life efforts across the country will be successful in directing dollars away from abortion clinics. Tax Day is already tragic enough.
Kathleen Sebelius has tendered her resignation as Health and Human Services secretary, ending what can only be described as a rocky and embarrassing tenure in the Obama cabinet. Many of us, of course, just assumed she would retire from public life after resigning. But the New York Times is floating the idea that she might actually seek public office this fall. Democrats apparently want her to run for a U.S. Senate seat in her home state of Kansas, where she served as governor from 2003 until 2009. Her would-be opponent, incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), is beatable, they claim, and his overly critical (although perhaps justified) attacks on her managerial competence last October makes Democrats all the more hungry to unseat him:
In her darkest hour last fall, Kathleen Sebelius suffered one of the deepest cuts from an old family friend who accused her of “gross incompetence” over the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and demanded that she resign as secretary of health and human services. Now she is weighing revenge.
Ms. Sebelius is considering entreaties from Democrats who want her to run against that old friend, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas.
Several Democrats said this week that Ms. Sebelius had been mentioned with growing frequency as someone who could wage a serious challenge to Mr. Roberts, 77, who is running for a fourth term and is considered vulnerable. One person who spoke directly to Ms. Sebelius said that she was thinking about it, but added that it was too soon to say how seriously she was taking the idea.
Meh. I doubt she jumps in. She’s suffered one too many humiliations since October 1 to be a viable contender in 2014. She’d also have to declare her candidacy by June 2, which doesn’t give her a whole lot of time to make up her mind. And there are other reasons, too. The Times points out the president performed rather poorly in Kansas when he ran for re-election in 2012, garnering less than 40 percent of the vote; plus, a Democrat hasn’t represented Kansas in the upper chamber since 1939.
I’m fairly certain Democrats could find a less toxic candidate to challenge Roberts, albeit with less state name ID, than Sebelius.
Nominating her would be a mistake.