Guy Benson - Charlie Hebdo Editor to NBC: When You Blur Out Our Cover, You 'Blur Out Democracy'
Posted: 1/19/2015 10:21:00 AM EST

Last week, Britain's Sky News shamefully cut away from a surviving Charlie Hebdo journalist who held up a copy of the magazine's new cover during a live interview, in violation of the network's "sensitivity" policy.  The publication's new editor-in-chief didn't go quite that far on Meet the Press Sunday morning, but he did give host Chuck Todd a piece of his mind over NBC's decision to censor the image. Todd asked Gerard Biard for his reaction to the many media outlet that "have chosen not to show your cover:"

"Listen, we can not blame newspapers that already suffer much difficulty in getting published and distributed [under] totalitarian regimes for not publishing a cartoon which could cost them at best jail, and at worst, death.  On the other hand, I am quite critical of newspapers which are published in democratic countries. This cartoon is not just a little figure, a little Mohammad drawn by us.  It's a symbol.  It's the symbol of freedom of speech, of freedom of religion, of democracy, and secularism.  It is this symbol that these newspapers refuse to publish.  This is what they must understand: When they refuse to publish this cartoon, when they blur it out…they blur out democracy…"

Todd lets the comments stand; he neither reacts, nor pursues the line of inquiry.  Biard draws a distinction between journalists in repressed societies and those who operate in free ones -- understandably reserving his scorn for the latter group.  New York Times columnist David Brooks, who wrote an excellent piece on the stifling of free expression shortly after the Paris massacre, told PBS viewers over the weekend that he's changed his mind and now supports his newspaper's decision not to show the Charlie Hebdo cover:

"When you actually look at the actual cartoons, some of them involve sodomy, some of them involve things that violate every standard of decency which we have. And so my view is that our standards of what represents decent behavior and civic conversation are more important in this case."

That might be a persuasive case against showing the more indecent depictions, such as the sodomy example he raises, but this specific image is neither obscene nor lacks news value:

Refusing to show that cover isn't about principle, defending decency or fostering civic conversation; it's about fear, intimidation and political correctness.  It seems as though the Times'  dissemblingunprofessional executive editor got to Brooks, and tallied another point for the ridiculous "journalists is about not offending the audience" lie.  One Western Islamist (the man who penned this revealing screed in USA Today) has called the above cover an "act of war," and many of his fellow radicals (extremists?) clearly agree: The cartoon has sparked deadly riots and invited official condemnation from a wide array of Islamic leaders.  I'll leave you with some refreshingly straight talk from a Congresswoman named Tulsi Gabbard.  The Hawaii Democrat is an Iraq War veteran, the only Hindu in Congress, and decidedly unimpressed with the Obama administration's craven, denialist rhetorical posture on radical Islam:

What is so frustrating now as we look at the situation there, our administration refuses to recognize who our enemy is. And unless and until that happens, then it's impossible to come up with a strategy to defeat that enemy. We have to recognize that this is about radical Islam. This is as much a military war as it is an ideological war, and we've got to understand what that ideology is and challenge it, understand it so that we can defeat it and protect our citizens, protect the American people. That's something that has to be done in order for us to look at places like Iraq, places like Syria and places, really, in different parts of the world -- North Africa, Nigeria. This is not just about one group called ISIS or another group called al Qaeda. This is about an overall threat posed by this radical Islamic extremist agenda that exists all around the world as we are seeing, unfortunately, most recently in Paris and in Europe.

Wow. Bravo and thank you, Congresswoman Gabbard. Staff - Katie Pavlich Explains How the 2014 Elections Were a 2nd Amendment Success
Posted: 1/19/2015 8:00:00 AM EST

Townhall's Katie Pavlich explains how more Americans than ever are exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Katie Pavlich - American Sniper Shatters Box Office Records on Opening Weekend
Posted: 1/19/2015 7:45:00 AM EST
Did you go see Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper" over the weekend? If so, you're certainly not alone. The movie, which depicts the life and legacy of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, shattered box office records over the past few days and was named the biggest January release in history. For a rated R film, the movie was the biggest release ever. In just three days, the movie raked in nearly $100 million dollars and Clint Eastwood doubled his personal release record by double. More from Entertainment Weekly:

American Sniper was expected to do well this weekend after an impressive limited release, but not this well: The Clint Eastwood-directed war film took in an estimated $90.2 million—and broke a few records.

The Oscar-nominated film set a new record for a January opening by taking in $30.5 million on Friday, breaking the mark set by Cloverfield ($17.2 million on Jan. 18, 2008). January is a notoriously slow month at the box office, so Sniper‘s debut is particularly eye-opening.

More from USA Today on the record breaking details: 

Warner Bros studio has further estimated a $105 million haul over the entire four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend.

So what records did the R-rated drama, starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Clint Eastwood, break?

The largest MLK opening weekend ever with a projected $105 million. The previous record was Kevin Hart's Ride Along with $48.6 million over the four-day weekend in 2014.

The largest January weekend ever. The previous record was James Cameron's Avatar with $68.5 million in 2010.

The largest R-rated four-day weekend ever. The previous record for the restricted rating was Hangover Part II which made $103.4 million over the Memorial Day holiday weekend in 2011.

"American Sniper" is up for six Oscars, including best picture and Bradley Cooper, who plays Kyle, is nominated for best actor.

Be sure to check out coverage of the Dallas premiere of the movie here.

Matt Vespa - U.S. Officials: We Knew North Korea Hacked Sony Because We Have Been Tracking Them Since 2010
Posted: 1/18/2015 10:32:00 PM EST

If you were wondering why the United States was so fast to blame North Korea for the Sony hack, it’s because we’ve been tracking them since 2010 (via NYT):

The trail that led American officials to blame North Korea for the destructive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November winds back to 2010, when the National Security Agency scrambled to break into the computer systems of a country considered one of the most impenetrable targets on earth.

Spurred by growing concern about North Korea’s maturing capabilities, the American spy agency drilled into the Chinese networks that connect North Korea to the outside world, picked through connections in Malaysia favored by North Korean hackers and penetrated directly into the North with the help of South Korea and other American allies, according to former United States and foreign officials, computer experts later briefed on the operations and a newly disclosed N.S.A. document.

A classified security agency program expanded into an ambitious effort, officials said, to place malware that could track the internal workings of many of the computers and networks used by the North’s hackers, a force that South Korea’s military recently said numbers roughly 6,000 people. Most are commanded by the country’s main intelligence service, called the Reconnaissance General Bureau, and Bureau 121, its secretive hacking unit, with a large outpost in China.

The evidence gathered by the “early warning radar” of software painstakingly hidden to monitor North Korea’s activities proved critical in persuading President Obama to accuse the government of Kim Jong-un of ordering the Sony attack, according to the officials and experts, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the classified N.S.A. operation.

Mr. Obama’s decision to accuse North Korea of ordering the largest destructive attack against an American target — and to promise retaliation, which has begun in the form of new economic sanctions — was highly unusual: The United States had never explicitly charged another government with mounting a cyberattack on American targets.

In the meantime, this hack has proven to be a public relations nightmare for Sony, and some aren’t so sure that North Korea is to blame.

Matt Vespa - New Republic Writer Admits To Not Seeing American Sniper, Writes About It Anyway
Posted: 1/18/2015 9:05:00 PM EST

The left-wing criticism of "American Sniper" was to be expected. Frankly, it’s not worth responding to the vast majority of these criticisms. Yet, if you have a piece from a left-leaning publication, like the New Republic, where the author admits to not even seeing the film, and then ends it with an analysis about the Iraq War; mockery is justified, albeit for a brief time.

Recently, Dennis Jett wrote a piece about "American Sniper" for the Republic. There’s just one problem; He didn’t see the movie:

I have not seen American Sniper. But if the trailer is any indication, Eastwood’s film, like Zero Dark Thirty, tries to make a straightforward situation more complex than it is.

But anyone who has read Kyle’s autobiography of the same title knows that his bravado left no room for doubt. For him, the enemy are savages and despicably evil. His only regret is that he didn’t kill more. He laments that there were rules of engagement, or ROE, which he describes as being drafted by lawyers to protect generals from politicians. He argues instead for letting warriors loose to fight wars without their hands tied behind their backs. At another point, he boasts that the unofficial ROE were pretty simple: “If you see anyone from about sixteen to sixty-five and they’re male, shoot ‘em. Kill every male you see.”

That kind of thinking, compared to Kyle's portrayal by Eastwood, prompted Lindy West to write an article for The Guardian asking, “The real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer. Why are simplistic patriots treating him as a hero?” One answer to that question: Because many Americans are unable to accept that nothing was won in Iraq, and that the sacrifices Kyle and others made were not worth it. More fundamentally, treating Kyle as a patriot and ignoring any other possibility allows Americans to ignore the consequences of invading a country that had no weapons of mass destruction, had nothing to do with 9/11, and had no meaningful ties to Al Qaeda (our invasion, of course, changed that).

A recent study estimates there were 461,000 war-related "excess" deaths in Iraq between 2003 and mid-2011. If true, President George W. Bush may be responsible for the deaths of more Iraqi civilians than Saddam Hussein was. But Bush is not solely culpable. We live in a democracy where the people elect the government, and therefore citizens cannot escape the blame for what it does. In that sense, it is not just Kyle who pulled the trigger. We all did.

But, have no fear; the publication issued a correction. It did not un-publish this non-film review, but noted that the byline was messed up.

Correction: A previous version of this article featured the wrong byline. The author is Dennis Jett, not Dennis Ross.

Dude, really.

But, let’s hear from Director Clint Eastwood, who is not happy that some are trying to portray his movie as jingoistic or a pro-war film:

“I think that’s a stupid analysis,” the American Sniper director growls from New York, when asked about the buckshot his new movie is taking, from critics who believe he’s celebrating war, killing and jingoism.

David Edelstein of New York Magazine calls the film, opening Friday in Toronto, “a Republican platform movie” even as he praises it as “a crackerjack piece of filmmaking.” Lindy West of the Guardian newspaper bemoans “simplistic patriots” who applaud Eastwood’s portrait of Navy SEAL shooting ace Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper.

“Pardon me for sounding defensive, but it certainly has nothing to do with any (political) parties or anything,” Eastwood, 84, tells the Star.

“These fellows who are professional soldiers, Navy personnel or what have you, go in for a certain reason. Their commander-in-chief (U.S. President Barack Obama) is a Democrat and the administration is, and there’s no political aspect there other than the fact that a lot of things happen in war zones.”

The “things” that happen in “war zones” usually involve killing. The killing of men, women, and children, which at times, is carried out by extremely brutal methods. The film captures one such instance. It’s quite unsettling.

You can debate amongst yourselves, but I left the theater feeling that "American Sniper" wasn’t a pro-war movie. It did capture the sacrifices endured by the men and women who serve, along with their families.

Bradley Cooper, who plays Chris Kyle in the film, told the Daily Beast that this is a character study about the plight of being a soldier:

“My hope is that if someone is having a political conversation about whether we should or should not have been in Iraq, whether the war is worth fighting, whether we won, whether we didn’t, why are we still there, all those [issues], that really—I hope—is not one that they would use this movie as a tool for,” Cooper told The Daily Beast, when asked about those targeting Kyle’s temperament. “And for me, and for Clint, this movie was always a character study about what the plight is for a soldier. The guy that I got to know, through all the source material that I read and watched, and home videos—hours and hours—I never saw anything like that. But I can’t control how people are gonna use this movie as a tool, or what they pick and choose whatever they want. But it would be short-changing, I think. If it’s not this movie, I hope to god another movie will come out where it will shed light on the fact of what servicemen and women have to go through, and that we need to pay attention to our vets. It doesn’t go any farther than that. It’s not a political discussion about war, even…It’s a discussion about the reality. And the reality is that people are coming home, and we have to take care of them.”

Right now, the latest anti-American Sniper salvos from lefties is that this film is somehow similar the mock Nazi propaganda movie shown in Quentin Tarantino’s "Inglorious Basterds."

(H/T Twitchy)

Sarah Jean Seman - How Clothes Can Save Your Life
Posted: 1/18/2015 3:19:00 PM EST

Editor's note: This interview first appeared in the January issue of Townhall Magazine. 

World famous New York tailor Martin Greenfield talks about his new book, Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents Tailor.

Townhall: Why did you decide to share your memoir in this stage of your life?

Greenfield: I felt the need to thank America for saving my life, honor my family members who were murdered, and to help our young people to know and remember what Hitler and his henchmen did during the Holocaust. I’m now 86, and I have to say that the resurgence of anti-Semitism troubles me. As a survivor, I feel a unique duty to make sure we never forget.

Townhall: During your internment in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, you talk about turning on a survival switch, about detaching your mind from your physical form. Do you think this ability played a role in your survival?

Greenfield: I do. I was 15 years old and trapped in that hell. So the only way to survive was to empty your mind, to realize that your fate was no longer in your own hands or under the care of your parents. For whatever reason, God spared my life. My father told me that when, not if, but when, I survived, I must honor our family by living, not by feeling guilt or crippling sadness. Had he not given me that permission to feel joy again and to live a life full of meaning, I’m not sure I would have ever been able to push past survivor’s guilt or sorrow.

Townhall: From the time that you put on the collared shirt of a Nazi underneath your uniform inside Auschwitz, to the moment you strode into a room of Hollywood stars in a GGG suit, you speak of how clothes helped shape how you feel and how you are perceived. How have these realizations influenced your work?

Greenfield: Clothes saved my life. When I slipped that Nazi shirt on under my striped prisoner uniform, I instantly noticed that inmates and Nazi soldiers treated me differently. They figured I might be somebody or someone not to be messed with. It didn’t always work, because I was later brutally beaten and had to go to the hospital for my wounds. But many times that shirt kept me shielded from even more harm.

Later, I wore my Czech army uniform. Once again, different treatment by people. And then, even though I was poor and just a floor boy at the GGG suit factory, I noticed that when I wore my tailored GGG suit, people thought I was special, wealthy, someone to be respected.

So I think these lessons really made me work hard to master my craft, to give each client, whether a Hollywood celebrity or a young man buying his first real hand-tailored suit, the very best my hands can make.

Townhall: You asked a rabbi who performed a ceremony inside the liberated Buchenwald “Where was God?” Years later, you saw the same rabbi at the groundbreaking for the U.S. Holocaust Museum. Did you revisit the question? Did you feel you had the answer?

Greenfield: You know, I think by that point I had found the answer. God was in my heart. He was also in the hearts of millions who died. Why I was spared and others perished I do not know. But God doesn’t owe me answers. Many individuals, young children even, endure horrific suffering. So I just remain grateful for each day I’m blessed with. My sons, Jay and Tod, who now run my company, my wife, Arlene, and our many beautiful and brilliant grandchildren are the greatest gifts I have ever known. If I am proud of anything, it’s of them. And I thank God they did not have to endure the things we did during the Shoah.

Townhall: When creating your handcrafted suits, you’ve told your clients (who have ranged from former presidents such as Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bill Clinton to movies stars such as Jimmy Fallon and Leonardo DiCaprio), that the suit should reflect the person. What do you think your suits say about who you are today?

Greenfield: Smart question. I think my suits say I am a suit-maker who believes in creating quality with intrinsic value. My suits also say I’m a man who believes in creating beauty through the painstaking craft of hand-tailored perfection. Every client deserves to feel a deep sense of pride and worth, to look in the mirror and see the best version of themselves. That’s what we strive to create: the strongest version of you.

Matt Vespa - Nothing Says A Good Vacation Like Machine Guns And Disney World
Posted: 1/18/2015 10:45:00 AM EST

The Washington Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowski went to Florida last week, but he wasn’t going to Disney World. He wasn’t going to the attractions there; he was going to shoot machine guns.

Machine Gun America is a 13,000 square foot, two-level shooting range that allows you to–you guessed it–fire fully automatic weapons. It opened to the public last month, and it appears Gutowski had a lot of fun at the range. Yet, Machine Gun America is a rental-only gun range. You’re not allowed to bring your own firearms and ammunition. For shooters who are too young, or scared, to handle fully automatic weapons, Machine Gun America offers a simulator, which Gutowski wrote is “like a grown up Duck Hunt:”

I was able to spend time reviewing the MP5, M4 carbine, AK-47, Walther PPK/S, Glock 17, HK USP, Remington R1 1911, and Taurus Raging Bull 454. Reviewing with extreme excitement.

“We’re assuming that the vast majority of people that will walk through the door have no experience,” MGA safety and training director Wes Doss said. “This needs to be, and always stay, as open, warm, and friendly as we can make it.”

Doss has a combined 30 years of experience in military, law enforcement, and civilian firearms training. He helped design MGA’s facilities, shooting experiences, and operating procedures from the ground up with novice shooters in mind. A justified approach for any facility trying to provide the general public with a fun but safe shooting experience, even more so if there’s fully automatic fire involved.

“The idea is that everybody come in and have a really positive experience,” Doss said, “a fun experience.” He added that MGA’s operating procedures are designed so that they “never lose that grasp of safety.”

The dedication to safety was plainly evident during my time at MGA. Every single customer is supervised by a NRA certified range safety officer in a one-on-one setting while they’re firing any of the guns. The range safety officer is the only one who handles the gun except for the actual time the customer is firing it. And even for those moments the range safety officer is quite literally standing over their shoulder guiding them in the safe operation of the firearm. If necessary, they will even help to physically brace the customer in order to better control recoil.

Assistant director of range operations Natasha Schweitzer, who oversaw my shooting, reiterated the same point. “It’s up to the range safety officer’s discretion if they want to run the customer on these firearms or not,” she said. “If any of my range safety officers feel that they can’t handle it they’ll advise with the customer, try to find a firearm that fits a little bit better with their need.”

With experiences starting at under $200 the average American can likely afford to fulfill that duty. Given that our complicated and incredibly restrictive federal gun laws have made fully automatic firearms extremely difficult to own, the pricing seems even more reasonable. And, since MGA also helps train law enforcement, they enjoy a unique legal standing that allows them to buy and rent machine guns the average civilian can’t get their hands on.

It sounds like the perfect trip; shoot some machine guns and then go on the Incredible Hulk rollercoaster.

Leah Barkoukis - France Deserves Better Friends
Posted: 1/18/2015 9:24:00 AM EST

As if the United States’ absence at Paris’ Unity Rally last weekend wasn’t enough of a national embarrassment, the way the Obama administration tried to make amends was even more so.

In case you missed it, Secretary of State John Kerry visited Paris on Friday—a week too late, mind you—to finally show our solidarity with the French people after three days of terror in which 17 people were killed.

“My visit to France is basically to share a big hug for Paris and express the affection of the American people for France and for our friends there who have been through a terrible time,” Kerry said before going.

But he wasn’t alone; with him was ‘70s icon James Taylor, who was there to sing “You’ve Got a Friend”—you know, to really drive the point home. And the poor woman forced to hold the microphone in front of Taylor? That would be Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

So, what did the media and others think of Kerry’s belated, awkward, and ridiculous gesture?

“I can’t think of a better definition of ‘soft power’ than James Taylor blasting out across the universe to seduce us with his dulcet tones,” BBC Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield said.

The editorial board of the NY Daily News, which already slammed the administration in a powerful cover after the rally, went further, calling the move “tone deaf” and “as bad a diss as President Obama’s no-show failure to appreciate the gravity of this moment in the war on terror.”

And to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh? Well, he was “embarrassed to be an American” that day.


France deserves better.

Cortney O'Brien - Meet Konni Burton, Wendy Davis's Pro-life Replacement
Posted: 1/17/2015 4:00:00 PM EST

"No more pink shoe drama for SD 10!"

That was the bold proclamation of Konni Burton (R-TX), the Republican who won Wendy Davis's old seat in the 10th Senate district of Texas at her swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday. Her words also happened to be featured as the Austin Chronicle's Quote of the Week.

On her first day in office, Burton showed just how different her tenure would be than that of her predecessor. The new senator arrived at her swearing-in ceremony in a pair of "Stand for Life" boots. Her attire was extremely significant, considering Wendy Davis shot to fame in a pair of pink sneakers when she filibustered a pro-life bill in June of 2013.  At the encouragement of pro-abortion advocates and new liberal fans across the country, Davis opted to run for governor in 2014, losing in an embarrassing defeat to Attorney General Greg Abbott, instead of seeking another term in the State Senate, leaving the door wide open for a more conservative candidate.

Konni Burton grew up in a small Texas town called Banquete and entered politics after witnessing the out-of-control spending by both political parties, according to her official online profile. She became an active member of the NE Tarrant Tea Party Burton and, after the reelection of President Obama, decided to run for State Senate.

Burton told Breitbart News that she was excited to erase those pink sneakers from her district's memory and usher in a new lifesaving agenda:

“Senate District 10 was brought into national spotlight with a pair of shoes,” said Burton, “It’s humbling to be allowed the opportunity to redeem that history today. As a Senator I am here to protect the rights of the citizens of District 10, life is the first of those rights.”

After Davis announced her run for governor, it became all too clear that her pro-abortion agenda was not welcome in the Lone Star State. Much of her campaign donations came from out of state as her message failed to resonate with locals. What's more, her campaign proved to be self-destructive.

Konni Burton, however, was impressive from the start. The conservative ended up winning Davis's old seat with over 60 percent of the vote.

With this bold, pro-life conservative now working in the Texas State Senate, it's clear that SD 10 picked the perfect person to fill Wendy Davis's shoes.

Christine Rousselle - Maine Governor Considering 2018 Senate Run
Posted: 1/17/2015 1:27:00 PM EST

Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) said Monday on a talk radio show that he is considering challenging Senator Angus King (I-ME) in 2018 when King is up for reelection. King, who served as governor of Maine from 1995-2003, is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. LePage was recently re-elected to a second term as governor following a contentious three-person election.

From the Portland Press Herald:

Gov. Paul LePage told a Boston-based radio talk show host Monday night that he is considering running against U.S. Sen. Angus King in 2018.

It was difficult to determine whether LePage, Maine’s Republican governor, was serious when he was asked by Howie Carr, a well-known conservative radio talk show host, if he was going to run against King, an independent.

“After his real profile in courage, I’m considering it,” LePage told Carr. When asked to elaborate on his response, LePage said it was a reference to King’s switching his political support from independent Eliot Cutler to Democrat Mike Michaud late in last fall’s gubernatorial race.

“I just thought it was a horrible thing to do,” LePage said in the interview.

Granted, there's a long time between now and 2018, but can LePage actually win? King is wildly popular amongst the people of Maine, and cruised to a relatively easy victory in 2012. LePage has a few years to prove himself, but I personally think that his Senate chances are pretty dim at this point.