A few, somewhat belated, thoughts on Senate Democrats' partisan report regarding CIA interrogation/"torture" practices post-9/11:
(1) The report details some highly unpleasant tactics (though the CIA has pushed back on some of them), disturbing incidents, and deeply problematic cases of wrongly detaining alleged terrorists due to mistaken identity. CIA officials are right to own up to some serious mistakes during the chaotic period after the worst terrorist attack in American history. I cannot join the ranks of those who simply shrug off some of the document's specific findings by adopting a callous, "whatever, it's better than chopping off heads like the barbarians do" attitude. We are America, and we are much, much better than those monsters. Our actions must always reflect that reality. I'm also interested to hear what response the CIA will muster to outgoing Sen. Mark Udall's dramatic charges that another classified report authored during Leon Panetta's tenure at the agency proves that CIA officials -- including its current director -- are continuing to "lie" about the interrogation program. Udall called on CIA chief John Brennan to resign. With all of that said, the Democrat-authored report lacks credibility on numerous fronts, and strikes me as a nasty piece of of backwards-looking, partisan, cherry-picked, incomplete hatchet work.
(2) If you have not done so already, stop what you're doing and read this Wall Street Journal op/ed co written by six former CIA directors and assistant directors. It is devastating to the Feinstein/Democratic report, beginning with the astounding fact that its authors did not speak to anybody at the CIA who carried out or oversaw the 'enhanced interrogation' program. Outrageous:
The committee has given us instead a one-sided study marred by errors of fact and interpretation—essentially a poorly done and partisan attack on the agency that has done the most to protect America after the 9/11 attacks. How did the committee report get these things so wrong? Astonishingly, the staff avoided interviewing any of us who had been involved in establishing or running the program, the first time a supposedly comprehensive Senate Select Committee on Intelligence study has been carried out in this way. The excuse given by majority senators is that CIA officers were under investigation by the Justice Department and therefore could not be made available. This is nonsense. The investigations referred to were completed in 2011 and 2012 and applied only to certain officers. They never applied to six former CIA directors and deputy directors, all of whom could have added firsthand truth to the study. Yet a press account indicates that the committee staff did see fit to interview at least one attorney for a terrorist at Guantanamo Bay. We can only conclude that the committee members or staff did not want to risk having to deal with data that did not fit their construct.
Calling Lee Hamilton and Tom Keane: Over 1/4 of 1700 footnotes in your 9/11 report came from CIA interrogations. Feinstein says of no value— Marc Thiessen (@marcthiessen) December 9, 2014
(3) For the umpteenth time, Democrats who feign outrage over the CIA's tactics willfully ignore the established fact that Congress' bipartisan leadership teams were extensively briefed on EITs, including water boarding. According to several accounts, reactions from lawmakers ranged from registering no objections to asking if the agency needed to go further. Nancy Pelosi's lies on this matter are uniquely disgusting. Based on documented evidence, the CIA briefed at least 68 members of Congress on the programs. Senate Republicans' competing report on EITs, which has received far less media attention, affirms the CIA's contention that their actions after 9/11 spared innocent lives and weakened Al Qaeda.
(4) How do supporters of President Obama's death-by-drone program -- which I largely support, but which has sometimes relied on dodgy terrorist 'profiling' measures -- justify their indignant criticism of EITs and Guantanamo Bay? Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, emasculating acts and threats are unconscionable violations of "our values," but summary liquidation via drone is fine? The former practices produce intelligence and keep prisoners alive. The latter does not. This contradiction has never been adequately explained, beyond pure partisan hackery.
(5) The release of this slanted, agenda-driven report has placed more American lives in danger (I actually think transparency is important here, and would have backed the release of a fair assessment, despite the risk), infuriated and betrayed allies who've worked with us, and demoralized many honorable CIA current and former employees:
I know v senior Western intel types who collaborated w/IC on renditions, etc. They are beyond furious today. Gotten hellish emails already.— John Schindler (@20committee) December 9, 2014
Best email so far: "We will not forget this. US(G) betrayed us. We know who is responsible & we will remember." (top NATO intel official)— John Schindler (@20committee) December 9, 2014
30 year CIA employee tells me she's "pissed" about EIT report. "They were all briefed." On Feinstein: "I thought she was better than this."— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) December 10, 2014
In a move that seems decidedly Orwellian, the University of Maine has removed images of Santa Claus, candy canes, Christmas trees, wreaths, and menorahs from public locations on campus in the name of "diversity." Instead of the highly offensive displays of evergreen arrangements and trees on the flagship university of the Pine Tree State, the University of Maine has chosen to decorate this year with snowmen, snowflakes, and decidedly non-denominational lights.
According to WABI, some members of the University of Maine's staff received the following email reminding them to avoid anything that could remotely be perceived as religious:
Good Afternoon Everyone,
Just wanted to remind everyone that Aux Services is not to decorate any public areas with Christmas or any other religious themed decorations. Winter holiday decorations are fine but we need to not display any decoration [sic] that could be perceived as religious.
This includes, xmas trees, wreaths, xmas presents, menorahs, candy canes, etc.
What is allowed our [sic] winter themes, plain trees without presents underneath, decorative lights, but not on trees, snow flakes, etc.
If you are unsure, best not to use or ask me for clarifications.
At least one of the trees taken down by the university was being used as an advertisement for a fraternity's food and clothing drive for a local charity.
UMaine released a statement explaining the new decorative policy, saying that by banning everything even remotely religious from being displayed in public, they want to reflect the diversity of their community.
“…the university makes every effort to ensure that all members – students, employees, alumni and the public – feel included and welcome on campus. Decorations on the UMaine campus are therefore reflective of the diversity found in our community.”
Never mind the fact that this statement makes very close to zero sense...actually, scratch that, it makes zero sense. It's not "reflecting diversity" by erasing all displays of religious and cultural diversity on campus and replacing them with weather patterns and anthropomorphic snow creatures. It's "reflecting" a bizarre and terrible world where everyone is the exact same. While many cultures and religions have celebrations at this time of year, how are students supposed to learn about different things if they aren't allowed to be displayed?
Santa Claus, wrapped presents, and Christmas trees, sure, I guess, are figures of Christmas. Granted, they're not religious figures (I don't think the Magi came to Jesus bearing gold, frankincense, and myrrh wrapped in a box with paper and a ribbon bow, but I could be wrong), but they're still symbols of Christmas in the United States. Menorahs, obviously, are a religious symbol, but from my experience as a Catholic who grew up in Maine, I've never exactly felt threatened or excluded when one was on display in a classroom or in a public space. Displaying a menorah is an opportunity to teach people about the story of Hanukkah and the reason as to why there are eight candles lit at different times throughout the celebration. Candy canes, while traditionally sold at Christmastime (a mistake, in my opinion, as candy canes are amazing and should be consumed all year round), are not explicitly tied to any religious celebration. People of all creeds and colors are welcome to enjoy hook-shaped peppermint candy. Wreaths are also not religious in nature and are simply decorations featuring the only plant in the state that still has something resembling color at this time of year.
UMaine is doing a huge disservice to their students with this bizarre ban of anything remotely religious and seasonal that isn't composed of crystallized water. While I'm glad the ban doesn't single out Christmas or symbols of Christianity, it's still very strange and a departure from past university policy with seemingly no real explanation other than "we're worried someone might be offended by a wrapped box or a tree with decorative lights." College is a time to learn about other people, not remove oneself from anything that might possibly be different than how you were raised. This is an incredibly misguided attempt at "diversity," and is in fact the complete opposite. This is political correctness at its worst.
According to new polling from Pew Research, Americans for the first time in decades support gun rights more than they support gun control. Further, the majority of Americans believe gun ownership makes an individual safer.
For the first time in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, there is more support for gun rights than gun control. Currently, 52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership.
Support for gun rights has edged up from earlier this year, and marks a substantial shift in attitudes since shortly after the Newtown school shootings, which occurred two years ago this Sunday.
December 2012, and again a month later. Since January 2013, support for gun rights has increased seven percentage points – from 45% to 52% — while the share prioritizing gun control has fallen five points (from 51% to 46%).
Nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) say gun ownership does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime, while 38% say it does more to endanger personal safety.
One of the most important numbers from the survey shows that five percent more women support protecting rights over gun control than they did just two years ago. Women are also the fasted growing demographic of gun owners in America.
These numbers, although they can change, are a huge victory for the Second Amendment moving forward. We've seen the results of this survey in action over the past few years through the implementation of concealed carry in all 50 states and even in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association just had its most successful election in a decade and won 91 percent of all races they entered during the 2014 midterms.
This new Pew Research comes just as Democrats mull the idea of revisiting the gun control debate on Capitol Hill in the new Congress.
According to a brand new Fox News poll, a record 58 percent of Americans want to see Obamacare repealed. Further, Americans believe deception was used by Obama administration officials to pass the law in 2010.
The poll includes a hypothetical vote question that asks people to choose between only two options: keeping ObamaCare in place and repealing it. A 58-percent majority would vote to repeal the law, while 38 percent would keep it. That’s up from 53 percent a year ago -- and a record high number backing repeal (and a record low number in favor of leaving it in place).
Similarly, 60 percent wish President Obama had spent more time on the economy during his first years in office instead of reforming health care versus 37 percent who don’t feel that way. Those sentiments are unchanged since the question was first asked in July 2012.
The poll comes just after Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, who infamously called American voters "stupid," testified on Capitol Hill about the lack of transparency and deceptive, "tortured" language used in the legislation to hide taxes and redistribution of wealth. During his testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee Tuesday, Gruber was told by Massachusetts Democrat Stephen Lynch that a number of Democratic union members have been calling on him to vote for repeal of the healthcare legislation.
The new poll finds 56 percent of voters are at least somewhat bothered by Gruber’s comments.
By a narrow 49-43 percent margin, voters think Gruber’s comments prove the administration intentionally lied about the law. That includes 26 percent of Democrats. Twice as many independents (54 percent) and nearly three times as many Republicans (72 percent) believe Gruber’s comments prove the White House lied.
These numbers also come just as the second open enrollment period for Obamacare comes to an end with less than satisfactory participation. Incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to work on repealing the most unpopular parts of the legislation, including the medical device tax and the individual mandate.
On Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke at the 9th Margaret Thatcher Freedom Lecture at the Heritage Foundation.
Among other things, he discussed the Anglo-American “special relationship,” ways both countries can work together to combat Islamic terrorism, and the numerous foreign policy blunders committed by the current administration.
“We’re gathered here today to talk about one of the greatest resources that America’s traditionally enjoyed, which is the power of friendships across the globe,” he began.
“One of the sad legacies we’ve seen over the last six years is the fraying of friendships and alliances across the world,” he continued. “Today, the consequences of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy is that our friends no longer trust us and our enemies no longer fear us. That is profoundly dangerous for America and is profoundly dangerous for the world.”
However, he also noted that alliances, not unlike relationships, can change over time. For example, he addressed the strange fact of history that Great Britain was America’s “first major enemy.”
“The ties of language and culture and values that stretch across the Atlantic proved far stronger than the unpleasantness that took place between 1775 and 1850,” he said. “Perhaps our strongest bond is a shared commitment to the democratic principles that have survived since antiquity.”
“Our friendship is so profound today that the very notion that we were once sworn enemies seems so strange as to be laughable,” he declared. “Indeed, we have weathered some of the darkest hours together: fighting in the 20th century through the trenches of two world wars as well as side-by-side winning the Cold War.”
And yet, he added, the world is not necessarily safer or more stable, despite these strategic and geopolitical victories.
“Most recently, our countries have found ourselves fighting alongside again, this time [on the front-lines] of the war against radical Islamic terrorism,” he said. “In a stark demonstration of how strongly we’re allied, when ISIS began its vicious rampage of staged beheadings this summer, the first victim was an American -- James Foley -- and the second was Steven Sotloff, a dual Israeli-American citizen.”
“And the third,” he added, “was British.” He later informed the audience his name was "David Haines."
“For them, all representatives of free and tolerant societies are equally abhorrent,” he continued, “a fact that makes today a critical opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to our shared interests and values as we continue partnering with the UK in the fight against this vicious enemy.”
Changing subjects, he also spoke at length about the president’s misguided approach to handling two inflexible enemies: Russia and Iran. For instance, he was particularly incensed that the president was caught red handed in 2012 telling a Russian “henchman” he would have “greater flexibly” to make concessions to his boss after he won a second term.
“Can you imagine President Reagan -- can you imagine Lady Thatcher -- uttering such words?” he asked the audience incredulously.
Furthermore, he addressed the looming and game-changing historical failure on the horizon if and when Iran obtains nuclear weapons.
Naturally, though, he had a solution to prevent such a dangerous outcome: Get tough.
“We should declare the nuclear negotiations a failure,” he said emphatically. “With Iran, we need more stick and a whole lot less carrot.”
Teddy Roosevelt references aside, he ended his speech positively, suggesting ways to build stronger -- and more lasting -- global alliances.
“My advice is: Pick your allies wisely. Support and reassure them. And then insist that they fulfill their promises and commit their resources,” he concluded. “Then as now, we should heed the words of Lady Thatcher. We should embrace peace through strength. We should stand by our friends. And we should defend the values of the United States of America.”
As Rolling Stone continues to be pummeled for its shoddy reporting of an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, one question lingers: will anyone lose their job over this fiasco? Will the editors on this story be fired? Will Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the piece, be shown the door? Apparently, none of this is happening.
Yet, Sean Woods, the editor for Erdely’s piece, tendered his resignation to Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner, who did not accept. Instead, he’s assembling a “re-reporting” mission to go to UVA and find the truth; it’s similar to the one the New York Times created after it was revealed that writer Jayson Blair fabricated or plagiarized his stories in the early 2000s. Yet, as the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple noted, all of this should’ve been done before the Rolling Stone published the article in the first place (via New York Observer):
The Observer has exclusively learned that in the wake of Rolling Stone‘s blockbuster story about campus rape at the University of Virginia and the subsequent fire that that story’s reporting has come under, the magazine’s deputy managing editor offered to resign.
According to a source inside Rolling Stone, who insisted on anonymity to preserve an ongoing relationship with the magazine, Sean Woods presented a letter of resignation to founder and publisher Jann S. Wenner. Mr Wenner, said to be furious at the unraveling of what had originally looked like a massive scoop, declined to accept the resignation.
Asked if either Mr. Woods, who edited the story, or Will Dana, the managing editor of Rolling Stone, had offered to resign Mr. Wenner told the Observer that this account was “not true.” He declined to go into further detail. A second source confirmed that Mr. Woods had offered to resign.
According to the first source, “Sean handles all the non-music features, including anything like Matt Taibbi. This happened in part because Will is stretched way too thin. You have to understand, he’s not only the editor of Rolling Stone, but of Men’s Journal, too.”
Mr. Dana’s title lists him as Editorial Director of Men’s Journal, but according to the source, he’s as hands on there as he is at Rolling Stone.
According to the source, Rolling Stone is right now planning to assemble a “re-reporting project” akin to the one the New York Times put together in the wake of the Jayson Blair fabulism scandal that will head to UVa both to sort through the errors of the story and to tell readers what actually happened
So, it seems that botching a story can’t get you fired at Rolling Stone, but writing a negative review about Hootie and the Blowfish’s sophomore album, Faithweather Johnson, can is a very interesting observation-- sad, but interesting.
On Election Day, residents of the District of Columbia voted overwhelmingly to approve Initiative 71, which legalized marijuana for recreational use and allowed for personal cultivation of the plant. The initiative also called for D.C.'s city council to create an ordinance to regulate the sale and purchase of marijuana.
Now, this is no more. The new spending deal reached yesterday by the House of Representatives effectively blocks marijuana legalization in DC by including a rider prohibiting funding of the implementation of Initiative 71.
It is unclear what effect this may have on D.C.'s decriminalization statute.
Tuesday night, Senate Democrats and House Republicans reached a deal to fund the federal government through Sept. 30 of next year. That means no government shutdown. But the deal’s fine print also includes a provision that bars implementation of Initiative 71, the marijuana legalization measure D.C. voters approved by a 2-to-1 margin on Nov. 4.
Specifically, a press summary of the spending bill posted online by the House Appropriations Committee says it “prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District.”
The effort to block D.C. legalization was led by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who is reportedly receiving some phone calls from angry D.C. residents: [strong language]
So, funny story about Andy Harris, the Maryland Rep who’s made it his mission to block D.C. weed legalization ...— CJ Ciaramella (@cjciaramella) December 10, 2014
Heard DC residents have been calling his office and complaining about their trash pickup. When the staffer says that’s not his District ...— CJ Ciaramella (@cjciaramella) December 10, 2014
They yell into the phone, “Then why are you fucking with our weed laws!"— CJ Ciaramella (@cjciaramella) December 10, 2014
The upset D.C. residents have a point. They voted overwhelmingly to permit recreational marijuana, like the residents of Alaska, Washington, and Colorado. They should have the right to do this. These actions are fairly undemocratic.
Marijuana legalization advocates have planned protests:
Late Tuesday, Eidinger said marijuana advocates were organizing a protest that would begin Wednesday evening at the Justice Department and march to Capitol Hill with the potential for several advocates to seek arrest.
“I’m ready for some civil disobedience. If you’re going to overturn an election, you might as well say something before it’s done.”
Additionally, Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser has switched gears, saying that she supports legal marijuana in her city:
Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser says she'd allow legal, unregulated pot in DC if Congress leaves no other option. Change from previous position.— Ben Nuckols (@APBenNuckols) December 10, 2014
Regardless of what your thoughts are on drug legalization, or the War on Drugs, it is incredibly unsettling that the vote of a population can be tossed out entirely. The people of D.C. have rights, too.
President Obama announced a $750 million plan for early education at the White House today, justifying the spending by citing the success of a single half-century old program.
"Today, my Council of Economic Advisers is putting out a report showing that for every dollar we invest now, we can save more than eight dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, increasing earnings, reducing violent crime," Obama said in the South Court Auditorium.
The CEA report Obama mentioned does indeed cite research showing that, "for every dollar spent on the Perry Preschool program, the benefits totaled $7 to $10, with a baseline estimate of $8.60."
But the Perry Preschool Project was a single study that tracked just 128 children in just Ypsilanti, Michigan more than 50 years ago! The track record for other preschool programs is far more mixed and the most scientific studies of the federal government's own Head Start program show the spending is largely wasted.
The Department of Health and Human Services even conducted its own study of more than 5,000 children from across the country. That study found that the federal Head Start program had little to no statistically measurable effects on any measure of cognitive ability, including reading, language, and math ability. On a few measures, the study even found that access to Head Start had harmful effects on children.
"The Obama administration’s government preschool proposal, which will cost $75 billion over the next 10 years if implemented, is far more likely to produce results akin to the failed federal Head Start program than any high quality preschool program," The Heritage Foundation's Lindsey Burke told Townhall. "Taxpayers have spent $180 billion on Head Start since it was enacted in 1965, and HHS reported in its scientifically rigorous evaluation of the program that Head Start had little to no impact on children’s cognitive abilities, their health, their social-emotional well-being, or their parents’ parenting practices."
The Washington Post has the exclusive interview:
Reflecting on how a presidential campaign could be different this time around, Santorum said: “We’re just obviously in a better place right now. Our message will be a lot more focused this time than it was last time.”
Santorum is running again. The question is whether, as the race heads to new terrain, he’ll still be able to keep the pace.
Unlikely in the extreme.
Of course, his supporters would accuse me of perpetuating unfounded conventional wisdom. But it’s exceedingly difficult to see how his credentials stack up against the likes of re-election winning Republican governors from blue states, or current movers-and-shakers in the U.S. Senate. (By the way, Rick Santorum lost his last re-election bid by a landslide).
In fairness, however, Santorum did win nearly a dozen primary contests in 2012, wrote an informative and celebrated new book focusing on blue collar workers in preparation for the inevitable, and has the kind of experience running a national campaign many of his will-be opponents do not. He also has something else:
Whether Santorum can raise the money he needs is another question. Foster Friess, the benefactor who ponied up $2.1 million to a pro-Santorum super PAC in 2012, says he would support him again. The former senator is sounding out other deep-pocketed donors, whom he declined to identify.
Plus, he has an incredible work ethic and a strong rapport with social conservatives. For all these reasons, Santorum fervently believes that his chances of winning the nomination are solid.
But in the end, I suspect most voters are going to go with a candidate who is more charismatic, more relevant, and frankly more electable than he is. They won’t want to return to the failed primary candidates of the last election cycle. Will they?
U.N. climate meetings have always been a prime example of green hypocrisy at its finest. For example, its participants believe air travel is one of the "most serious environmental sins" yet they continue traveling to the international meetings by air. However, that sort of hypocrisy has been taken to a whole new level with their climate talks in Lima, Peru, December 1-12.
Factoring in new construction, air and ground travel, utilities, and security, the conference’s carbon footprint will be one and a half times greater than the norm.
The Associated Press has the details:
At more than 50,000 metric tons of carfb/phbon dioxide, the negotiations' burden on global warming will be about 1 1/2 times the norm, said Jorge Alvarez, project coordinator for the U.N. Development Program.
The venue is one big reason. It had to be built.
Eleven football fields of temporary structures arose for the 13-day negotiations from what three months ago was an empty field behind Peru's army's headquarters. Concrete was laid, plumbing installed, components flown in from as far as France and Brazil.
Standing in the midday sun here can get downright uncomfortable, but the Lima sun is not reliable. That's one reason solar panels were not used.
For electricity, the talks are relying exclusively on diesel generators.
Organizers had planned to draw power from Peru's grid, which is about 52 percent fed by non-polluting hydroelectric power. "We worked to upgrade transformers and generators but for some reason it didn't work," said Alvarez.
Peru's hydroelectric power could be in danger by mid-century, anyway. Much of that water comes from glaciers that are melting at an accelerated pace. Peru is hardly on a green trajectory. Though it emits in a year the greenhouse gases that China spews in three days it has doubled its carbon output in the past decade.
Nor is there a guarantee that the 580 square miles (1,500 square kilometers) of forest — the size of Houston, Texas — offsetting the talks' carbon pollution won't someday be gone. It must lie unperturbed for a half century in order to neutralize carbon emitted at the conference.
If the participants of the U.N.’s climate meetings cared so much for the environment and their impact on it, why not hold the meeting in a location that already has the infrastructure in place to support an event of this magnitude, or—gasp—virtually?