Conn Carroll - Townhall Magazine's September Issue Preview: The Case Against Common Core
Posted: 8/20/2014 9:56:00 AM EST

Townhall Magazine's September issue is hitting subscriber mailboxes now! If you want to get the latest original content from Townhall's conservative talent weeks before it goes online, subscribe here now!

Below is an excerpt from Sarah Jean Seman's September feature story, "The Case Against Common Core."

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was supposedly developed with one goal in mind: to strengthen the United States’ global competitive advantage by rigorously educating the next generation.

It is unquestioned that Americans are falling behind their foreign counterparts in academics. U.S. students tested below average in math and only nudged in close to average in reading and science when compared to 34 other developed countries, according to the 2012 Program for International Students Assessment.

“To maintain America’s competitive edge, we need all of our students to be prepared and ready to compete with students from around the world,” then-Vermont Gov. and National Governors Association vice chair Jim Douglas (D) said at the announcement of Common Core in 2009.

Unfortunately, this visionary overhaul has burgeoned into a federal government power grab. In its current capacity, the standards may end up hurting our already failing education system and overlooking our children’s unique needs and the diversity of the country at large.

The Common Core lobbying push began in 2006, when NGA chair and then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) launched her Innovation America campaign. Napolitano’s goal was to “give governors the tools they need to improve math and science education, better align postsecondary education systems with state economies, and develop regional innovation strategies.”

An ensuing task force composed of the NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the progressive educational group Achieve Inc. produced a 2008 report titled “Benchmarking Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World Class Education.” The writers urged state leaders to “upgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12 to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be globally competitive.”

This same advisory group proceeded to jointly develop the standards known today as Common Core State Standards.

The testing rubric sets K-12 grade-specific goals for English, language arts, and math. In theory, these standards would ensure that students in every state are reaching the same academic level. At the same time, teachers still have the freedom to craft lessons at will, as long as they include the material needed for students to pass the national benchmark. Regardless of where a family relocates, or what school system they transfer into, a student should be able to enter the academic setting with confidence that they can keep up with their peers. 

Microsoft guru Bill Gates eventually became one of Common Core’s biggest champions after activists sold him on the idea in 2008. Gates then heavily funded the organizations that pushed the Common Core standards and those same organizations are now set to use Microsoft products for their digital learning programs.

“I want to explain why Common Core is among the most important education ideas in years,” Gates wrote in a February 12, 2014 USA Today op-ed.

“The standards are just that: standards, similar to those that have guided teachers in all states for years, except these standards are inspired by a simple and powerful idea: Every American student should leave high school with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and in the job market.”

Initially, 45 states agreed to join the initiative in 2009. And in many respects, the program started off on the correct foot. It did not take long, however, for states to recognize the product’s false packaging and the potentially detrimental effects it would bring to their state.

“If you look at the history of Common Core, how it came to be, the pressure and the incentive that were put on states to adopt it, I think it’s easy to conclude that this was federally driven,” 

Daniel Doherty - "Establishment" Candidate Dan Sullivan Secures GOP Senate Nod in Alaska
Posted: 8/20/2014 9:00:00 AM EST

Former Natural Resources Commissioner, Bush administration official, and state Attorney General Dan Sullivan won the Republican U.S. Senate primary last night in Alaska, the Associated Press reports. The AP notes that the Karl Rove-backed outside spending group, American Crossroads -- and the conservative Club for Growth, both endorsed him.

He also won, in part, because he crushed his two GOP rivals in the fundraising game:

A tea party attempt to overcome a mainstream Republican came up short in Alaska as former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan won the GOP primary to become his party’s candidate to take on U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in the fall.

Sullivan entered the primary the presumed front-runner, with the backing of national GOP powerbrokers and a huge cash advantage over his rivals.

Sullivan won by a rather comfortable margin:

With 80% of precincts reporting, the Associated Press projected that Mr. Sullivan would top the Republican primary field. He had 40.2% of the vote, compared with 31.8% for tea party candidate Joe Miller and 25.1% for Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.

Mr. Sullivan said in a statement that he looks "forward to painting a clear contrast between Mark Begich's inability to move our state forward and my vision for a brighter and better Alaska."

Speaking of Begich, a SuperPAC supporting him spent roughly $4 million during the late primary campaign attacking Dan Sullivan. At the same time, some of the attack lines used against him sound eerily familiar:

“Alaska’s bitter and divisive Republican primary exposed that Dan Sullivan does not look out for what’s in the best interests of Alaskans,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee deputy executive director Matt Canter in a statement from Washington early Wednesday. “After carrying water for Sarah Palin and trying to restrict access to public lands for hunters and fishers, Sullivan is now hoping to do the Koch brothers’ bidding in the U.S. Senate.”

Begich attacked Sullivan and Treadwell over women’s health issues — a recurring theme in races across the country this year, driven in part by the ongoing Obamacare debate — and joined the other Republicans in attacking Sullivan over his Alaska roots. (Sullivan is originally from Ohio and worked for the George W. Bush administration.)

Par for the course for Democrats these days, I suppose. But the goods news is -- and unlike, say, in Missouri -- there doesn’t seem to be any lasting ill-will between the Republican candidates. Both of Sullivan’s rivals called to congratulate him after he was declared the winner.

Hopefully now Republicans can unite in preparation for the general election campaign, and therefore pick up a seat they are more than capable of winning:

Alaska is a red-leaning state that could become one of the six Republicans need to net in order to win control of the Senate. John McCain defeated Barack Obama there by almost 22 percentage points in 2008. Begich, a former mayor of Anchorage, that year unseated GOP Sen. Ted Stevens, who had just been convicted in an ethics case that was later thrown out. Obama lost by a narrower but still large margin, 14 points, to Mitt Romney in 2012.

That's to say, it would be a painful loss to swallow if Republicans don't unseat Begich; after all, their chances of recapturing the upper chamber would be seriously diminished.

Hence why party elders (and grassroots activists alike) will be monitoring this race very closely through Election Day.

Leah Barkoukis - Islamic State Is Not a Terrorist Group, It's an Army
Posted: 8/20/2014 8:20:00 AM EST

Earlier this month, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that inaction toward the radical Islamic State “is no longer an option.” She also appropriately called them what they are: an army.

“It takes an army to defeat and army, and I believe that we either confront ISIL now or we will be forced to deal with an even stronger enemy in the future,” she said in a statement. The Islamic State is “operating with military expertise, advancing across Iraq, and rapidly consolidating its position.”

According to a monitoring group's estimates, we now have numbers to confirm Feinstein's assessment. Including fighters in both Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State is  80,000 strong and growing by the day.

The Islamic State group has an army of more than 50,000 fighters in Syria, and recruited 6,000 people in the last month, a monitoring group has said.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said on Tuesday that the group's recruitment push was gathering pace every month.

"July saw the largest recruitment since the group appeared in Syria in 2013, with more than 6,000 new fighters," he said.

"The number of IS fighters has passed 50,000 in Syria, including 20,000 non-Syrians," he said.

Al Jazeera cannot verify the observatory's figures. However, an Islamic State source backed the statement and told Al Jazeera that the group also had 30,000 fighters in Iraq.

Abdel Rahman said the new recruits in Syria included more than 1,000 foreign fighters from Chechnya, China, Europe and Arab countries. He said most had entered Syria from Turkey.

IS is not a problem that will remain in the Middle East if left unchecked. They have taunted President Obama and America at large on numerous occasions, and most recently released a video with the theme of “breaking the American cross.” In the video, they boast about “emerging victorious over “crusader” America,” Reuters reports. explains further:

The Islamic State jihadis think of the U.S. as a Christian nation, and so they think of destroying it as breaking the cross, which language is also reminiscent of this:

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, son of Mary (Jesus) will shortly descend amongst you people (Muslims) as a just ruler and will break the Cross and kill the pig and abolish the Jizya (a tax taken from the non-Muslims, who are in the protection, of the Muslim government). Then there will be abundance of money and no-body will accept charitable gifts. (Bukhari 3.34.425)

Meanwhile, IS continues to warn that if U.S. airstrikes continue, Americans will be attacked “in any place.” The gruesome video of an IS militant purportedly beheading journalist James Foley in retaliation for airstrikes is one such example, and the executioner threatened to do the same to fellow American journalist Steven Joel Sotloff, depending on President Obama’s next move.

Matt Vespa - Millennials Aren't As Liberal Once They Start Making Money
Posted: 8/20/2014 7:40:00 AM EST

There may be a glimmer of hope for the Millennial Generation–my generation– when it comes to attitudes about government and the welfare state. In 2008, young Americans got drunk on Barack Obama. I mean, insanely drunk over Mr. Hope and Change, who bamboozled them not once, but twice. So, it should come as no surprise that after Obamacare’s disastrous rollout and the president’s ineffectiveness as a leader that  a majority of young Americans would support recalling him from office.

Ouch! But, so what if they agree to this? They're still hopelessly liberal on everything, right? Emily Ekins at Reason says not so much, especially once millennials become employed and, you know, start making money:

Millennials also become more fiscally conservative as they age, make more money, and learn they will become responsible for paying for things. In fact majorities begin to oppose income redistribution and increased spending on financial assistance to the poor, and support for government guarantees drops once millennials start making between $40K-60K a year. Moreover, as they roll off their parents' health insurance policies and begin paying for their own, they no longer are willing to pay more for insurance even "if it helped provide health insurance coverage for the uninsured," flipping from 57 percent in support to 59 percent opposed.

When it comes to Social Security, 71 percent of millennials support creating private accounts:

Similarly, Pew found 67 percent of all Americans also favor allowing younger workers invest in private accounts. However, if allowing younger workers to opt out of Social Security meant reduced benefits to seniors, only 38 percent of all Americans would favor while 55 would oppose, according to Reason-Rupe. Millennials’ willingness to cut entitlements simply doesn’t comport with strong economic liberalism.

As for health care, 54 percent of millennials believe that government should ensure access, but Ekins noted “GenX was also more supportive when they were in their 20s and have since changed.”

You can read the rest of Reason’s report on millennials here.

Although, while millennials might go the way of the generations before them, they’re largely “unclaimed.” While Republicans’ espousing of social conservatism might turn them off, the GOP’s advocacy for free markets and economic independence might be a magnet. Yet, they’re unsure if such a system is the best for social mobility, according to the report. That’s an area conservatives can surely win, but only if we make the argument. Demography isn’t destiny–and it seems the notion of young Americans being lost to liberalism is a bit premature. 

After all, the majority of 18-year-olds voted for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.

I double-checked this and found a Washington Post article from March 10 that touched upon this, saying Democrats have a young people problem as well:

Among self-reported voters who were 18 years old in 2012, Mitt Romney, not Obama, won the majority: 57 percent. Romney also won 59 percent among 19-year-olds, and 54 percent among 20-year-olds. These youngest voters of 2012 had entered the electorate in 2010-2012, when Obama’s popularity was much lower than the high point of his inauguration.

In other words, they saw the Obama agenda in action. 

Republicans have an inroad; let's see if they take advantage of it.

Matt Vespa - Uh, That's Possibly An Illegal In-Kind Contribution, Ms. Grimes
Posted: 8/20/2014 7:00:00 AM EST

The Kentucky Senate race is going to be close, but Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes might have to explain an in-kind campaign contribution that could be illegal. Ms. Grimes has been traveling across the state in a 45-foot long bus, which was acquired by her father's company. She's renting it for a fraction of the market price, which violates campaign finance laws (via  Politico):

Federal campaign finance law bars a campaign from receiving goods and services below the fair market value from a corporation, regardless of whether it is owned by a family member.

A review of Federal Election Commission records shows Grimes paid less than $11,000 through June to rent the bus for at least 24 days, amounting to about $456 per day. Officials at four bus companies said they typically charge $1,500 to $2,000 a day to rent a similarly sized bus, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign said it spent at least $2,200 per day to rent essentially the same bus during a swing earlier this month. That would amount to a savings of tens of thousands of dollars for the Democrat’s campaign.

The spending highlights the central role that Jerry Lundergan, a gregarious former Kentucky Democratic Party chairman and state lawmaker, is playing in his daughter’s bid to unseat McConnell. Polls show the GOP leader maintaining a very small lead in the race, one of the most closely watched in the country this year.

The difference between what the company is charging her campaign and the fair market value of the bus rental could be considered an illegal in-kind contribution, according to legal experts.

“If it’s coming from a corporation, it’s illegal,” said Larry Noble, who served as general counsel of the FEC for 13 years and now works at the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group. Corporations are prohibited from donating cash or gifts to a campaign, while individual donors’ limits cannot exceed $5,200 per election cycle.

Lundergan, Noble added, “can volunteer himself to the campaign, but what he can’t do is volunteer his company.”

Ms. Grimes isn’t the only person facing scrutiny for possible campaign finance violations. Incumbent Democratic Senator from Louisiana, Mary Landrieu, billed a charter flight to taxpayers, but it seems this wasn't the first time. Politico also reported that Sen. Landrieu has ordered her staff to review all travel records during her three terms as senator:

A review of Landrieu’s office expenditures and campaign records reveals two trips from 2012 that may have been improperly billed to her Senate office rather than her reelection campaign.

On Aug. 23, 2012, Butler Aviation charged $6,787 for an in-state flight for Landrieu that included multiple stops. The flight was from New Orleans to Vidalia to Shreveport to Alexandria and back to New Orleans, according to official disbursement records Landrieu filed with the secretary of the Senate.

On Oct. 18, 2012, Butler Aviation charged $3,437 for a Landrieu flight from New Orleans to Opelousas to Patterson and back to New Orleans.

Both trips included campaign-related events that raise questions about whether some or all of the costs of the charter flights should have been covered by Landrieu’s reelection campaign, rather than her official office.

Landrieu is facing a barrage of bad press over this issue. USA Today reported in July that she spent $47,000 last year on in-state flights using her official Senate office to cover the cost.

Landrieu has now ordered her staff to complete a review of all official travel she has taken during her three terms as a senator in an effort to limit the political damage by disclosing any improperly billed trips all at once.

Hence, why Republicans are calling her “Air Mary." Additionally, Mitch McConnell said Grimes  "cannot be trusted," citing the discount she received over her campaign bus.  Grimes has insisted she's paying rent for her transportation at market rates.

Editor's note: This post has been updated.

Katie Pavlich - After Breaking Ceasefire Hamas Fires 50 Rockets Into Israeli Population Centers
Posted: 8/19/2014 6:43:00 PM EST
Jerusalem - Since breaking another ceasefire agreement just hours ago, Hamas terrorists have launched at least 50 rockets into Israel. Populated areas like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have been targets and two rockets made it through the Iron Dome. 

Rocket sirens in areas close to Gaza have been sounding all night and will no doubt continue into the morning and day tomorrow. The war continues.

Matt Vespa - RickPAC Sets 'Record Straight' On Bogus Abuse Of Power Indictment
Posted: 8/19/2014 6:15:00 PM EST

It’s no holds barred in RickPac’s latest video, which continues to eviscerate the legitimacy of the abuse of power indictment made against Gov. Rick Perry over a budget veto within the Travis County District Attorney’s office.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving; she refused to resign, and Gov. Perry vetoed her Public Integrity Unit. And that’s how this whole circus began.

As Dan noted earlier today, the New York Times labeled the indictment "overzealous:"

 Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is one of the least thoughtful and most damaging state leaders in America, having done great harm to immigrants, abortion clinics and people without health insurance during his 14 years in office. But bad political judgment is not necessarily a felony, and the indictment handed up against him on Friday — given the facts so far — appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution.

For more than a year, Mr. Perry has been seeking the resignation of the Travis County district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg. He had good reason to do so: Ms. Lehmberg was arrested in April 2013 for driving with a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit, and she verbally abused the officers who found her with an open bottle of vodka. She ranted and raved at the local jail, threatening sheriff’s deputies, and she had to be restrained in a chair with a hood over her head. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. In addition to endangering people’s lives, she instantly lost her credibility as a prosecutor of drunken-driving cases.

Sarah Jean Seman - Bloomberg-Funded Gun Control Advocacy Group Targets Kroger Stores
Posted: 8/19/2014 5:35:00 PM EST

Moms Demand Action, a gun-control advocacy group funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, want guns out of the grocery store. The group has challenged the nation’s largest supermarket retailer, Kroger Co., to ban open-carry policies in all of their  2,640 locations across America. 

The petition states that grocery stores are the last place mothers with their children want to see someone openly carrying a gun. One advocate even tweeted that she has instructed her kids to run if they see a man with a gun (question: does this mean they run from police officers?). 

Attached to the petition is the the picture shown below: 

The scenario used in the group’s media campaign undoubtedly is ridiculous. No one carries around an AK-47 in a grocery store. Even the  NRA acknowledged that carrying such weapons is abnormal and “downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself.”

This is hardly the first company Moms Demand Action has tried to force a gun-ban on. The group has recently petitioned Staples, Starbucks, Chipotle, Sonic, Target, Sonic, Chili’s, and Jack-in-the-Box to accept gun-bans. These have hardly been well-received. Staples actually  called in security to remove the group. Additionally, companies that have endorsed the ban have failed to create safer spaces for their customers. 

Ironically, there were two robberies and a shooting at Jack-in-the-Box restaurants within weeks of their request that law-abiding citizens visit unarmed, and a Sonic in Topeka, Kansas was robbed the very day on which that chain asked law-abiding citizens to leave their guns home.

Target stores experienced two robberies within weeks of "respectfully" asking law-abiding citizens to leave their guns home at home, and on July 22, the retailer had their first post-gun ban murder when a man was fatally shot at a Los Angeles-area target.

Kroger Co. seems unfazed by the petition. Spokesperson Keith Dailey claimed they have customers on both sides of the argument and trust them to act responsible in stores. 

Katie Pavlich - BREAKING: ISIS Beheads American Journalist James Wright Foley
Posted: 8/19/2014 5:30:00 PM EST

The terrorist group ISIS has allegedly beheaded American journalist James Wright Foley on video in Iraq in order to send a message to the United States. I'm not going to dignify the terrorists by posting the video here, you can look it up on your own if you'd like. A warning, extremely violent and difficult to watch. 

Wright's fellow journalist Ihan Tanir gave some background on the situation on Twitter.

More from Noah Rothman:

The American photojournalist James Wright Foley was working for Agence France Presse when he was captured crossing the Syria-Turkish border in 2012. The American war reporter had previously been held for six weeks by pro-Gaddafi forces in Libya while covering that conflict. Some believed that his capture would be similarly short-lived. Tragically, that would not be the case.

“On November 22, 2012, James Wright Foley, a freelance photo journalist, was taken by an organized gang after departing from an internet café in Binesh, Syria,” the FBI noted in November, 2012. “Foley had employed a translator to help him travel across the Syrian-Turkish border. The translator was also taken, but later released.”

Swift justice is in order. Immediately. May his family find peace in this extremely difficult time. 

Meanwhile the JV terror team, I mean ISIS, is threatening to kill American journalist Steven Sotloff next.

By the way, where is President Obama right now? On Air Force One headed back to vacation.

Daniel Doherty - Oh My: Al Qaeda and ISIS Joining Forces?
Posted: 8/19/2014 4:05:00 PM EST

It would seem so.

And while al Qaeda once famously severed ties with ISIS for its barbarism, now one of its most dangerous affiliates has come out publicly in support of them (via The Hill):

Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen is declaring its support for the Sunni extremist group that has taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria, creating the potential for a new alliance against the United States.

“We announce solidarity with our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the crusade. Their blood and injuries are ours and we will surely support them,” said a statement published by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen Times reported Tuesday.

“We assert to the Islamic Nation [all Muslims worldwide] that we stand by the side of our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the American and Iranian conspiracy and their agents of the apostate Gulf rulers," the statement continued.

AQAP is believed to pose the most dangerous threat to the U.S. of all the al Qaeda affiliates, because it has tried to stage attacks against the United States several times.

Was this not bound to happen at some point? Both al Qaeda and ISIS share the same goal of killing Americans and waging war against the U.S. This is beyond dispute. Meanwhile, ISIS has publicly taunted the president, vowing to "raise the flag of Allah in the White House” while al Qaeda, everybody knows, masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I suspect, also, that al Qaeda operatives aren't universally opposed to ISIS’ decision to slaughter young Christians and ethnic minorities and sell the rest of their victims into slavery. Though perhaps, for now, maybe some are:

One expert, Saeed Al-Jamhi, head of the Al-Jamhi Center for Strategic Studies, told the Yemen Times that there were ISIS gunmen training fighters in Yemen, and some AQAP members fighting in Iraq.

Al-Jamhi also said there were divisions within AQAP over whether to support ISIS, but predicted that division would fade as ISIS increases its stature.

And its stature is indeed increasing. President Obama once dismissed them as “jayvee,” but their military capabilities, coupled with their bloodthirsty tactics, makes them a serious national security threat. President Obama himself has already said explicitly that they pose a danger to the Middle East and our diplomatic and military personnel stationed there. Now, apparently, AQAP is advising ISIS on how best to avoid US airstrikes, and maximize their influence in the region.

Worse, ISIS just released a video pledging to “drown all [Americans] in blood”:

The Islamic State militant group that has seized large parts of Iraq and drawn the first American air strikes since the end of the occupation in 2011 has warned the United States it will attack Americans "in any place" if the raids hit its militants.

The video, which shows a photograph of an American who was beheaded during the U.S. occupation of Iraq and victims of snipers, featured a statement which said in English "we will drown all of you in blood".

Parting question: Two terrorist organizations have apparently joined forces to wage jihad against the United States. So what, if anything, will be the administration's response?