Much of the 2016 political oxygen on the Republican side of the aisle has been sucked up by establishment-leaning figures so far -- Jeb Bush forming his exploratory committee, Mitt Romney heavily weighing launching version 3.0, Chris Christie making telltale moves, etc. On the more conservative end of the spectrum, we have Bobby Jindal almost assuredly running (do read his hard-hitting speech on radical Islamism delivered in London yesterday), Scott Walker staffing up and sounding like a presidential candidate, and Marco Rubio reportedly inching closer to taking the plunge. And then there's Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, John Bolton, just to name a few additional potential entrants. It's enough to make your head spin. Indeed, the only major rumored candidate who's explicitly ruled it out is Paul Ryan, who'll prefer to have his hands on Congress' purse strings for the next few years. Rob Portman might count in this category, too, but that's more of a stretch. Which brings us to one of the more polarizing conservative figures in the country. Ted Cruz is a brilliant attorney and fervent conservative -- beloved by much of the grassroots base, viewed with suspicion and frustration among more moderate members of the party, and covered very heavily by the media. At age 44, some have wondered if Cruz might take measure of the ever-expanding and power-packed 2016 field, recognize his relative youth and red state job security, and keep his power dry for a future Oval Office run. Evidently not. This looks like a man who's running for president (via David Drucker):
Team Ted Cruz is taking shape, and the Senate first-termer's presidential campaign could start before this spring. The Republican senator from Texas tentatively plans to fill senior campaign positions with the triumvirate he signed last summer to expand his political operation. At the top is Jeff Roe, whose organizational title is undefined but who would be the campaign’s chief strategic and logistics decision-maker. Jason Miller would shape and oversee campaign messaging; Lauren Lofstrom would direct fundraising. Cruz is in the process of “feeling out” additional campaign hires and prospective donors in preparation to join the field of 2016 candidates. If the senator decides to run for president, he wants to hit the ground at full speed, a senior Cruz advisor confirmed Monday...Rounding out the team are pollster Chris Perkins, who earned plaudits for being among the few to correctly forecast November’s Georgia Senate race, and Jason Johnson, the senator’s longtime political consigliere. Nick Muzin, Cruz's deputy chief of staff in his Senate office, is steeped in South Carolina politics. He is viewed as someone who might take a leave of absence from Cruz' Senate office to join the campaign...“His early reviews among tea party audiences have been stellar in Iowa,” a Republican insider in the Hawkeye State told the Examiner. “I don't think he can appeal as broadly in the party or in the general electorate as other candidates, but his support will be intense among those voters who have the highest anger score.”
When witnesses in the same building as Charlie Hebdo saw masked men with heavy weaponry enter the building they called police, like anyone in their position would do. But the three unarmed officers on bikes who showed up proved to be most unhelpful in the situation.
According to the witness, the officers had to retreat after seeing the men were heavily armed.
That wasn’t the only instance during the three-day terror spree where police found themselves utterly unprepared to take on the jihadists.
The 27-year-old policewoman who was gunned down just south of Paris while attending a traffic accident was unarmed, as was her partner, who could do nothing to stop the gunman.
Now, after three police officers were killed during the attacks in France, a plot to murder police officers in Belgium was foiled, and a posthumous video of Amedy Coulibaly, one of the French jihadists, admitting his plan was to attack police all along, some European law enforcement agencies are beginning to think differently about how, when, and which police should be armed.
The Associated Press reports:
On Monday, French law enforcement officials demanding heavier weapons, protective gear and a bolstered intelligence apparatus met with top officials from the Interior Ministry. An official with the ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing talks, said automatic weapons and heavier bulletproof vests were on the table. [...]
Unlike their British counterparts, French national police are armed although their municipal counterparts tend to be weaponless. But Thooris said they are not permitted to have their service weapons while off duty, raising the possibility that they could be targeted when vulnerable or unable to help if they stumble across crime afterhours.
Because of increasing unease and last week's anti-terror raids, police in Belgium are again allowed to carry weapons home rather than put their handguns and munition in specialized lockers. [...]
In Britain, the overall threat level is "severe" — meaning intelligence and police officials have evidence that a terrorist attack is highly likely. The threat to police officers themselves is judged to be very high after the Paris attacks as well as the recent disruption of a reported Islamist extremist plot to attack individual police officers in west London.
In response, the Metropolitan Police said Sunday it is bolstering the deployment of specialist firearms officers who are authorized to carry weapons. The force, also known as Scotland Yard, declined to provide details, and senior police officials say there is no need for a wholesale policy shift that would arm all police.
"We have seen from the declarations of Coulibaly and also from what happened in Belgium that police can be primary targets for terrorist groups,” Nicolas Comte, of the SGP police union in France, told the Associated Press. "We have to give the means to police services, and notably intelligence, to fight this new form of terrorism."
Let us hope European law enforcement agencies can develop policies that better equip officers to counter rising terror threats.
Editor's note: This article has been updated for clarity purposes.
By a two-to-one margin, respondents who participated in a recent CBS News poll overwhelming say Mitt Romney should answer the call one last time and run for president:
Fifty-nine percent of Republicans would like to see Romney jump into the 2016 race, while only 26 percent believe he should stay out, according to the CBS News poll.
Fifty percent of Republicans would like to see former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the campaign trail as well, while 27 percent disagree. If both Romney and Bush run, analysts expect them to wage a competitive battle for the allegiance of the Republican establishment.
On the other hand, voters are way less enthused about the more right-leaning candidates taking the plunge:
A trio of Republican senators who have stoked the enthusiasm of the grassroots have mixed numbers. Twenty-seven percent of Republicans would like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to mount a bid, but 34 percent disagree. Twenty-six percent would like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to run, while 19 percent would not. Twenty-one percent want Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to run, while 25 percent want him to not run.
Speaking of Cruz, he just basically confirmed he’s running for president in 2016:
Team Ted Cruz is taking shape, and the Senate first-termer's presidential campaign could start before this spring.
The Republican senator from Texas tentatively plans to fill senior campaign positions with the triumvirate he signed last summer to expand his political operation. At the top is Jeff Roe, whose organizational title is undefined but who would be the campaign’s chief strategic and logistics decision-maker. Jason Miller would shape and oversee campaign messaging; Lauren Lofstrom would direct fundraising.
Cruz is in the process of “feeling out” additional campaign hires and prospective donors in preparation to join the field of 2016 candidates. If the senator decides to run for president, he wants to hit the ground at full speed, a senior Cruz advisor confirmed Monday.
Cruz, for his part, passionately explained last month why voters really need to stop nominating squishy and establishment candidates:
“If we nominate another candidate in the mold of a Bob Dole or a John McCain or a Mitt Romney — and let me be clear, all three of those men, they’re good men, they’re honorable men, they’re decent men, they’re men of character, they’re war heroes — but what they did didn’t work,” Cruz said in an interview in his Senate office. “It did not succeed. And if we nominate another candidate in that same mold, the same voters who stayed home in 2008 and 2012 will stay home in 2016, and Hillary Clinton is the next president.”
I suspect this will be the argument on which his candidacy will hinge. The last time Republicans nominated a genuine conservative, he’ll argue, Republicans went on to control the White House for 12 straight years. At the same time, he’ll continue to point out the obvious -- namely, that without grassroots support, the GOP cause is hopeless. Only after nominating a principled conservative can Hillary Clinton hope to be defeated.
We’ll see how much this message resonates. But what will be interesting to see is if conservatives ultimately dub Cruz their 2016 standard-bearer, or whether they’ll go with someone else.
Correction: I've updated and fixed my headline. Apologies for the error.
Earlier this month, it was reported that 2014 was the warmest on record; great odin’s raven! Can you hear the Tom Steyers of the world saying, “Look, look I told you global warming exists” within media circles. Well, as it turns out, the model NASA climate scientists used was, uh, kind of shoddy. And by shoddy, I mean they’re only 38 percent sure that their hypothesis about 2014’s weather is true (via Daily Mail):
The Nasa climate scientists who claimed 2014 set a new record for global warmth last night admitted they were only 38 per cent sure this was true.
In a press release on Friday, Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) claimed its analysis of world temperatures showed ‘2014 was the warmest year on record’.
The claim made headlines around the world, but yesterday it emerged that GISS’s analysis – based on readings from more than 3,000 measuring stations worldwide – is subject to a margin of error. Nasa admits this means it is far from certain that 2014 set a record at all.
Yet the Nasa press release failed to mention this, as well as the fact that the alleged ‘record’ amounted to an increase over 2010, the previous ‘warmest year’, of just two-hundredths of a degree – or 0.02C. The margin of error is said by scientists to be approximately 0.1C – several times as much.
As a result, GISS’s director Gavin Schmidt has now admitted Nasa thinks the likelihood that 2014 was the warmest year since 1880 is just 38 per cent. However, when asked by this newspaper whether he regretted that the news release did not mention this, he did not respond. Another analysis, from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, drawn from ten times as many measuring stations as GISS, concluded that if 2014 was a record year, it was by an even tinier amount.
In 2012, the UK Meteorological Office reported that global temperatures have virtually remained steady since 1997. So, global warming has pretty much stopped for nearly two decades.
The Arctic Ice Cap was supposed to disappear in 2013; it actually grew by 533,000 square miles. We’ve seen the creation of 19,000 Manhattans worth of sea ice, the calmest Hurricane season in over three decades, the quietest tornado season in six decades, but don’t worry; global warming is real.
I think the jury is still out. And until then, no country should gamble on this hypothesis that could cost trillions of dollars. After all, in the 1970s, global cooling was the latest doomsday scenario disseminated by climatologists, who warned, amongst other things, about "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation," and the dismay they felt with world leaders who weren't taking measures to stockpile food.
It never happened. We survived.
With recent Islamic terror events unfolding around the world, Americans at home are growing concerned about sleeper cells activating inside the United States.
Last week, an Ohio man with sympathies to ISIS was arrested for plotting to blow up the Capitol building. Just three years ago, Amine El Khalifi was arrested and charged on similar counts after planning to use a suicide vest to carry out an attack on the Capitol. At the time, Khalifi lived in the same apartment complex as I did in Northern Virginia just outside of Washington D.C. He was in the U.S. as an illegal immigrant after living on an expired visa for years and frequently attended a mosque in Falls Church. More from the Washington Post:
Federal authorities on Friday arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan man in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol, the latest in a series of terrorism-related arrests resulting from undercover sting operations.
For more than a year, Amine El Khalifi, of Alexandria, considered attacking targets including a synagogue, an Alexandria building with military offices and a Washington restaurant frequented by military officials, authorities said. When arrested a few blocks from the Capitol around lunchtime on Friday, he was carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation.
The gun and vest were provided not by al-Qaeda, as Khalifi had been told, but by undercover FBI agents who rendered them inoperable, authorities said.
Khalifi “allegedly believed he was working with al-Qaeda,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Khalifi “devised the plot, the targets and the methods on his own.”
I remember the day he was arrested. I drove home one day in 2012 to grab my suitcase for a midday flight and there was a local reporter outside the complex stopping people for comments. When I asked her why she was there, she informed me about Khalifi's plans and that he had lived in the building.
Stay vigilant, America.
The MSNBC set has worked itself into a frothy frenzy today over a new Washington Post/ABC News survey showing President Obama's job approval rating hitting 50 percent for the first time since May 2013. Though this polling series has traditionally been relatively Obama-friendly overall, the new numbers suggest that Obama's political fortunes are improving in the new year. His rebound appears to be fueled by Democrats and Latinos, with independents warming slightly toward a president of whom they've disapproved for years. The fresh data shows the national mood improving (right track/wrong track has ticked up to 39/56), with voters split between Obama's and the GOP's competing visions on several fronts -- with a solid number of respondents giving both sides low marks. Politicos are noting the president's boost among Hispanics, concluding that his executive amnesty is a political boon:
Obama approval hits 50, spikes among Latinos. For now, exec action on immigration looks like a clear-cut winner http://t.co/OLSyhSuO0j— Alex Roarty (@Alex_Roarty) January 19, 2015
(1) Heavy majorities say Obama has mostly failed at stimulating the economy, improving healthcare, improving America's image around the world, running a transparent administration, improving race relations and handling illegal immigration. A plurality says the same about making the country safer.
(2) Six in ten Americans want to see all or parts of Obamacare repealed, with just 35 percent favoring keeping it in place or expanding the law.
(3) A super-majority of respondents say Obama should sign legislation approving Keystone construction, with just 22 percent backing his veto threat.
(4) The president's executive amnesty is opposed by a 25-point margin (35/60).
(5) A majority of Americans support Obama's shift in US policy vis-a-vis Cuba, though most say it's a "fair criticism" to wonder if the Castro regime disproportionately benefits from the new arrangement.
As House and Senate Republicans gathered in Hershey, Pennsylvania last week for their retreat in which they discussed strategies to enact their new agenda, Americans for Prosperity did a similar rollout.
The conservative grassroots group unveiled their “Reform America” project; a multi-faceted, policy-based agenda that seeks to approve the Keystone pipeline, repeal the death tax, repeal the medical devices tax, gut Obamacare, restore the 40-hour work week, and fight the gas tax that’s being mulled by members of congress to pay for infrastructure.
You can read all about it at ReformAmerica2015.com:
Americans for Prosperity, the nation's foremost grassroots advocate for economic freedom, held a press conference today to launch of its Reform America 2015 agenda, a set of top legislative priorities for the coming year. They include a repeal of the medical device tax, an end to the oil export ban, and a return to regular budget order.
Although November was a clear rebuke of President Obama’s big-government agenda, the group says Americans need policy wins that improve their lives, not political victories. AFP plans to activate last year’s historic grassroots force to press for these achievable reforms. Together, these policies would start placing the keys to our economy back in the hands of families and individuals.
“These issue battles are long-term efforts," said AFP President Tim Phillips. "We’re going to be there throughout this year, next year in 2016 and beyond. We’re going to make sure we have an infrastructure on the ground that can actually give teeth to policy pronouncements like the ones we've made today."
The Reform America 2015 agenda, available online at
ReformAmerica2015.com, is built on fixes to ObamaCare, our distorted energy economy and Congress’ complex tax-and-spend budgets. The group says making these simple changes can deliver immediate benefits for Americans.
“We won’t take our foot off the gas in 2015,” said Chief Executive Officer Luke Hilgemann. “We’ve built up infrastructure in over 34 states, working with our activists out there every day to advance the cause neighbor-to-neighbor and friend-to friend. These are the things we heard on a repeated basis: that we need lower energy costs and better health care options, and that we need to stop the out-of-control spending in Washington. So this isn’t about AFP, this is really about the priorities of the American people."
Below are the three key pillars of Reform America 2015 , along with the key policy priorities the group is calling for:
Repeal the medical device tax
Restore the 40 hour work week
Return to regular budget order
Bring American profits home
Repeal the death tax
Approve Keystone XL Pipeline
Repeal oil export bans
Fight burdensome EPA regulations
Fight the gas tax hike
Pope Francis has expanded his itinerary for his trip to the United States this coming September. In addition to attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, the pontiff told reporters today that he will also be making stops in Washington and New York City during his trip to the United States.
The World Meeting of Families runs from September 22-27. Pope Francis is expected to celebrate an outdoor Mass on the streets of Philadelphia during his visit to the city, similar to the massive Mass the Pope celebrated yesterday in Manila. An estimated 6 million people attended yesterday's Mass.
Other than the World Meeting of Families, there are no finalized details of Pope Francis' schedule that have been released. Pope Francis confirmed he would be attending the event in Philadelphia in November of 2014.
This is Pope Francis' first trip to the United States since his election as pontiff in March 2013, and this is the first papal visit to the United States since Pope Benedict XVI visited Washington and New York City in April of 2008.
At times, one can only sit back and marvel at the fact that this man successfully marketed himself to the electorate as a pragmatist at heart and a would-be healer of sundry societal and political divisions. Barack Obama's background, associations and voting record (such as it existed at the time) clearly demonstrated that he'd lived his adult life as an entrenched ideologue -- the type of person of whom voters are typically suspicious. So he molded his message to elide and disguise his core character. He did so with the complicity of much of the media and has proceeded to allowed the mask to slip further and further as his presidency wears on. As the president prepares to address the nation in his first State of the Union Address since the midterms' landslide Republican victories, White House sources say he'll adopt a "defiant" posture:
President Barack Obama will strike a defiant tone for dealing with the new Republican-led Congress when he addresses Americans next week in his State of the Union speech, laying out areas for potential compromise but ceding little ground to his opponents. Obama's speech at 9 p.m. EST next Tuesday will be the clearest statement yet of his vision for his final two years in office, with both houses of Congress controlled by Republicans for the first time since he took power six years ago...But much like a White House meeting Obama held on Tuesday with congressional leaders, he is not expected to offer major concessions, in keeping with his pledge to act where he can on his own through executive actions and identify areas where the two sides can work together."
Well, this is scary. Israeli officials are confirming that their security services have broken up an ISIS cell inside the country (via CBS News):
Israel's Shin Bet security service says it arrested the first known Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cell operating inside the country.
The intelligence agency said Sunday that the seven cell members belong to the country's Arab minority.
It said they were caught just before executing an attack and were practicing on animals how to behead people.
It said the seven admitted to belonging to the extremist group, which controls about a third of Iraq and Syria, where it has beheaded scores of captive soldiers as well as Western journalists and aid workers.
Thousands of Muslims from Western countries are believed to have flocked to Syria to join ISIS. The Shin Bet estimates that around 30 Arab Israelis have joined the group in Syria.
ISIS has been creeping into the area, with nearly 700 ISIS fighters poised on the Lebanese border. These 700 fighters are allegedly moderate Syrian rebels who have sworn allegiance to ISIS, an aspect that sheds light into dangers of the proposed U.S. operation to send 400 troops into Syria to train these groups; we would have to vet which ones are friend or enemy, which won’t be easy.