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Matt Vespa - Netroots Nation: Transgender Equality In The Military Gets Cool Reception
Posted: 7/25/2014 10:30:00 AM EST

Last week, I ventured into a sea of liberalism at Netroots Nation, which was held at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan. It was a buffet of liberal issues: LGBT issues, workers rights, water rights, social justice, abortion, single-payer healthcare, and many more that would drive ordinary conservatives insane.

Yet, on the issue of transgender rights, especially the right for them to serve in our military openly, the conference was less than enthusiastic as proven by the scarce attendance at this panel.

In the program given to us at the registration desk, this panel is described as such:

Today, it is outdated military policies – not the law – that ban transgender people from serving and forces their discharge if they are found out. Despite changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which removed “gender identity disorder” as a mental illness, the U.S. military has not updated their policies. Service members are still discharged with this discredited diagnosis. Drawing on lessons learned from the campaign to repeal [Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell] DADT, and the model for open transgender service in other counties, this session will explore the path toward full equality.

So, why do transgender Americans want to serve (quietly) in an institution hostile to them?

Allyson Robinson, a transgender veteran and LGBT activist, noted that the military is still a great opportunity. It provides health care, housing, and a chance to serve one’s country. It’s a great job. She also said that good job opportunities are two to five times harder for transgender Americans to find.

The other reason transgender Americans join the military is family tradition. Robinson alluded that this was her reason for signing up, as her family had a long history of serving in the military that dates back to the Revolutionary War.

Kayla Williams, a cisgender veteran, or someone who associates with the gender assigned at birth, served in Iraq described the “austere” conditions she lived in at times during her deployment. She said she took hormonal birth control to regulate her menstrual cycle.

“No one wants to see a woman change her tampon in a sandstorm,” she said. Williams added that the military was accommodating and capable to handle her needs.

Fiona Dawson, host and producer of Transmilitary; a show about transgender military lives, served as the panel’s moderator and asked another transgender veteran, Landon Wilson, who was born female, but transitioned to male, about the military providing treatment for his needs.

“A hormone is a hormone is a hormone, alright,” he said. “When you break it down really and – trans-hormones are no different than non trans-hormones so if we have a guy in the military who was born male, lives as male, and his testosterone is low; what’s the difference in somebody who is a trans-man who’s testosterone is really low who needs that same hormone? There isn’t one.”

Dawson asked if these treatments could be taken into – and administered in – austere environments, Wilson said absolutely.

I had to leave the room due to an emergency phone call, but I was able to catch Williams declaring that “this is an incredibly important human rights issue and it’s time for everyone in the progressive community and national security community to come out and speak out on full equality for trans-personnel.”

But, as Robinson noted, this fight is different; there needs to be more awareness. She recollects how in the fight to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Congressman, Senators, and their staffs count the number of postcards, phone calls, and constituent visits they receive on issues. But, at the Pentagon, they couldn’t care less about constituent services.

Nevertheless, Robinson told the audience that contacting their representatives is key, as is sharing, liking, and retweeting what she, and other organizations devoted to this cause, disseminate on social media. It’s to build awareness.

“I don’t know about you, I’m constantly hearing big applause from the room across the hall, right? There’s a lot of people in that room – um, look around [observing the virtually empty room]; this is the situation that we deal with,” said Robinson.

Sue Fulton, an army veteran who graduated West Point in 1980, is also fighting to make the U.S. Military more LGBT-friendly at an organization called SPART*A. She said networking with fellow members in this community is essential. It offers a base of support, but more importantly; allows this movement to obtain facts on the ground. It allows them to get the stories and bring them – anonymously – to the people who make the decisions.

Fulton acknowledged that she was a little surprised by the amount of transgender Americans serving in the military who are coming out to their fellow comrades and commanding officers and not experiencing harsh resistance.

“There’s surprisingly less resistance – in general – than we may have expected a few years ago…there’s a growing understanding of what this is about,” she said.

The panel ended with something that has always plagued progressive/Democratic politics since George McGovern’s 1972 presidential bid; the accusation that left-wingers are anti-military and soft on defense.

Well, some things never change.

Dawson noted how groups advocating for open trans-service in the military are met with anti-military and anti-war comments from transgender Americans on social media.

Robinson declared she is a proud progressive, but said, “We assume that we all think exactly the same on every issue, right? And, the fact is, of course, we don’t…I think that if we’re going to be about anything it shouldn’t be about marginalizing people, right? If we’re going to be a movement about anything, we should be a movement about – where everyone is free to talk about what they believe and to be part of what we’re doing where we have agreement.”

This may come as a shock to these folks, but conservatives are also for not marginalizing people and we love debate.

Robinson claims there are 15,000 transgender Americans serving in the U.S. Military.

Townhall.com Staff - Israeli Ambassador Slams CNN's Biased Reporting Of Gaza Conflict
Posted: 7/25/2014 8:45:00 AM EST

In the wake of the tragic shelling of a UN school that left fifteen people dead, Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, went on Erin Burnett's show on CNN last night to remind the rest of the mainstream media – and the world – that the UN Secretary General mentioned that these schools are being used by Hamas to store rockets, thus becoming "potential military targets" and placing UN personnel and innocent Palestinians in harm's way.

He slammed CNN for omitting this aspect in their reporting of the conflict saying, "I've been listening for two hours of reports on CNN. I've seen split screens, horrible pictures, horrible pictures that any decent human being would be horrified by – I have not heard a single person say what I just said to you now. And, I think that that does a disservice to your viewers to not give them the context they need to make these judgments. Hamas is placing missile batteries in schools, in hospitals, in mosques – and there must be outrage by the world at Hamas to end this."

H/T (Washington Free Beacon)

Katie Pavlich - CNN Poll: 35 Percent Want Obama Impeached
Posted: 7/25/2014 8:25:00 AM EST

According to a new CNN poll, more than one-third of American voters want to see President Obama impeached. In 2006, just 30 percent of voters wanted to see President George W. Bush impeached.

35% want Obama impeached, with nearly two-thirds saying the President should not be removed from office.

There's an obvious partisan divide, with 57% of Republicans but only 35% of independents and 13% of Democrats backing a move to impeach Obama.

The poll's release came one day after the House Rules Committee approved – along a party line vote – a resolution authorizing Speaker John Boehner's lawsuit against the President. The GOP controlled House is expected approve it next week.

Boehner and House Republicans plan to sue Obama over his health care law. They claim he violated the Constitution by circumventing Congress and changing the law's employer mandate on his own.

By a 57%-41% margin, Americans say House Republicans shouldn't file the suit. As with the question on impeachment, there's a wide partisan divide over the lawsuit.

The majority of voters disagree with calls from people like Sarah Palin for President Obama to be removed from the Oval Office.

One of the most important numbers in the poll has to do with President Obama's executive overreach as 45 percent say he has gone too far.

When it comes to expanding the power of the presidency, has Obama gone too far? Forty-five percent say yes, with three in 10 saying the President's actions have been about right, and 22% saying he hasn't gone far enough.

You can see the entire poll here.

Katie Pavlich - WATCH: Christian in Iraq Talks About Persecution From Terrorist Group ISIS
Posted: 7/25/2014 8:00:00 AM EST

As the terrorist group ISIS continues its brutal takeover of Iraq, Christians have been given an ultimatum: convert to Islam or be killed.

Iraqi Christians are begging for help from the civilized world after Mosul, the northern city where they have lived and worshiped for 2,000 years, was purged of non-Muslims by ISIS, the jihadist terror group that claims to have established its own nation in the region.

"By 12 noon on Saturday, the Christians -- all of them -- left the city," Yousif Habash, an Iraqi-born bishop of the Syriac Catholic Church, told FoxNews.com.

Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, included 60,000 Christians in 2003. By last month, the number had dwindled to just 35,000. It now stands at zero, according to Ignatius Yousef Younan III, patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church.

Thousands of Christians have fleed and the situation is being described as a genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Last night Fox News' Sean Hannity interviewed Christian Kaldo Oganna, who is living in Iraq.

"Our people are under the threat of killing, ethnic cleansing," he said. "We are all in fear. The Jihadis are going to attack."

Oganna begged for condemnation of the violence and begged the United States to stop ISIS before things get worse. The entire interview is worth your time.

The White House response to the persecution and genocide of Christians in Iraq, and in the Middle East as a whole, has been nothing short of pathetic and unacceptable.

Katie Pavlich - New Obama Executive Action Plan on Amnesty: Bring Kids to U.S. Directly From Central America
Posted: 7/25/2014 6:30:00 AM EST

With no plans to secure the border, President Obama is considering executive action without Congress to grant Hondurans amnesty and to set up a program to screen "refugees" in the country before green lighting them into the United States, cutting out the process of trekking through Mexico. From the New York Times:

The Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico, according to a draft of the proposal.

If approved, the plan would direct the government to screen thousands of children and youths in Honduras to see if they can enter the United States as refugees or on emergency humanitarian grounds. It would be the first American refugee effort in a nation reachable by land to the United States, the White House said, putting the violence in Honduras on the level of humanitarian emergencies in Haiti and Vietnam, where such programs have been conducted in the past amid war and major crises.

Critics of the plan were quick to pounce, saying it appeared to redefine the legal definition of a refugee and would only increase the flow of migration to the United States. Administration officials said they believed the plan could be enacted through executive action, without congressional approval, as long as it did not increase the total number of refugees coming into the country.

This plan contradicts initial claims by the administration children in the United States illegally will be sent back. Not only is the White House not stopping the flow of illegal alien children, they're planning to increase the number of unaccompanied children in the U.S. with President Obama's pen.

Last night Senators Jeff Sessions and Ted Cruz ripped the administration's plan on the Senate floor.

"Know that we are facing an exceedingly grave threat of an unbelievable expansion of his unilateral executive orders of amnesty that go beyond anything we've ever seen in this country and threatens the very constitutional framework of our republic and the very ability of this nation to even have borders," Sessions said.

“The current situation in the Rio Grande Valley is a humanitarian crisis of this Administration’s making. President Obama set the stage for this crisis by refusing to live up to his most basic responsibility to secure our border, imposing huge human and financial costs on border communities and on immigrants who come here illegally,” Sen. Cruz said in a statement. “He has also sent a message to the world that the United States is not serious about enforcing its immigration laws by lawlessly granting amnesty through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. To solve this problem, we must put a stop to President Obama’s amnesty and give governors all options possible to mitigate this crisis in light of the federal government’s inaction.”

Cruz has introduced legislation , the Protect Children and Families Through the Rule of Law Act, in order to "stop President Obama’s amnesty, reform the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and empower governors to utilize the National Guard to address this specific crisis at federal expense, including authority to arrest violators of federal immigration, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and terrorism laws."

Meanwhile, leaders from Central American countries are meeting at the White House today to discuss the ongoing crisis.

President Barack Obama is summoning Central American leaders to the White House to discuss the influx of young immigrants from their countries to the U.S., hoping to show presidential action even as Congress remains deeply split over proposals to stem the crisis on the border.

The meeting comes as the administration is considering creating a pilot program giving refugee status to young people from Honduras, White House officials said Thursday. The plan would involve screening youths in their home country to determine whether they qualify for refugee status. The program would be limited and would start in Honduras but could be expanded to include other Central American countries.

Earlier this week, Speaker John Boehner sent a letter to President Obama threatening funding if border security is not taken seriously.

Daniel Doherty - Cruz on Meriam Ibrahim’s Release: “Truly the Lord Works in Mysterious Ways”
Posted: 7/24/2014 7:45:00 PM EST

Indeed He does.

And yet, after refusing to renounce her Christian-faith, Meriam Ibrahim showed herself to be, among other things, a woman of remarkable courage and conviction. She was presented with a choice, a choice no one should ever have to make: renounce your faith, or suffer martyrdom. (The punishment in Sudan for the “crime” of apostasy is death by hanging). She refused, knowing full well the risks she was taking. But I can only speculate that her abiding sense of faith, and her trust in the Lord, are what sustained her. And sustain her still.

To his credit, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), among other members of Congress, made her plight a top priority. Religious liberty is a human right, he argued, not one that is conditional or can be taken away. He therefore released this statement on Thursday, rejoicing she had been “brought out of the darkness.” He also praised government and religious leaders from around the world. Without them, Ms. Ibrahim's liberation would have been impossible:

“We rejoice today that our sister, Meriam Ibrahim, has been brought out of the darkness of persecution and into the light of liberty where she can worship freely and fully,” Sen. Cruz said.

“Great thanks are due to the government of Italy, which, not taking no for an answer, exerted the strongest diplomatic pressure to resolve Ms. Ibrahim’s case. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi publicly raised Ms. Ibrahim’s plight in recent weeks, and Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini has taken a personal interest in the case.

“Pope Francis has been a tireless advocate for Ms. Ibrahim through prayer, and their combined and sustained efforts have brought Ms. Ibrahim and her family to safety.

“Truly the Lord works in mysterious ways. Ms. Ibrahim’s long trial seemed at times hopeless, as a powerless woman was victimized by a brutal government that would torture and kill its own citizens for their faith. But its beautiful conclusion today when Pope Francis laid his hands on her in blessing reminds us of the boundless power of pure faith to lift up and preserve the weak and oppressed.

“It is also a call to action for all Christians around the globe to redouble our efforts to draw attention to the plight of the many Christians still suffering cruel and unjust imprisonment, including Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran and Kenneth Bae in North Korea.

“The vicious persecution of the Christians of Iraq, especially Mosul, also commands our urgent attention. We prayerfully urge our government to engage fully in their cases.”

Guy Benson - Hillary: No, Seriously, Our Russian 'Reset' Worked
Posted: 7/24/2014 5:48:00 PM EST


Hillary Clinton and her supporters have famously struggled to identify her major, tangible accomplishments as Secretary of State. Perhaps she's finally settled on an answer, and it's a doozy:



Engineering a blossoming restoration of US-Russia relations is a major achievement, and Hillary would like American voters to know that she pulled it off, or something. Her timing is impeccable. Over the last few years, Moscow has complicated our efforts to halt Iran's nuclear march, ignored us completely on human rights, ostentatiously harbored a treacherous American fugitive, invaded (another) bordering country, and helped Kremlin-aligned rebels blow an airliner out of the sky. With international pressure mounting, Vladimir Putin's allies are escalating their hostilities, not backing down -- while the Russian government spins wild and debunked conspiracies about the Malaysian Airlines attack. With that spiraling catastrophe as her backdrop, Her Majesty has decided to pronounce her "reset" charm offensive a success. If you find yourself laughing incredulously, we've officially come full circle. That policy began with a hearty chortle, too:



Russian media have been poking fun at the US secretary of state over a translation error on a gift she presented to her Russian counterpart. Hillary Clinton gave Sergei Lavrov a mock "reset" button, symbolising US hopes to mend frayed ties with Moscow. But he said the word the Americans chose, "peregruzka", meant "overloaded" or "overcharged", rather than "reset".


Smart power. Allahpundit explains how the Clinton spinmeisters are trying to play this, deliberately using the past tense to frame things in a Hillary-friendly manner. Good luck:


The only way to do it is to argue that it was a success but that, through no fault of Hillary’s own, of course, it collapsed in a heap. Officially, she’s going to blame the failure of the reset on Putin re-assuming the presidency after four years of Medvedev, but that makes no sense. As Hillary herself concedes (“of course Putin still pulled the strings”), Putin was calling the shots as prime minister during Obama’s first term while Medvedev kept his presidential seat warm. Russian law forbids more than two consecutive terms as president — for now — so Czar Vladimir temporarily stepped aside for a catspaw. She’s drawing a lame distinction between Medvedev and Putin simply as an excuse for why her biggest initiative as Secretary of State now lies in ruins. Unofficially, of course, she’s also drawing a tacit contrast between herself and Obama: Things with Russia were fine during his first term but once she left State, everything went to hell. If having Putin as president of Russia is the key to all this, I’m not sure why we should expect different foreign policy results from President Hillary; after all, Putin will still be czar or king or emperor two years from now. But you’re not supposed to think too hard about this.


"Don't think too hard" might as well be an early frontrunner for her 2016 campaign-in-waiting's slogan. She's going to ask voters to give her political credit for all of the good things that happened during her husband's presidency and the Obama administration, while absolving her of the negative developments. She'll cherry-pick all day and all night. Clinton economy? Let's bring it back. The Obamacare mess? I would have done it more effectively. Etc, etc. But until she formally throws her hat in the ring, we'll have to endure an exhausting parade of coy hints, and an increasingly steady diet of the 'First Woman President' narrative.

Cortney O'Brien - TMZ "Reporters" Call Sarah Palin a "Bad Mom" and "Dumb" After Receiving Speeding Ticket
Posted: 7/24/2014 5:45:00 PM EST

In case you didn't know, TMZ is a paparazzi entertainment show that follows celebrities as they walk out of restaurants, get into their cars, or buy a cup of coffee. It is not a real news source. Case in point, on Wednesday these "reporters" proved just how sad their profession is. After airing a segment that showed footage of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin getting a speeding ticket in Wasilla, Alaska, the TMZ staff started demeaning her for no reason, according to Breitbart:

But then it quickly turned ugly, when, without justification, the staffers launched into a nasty, random, name-calling attack. One staff member exclaimed out of nowhere, "She's a bitch." Another chimed in, saying, "She's a really bad mom," while another added, "She's a horrible mom."

A third concluded, "She's not evil. She's too dumb to be good or evil."

The immature behavior continues on TMZ's website, where they again show the former governor no respect:

Sarah Palin may be conservative, but her driving is unabashedly radical ... giving TMZ an epic rationalization for speeding in her pick up truck in Alaska.

The former guv was stopped in her hometown of Wasilla last Wednesday for going 63 in a 45 MPH zone in her Toyota Tundra. The cop wrote her up and she was on her way.

Governor Palin has does nothing to suggest she is a bad mom or a "bitch," yet she has been the media's favorite target since the 2008 election.

These charges aren't only false, they're downright cruel. But, I guess the "war on women" is sanctioned when it's being waged on conservative women.

Leah Barkoukis - US Official: ISIL Is 'No Longer a Terrorist Organization--It's a Full-Blown Army'
Posted: 7/24/2014 4:16:00 PM EST

By now, we all know how wrong President Obama was when he repeatedly said on the campaign trail in 2012 that al Qaeda is on the path to defeat. Indeed, it seems like we’ve got a much bigger problem on our hands. According to top U.S. officials, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is “worse than al Qaeda.”

Via The Hill (emphasis mine):

"It is al Qaeda in its doctrine, ambition and increasingly, in its threat to U.S. interests," Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary of state, told lawmakers at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. "In fact, it is worse than al Qaeda."

McGurk said the group, which splintered off from its parent, al Qaeda in Iraq, had strengthened its capabilities and was “no longer a terrorist organization. It is a full-blown army.”
Elissa Slotkin, acting principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for policy, added that the group has threatened: "We're coming for you, Barack Obama."

ISIS has captured huge parts of both countries and threatened to move on Baghdad last month, leading President Obama to authorize deploying nearly 750 troops to Iraq.

Over the weekend, Attorney General Eric Holder said the threat of ISIS fighters infiltrating into the U.S. was "more frightening than anything I think I've seen as attorney general."

Former Defense Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge told The Hill Wednesday that the threat from ISIS has been "blinking red a long time."

"It's been blinking red but now it's flashing more frequently and is a lot brighter," he said.

"They've got a lot of fighters who are from European countries that are visa waiver countries, which means all they have to do is shave their beards and look like normal responsible civilians and walk into the United States of America without a visa."

"So it's a real challenge for our intelligence community to identify them and get their names on a watch list," he said.

Publicly, the administration says it has no plans for a U.S. military intervention to stop the extremist group, but Iraq’s request for U.S. airstrikes is “still under active consideration.”

“There is no exclusively military solution to the threats posed by ISIL in Iraq,” the Pentagon’s Elissa Slotkin said. “DoD remains postured should the president decide to use military force as part of a broader strategy. Our immediate goals … are to protect our people and property in Iraq; gain a better understanding of how we might best train, advise and support the Iraqi Security Forces [ISF] capabilities should we decide to support the ISF going forward … and expand our understanding — particularly via intelligence — of ISIL.”

Conn Carroll - Don't Expand Government, Cut the Payroll Tax Instead
Posted: 7/24/2014 3:25:00 PM EST

The Earned Income Tax Credit is one of the federal government's most successful anti-poverty programs. As House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) notes in his newly released anti-poverty plan today, it "makes low-income families more likely to work by increasing work's rewards" and "encourages households to enter the labor force."

However, the EITC is also far from perfect. Which is why it was disappointing to see Ryan ignore some of the program's biggest shortcomings.

To his credit, Ryan does note that the EITC's "complexity requires low-income individuals to either negotiate a complex maze of rules and forms" or "to pay tax preparers to file the necessary paperwork with the IRS to receive the credit."

"The IRS instructions run 39 pages, involve 15 'rules' and includes 12 separate forms that could apply in filing for the EITC," Ryan's report continues. "The credit is received as much as 15 months after the individual earned his or her pay. ... Its complexity also contributes to high error rates for the EITC. In many cases people just don't know whether they qualify or not."

What Ryan fails to mention here is just how hight the "error rate" for the EITC actually is. According to the latest Treasury Department Inspector General's report, the IRS made up to $15.6 billion in "improper" ETIC payments in 2013. That comes to 26 percent of all EITC spending.

Ryan's plan does call for EITC reform. But Congress has ordered the IRS to eliminate improper payments before. And the IRS has simply failed to do so (imagine that). Why on earth should conservatives expand a program with a 25 percent error rate before IRS cleans up the existing program?

Especially considering that there is an easy way to both fight poverty and cut government at the same time: just cut the payroll tax!

Cutting the payroll tax would put more money in the hands of the working poor, encourage more poor people to work, and create more jobs. No 39 pages of IRS instructions or 15 month delays needed. Working Americans would just immediately see more money in each of their paychecks.

And all this could be done without raising the deficit. Whatever money Ryan was going to use to pay for his EITC expansion by cutting other ineffective programs, could also be easily funneled into the Social Security system to replace the revenue lost by the payroll tax cut.

Conservatives can fight poverty and shrink the government at the same time. Expanding the EITC is not the way to do that.