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The shooting last night at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston seems obviously motivated by race, but it also specifically targeted Christians at worship. The shooter is still at-large. Pray for the victims, their families, and the law enforcement officers who are risking their lives to catch the killer.
CHARLESTON, S.C. (CBS Atlanta/AP) -- A white man opened fire during a prayer meeting inside a historic black church in downtown Charleston on Wednesday night, killing nine people, including the pastor, in an assault that authorities described as a hate crime.
The shooter remained at large Thursday morning and police released photographs from surveillance video of a suspect and a possible getaway vehicle.
CBS News reports worshippers were at the church at the time for Bible study.
The New York Times carries a river-full of water for the Democrats' argument that the words of the Affordable Care Act don't mean what they say. The NYT invokes the phrase "drafting error" four times and the words "intend" or "intent" five times in the story, as if these magic talismans can protect the sloppy law from itself. Jonathan Gruber is not mentioned even once!
The story opens with a juvenile non sequitur:
They are only four words in a 900-page law: "established by the state."
It's crazy how just a few words can change the meaning of a whole document! You'd think that a journalist who works with words would grok the power of words, rather than be astonished.
But it is in the ambiguity of those four words in the Affordable Care Act that opponents found a path to challenge the law, all the way to the Supreme Court.
How those words became the most contentious part of President Obama's signature domestic accomplishment has been a mystery. Who wrote them, and why? Were they really intended, as the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell claim, to make the tax subsidies in the law available only in states that established their own health insurance marketplaces, and not in the three dozen states with federal exchanges?
The "ambiguity" only exists insofar as the reader wills it into existence by invoking "drafting errors" and ex post facto "intent".
The answer, from interviews with more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law, is that the words were a product of shifting politics and a sloppy merging of different versions. Some described the words as "inadvertent," "inartful" or "a drafting error." But none supported the contention of the plaintiffs, who are from Virginia.
If every single person you talk to falls on one side of "the most contentious" issue at hand, perhaps there's some selection bias at work? The only elected Republican quoted is former Senator Olympia Snowe, who was always extremely liberal but voted against Obamacare anyway.
Also, "who are from Virginia" is apropos absolutely nothing.
The Senate bill was on the floor for 25 consecutive days before it was approved on Christmas Eve 2009 by a party-line vote of 60 to 39. Senators always assumed that their bill would be polished and refined in negotiations with the House. But the expected conference between the two chambers never occurred. Democrats switched their plans after Scott Brown, a Republican, won a special election in January 2010 to fill the seat long held by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who had died the previous year.
Having lost a filibuster-proof majority, Democrats believed they could not afford to make significant changes in the Senate bill; it was then approved by the House and sent to the president, with an agreement that lingering questions could be answered separately. Some were, though these four words were unaddressed.
Elections have consequences?
Anyway, it's completely nonsensical to enforce what someone claims ex post facto the law was "intended" to say. That's rule by men, not rule by law. The written word is the shared understanding that Congress voted on and the President signed. If the written words don't reflect the intent, then the solution is to pass a new law with the correct intent. Problem solved.
We humans use writing to coordinate all kinds of shared activities: contracts, laws, regulations, procedures, religious beliefs, etc. The point of writing things down is to make sure that there's a common understanding that everyone can rely on. If you can't rely on what's written down to mean what it says, then what's the point?
The Islamic State has conquered Ramadi in a stunning blow to American and allied forces. If we want to gift-wrap Iraq for Iran why don't we just say so and save some lives and money? What's the strategy? I don't understand what we're trying to accomplish, but it certainly doesn't look like victory.
Just a month ago, when the ISIS offensive against Ramadi began in earnest, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tried to reassure the world that it was no big deal. Ramadi, he claimed, "is not symbolic in any way.... I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won't be the end of a campaign should it fall."
We can only watch and wait to hear what spin General Dempsey--who has increasingly defined his role as telling the president what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear--will put on this latest catastrophe. It is, in fact, unspinnable. The fall of Ramadi is a sign of the abysmal failure of the misnamed Operation Inherent Resolve launched by President Obama in August 2014 to "degrade" and ultimately to "destroy" ISIS. Operation Uncertain Resolve is more like it.
There is no doubt that US bombing has succeeded in slightly degrading ISIS--Central Command helpfully puts out a long laundry list of all the buildings and vehicles its aircraft have blown up. But there is scant sign that ISIS is on the path to destruction. True, its offensive toward Baghdad has been blunted and it lost control of Tikrit. But the fact that the assault on Tikrit was led by Shiite militiamen under the effective control of Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, indicates the self-defeating nature of this offensive. Sunnis will never turn on ISIS, as they turned on AQI in 2007, if by doing so they will open themselves to domination by Shiite militias.
Congrats to the UK for awarding an outright majority to the Conservatives. I wonder if this stunning landslide makes American Democrats nervous? Prime Minister David Cameron had previously led a coalition government because the Conservatives didn't hold a majority of Parliament, but now he can form a majority government and lead much more freely.
Free and peaceful elections seem so routine to those of us in the West, but let's not forget how astounding they are.
David Cameron today vowed to make Great Britain 'greater still' as he set out how he will use his shock outright Tory majority to ensure the 'good life is in reach for everyone who's willing to work and do the right thing'.
The Prime Minister used a statement outside Number 10 to pay tribute to both Labour's Ed Miliband and his former Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg who have both resigned after suffering heavy losses in one of the most unpredictable election results for a generation. ...
Mr Cameron had earlier walked out the doors of Number 10 to declare he was forming a majority Tory government after routing Labour and the Lib Dems in the biggest electoral shock in living memory.
So, we're having the hottest year on record, but economic growth was suppressed by the abnormally cold winter? I mean, c'mon, if you're going to BS us at least get your stories straight.
Baltimore hasn't had a Republican mayor for almost 50 years, so don't blame "America" as a whole for the city's problems: blame the Democrats who have run the place. Pray for Baltimore and that its leaders find wisdom.
In 2012, after four years of his own failed policies, President Obama won a whopping 87.4% of the Baltimore City vote. Democrats run the city of Baltimore, the unions, the schools, and, yes, the police force. Since 1969, there have only been only been two Republican governors of the State of Maryland.
Elijah Cummings has represented Baltimore in the U.S. Congress for more than thirty years. As I write this, despite his objectively disastrous reign, the Democrat-infested mainstream media is treating the Democrat like a local folk hero, not the obvious and glaring failure he really is.
Every single member of the Baltimore city council is a Democrat.
Liberalism and all the toxic government dependence and cronyism and union corruption and failed schools that comes along with it, has run amok in Baltimore for a half-century, and that is Baltimore's problem. It is the free people of Baltimore who elect and then re-elect those who institute policies that have so spectacularly failed that once-great city. It is the free people of Baltimore who elected Mayor Room-To-Destroy.
Austin Bay rattles off a list of reasons that people don't trust President Obama -- using a weaving metaphor! What's not clear is whether the President intentionally or unintentionally over-promises and under-delivers.
Obama's "historic understanding" has the sad woof and warp of so many of his administration's domestic and international policy efforts: glowing, inspirational, dramatic rhetoric disguising episodic, hodge-podge, ill-considered, poorly planned and often hastily organized operations. "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" is a domestic example. When Obamacare arrived, many Americans learned they could not keep their preferred doctor. Obama said Americans would eventually love the health care law. A substantial majority despises the legislative monstrosity. Now a foreign policy example: Obama's promise to "reset" U.S.-Russia relations. For Vladimir Putin, Obama's reset was a setup. Putin's Russia is now a neo-Fascist expansionary nuclear power slowing carving and digesting Ukraine. Obama's "red line" threat to punish Syria's Assad regime if it used chemical weapons against civilians, and his failure to do so when the Syrians used nerve gas, is another example.
Obama has an enormous trust problem; the man does not keep his word. But his obedient, word-mongering national media corps consistently fails to call him on this grand malfeasance.
Apparently it's protocol for departing State Department employees to hand over all their work emails when their employment ends, and they attest that they've done so using a standard separation agreement. I've seen similar documents in private industry. So, did Mrs. Clinton sign such an attestation when left the State Department in 2013?
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, like all departing federal employees, was required to fill out and sign a separation statement affirming that she had turned over all classified and other government documents, including all emails dealing with official business.
Fox News Megyn Kelly reported Wednesday evening on the requirement and that a spokesman for Clinton had not responded to a request for comment, including an explanation of when the former chief U.S. diplomat signed the mandatory separation agreement or, if she didn't, why didn't she.
The Washington Examiner also asked Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill for comment late Wednesday but had received no response from him early Thursday. Clinton did not respond when asked about the issue earlier this week by the Associated Press.
If Mrs. Clinton didn't sign such a separation agreement, why not? I'm sure an FOIA request has already been submitted to retrieve this document, if it exists.
If she did sign such an attestation but failed to turn over her email, then she broke the law and could face serious penalties, including jail time.
Many people find it hard to believe that Hillary Clinton's home-brew email server hosted zero emails containing classified or foreign government information. She was America's top diplomat, and nothing she sent or received was classified?
Mrs. Clinton insisted that she kept classified information out of her email, as the law required. Storing classified information in a personal, nongovernment email account on a private computer server, like the one at Mrs. Clinton's home, would be a violation of secrecy laws.
And relations with other countries are particularly subject to secrecy claims. "Foreign government information" -- information received from another government with the expectation that it will be held in confidence -- is an official category of classified information in secrecy regulations.
A former senior State Department official who served before the Obama administration said that while it was hard to be certain, it seemed unlikely that classified information could be kept out of the more than 30,000 emails that Mrs. Clinton's staff identified as involving government business.
"I would assume that more than 50 percent of what the secretary of state dealt with was classified," said the former official, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to seem ungracious to Mrs. Clinton. "Was every single email of the secretary of state completely unclassified? Maybe, but it's hard to imagine."
She also deleted tens of thousands of emails, at her own discretion.
Mrs. Clinton said she turned over some 30,490 emails to the State Department in December, nearly two years after leaving office. But she said she had deleted nearly 32,000 others
Mrs. Clinton claims that her decision to use a private email server located in her own residence was purely for convenience. In what world can you not check two email accounts from the same device? Couldn't she have used a government mobile device to check her personal email?
"I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two," she explained. She asked, in effect, that voters trust that she was disclosing more of them than she needed to -- and even to credit her with an unusual degree of transparency.
Paul Mirengoff derides Mrs. Clinton for putting her convenience ahead of national security.
Even if one takes Clinton's explanation at face value, we must conclude that she placed her desire not to carry two devices ahead of Obama administration policy and the security interests of the United States. Whether or not Clinton's email system was breached, Clinton's use of her own server increased the likelihood of such a breach.
It's characteristic of Clinton that she would ignore rules and best practices for her own convenience. Simply put, she thinks she's better than everyone else and thus above the rules.
Dan McLaughlin has the tweet of the day.
(HT: Glenn Reynolds.)
Scotland Yard is advising homeowners to install security cameras in their homes "at eye level" to capture images of burglars and help police catch them using facial recognition technology.
Homeowners should consider fitting CCTV to trap burglars, the country's most senior police officer declared yesterday.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said police forces needed more crime scene footage to match against their 12million images of suspects and offenders.
And he called on families and businesses to install cameras at eye level - to exploit advances in facial recognition technology.
If you're living in a free country, buy a gun.
Rudy Giuliani said that he doesn't think President Obama loves America and was immediately vilified for it, but numerous surveys show that liberals themselves claim to be less patriotic than conservatives do.
A Pew Research survey last year found that 46 percent of "steadfast conservatives" believed that the U.S. stands above all other countries; only 11 percent of "solid liberals" believed the same. Seventy-two percent of steadfast conservatives said they often feel proud to be an American; only 40 percent of solid liberals said they do. Gallup headlined its write-up of a 2010 survey
"One in Three Americans 'Extremely Patriotic': Republicans, conservatives, and seniors most likely to say so." According to Gallup, 52 percent of Republicans and 48 percent of conservatives called themselves extremely patriotic; only 20 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of liberals did.
That's not to say that President Obama or any other specific liberal doesn't "love America", but there's definitely a patriotism gap.
I've seen at least three stories in the past two days about low morale at important government agencies. Obviously this isn't all President Obama's fault, but in this day and age where does the buck stop anyway?
Here's a bit about low morale at the Secret Service:
The Secret Service has decided to remove four of its most senior officials while a fifth has decided to retire, the biggest management shake-up at the troubled agency since its director resigned in October after a string of security lapses, according to people familiar with internal discussions. ...
A scathing report by a DHS-appointed panel in December concluded that the agency was suffering from low morale among the rank-and-file and was "starved for leadership."
Here's some humiliating testimony from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen who admits that IRS employees have low morale because they're being required to obey the law.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified Wednesday that the ongoing investigations by Congress into the IRS targeting scandal are having the effect of lowering morale at the tax-collection agency.
Koskinen testified at a House subcommittee on Wednesday, and was asked by a Democrat how IRS workers were holding up under all the pressure from House Republicans seeking emails and other documents. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) said a top IRS lawyer told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week that pressure to respond to Congress's inquiries is putting a strain on workers, and Koskinen agreed.
"When they... are subject to depositions and recorded interviews, it sends -- these are all career people -- it has a deleterious effect on morale because they thought they were actually doing what they were asked to do," Koskinen said.
"Morale in the military is swiftly sinking, with the troops losing both their sense of mission and their faith that their superiors, political leaders - and the nation - still have their best interest at heart," said the Military Times. "Troops say morale has sharply declined over the last five years, and most of those in uniform today believe their quality of life will only get worse."
For example, according to the Military Times survey, in 2009, 91 percent of active-duty service members said their overall quality of life was good or excellent. In 2014, that percentage declined significantly to 56 percent.
"When nearly every category surveyed reveals a significant dip from 2009 to today, we must all take notice and ask, why is morale so low and what can we do to fix it?" said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in response to the Military Times survey. McCain added that it "requires immediate attention and action" by the White House, Pentagon and Congress.
And finally, a story about generally low morale across the Obama administration.
How bad is federal employee morale?
The good news tells the story.
In the 2014 government-wide survey of federal employees, positive responses dropped for 35 questions and increased for just 10 compared with 2013.
As bad as that is, it's a marked improvement compared with the three-year trend in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. From 2011 to 2014, positive responses dropped on 64 questions and increased for none.
Republicans managed to avoid any embarrassing gaffes this year and finally won control of Congress from a faltering Democratic Party. It's common for midterm elections in a president's second term to go against his party, and this election was no exception. The Democrats were thoroughly repudiated by voters, in a sign that President Obama has done little to lift up his party despite his two strong presidential wins.
Riding a powerful wave of voter discontent, resurgent Republicans captured control of the Senate and tightened their grip on the House Tuesday night in elections certain to complicate President Barack Obama's final two years in office.
Republicans also did well in governorships across the country, though the final tally isn't known yet.
There were 36 gubernatorial elections on the ballot, and several incumbents struggled against challengers. Tom Wolf captured the Pennsylvania statehouse for the Democrats, defeating Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn lost in Illinois, Obama's home state. Republican Larry Hogan scored one of the night's biggest upsets, in Maryland.
Republican Charlie Baker was elected governor of Massachusetts. Maine's blunt-speaking Republican governor, Paul LePage, won a second term after a three-way race that focused on whether he was a divisive presence in state government.
So now the real question is: can the Republicans govern? We know that the Democrats were incompetent and more obsessed with protecting Obama's image than running the country. Hopefully the Republicans will focus their energy on effective governance and not on merely embarrassing the President.
Here are a few things to look for in the coming weeks and months:
- How do the demographics of the vote break down? Did Republicans make any gains with women, blacks, or Hispanics?
- Will Obama nominate an attorney general during the lame duck session?
- Will Obama follow through on his immigration agenda?
- Will any liberal Supreme Court justices resign so that Obama can make an appointment during the lame duck session?
- Will the Republicans force Democrats to vote on a straight repeal of Obamacare?
- Will the Republicans force Obama to veto a law authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline?
- Will we ever get to the bottom of the IRS abuse from 2012? Or Benghazi? Or Fast and Furious? Or any of the other scandals the Senate Democrats helped bury?
- Will the Republicans waste their governing opportunity chasing scandals that no one cares about anymore?
Finally, the AP story notes that "the elections' $4 billion price tag spending was unprecedented for a non-presidential year", but is that really a lot of money to spend disputing the governing direction of the most powerful nation on the planet? Coca Cola's marketing budget exceeded $4 billion in 2011.
Ebola experts agree that we don't know enough about the virus to guarantee that it only spreads via close contact with bodily fluids and that asymptomatic carriers are non-infectious.
Dr. Philip K. Russell, a virologist who oversaw Ebola research while heading the U.S. Army's Medical Research and Development Command, and who later led the government's massive stockpiling of smallpox vaccine after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, also said much was still to be learned. "Being dogmatic is, I think, ill-advised, because there are too many unknowns here." ...
"I see the reasons to dampen down public fears," Russell said. "But scientifically, we're in the middle of the first experiment of multiple, serial passages of Ebola virus in man.... God knows what this virus is going to look like. I don't." ...
Skinner of the CDC, who cited the Peters-led study as the most extensive of Ebola's transmissibility, said that while the evidence "is really overwhelming" that people are most at risk when they touch either those who are sick or such a person's vomit, blood or diarrhea, "we can never say never" about spread through close-range coughing or sneezing.
In my opinion, we need to be much more aggressive in isolating exposed people. We obviously need to care for them as well as we can, but we can't let our compassion put the whole population at risk. Near the apartment complexes where the Dallas patient lived government officials are worrying more about "civil rights" than about containing the epidemic.
Vickery Meadow, a crush of low-income apartment complexes just a short drive from some of Dallas's toniest neighborhoods, appeared calm on Tuesday. Women in traditional Muslim head coverings, mothers carrying children and workers headed to the bus stop walked along the road next to The Ivy apartments, where Duncan had stayed.
But some tensions have surfaced.
Dallas City Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates said three residents of Vickery Meadow reported that their employers sent them away from work out of fear that they could be carrying the virus. Gates said Tuesday that she had contacted a lawyer to help those men.
The city has also enlisted doctors to explain Ebola to neighborhood residents and assure them that they are safe, Gates said. Vickery Meadow is home to thousands of immigrants from Afghanistan to Mexico, many of whom don't speak English.
But are they safe? That's not clear at all. I think our leaders and citizens should be a little less starry-eyed and a little more paranoid.
Officials are urging parents to keep sending their kids to school even after acknowledging that the Dallas Ebola patient had contact with five kids who attend four different schools. But don't worry, they're "pretty confident"!
"Right now, the base number is 18 people, and that could increase," he said. Thompson said more details are expected by Thursday afternoon. The number includes five students at four schools, Dallas school district Superintendent Mike Miles said. ...
He urged parents to keep their children in school, but some were wary. ...
"Since none of the students had symptoms, I'm pretty confident that none of the kids were exposed," Miles said.
The superintendent is "pretty confident" that your kid won't get Ebola at school. Any parent who relies on that is a fool. I'll believe it when I see the superintendent and President Obama playing with the exposed kids. It's far better for your kid to miss a few weeks or a month of school than to risk exposure to Ebola.
Ebola virus in Dallas. At what point will you decide to lock yourself in the house to avoid infection? What news could trigger your decision to keep your kids home from school?
Nigeria had one Ebola-infected man fly into an airport and ended up with almost 1,000 infections before containing the virus.
Since the first patient -- a dying Liberian-American -- flew into Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, on July 20, the disease spread to 20 other people in two cities, who had contact with nearly 900 others.
Every known patient has now died or recovered, and the cure rate -- 60 percent -- was unusually high for an African outbreak.
No reason to think there would be far fewer infections in the United States.
At least 1,400 children were subjected to appalling sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, a report has found.
Children as young as 11 were raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, trafficked to other cities in England, beaten and intimidated, it said. ...
Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the latest report, said there had been "blatant" collective failures by the council's leadership, senior managers had "underplayed" the scale of the problem and South Yorkshire Police had failed to prioritise the issue.
Prof Jay said: "No-one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited over the full inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013."
Revealing details of the inquiry's findings, Prof Jay said: "It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered."
The inquiry team found examples of "children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone".
It's worth pointing out that this kind of systemic abuse simply could not happen in America thanks to the Second Amendment. Some parents in Rotherham attempted to protect their daughters, but thanks to the UK's lack of basic civil rights the parents were unarmed while the rapists were not. The people of the UK should certainly investigate how their public officials failed them so thoroughly, but they should also consider this: if their government hadn't disarmed law-abiding citizens their daughters wouldn't be at the mercy of rapists and bureaucrats.
The UN is now saying that the Ebola outbreak could hit 20,000 people, but if it hits that many how could it possibly hit so few?
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is accelerating and could grow six times larger to infect as many as 20,000 people, the World Health Organization said Thursday. The U.N. health agency unveiled a new road map for containing the virus, and scientists are fast-tracking efforts to find a treatment or vaccine.
Ebola has menaced Africa for 40 years, but previously struck in remote villages and was contained fairly quickly. This time, it has spread to major cities in four countries, provoking unrest as whole neighborhoods and towns have been sealed to the outside.
Absent a vaccine (which is being worked on) I don't see how a highly contagious virus could be contained among 20,000 people. With that large a population of infected people the security perimeter just seems too big.
Furthermore, many of the infected Africans are Muslim, and the Hajj is in October this year. If there are thousands of known infections -- and many more unknown -- how likely is it that Ebola won't be carried to Mecca? The Hajj could very well be an inflection point for the outbreak, allowing Ebola to spread rapidly around the world.
This probably won't be a surprise to readers of this blog, but crime rates in Illinois have been plunging since the state began issuing permits to carry concealed weapons.
Since Illinois started granting concealed carry permits this year, the number of robberies that have led to arrests in Chicago has declined 20 percent from last year, according to police department statistics. Reports of burglary and motor vehicle theft are down 20 percent and 26 percent, respectively. In the first quarter, the city's homicide rate was at a 56-year low.
"Abe Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal."
Two Ferguson-related stories this morning. First up, the officer who shot Michael Brown was beaten by Brown before the shooting.
Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo., police officer whose fatal shooting of Michael Brown touched off more than a week of demonstrations, suffered severe facial injuries, including an orbital (eye socket) fracture, and was nearly beaten unconscious by Brown moments before firing his gun, a source close to the department's top brass told FoxNews.com.
"The Assistant (Police) Chief took him to the hospital, his face all swollen on one side," said the insider. "He was beaten very severely."
Second, it looks like Ferguson authorities routinely hassle citizens for minor infringements.
You don't get $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household from an about-average crime rate. You get numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant "low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay."
As usual, the situation is more complex than it first appears.