Europe Races To Save Greece

It’s time to get serious, Greece: that appears to be the message France and Germany have towards the Hellenic Republic following a snap referendum that saw 61 percent of Greek voters reject the terms of a new bailout for the debt-ridden country.

In a post-referendum shakeup, Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek Finance Minister, who was described as “combative,” was asked to resign by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The Wall Street Journal  reported that for some months Tsipras had known Varoufakis’ relationship with the other European finance ministers had collapsed.

Germany is the nation that Greece owes the most money regarding the bailout, and they’re not budging. Greece and Germany have a cultural disconnect, as explained in the Bloomberg video that thoroughly explains the European Debt Crisis–and it’s possible detrimental impact on global finances if this situation collapses completely.

As the video demonstrates, Germany is a country whose people work hard, don’t expect much from their government concerning state benefits, and pay their taxes. Moreover, they’re exceptionally frugal, being inflation adverse and not wanting to return to the horrid days of the Weimer Republic. The Greek government actually doesn’t collect the majority of taxes it imposes on its citizens. Additionally, they have a welfare system that is overly generous. No wonder why Germany is holding the line, but they also need to recognize that Greek default isn’t in the best interest of the European Union (via Reuters):

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who arrived saying there was still no basis for reopening negotiations with Athens, changed her tune in the room and was actively involved in efforts to find a last-ditch solution, euro zone sources said.

Merkel said she expected a formal loan request from Athens on Wednesday and more detail on how Greece would cooperate to make its economy more competitive on Thursday, in order to seek the approval of the German parliament to start negotiations.

"We all share responsibility for the euro," she said of the decision to invite all EU leaders on Sunday - a timetable she said reflected the danger of the situation and the urgent need for a solution.

Short-term finance could also be made available if the Greek government came up with satisfactory proposals and took "prior actions" in passing laws to convince creditors of its intent.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann warned, however, that if there were no deal on Sunday, euro zone governments would have to prepare "Plan B" -- code for Greece losing all access to euros and so finding itself excluded from the currency area.

However, euro zone sources in Brussels said ECB President Mario Draghi had assured finance ministers that the central bank would keep Greek lenders afloat this week as long as negotiations were under way.

Merkel and French President Francois Hollande worked together on a plan to save Greece from plunging into economic turmoil and possibly having to ditch the euro. This involved a medium-term conditional program and a short-term interim financing deal for a few months, the sources said.

Nevertheless, Reuters added that Merkel faces pressure from home to cut Greece loose. Greece, in turn, wants any future negotiations to discuss the possibility of debt relief. Germany isn’t really enthralled by that idea, but some European nations are willing to hear things out, including France (via NYT):

After a six-hour meeting, the leaders of Greece’s five main political parties issued a statement saying they wanted any negotiation to include a discussion of relief from the country’s debt load — a key sticking point with creditors. They are also pushing for immediate help to keep the banks afloat, quick economic aid to tackle unemployment and new bailout money to cover current debt obligations.

In return, they said, Greece would be willing to deliver “credible reforms based on the fair distribution of the burden and the promotion of growth with the smallest possible recessionary impact.”

But the impasse over a bailout threatens to take on bigger dimensions, with implications for European unity.

Germany, the eurozone country to which Greece owes the most money, remained resistant. A spokesman for the Finance Ministry said Berlin saw no new basis for negotiations with Athens at this point. The spokesman for Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, said that while Greece was still in the eurozone, it was up to Athens to determine whether the country would stay.

In France, the finance minister, Michel Sapin, told French radio that while Greece’s vote “resolves nothing,” France could support debt relief for Greece should Mr. Tsipras come forward with a proposal containing “serious” terms for a new bailout package. Mr. Sapin’s remarks came ahead of a meeting set for Monday evening in Paris between President François Hollande of France and Ms. Merkel to discuss how to deal with Greece.

Right now, the deadline for a new proposal from Greece is set for Thursday (via BBC):

The eurozone gives Greece until Thursday to present new proposals to secure a deal with creditors, and has called a full EU summit for Sunday.

The moves came after an emergency eurozone leaders' summit in Brussels.

The eurozone had asked Greece to submit fresh plans after its voters rejected a draft bailout in a referendum.

But Greece brought no written plans, suggesting instead a few changes to an earlier draft, which would respect "the mandate of the referendum".

On Sunday a meeting of all 28 members of the European Union will be held.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the eurozone leaders had a "serious, candid discussion" in Brussels that "reflected the seriousness of the situation at hand".

Most Greeks want to remain in the Eurozone, but the problem is that what’s to stop a situation similar to Greece (possibly with Greece falling into financial arrears again) from occurring? Nothing; unless the nations of Europe want to reorganize into a United States of Europe, which would have a central baking authority to prevent Greek-like financial crisis from reaching a critical point. Yet, that would require surrendering a rather large portion of one’s sovereignty over to a central authority, which might make this an onerous task politically. Moreover, if you look back to 2005, the EU didn’t have a lot of success with their treaty proposal aimed at establishing a European Constitution.

For now, Chancellor Merkel is in the driver's seat, according to Politico.  But she has a balancing act to maintain between her hardline stance on Greeks repaying their share and making sure German leadership in this crisis doesn't preside over a Grecian collapse. That could lead to criticism that the country has become too powerful on the continent in addition to providing fiscal solutions that ended in failure. Yet, it seems debt forgiveness might be an unavoidable condition in the wake of the referendum last Sunday: 

Recent polls suggest Germans are split on whether Greece should leave the euro. What they agree on, however, is that Greek government is to blame for the crisis.

A new bailout would also force the question of debt forgiveness back on the table, something Germany has been unwilling to discuss in the past. The International Monetary Fund, in an assessment published last week, warned that the deterioration in the Greek economy was so severe that some form of further debt restructuring was unavoidable.

So not only would Merkel have to sell a new bailout on top of the roughly €245 billion already extended to Athens, but also have to explain to Germans why they need to take further write downs on what they are owed.

For Merkel, the other options are no more appealing. Letting Greece crash out of the euro in the wake of the public’s renunciation of German-sponsored austerity would open Berlin to accusations that it has become too dominant in Europe and that its prescriptions have failed.

California's Right-to-Die Bill Put on Hold

Passionate Catholic lawmakers In Los Angeles put a halt on the right-to-die bill this past Tuesday that allows ill patients to legally end their lives.

The bill did not go through specifically because the 19-member Assembly Health Committee did not have enough votes to support the right-to-die bill.

Specific Catholic lawmakers advocated for this and got what they wanted in enacting this holdout.

This right-to-die legislation has been shot down not only in California, but also in Colorado, Maine, New Jersey and elsewhere.

However, it is not merely a religious aspect that is holding back lawmakers from passing the bill. It is also health implications.

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, was among the lawmakers still making up his mind, but he said Monday that he was more torn over the lack of patient safeguards in the measure than pressure from Catholic constituents. "It's not a religious thing for me. It's how this is going to be implemented in the real world," Gomez said.

A specific case that stirred the motivation behind this bill was 29-year old Brittany Maynard who moved from California to Oregon to legally end her life after battling terminal brain cancer.

Oregon, a clear supporter of the right-to-die bill has officially ended the lives of 750 individuals, their reasoning for passing this law in 1994 being "to avoid burdening their families."

Other states including Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have also passed this law to legally end lives.

In attempts to keep God at the forefront of medical decisions, religious groups hold true that medically ending someone's life is assisted suicide that goes against God's will.

And so, as it seems that religion and legislation butt heads once again, the right-to-die bill will for now not be making a clearance for Californian's to legally die.

"The more people know and understand and learn about assisted suicide and really get into the policy of the debate, the more they begin to have questions and concerns," said Tim Rosales, a spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, a coalition of disability rights advocates, oncologist associations and religious groups.

PA Senate: Toomey Launches First TV Ad, While Sestak Runs Over Children At 4th Of July Event

The polling isn’t frequent given that we're over a year away from the 2016 elections, but incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is looking as if he will be in decent shape (for now) to fend off another Democratic challenge from his 2010 opponent, former Rep. Joe Sestak. Recently, Toomey released the first of what will probably be many television ads, but it’s nothing hard-hitting yet. In fact, it highlights a policy initiative that he worked on with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) that helps schools better identify child sex offenders. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette):

Fifteen months before he will face voters in the November 2016 general election, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is airing the first television commercial of his re-election campaign beginning Tuesday.

The Pennsylvania Republican’s ad highlights his efforts to enact legislation designed to make it easier for schools to identify sex offenders among potential employees. Mr. Toomey has co-sponsored a measure with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that would prod school districts to conduct more extensive background checks on employees and volunteers who work with students.

The 30-second commercial includes a narrator’s description of Mr. Toomey’s work on the child predator bill alternating with a woman’s expressions of gratitude to the freshman for his work on the proposal. Initially, it will run in the Pittsburgh market only, but his campaign said it could appear in other areas of the state in the future.

Meanwhile, Sestak was caught inadvertently running over kids at a Fourth of July event.

The race is being described as a must-win for Democrats. Republicans haven’t won Pennsylvania in a presidential election since 1988, and with Hillary as the presumptive nominee; many Democrats are hoping to maximize turnout in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to not only clinch the Keystone State for the Clinton­ campaign–­but boot Toomey as well. Pittsburgh and the Philly suburbs is where elections are decided in the state–and they’re not fertile campaign grounds for conservatives. Yet, the race leans towards Toomey, not only due to the incumbent advantage, but also the fact that PA Democrats “loathe” Sestak. In 2010, many Democrats told then-Rep. Sestak not to challenge the late Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who had just made the Republican-to-Democrat switch, but didn’t listen. Sestak beat Specter in the primary, but lost in the general. Those wounds have reportedly not healed as of late. Nevertheless, in May, Sestak seemed unfazed by the grumblings from members within his own party (Politico):

On paper, the 63-year-old Sestak would seem to be an ideal candidate against Toomey. The retired Navy rear admiral has a strong following among the left and nearly squeaked out a win in the 2010 GOP wave; 2016 is bound to be far more favorable for Pennsylvania Democrats in a presidential year with Hillary Clinton probably on the ticket. But the wounds between Sestak and his party from 2010 are still raw, and Democratic leaders are worried about the former two-term congressman’s unorthodox campaign and whether he can amass an operation that can compete with the well-financed Toomey.

Rather than aggressively raising money this quarter, for instance, Sestak has spent his time walking the 422 miles across the width of the state in what he called an effort to “earn trust” of voters and “walk in their shoes.”

In an interview outside a welding plant here in Eastern Pennsylvania, Sestak didn’t seem too concerned about the skepticism from party honchos and concerns about his go-it-alone approach, though he contended he did give Brady notice before his 2010 run.

“You are talking about Washington, D.C., Democrats?” Sestak said. “Oh, you mean, those people who look at the world from Washington! I think you answered your own question.”

Around the same time, Democrats thought they had a solid alternative to Toomey with Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro, but he has declined tossing his hat into the 2016 Senate race.

So far, Toomey is leading Sestak by double-digits in the polls, with only the left-leaning Public Policy Polling poll giving him a four-point advantage. While it was skewed D+9 concerning party identification, there was a nine-point advantage regarding those who consider themselves conservative.

In all, we have a long road ahead until 2016, but things aren’t looking as bad for Toomey.

The Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and...Afghanistan

Even though the U.S. put its drawdown of troops in Afghanistan on hold this spring, that doesn’t mean the changing nature of our presence in the country hasn’t affected the movements of the Islamic State. As our troops have moved away from more remote areas to larger bases that are closer to big cities, the Islamic State has found an opportunity to expand into the country. 

U.S. and Afghan officials say ISIS is now in three provinces in Afghanistan, and over the weekend, Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar announced he would support ISIS. […]

Defense officials have downplayed the ISIS presence in Afghanistan, saying it mostly consists of disgruntled Taliban members rebranding themselves as ISIS.

“What’s different is that people are using the ISIS name. But what we don’t see is growth in their numbers,” said one defense official.

However, some former members of the administration — and privately, some current military officials — disagree.

David Sedney, a former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia from 2009 to 2013, said it did not matter that ISIS was “rebranded” Taliban.

“When they join ISIS, they make ISIS stronger. And our narrative that we’re defeating it is not actually true,” Sedney said in a phone interview on Monday.

“We’re not taking it seriously,” he said. “There’s more ISIS in Afghanistan today than a year ago, and a year from now it’s going to be even bigger than now if we don’t change our strategy.”

Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of Defense for Policy, said in a PBS interview last month that ISIS fighters “are gaining ground even in Afghanistan.”

For this reason, many are calling on the administration to reassess its fixation on deadlines for withdrawing troops. 

“The rise of the Islamic State in Afghanistan also offers one more reason to abandon the calendar-based withdrawal of U.S. forces from that country by the end of 2016,” Flournoy recently wrote inThe Washington Post.

“Instead, the United States should adopt a more forward-looking approach that would keep a modest force in place to advise and assist the Afghan national security forces and conduct joint counterterrorism operations to safeguard both countries,” she added.

Sen. John McCain agreed about the calendar-based withdrawal.

“With the rise of [ISIS] and the distinct fighting season that is marked this year, the threat environment continues to evolve in ways that clearly, in my view, demands a reassessment of the administration’s current calendar-driven drawdown of U.S. forces with a plan that must be based on conditions on the ground,” he said on Saturday.

As things currently stand, however, the U.S. is set to reduce troop levels from 9,800 to an embassy presence of roughly 1,000 by the end of next year.

As ISIS and Putin March, U.S. To Cut 40,000 More Army Troops By 2017

If you thought sequestration was over, you're wrong. 

As ISIS continues its march across the Middle East, as Russia's Putin becomes more aggressive and as the Chinese continue to build military islands in the ocean, the United States is planning to cut 40,000 more troops from the Army by 2017. More from Reuters:

The U.S. Army plans to cut 40,000 troops over the next two years, affecting all its domestic and foreign posts, USA Today reported on Tuesday, citing a plan it said was due to be announced this week.

For what it's worth, Putin put 40,000 Russian troops on full alert for military exercises in March

What could possibly go wrong?

"Game-Changer": Bill Cosby Bought Drugs to Sedate Women, Documents Reveal

Bill Cosby admitted to buying drugs to give to women that he wanted to seduce, newly released documents reveal. Cosby's admission was from a 2005 civil lawsuit brought against him by Andrea Constand, the second woman to accuse him of sexual assault. The court documents were released Monday against Mr. Cosby's wishes.

Cosby has come under intense scrutiny in the past year as more than 30 women have come forward and accused him of sexual assault. Some of their allegations stretch back more than forty years. One of Cosby's accusers, Patti Masten, said there are up to 48 total accusers and that many have not yet come forward. The accusers have told strikingly similar stories about their encounters with the acclaimed comedian. Some of them say they didn't come forward sooner because they were afraid he would use his power and influence against them. One of the accusers, Teresa Serignese, wrote:

"Cosby was everywhere. Everyone thought he was a great family man. I knew he wasn't. I just couldn't prove it with anything but my word. There was no video camera or DNA evidence. No one else had accused him publicly yet."

Another of the accusers, Barbara Bowman, says she tried to tell others what had happened to her, but nobody listened:

"I first told my agent, who did nothing. . . A girlfriend took me to a lawyer, but he accused me of making the story up. Their dismissive responses crushed any hope I had of getting help; I was convinced no one would listen to me. That feeling of futility is what ultimately kept me from going to the police . . . Eventually, I had to move on with my life and my career."

Cosby's 10-year old courtroom admission comes as the first potentially indicting piece of evidence against him on these allegations. The specific drug that he purchased was Quaaludes, a sedative that erases memory. He admitted to purchasing Quaaludes for at least one woman whom he intended to have sex with. His admission is documented in the following excerpt:

"When you got the Quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these Quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?" [Prosecutor Dolores] Troiani asked.

"Yes," Cosby replied.

"Did you ever give any of those young women the Quaaludes without their knowledge?" Troiani asked.

Cosby's attorney objected and told him not to answer the question.

Despite admitting to buying the drugs with the intent to seduce women, Cosby has not admitted to actually drugging any of his alleged victims.

Most of the accusations cannot be used as the basis for prosecution, since the statute of limitations has already passed. But Barbara Bowman still maintains that this new document is "a game-changer."

"I think we're going to be heard now," she said. "And I think this is just the beginning."

Bernie: Let's Face It, Real Unemployment is Way Higher Than Obama Will Admit


The Berniementum express stopped in Maine last night, drawing thousands of supporters eager to hear medieval economic pronouncements from the earnest, disheveled Socialist challenging The Queen:


Bernie Sanders believes that the failing, corrupt VA healthcare system ought to be foisted upon the entire country, that the government should confiscate up to 90 percent of people's incomes, and that American consumers have too many choices when it comes to purchasing deodorant and footwear.  In the past, he's written of The Revolution being a "life and death" struggle, raised eyebrows by asserting that many women fantasize about being raped (my response to which was here and here)...and then there's, um, this:

Mr. Sanders contributed only sporadically… [H]e cited studies claiming that cancer could be caused by psychological factors such as unresolved hostility toward one’s mother, a tendency to bury aggression beneath a “facade of pleasantness” and having too few orgasms. “Sexual adjustment seemed to be very poor in those with cancer of the cervix,” he wrote, quoting a study in a journal called Psychosomatic Medicine.

That's straight-up, Todd Akinesque pseudo-science, folks.  Will he be pressed on this point?  Will every Democratic candidate in America be asked to respond to it?  Might Hillary Clinton emerge to fact-check ole Bernie's mystical dabbling regarding the female anatomy?  Or does the "emblematic" standard only apply to Republicans?  Given much of the media's breathless and myopic reporting about the crowds he's attracting, rather than the rather extreme content of his worldview, I think we have our answer.  One trope we often hear from media bias deniers is that the press is, if anything, biased toward conflict -- which helps explain the copious attention being paid to the escalating immigration-related war of words between Donald Trump and the actual Republicans running for president.  But if the political media is keen on intra-party squabbles, disagreements and conflicting narratives, why aren't they focusing on the glaring disconnect between the Obama White House's sunny economic talking points and Sanders' dour campaign rhetoric?  Good catch by Stephen Miller:



Another point from an exasperated Miller: Even if the torpid mainstream media is asleep at the switch on this, why aren't Republicans aggressively exploiting the emerging schism?  Team Obama is citing the so-called 'U3' unemployment statistic, which has indisputably improved since its post-crisis spike. Sanders is employing a broader measure of US unemployment, which paints a bleaker picture. In prosecuting his case against the failures of Obamanomics -- which is exactly what he's doing, intentionally or otherwise -- Sanders could also point to sluggish GDP growth and a workforce participation rate that sunk to a 38-year low last month.  What we have here are competing narratives at the highest levels of the Democratic Party.  The sitting president is telling Americans that the country's fortunes are dramatically improving, while one of the top candidates within his own party is spinning a contradictory story, marshaling plenty of evidence while he's at it.  Where does Hillary Clinton come down on this?  Perhaps she'll answer that question when she finally sits down for an interview, which comes a few short days after her team literally corralled the traveling press corps in a roped-off pen. Stay tuned.

Britain Marks 10 Year Anniverary of the 7/7 Terrorist Attacks

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 bombings in London that killed 52 people and injured hundreds. The bombings, a coordinated suicide bombing attack on London's bus and subway system, were carried out by al-Qaeda the day after the city was awarded the bid for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

The United Kingdom marked the anniversary with a minute's silence at 11:30 A.M. this morning, as well as various ceremonies throughout the day.

From The Guardian:

Survivors, the bereaved, royalty, politicians and religious leaders came together to mark the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings.

On tube station platforms, under cloudy skies in Hyde Park and beneath the decorated dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, they paid their respects to the 52 innocent victims of the devastating terrorist attack a decade ago.

A minute of silence was observed nationwide, prayers and hymns were heard at St Paul’s and later in the day, a less formal memorial took place at Hyde Park, where a rock choir sang and Prince William laid a wreath.

Tube trains and buses stopped as the silence was observed, while tennis was delayed at Wimbledon.

Jezebel: Hey, These Gun-Owning Moms Really 'Defy Stereotypes'

Women are the next frontier in the firearms industry. Over the past few years, women have become the fastest growing demographic of gun owners. They’re responsible for the surge in gun ownership in states like Colorado, and women are lining up across the country for their concealed carry permits. This isn’t a new phenomenon. While the liberal urban-based elite–and their allies in the media–view gun owners as a group comprised mostly of white, conservative men, Louisa Fitzgerald wrote on the feminist site Jezebel that women gun owners often “defy stereotypes.”

According to the NRA, the number of women who owned a firearm jumped from 11 percent in 2004 to 23 percent in 2011, a 77 percent increase. When the NRA first offered On Target, its women-only firearms instructional course, in 2000, 500 women participated; in 2014, more than 13,000 women took the course. And, in the NSSF’s [National Shooting Sports Foundation] most recent Firearms Retailer Survey Report released in 2014, 74 percent of responding retailers saw an increase in female customers in their store in 2013 over 2012. None reported a decline.

Melody Lauer, a mother of three, certified gun instructor since 2007 and moderator of the Sheepdog Mama Facebook group, has also seen more moms become interested in gun ownership and a growing need for firearms safety courses that target the needs of this population.

[…]

She adds that, while she knows gun owners typically skew toward conservative political views, she sees moms of all affiliations in her classes and online. The NRA and NSSF agree. Gun ownership in general skews white, male and Republican, but based on the associations’ surveys, women gun owners defy stereotypes of age, geographical location, race and, yes, even political affiliation.

[…]

Lauer says the perception that a mother owning and carrying a gun is a threat to her children’s safety is overblown, and with training and strict adherence to proper gun storage, the majority of tragic accidents can be prevented.

Fitzgerald’s piece also included some testimonials from women who are exercising their Second Amendment rights. Andrea Forte said she felt “powerless” when a crazed person phoned in a threat at her daughter’s school, threatening to kill all the children in her classroom. Now, Forte carries a firearm, and has pepper spray and a stun gun on her when she’s on school grounds. Twenty-six year old Amber Haggard told Fitzgerald that she drew her Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun to protect her two children when they left a restaurant after a “disheveled” man approached her asking for money. After politely telling the man she did not have any money to give, the situation escalated, as the man refused to leave her and her family alone.

"I have not had to pull the trigger on my weapon in defense yet, and I hope I never have to,” she said.

That’s the mindset of every law-abiding gun owner, concealed carry permit holder, and police officer; a firearm that remains holstered for an entire day is a very good one.

At the same time, the piece does include links to gun control sites like the Brady Campaign and the laughably dishonest Everytown For Gun Safety:

For children, American Academy of Pediatrics states that firearm-related deaths are in the top three causes of death, and according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, every day seven children and teens die from gun violence, and 41 children and teens are shot and survive. Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, a nonprofit organization, tracks accidental shootings involving children under age 17 with an interactive map. As of June 12, there had been at least 112 this year.

The shoddy gun studies by Everytown can be read herehere, and here. My colleague Christine posted about the Brady Campaign’s collaboration with the comedy website Funny or Die, which produced a video that could be only described as “mind-numbingly awful,” as well as grossly inaccurate. Like most progressive groups, the adherence to a narrative is more critical than sticking to the facts.

As for child deaths, that’s also debatable. For children who are between the ages of one and four, the leading cause of death is drowning. This comes for the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, as well as WebMD. Moreover, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reported that children who live with homes with firearms are safer than ever. Overall, the number of unintentional fatalities caused by firearms has dropped by 58 percent over a 20-year period.

“Firearms are involved in fewer than 1 percent (0.5 percent) of all unintentional fatalities in the U.S.,” they report.

So, there’s conflicting data on some things, but solid facts on others–and the debate over the Second Amendment continues, albeit in a more frustrating manner since anti-gun liberals pervasively spout nonsense.

Nevertheless, more mothers are packing, protecting their families, and exercising their Second Amendment rights. That’s a good thing.

We're Doomed: Only 19% of Americans Know That the First Amendment Guarantees Freedom of Religion

It's official, we're screwed:

Only 19 percent of American adults know that the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights guarantees the freedom of religion, according to a new survey by the Newseum Institute.

Only 10 percent know the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of the press.

And 33 percent of Americans have no idea at all what rights the First Amendment guarantees.

CNS News posted a graph of the breakdown of results:

The graph showis that 57 percent of respondents knew that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, and then 19 percent knew that it guarantees freedom of religion, 10 percent knew that it guarantees freedom of the press and right to assembly and even less knew the First Amendment guarantees the right to petition.

The Newseum explains their methodology:

The Newseum conducted a general public survey of attitudes about the First Amendment once again in 2015. The questionnaire was administered to a national sample of 1,002 American adults by telephone. The questionnaire was developed by Dr. Ken Dautrich, President of The Stats Group and Gene Policinski, Chief Operating Officer of the Newseum Institute. The survey was conducted from May 14 through 23, 2015.

Interviews were conducted under the supervision of Dr. Dautrich. The interviewers were conducted by trained, professional interviewers through the use of a computer-assisted-telephone-interviewing system (CATI). The survey instrument and related survey protocols were field tested and refined prior to commencing the survey. Interviews were extensively monitored to ensure quality standards.

The national sample used in this survey included national phone numbers in the contiguous 48 states. The sample was stratified to ensure that broad geographic regions were represented in proportion to their share of the total adult population in the United States. Within each of these regions, telephone numbers were generated using a random-digit-dial (RDD) process thus giving every phone number a chance of being selected. Once selected, each phone number was contacted a minimum of four times to attempt to reach an eligible respondent. Within each household, one eligible respondent was interviewed. The RDD sample was supplemented with a random sample of cell phone numbers.

The margin of error in the poll was +/-3.2 percent.

The results of this Newseum poll is a good indication of why the country is declining. How do only 19 percent of the population know that freedom of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment? And shame on the 33 percent of Americans that didn't know the First Amendment guarantees any rights.

According to CNS News, the highest amount of ignorance was when 40 percent of Americans couldn't name any rights guaranteed by the First Amendment in 2008. I guess it's slightly encouraging that society is a tiny bit more informed about basic Constitutional rights.

It really shouldn't be all surprising that only 19 percent of Americans know that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion given the recent attacks on freedom of religion such as this and this. And the Newseum poll combined with the recent video of Americans not knowing why we celebrate the Fourth of July shows the state of the education system.

We're doomed.

Video: Beachgoers Tested on Basic Facts About American History, Fail Spectacularly

Beware America: if you see Jesse Watters walking towards you with a microphone, run. Run as fast as you can.

However, if you must speak with him, at least know when the 13 original colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, and who the first American president was.

I wonder how many beachgoers, who were interviewed by Watters, actually answered these questions correctly, and therefore were left off the final cut because they didn’t sound like total morons. Even so, some of the answers were spectacularly awful. According to one interviewee, America declared its independence from Great Britain in 1946; another said 1973. I also particularly enjoyed the comment that King Arthur was the monarch from whom the colonists separated and cut ties with in 1776. Wrong again.

And yet, I’ll award these sun-loving, forgetful Long Islanders points for trying, I suppose — and for subjecting themselves to mockery and scorn. At least they were good sports about it.

San Francisco Sheriff Who Let Kate Steinle's Illegal Alien Killer Walk Was Sentenced For Domestic Abuse in 2012

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimiis is defending his decision to release illegal alien, seven time felon and five time deported Francisco Sanchez onto the streets of his sanctuary city today after Sanchez shot and killed 33-year-old Kate Steinle while she was on a walk with her father last week. 

Mirkarimiis is being accused of being complicit in Steinle's killing after Sanchez admitted in a jailhouse interview that he chose San Francisco due to sanctuary city policies. Those policies have been implemented and strongly supported by Mirkarimiis over the years.

"California and San Francisco politicians are culpable for implementing and enforcing policies that resulted in Ms. Steinle's murder. In 2013, the California Legislature approved a bill barring police and sheriff's departments across the state from honoring most ICE detainer requests. That bill was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.
That law, along with a 2013 city ordinance and a 2014 policy implemented by Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, resulted in Sanchez being released from custody in March 2015 after he had been arrested on drug charges. San Francisco refused to honor an ICE detainer request even though Sanchez has seven previous felony convictions on his record," the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) issued in a statement yesterday. 

But it turns out that Mirkarimiis has a history of his own. In 2012 he was convicted on a domestic violence charge. From the 2012 LA Times:

The saga began New Year's Eve, when Mirkarimi, his wife and their 2-year-old son, Theo, went out for lunch, court documents said. En route to the restaurant, according to Mirkarimi's arrest warrant, Lopez asked if she could visit her family in Venezuela after her husband's Jan. 8 inauguration.

In response, Mirkarimi began screaming obscenities, accusing Lopez of "trying to take Theo away from me." He turned the car around, told his wife she "didn't deserve to eat" and drove home, court documents said.

"The fight continued and became louder, and Ross Mirkarimi continued to be verbally abusive and physically abusive," the arrest warrant said. The incident was reported to involve "pushing, pulling and grabbing."

On New Year's Day, court documents said, Lopez knocked on her neighbor's door, went inside and burst into tears. According to the neighbor, Lopez pushed up her sleeve to reveal a large bruise on her right arm and said it happened when Mirkarimi grabbed her. The neighbor pulled out a video camera and shot about 55 seconds of footage showing a distraught Lopez.

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was sentenced Monday to three years of probation in a domestic-violence case involving his wife, a former Venezuelan telenovela star.

Mirkarimi earlier was charged with three misdemeanors and could have been sentenced to a year in jail if convicted. Those charges were dropped as part of a plea deal.

Mirkarimi was also sentenced to one day in jail, for which he was given credit for time served. He will be required to complete 100 hours of community service and 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling. In addition, he has to pay fines and fees of nearly $600.

After the hearing in a San Francisco courtroom, Mirkarimi expressed remorse for his actions.

Apparently San Francisco residents didn't allow domestic violence to keep them from voting Mirkarimi back into office, leading to his decision to allow Sanchez to walk and eventually kill. 

New Pre-Campaign Video ‘Recalls’ Walker's Historic Win Against Labor Unions

Before he officially announces he is running for president next week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is reminding voters why he's qualified for the job. A new video entitled "Recall the Recall" is a rerun of Gov. Walker's historic win against labor unions.

Walker, frustrated with the unions' obsession with power in the Badger State, took bold leadership against the Big Government special interests by scaling back the use of collective bargaining. The move angered labor unions to an unruly point. "Recall the Recall" replays the ugly scene that unfolded.

“The left erupted. They stormed the Capitol, but Scott Walker stood his ground. Unintimidated, they even threatened his family. But he stood firm, and he won.”

Featured in the video is Walker’s friend Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who explains why the governor was victorious. He balanced the budget, lowered taxes, among other popular and economically smart policies, Ryan explained.

The video also recalls how the leftist media couldn’t explain Walker's resounding success, playing clips from MSNBC pundits like Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow wondering what happened. Walker's campaign again has the answer:

“Unable to cave, the left tried to recall him. They threw everything at him and he beat them – again.”

Walker was the first governor in history to survive a recall election. What better way to kickoff a campaign than by reminding voters about it? 

Walker will officially announce his White House run on July 13.

New Documents Show Extensive Collaboration Between IRS, DOJ to Criminally Prosecute Conservative Groups

Last year emails revealed former IRS official Lois Lerner was in contact with the Department of Justice Criminal Division about criminally prosecuting conservative tea party groups for pursuing political activity (opposed to President Obama's agenda) by "posing" as non-profit organizations. 

Now, new documents obtained by government watchdog Judicial Watch through two different Freedom of Information Act lawsuits show extensive collaboration between the IRS and DOJ (and subsequently the FBI) to go after conservative groups with criminal charges. The IRS likely violated federal law by illegally sharing 1.25 million pages of taxpayer information with DOJ, which were contained on nearly two dozen FBI backup tapes. Further, information shows DOJ wanted IRS officials who were scheduled to testify in front of Congress about the targeting scandal to turn over planned remarks to them first before delivering on Capitol Hill. From JW:

Judicial Watch today released new Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents that include an official “DOJ Recap” report detailing an October 2010 meeting between Lois Lerner, DOJ officials and the FBI to plan for the possible criminal prosecution of targeted nonprofit organizations for alleged illegal political activity.

The newly obtained records also reveal that the Obama DOJ wanted IRS employees who were going to testify to Congress to turn over documents to the DOJ before giving them to Congress. Records also detail how the Obama IRS gave the FBI 21 computer disks, containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 nonprofit social 501(c)(4) welfare groups – or nearly every 501(c)(4) in the United States – as part of its prosecution effort. According to a letter from then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “This revelation likely means that the IRS – including possibly Lois Lerner – violated federal tax law by transmitting this information to the Justice Department.”

But the IRS wasn't simply sending the DOJ information, Lerner herself was meeting with DOJ officials to discuss pursuing criminal charges. 

On October 8, 2010, Lois Lerner, Joe Urban [IRS Technical Advisor, TEGE], Judy Kindell [top aide to Lerner], Justin Lowe [Technical Advisor to the Commissioner of Tax-Exempt and Government Entities], and Siri Buller met with the section chief and other attorneys from the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, and one representative from the FBI, to discuss recent attention to the political activity of exempt organizations.

The section’s attorneys expressed concern that certain section 501(c) organizations are actually political committees “posing” as if they are not subject to FEC law, and therefore may be subject to criminal liability. The attorneys mentioned several possible theories to bring criminal charges under FEC law

Keep in mind Lerner previously and essentially stated in an email that at least one conservative group needed to be made a public example with prosecution. 

"One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn't feel so comfortable doing the stuff," Lerner said in a 2013 email.

The goal was to stop the flow of other conservative non-profits, opposed to President Obama's agenda, from applying for tax exempt status and therefore becoming more effective.

“These new documents show that the Obama IRS scandal is also an Obama DOJ and FBI scandal,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “The FBI and Justice Department worked with Lois Lerner and the IRS to concoct some reason to put President Obama’s opponents in jail before his reelection. And this abuse resulted in the FBI’s illegally obtaining confidential taxpayer information. How can the Justice Department and FBI investigate the very scandal in which they are implicated?”

It's no wonder Lerner's hard drive magically "crashed," "losing" thousands of emails sent and received during the time period when she was meeting with DOJ to pursue prosecution of American citizens exercising their constitutional right to free speech.

Of Course: Nuclear Talks Blow Through Another Deadline, Iran Adds Demands


The Iran talks' already-extended deadline has been extended again, and is likely to stretch on for days:


From Reuters' new story:

Iran and six major powers will keep negotiating past Tuesday's deadline for a long-term nuclear agreement as they tackle the most contentious issues, including the continuation of a U.N. arms embargo on Iran, the big powers said. "We are continuing to negotiate for the next couple of days. This does not mean we are extending our deadline," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said outside the hotel where the talks between Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States are taking place. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there was "every reason" to believe a deal would be done within "a few days", and that there was an "understanding" that most of the current sanctions against Iran would be lifted. "There is only one big problem in terms of sanctions - it is the problem of a weapons embargo," he told journalists, according to the news agency Interfax. He said it was important to reach agreement on this as soon as possible, telling journalists that "ending the bans on supplies to Iran of the weapons required to fight terrorism is a very, very relevant objective". It is the fourth time the parties have extended the terms of the interim deal, which was struck in November 2013 and provided Iran with limited sanctions relief in exchange for a halt to the production of uranium enriched to a purity level of 20 percent.

So many points: Continuing negotiations past a deadline is an extension, period.  Why they're playing semantics games about this is puzzling, given that this is "the fourth time the parties have extended the terms of the interim deal."  The Russians are telling reporters that "most" of the current sanctions against Iran will be lifted under the agreement, with the biggest remaining problem on that front being the weapons embargo.  The lifting of said embargo was an "unrelated," 11th-hour demand from Tehran, along with an insistence that sanctions pertaining to the country's rogue ballistic missile program be eased. (Remember, suggestions that Iran be forced to renounce terrorism, recognize Israel, and release American prisoners are part of this deal have been swatted down by the White House as beyond the scope of the talks.  But Iran is welcome to broaden that score, it seems).  In short, Iran is swinging for the fences, evidently (and justifiably) convinced that the US will do almost anything to achieve an historic photo-op.  Are these additional demands being taken seriously?  Or were they put forth as theater, to allow the West to "hold the line" on something, while caving on other crucial questions like the timing of nuclear sanctions relief, military inspections, and requiring Iran to offer a full accounting of their program's military dimensions?  We'll know soon enough. This quote from an unnamed senior Obama administration official cements the impression that Obama and Kerry are hellbent on walking away with a deal, no matter how bad:

White House officials see the conclusion of Iran talks as a gateway for Mr. Obama to press for a political resolution in Syria that would facilitate the exit of President Bashar al-Assad, a close Iranian ally...U.S. officials are unsure how a nuclear deal would affect Tehran’s behavior. Iran could firm its support for Mr. Assad or cut a deal to push him aside, U.S. officials said. “They’ll have more money to be bad actors if they choose to be bad actors,” another senior administration official said. “But they’ll also have more opportunities to be constructive if they choose that route.”

Welcome to fantasyland.  If the Iranians choose the "constructive" route?  The same Iranians whose international terrorism and meddling continues "undiminished," according to this administration's own assessment?  Which further underscores the absurdity of the Russians' apparent support for lifting or reducing the UN arms embargo (which Tehran has habitually violated and subverted).  Lavrov argues that Iran might need those weapons to combat terrorism.  Iran is the planet's number-one state sponsor of terrorism.  The Reuters piece above also describes the terms of the interim deal as forcing Iran to "halt" uranium enrichment…which they haven't.  Tehran's stockpile has increased substantially over the course of the years-long negotiations.  Indeed, the regime hasn't fully complied with the interim deal, giving rise to a flurry of excuses from the Obama administration.  These apologias raise red flags for the Washington Post's editorial board: 

If it is reached in the coming days, a nuclear deal with Iran will be, at best, an unsatisfying and risky compromise. Iran’s emergence as a threshold nuclear power, with the ability to produce a weapon quickly, will not be prevented; it will be postponed, by 10 to 15 years. In exchange, Tehran will reap hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief it can use to revive its economy and fund the wars it is waging around the Middle East. Whether this flawed deal is sustainable will depend on a complex set of verification arrangements and provisions for restoring sanctions in the event of cheating. The schemes may or may not work; the history of the comparable nuclear accord with North Korea in the 1990s is not encouraging...That’s why a recent controversy over Iran’s compliance with the interim accord now governing its nuclear work is troubling. The deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium, but required that amounts over a specified ceiling be converted into an oxide powder that cannot easily be further enriched. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran met the requirement for the total size of its stockpile on June 30, but it did so by converting some of its enriched uranium into a different oxide form, apparently because of problems with a plant set up to carry out the powder conversion. Rather than publicly report this departure from the accord, the Obama administration chose to quietly accept it. When a respected independent think tank, the Institute for Science and International Security, began pointing out the problem, the administration’s response was to rush to Iran’s defense — and heatedly attack the institute as well as a report in the New York Times.

Classic Obama here. Dangerous weakness and accommodation in the face of our enemies, coupled with furious attacks against domestic critics. Also recall that Obama's fig leaf argument for a deal -- the lengthening of Iran's so-called "breakout" timeline -- has been seriously challenged by nuclear experts. And as the Post editorial points out, Iran's status as a threshold nuclear-armed stated will merely be postponed by this agreement, even if they fully comply with its terms. Obama himself has all but conceded this point. I'll leave you with the Free Beacon's video chronicling the depressing parade of concessions, rhetorical and substantive, served up by Team Smart Power on this front. Devastating:



Republican Donor: Shouldn't Donald Trump Be Barred From Debates?

Is Donald Trump a political liability? After all, ever since he officially became a Republican presidential candidate, he’s faced considerable and growing backlash over his theories about Mexicans. Recently, however, he “clarified” his remarks by releasing a statement that in many ways dug himself deeper into a hole. “The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States,” he wrote in part. “They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc."

Nevertheless, Charles Krauthammer, who has been in a tussle with Trump for some weeks now, explained why the business mogul’s comments are beyond offensive, and, ultimately, toxic to the Republican brand:

"Well, he's tapping in, but he's essentially -- he's done it in a way that the word offensive is too weak. It's an insult. An entire immigrant group. He did not make a distinct between legal and illegal immigrants. That's his entire campaign. All our problems are from Mexico, from China, from Saudi Arabia, and Japan. He will make them pay. But that elevates him to a guy actually with ideas. These are eruptions, barstool eruptions. And the pity is this. This is the strongest field of Republican candidates in 35 years. You could pick a dozen of them at random and have the strongest cabinet America's had in our lifetime and instead all of our time is spent discussing this rodeo clown..."

Mincing words is not in Krauthammer’s repertoire when discussing the fabulously wealthy – and high-polling – Donald Trump. And yet, Krauthammer’s not the only one frustrated by Trump’s influence and large microphone (via Politico):

At least one top Republican donor wants the party to keep Donald Trump from the debate stage. “Someone in the party ought to start some sort of petition saying, ‘If Trump’s going to be on the stage, I’m not going to be on there with him,’” Republican donor John Jordan told The Associated Press on Monday, according to a report published Tuesday. “I’m toying with the idea of it.”

“It’s something I feel strongly about as somebody who not only cares about the Republican Party, but also Latinos,” he added.

No doubt others feel the same way. But how likely is a petition to be successful, one that bars Trump from debating on stage, when he’s polling in the top tier and has a dedicated, devoted, and rather large following who wants to see him nominated?

Krauthammer’s right: The controversies Trump is generating are overshadowing a GOP field that is both talented and desperate to win. But finding a way to silence him, when he’s entirely self-funded, is impossible. I suspect very few pundits thought Trump would actually run, and now that he has, the donor and political classes are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to respond. And while this adds (for some) a new layer of excitement to the race, it also adds another dimension of nervousness and unpredictability as well.

Study: Cost of Generating Wind Electricity 48% Higher Than Previous Estimates

study released Tuesday morning concludes that the true cost of wind energy is 48 percent high than previous studies have estimated.

The study titled, "The True Cost of Energy; Wind,” was conducted by the Institute of Political Economy at Utah State University, and given to Townhall exclusively. They came to this conclusion by looking at implicit costs that a variety of other studies -- including studies from the Department of Energy and the Institute for Energy Research -- did not account for. 

"Implicit costs are tough to measure," Dr. Ryan Yonk, co-author of the study and research director in the Department of Economics at Utah State University, told Townhall, saying that he hoped that future studies would look more into implicit costs.

The report highlights four main implicit costs associated with wind energy: the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), transmission infrastructure problems, and baseload cycling.

Advocates of wind energy point to the fact that 43 percent of all new electricity capacity stems from wind power. However, as the study points out, this is entirely due to the massive amounts of subsidies that wind power receives. Every year, wind subsidies increase by an average of 32 percent, with subsidies totaling almost $5 billion in 2010. Most of the subsidies stem from the PTC, which was first passed in 1992 to subsidize wind farms at a rate of $15 per megawatt-hour, which was eventually raised to $23 per megawatt-hour in 2013. Whenever the PTC is about to expire, wind farm installations dramatically decrease, as high 92 percent in 2013.

The PTC is one of the 82 wind energy initiatives that is overseen by nine federal agencies. Out of these initiatives, the PTC is the largest, accounting for 39 percent of revenue losses that the Treasury Department spent on wind-related initiatives.

"We don’t know what the market would like without the subsidies," Dr. Yonk said.

And yet, despite the PTC, wind makes up only 4 percent of national energy consumption. As the authors of the study say, this is the true cost of the subsidies (emphasis mine): 

By paying for the PTC with their taxes, American citizens subsidize private investments in wind energy development. Wind and solar energy both receive 20 times more federal subsidies than coal or natural gas in terms of average electricity generation. Since it was expanded in 2009, the PTC has cost an average of $5 billion per year. Recent IRS changes expanded the number of wind producers and the conditions for eligibility so that a one-year extension is expected to cost taxpayers approximately $13 billion over the next decade.24 These considerations increase the true cost of electricity produced from wind power. While the costs of subsidizing wind power are dispersed across all Americans, the benefits are enjoyed by a select few wind industry favorites.

Without the PTC, many private investors would have no incentive to invest in wind energy because such investments would no longer be profitable. Warren Buffett, who has invested billions in renewable energy, stated, "[W]e get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” Thus, when the PTC is allowed to expire, investments in wind energy plummet.

This leads to a phenomenon known as negative pricing, where the seller pays the buyer to accept their product. Wind farms need to pay utilities to take electricity since wind is at its most powerful in the evenings, when most people are not using energy. This negative pricing distorts the market:

The PTC pays wind producers $23 for every megawatt-hour of electricity produced, regardless of market factors like supply and demand. Wind producers can then pay utilities (up to $23 per megawatt-hour) to take their power while still making a profit or at least breaking even. Subsidies, and the negative pricing they cause, distort the market for electricity and flood it with subsidized wind power. In some cases, this drives more conventional producers of electricity, such as nuclear plants, out of the market.

And this creates opportunity costs, meaning that the resources spent on the wind energy sector could have been instead on resources that were of higher value to the market.

"The subsidies are costly and they distort the market and as legislators and policymakers make those decisions, they should know what the real costs look like of regulation and subsidies in the energy sector,” Dr. Yonk said.

The study also highlights RPS standards, which are mandates for states to meet quotas for renewable energy. Twenty-nine states, as well as Washington, D.C., and two territories, have RPS standards. Since renewable energy sources tend to be more expensive than conventional energy sources, the study concludes that states with RPS have energy prices that are 38% higher than states that don't have RPS.

Another implicit cost of wind energy are transmission infrastructure problems. Wind farms tend to be farther away from transmission farms, which means the grid needs to be expanded and therefore results in higher costs.

"In order to build wind farms you have to go where there’s enough wind capacity… and often those are not conveniently located," Dr. Yonk said, describing the transmission expansion costs as "quite substantial." The study cites a report saying the costs are high as $27 per megawatt-hour.

The final implicit cost that the study highlights is a process known as baseload cycling:

In areas with high levels of wind power, the grid relies on existing energy plants to provide electricity when the wind is not blowing. These generators ensure that the station is always supplying a minimum amount of energy, also known as “baseload” power. Even though the generators are not used when the wind turbines are supplying plenty of power, they must be kept on standby, ready to be fired up at a moment’s notice. The generators “cycle” between use and non-use, hence the term “baseload cycling.”

Baseload cycling increases operation and maintenance costs as two energy plants (the wind farm and the baseload generator) are kept running to do the job of one. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory note that cycling increases emissions because firing up a plant multiple times in a single day uses more fuel than running at a steady rate throughout the day."

The study then cites a report saying that the extra cost of baseload cycling could be as high as $23 per megawatt-hour.

With the study's release, Dr. Yonk hopes that more research will conducted on the implicit costs of energy and hopes that legislators and policymakers will have that information going forward.

"This is a situation where policymakers are looking at what to do going forward… understanding the true cost of any source of energy and what goes into it is essential,” Dr. Yonk said.

Bill O'Reilly Rips San Francisco Politicians, Obama Administration, Congress Over Criminal Alien Murder in San Francisco

Last week Kate Steinle was shot and killed on a San Francisco pier by an illegal alien with a record of seven felonies and five deportations. Her killer admitted in a jailhouse interview that he went back to San Francisco because he knew he wouldn't be turned over to federal authorities thanks to sanctuary city policies. 

Monday night on the O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly didn't mince words when addressing the issue and holds San Francisco city officials and the Obama administration complicit in Steinle's death. O'Reilly also called on Congress to pass a law mandating five years in federal prison if caught back in the United States after being deported.

"Here is the dangerous part. According government statistics, 71% percent of non-American citizens in federal prisons are from Mexico. Colombian nationals are second, just 4%. Mexican criminals represent a whopping 16% of all convicts serving time in federal penitentiaries. That is a huge burden on the American taxpayer, and a dangerous situation for ordinary Americans like 32-year-old Kate Steinle," O'Reilly said. "Last Wednesday Kate was walking with her father in San Francisco when she was shot dead on the street for absolutely no reason at all. Police say 45-year-old Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal alien from Mexico, murdered Kate. Apparently Sanchez has seven felony convictions and had been deported five times. Yet he was still walking around the streets of San Francisco. That's because Mayor Ed Lee and the eleven members of the San Francisco City Supervisors refuse to cooperate with the federal government on criminal aliens. The feds asked the city of San Francisco to keep Sanchez in custody; the city refused. Ms. Steinle paid for that irresponsible and unconstitutional decision with her life. San Francisco is a sanctuary city, and violent crimes committed by criminal aliens have happened before. City authorities refuse to say how many because they know this is a huge scandal -- a black mark on the history of San Francisco, the most tolerant of cities. n 1996 President Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act, which stipulated that local and state authorities were to cooperate with the feds in apprehending illegal aliens, especially criminals."

"In 2007 then Mayor Gavin Newsom issues an Executive Order stating that as a Sanctuary City, San Francisco would not cooperate with federal authorities on illegal immigration matters and would protect even criminal aliens. The feds did nothing. In 2010 the Obama administration openly said it would not punish cities that refuse to obey the 1996 law. So here's the deal. The mayor and city supervisors of San Francisco are directly responsible for the death of Kate Steinle and the Obama administration is complicit. Attorney General Loretta Lynch could order FBI agents to arrest Mayor Lee and the supervisors for violating federal law. She is within her authority to do that. I know that will never happen because racial politics drives the law these days, which is why Trump caught so much hell. The Constitution demands that the federal government protect Americans from foreign intruders. Obviously, that responsibility is not being met. And if you point that out as Trump did, you are a racist, a piñata for the open-border crowd to bash," he continued.

Violent crime committed by illegal aliens in this country is a major problem, for public safety reasons and for taxpayers. As O'Reilly mentioned, the government has an obligation to protect Americans from foreign invasion and the criminal illegal alien problem is fueled by political DC incompetence. Every GOP presidential candidate, as well as Democrat Hillary Clinton, has an obligation to address it.

Unhindered: Boko Haram Continues Its Onslaught

A series of blasts killed at least 44 people in Nigeria over the weekend in what looks to be the latest string of Boko Haram murders. One of the bombs exploded outside of a mosque during a Ramadan sermon, and another blew up in a restaurant. A third blast went off inside a church, and another targeted a major thoroughfare being used by a number of Muslim families.

The weekend violence primarily occurred in the cities of Jos, in central Nigeria, and Potiskum, in the northeast of Nigeria. Jos had been attacked last year by Boko Haram in a notorious attack that claimed over 100 lives. The blast in Potiskum — which occurred at Redeemer Christian Church of God — took the lives of a priest and four worshippers, including a woman and her two children.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, but experts say they bear all the signs of Boko Haram. The jihadist group — which pledged its loyalty to ISIS this past March — has attacked Potiskum four other times previous to this attack. Those attacks killed upwards of 20 people.

This weekend's attacks come at the end of one of Nigeria's bloodiest weeks yet at the hands of Boko Haram. The terror group, based in northern Nigeria, had just carried out attacks on northeastern Nigerian villages that claimed the lives of over 150 people — mostly Muslims. The attacks are part of Boko Haram's aim of creating an Islamic caliphate in the image of ISIS. Like Boko Haram, ISIS has killed scores of Muslims deemed too lax in the practice of their faith or too wavering in their loyalty. Both organizations practice a rigorous level of Sharia law and have taken underage girls as slaves.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had condemned last week's attacks as "inhuman and barbaric." He vowed that every "Boko Haram bandit ... would be hunted down without mercy and compromise." The recently elected president has pledged to defeat Boko Haram, but military efforts to stop the bloodshed have failed thus far.

The United States condemned the recent Boko Haram attacks in an official statement:

"As we have said before, the people of northern Nigeria deserve to live free from violence and from terror. The United States continues to provide counterterrorism assistance to help Nigerian authorities develop a comprehensive approach to combat the threat posed by Boko Haram."

Boko Haram made major headlines in the Western world last year when it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in the city of Chibok. The kidnapping spawned the twitter slogan, #BringBackOurGirls. Since the 2014 kidnappings, Boko Haram has received less than its share of media attention in the West — even as its recent atrocities rival those committed by the Islamic State.

Idaho In No Rush To Remove Traditional Marriage Amendment From Constitution

While known for its potatoes and Napoleon Dynamite, the Gem State is also as red as they come concerning politics. The composition of the state legislature is overwhelming Republican, and the state constitution has marriage  defined as a union between one man and one woman. The problem is that section of state law has been struck down with the recent Obergefell decision from the Supreme Court, which said there's a constitutional right to gay marriage.

Nevertheless, some traditional marriage advocates say the provision should remain since it’s a “symbolic and historic piece of language.” Yet, it’s now completely irrelevant, so why keep something on the books if it won’t be enforced? Yet, the process to remove the language, which was adopted in a 2006 referendum won’t be easy (via AP):

…removing the language will likely be an uphill battle. Amending the Idaho Constitution first requires approval from the Republican-dominated Legislature. The proposal must then win a simple majority in a voter referendum -a tough task for even lesser politically-charged initiatives.

Idaho is one of 30 states that amended their constitutions to ban gay marriage that have not yet take steps to repeal their amendments, even though they have been rendered unenforceable by the Supreme Court's gay-marriage decision.

Idaho's gay marriage ban has been enshrined in the state constitution since 2006 after winning 63 percent of the vote.

Gay rights supporters argue removal is the natural next step to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling. But Republican lawmakers and gay marriage opponents counter that there is no legal need to change the constitution.

"Idaho should not remove that language," said Julie Lynde, executive director of Cornerstone Family Council. "There is no reason to obliterate traditional marriage. It's a symbolic and historic piece of language."

Furthermore, when Idaho lawmakers gather in Boise at the beginning of 2016, they'll be kicking off the legislative session in an election year. Republican lawmakers will be less likely to cast a vote that could be used against them by an opponent.

The article also noted that since the Republican leadership in the state legislature knows their constitutional amendment defining marriage is now null and void, there’s no reason to expend political capital on removing it; this takes us back to election year politics that was previously mentioned.

Yet, Idaho's American Civil Liberties Union chapter said confusion could occur with letting this amendment remain idle on the books:

For example, in 2013, a sheriff in Kootenai County declared that the Boy Scouts of America promoted a lifestyle that violated the state's sodomy law. [Leo] Morales [acting executive director of ACLU-Idaho] said the sheriff incorrectly interpreted an unenforceable state law because it was still on the books, even though the Supreme Court banned laws that attempted to regulate or criminalize sexual activity among consenting adults in 2003.

At the same time, AP noted that the state has removed obsolete constitutional language before, notably the 1890 provision that stripped voting rights to anyone who promoted polygamy … in 1982.

So, for the folks in Idaho elated by the Obergefell decision, you’re probably going to have to wait as long as the social conservatives who want to re-argue gay marriage bans before the Supreme Court (again) until the language is removed from the state constitution; in other words, it could take a very, very long time.

Team Clinton: Yes, We're 'Worried' About Bernie

Sure, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is, on average, roughly 40 percentage points behind Hillary Clinton in national polls, but that doesn’t mean Team Hillary isn’t taking him seriously as a competitor.

“We are worried about him, sure. He will be a serious force for the campaign, and I don’t think that will diminish,” Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri said Monday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

“It's to be expected that Sanders would do well in a Democratic primary, and he’s going to do well in Iowa in the Democratic caucus.”

A new Quinnipiac University poll released last week found he doubled his share of Democratic supporters in Iowa in just seven weeks. Some polls in New Hampshire show Sanders less than 10 points behind Clinton.

Palmieri said Sanders's rise won't prompt a shift toward negative campaigning and that Sanders's strong crowds only underscore the differences in the campaigning tactics between the two campaigns.

“We don’t need to attack each other. He'll run his campaign, we'll run ours. The imperatives for us are different. We think what works for her, particularly in Iowa, is doing a lot of small events, staying a long time, being one of the last people, if not the last person, to leave the room. That works better for us right now,” she said.

While Sanders, as The Hill notes, has closed the margin a bit in recent polls—even beating Clinton among Democratic men in a June Granite State survey, she will most likely still be the Democrats’ nominee for president. Regardless, any competition she faces from the left will only help Republican contenders in the months ahead. 

Sen. Baldwin: First Amendment Applies To Institutions of Faith, ‘But I Don’t Think It Extends Far Beyond That’

Our friends at NewsBusters posted this little tidbit from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who said on the June 27 broadcast of Up with Steve Kornacki, that the First Amendment only applied to institutions of faith.  The discussion revolved around the Obergefell ruling from the Supreme Court, which said there is a constitutional right to gay marriage.  

Tammy Baldwin: “Certainly the First Amendment says that in institutions of faith that there is absolute power to, you know, to observe deeply held religious beliefs. But I don’t think it extends far beyond that. We’ve seen the set of arguments play out in issues such as access to contraception. Should it be the individual pharmacist whose religious beliefs guides whether a prescription is filled, or in this context, they’re talking about expanding this far beyond our churches and synagogues to businesses and individuals across this country. I think there are clear limits that have been set in other contexts and we ought to abide by those in this new context across America.”

Well, that simply isn’t the case. Of course, the free exercise clause applies to individuals. For goodness sake, just look at First Amendment law that involves members of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that compulsory flag salutes were a violation of free speech and free exercise in the First Amendment; school officials had punished the students and their families, all members of Jehovah’s Witness, for this infraction.

At the same time, there are restrictions on the free exercise of religion. As the First Amendment Center wrote, “the Supreme Court has interpreted this clause so that the freedom to believe is absolute, but the ability to act on those beliefs is not.” As an example, they noted that an article of faith permitting human sacrifice probably would not be held as a right protected by the First Amendment. But the right for an employee to discuss his faith at work–to a certain degree–is legal, as long as he or she does not create a hostile work environment. Moreover, if a co-worker informs another that his or her religious discussions makes them uncomfortable, the person engaging in religious conversation should respect the request and stop talking about it.

Yet, even with respect to the recent gay marriage ruling, Baldwin seems to be unaware that religious exemptions for marriage-related business have rarely–if at all–been upheld by the courts, even in states with statutes similar to that of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Nevertheless, overall, this isn’t a proper reading of the First Amendment.

WSJ: By the Way, Rick Perry's Major Address on Race Was Excellent

Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) stumbles in 2012 are well known. Initially perceived to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, a series of embarrassing gaffes and misstatements forced him to exit the race much earlier than anyone anticipated. Currently, he’s polling in the low single-digits.

In Washington last week, however, as the Wall Street Journal reported, Perry wowed a crowd at a famous journalism center, in part by making a direct — and impassioned — pitch to African-Americans in a way other candidates simply have not:

The media continue to dismiss Republican Rick Perry’s presidential prospects even as they pretend that Democrat Bernie Sanders poses a serious threat to Hillary Clinton. Mr. Perry has a far better chance at becoming President than Mr. Sanders does, and last week the Texan gave the speech of the campaign so far.

At the National Press Club on Thursday, Mr. Perry delivered thoughtful, often moving, remarks about race and the Republican Party. (We reprint excerpts nearby.) The former Texas Governor doesn’t spare the GOP, Texans or Americans for historical offenses against African-Americans. He also scores his party for giving up on even trying to win support among African-Americans, a failure that he says has cost the GOP “our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln, as the party of equal opportunity for all.”

Click through to watch some highlights from his remarks, with some added commentary. It's definitely worth a listen.

In any case, and more pressingly, is Perry not correct? After all, the Republican Party was formed, at least in part, to stop the spread of slavery westward into the new territories. Indeed, Lincoln said it best when, writing a friend in the Democratic Party shortly before taking the presidential oath of office, “You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us." Thus the point of Perry’s speech, I think, was to proudly recover and retell American history as it happened, and to remind his rivals to stand once again for the principles for which Lincoln exemplified. For too long, he intoned, Republicans have dismissed a whole segment of Americans simply because they were perceived to be “unwinnable.” This is wrongheaded thinking — and no way to run a Republican campaign, he said.

Perry’s words ring true for their own sake, of course. However, if the Republican Party wants to win the general election in 2016, all candidates running should remember recent history, too:

America's blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.

Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press.

This means that the Republican Party can no longer afford to be apathetic or averse to campaigning for every single vote. I therefore hope Perry's competitors get the message — and follow his example.

Watch the full clip of Perry’s remarks below:

South Carolina Senate Votes To Remove Confederate Flag

The South Carolina Senate has voted to take down the Confederate flag, which flies above the State House grounds in Columbia. Now, it's up for debate in the State House (via NYT):

The South Carolina Senate voted Monday to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the State House. The bipartisan proposal, which emerged after last month’s massacre at a historic black church in Charleston, was approved by a 37-to-3 vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Senate has one remaining ratification vote, now virtually assured of success.

The debate will shift to the House of Representatives, which Republicans also dominate, where the timeline for — and tenor of — the debate remains less clear.

The Senate’s vote on Monday marked a resounding shift in South Carolina, where less than three weeks ago removing the Confederate battle flag from a memorial near the State House was viewed as politically impossible.

The killings at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, however, revived a debate that fractured the legislature about 15 years ago and yielded, at least in the Senate, quick action in the debate over a symbol revered by many whites but regarded as an offensive vestige of segregation and oppression by most blacks.

On Monday, with the desk of a slain member draped in black, the Senate defeated a series of amendments that would have undermined the bill, including one that would have allowed the battle flag to fly each year on Confederate Memorial Day. Later, in a dramatic roll call vote around 4 p.m., the Senate overwhelmingly voted in support of evicting the flag from the grounds of the State House, where it has flown for more than five decades.

The issue of removing the flag and placing it at the Soldier’s Monument­–a memorial commemorating the Confederate dead–was in stasis since 2000 when lawmakers agreed to move the Confederate flag to the memorial, but only by a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature, according to the Post and Courier. 

Is this a knee-jerk reaction? A solid majority of Americans see the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride, instead of racism. Moreover, on June 24, Nia-Malika Henderson reported that even some Democrats are cognizant of the fact that such swift action on the issue of the flag could “alienate” future allies, especially after the June 20 rally that was held to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds:

I appreciate the rally, but it has no impact on the legislative process," said state Sen. Darryl Jackson, a Democrat who helped hammer out the 2000 compromise. "The politics of the flag are the politics of the primary voter."

From his church pulpit on Sunday [June 21], Jackson urged patience on the flag issue, saying later that it could be interpreted as disrespectful to the dead to turn so quickly to politics.

"People are saying let's get some action now, but I don't want to alienate people I will need for a compromise," he said. "If we don't get a bi-partisan consensus, we will be fighting for the next 100 years."

There is a framework for such efforts. South Carolina lawmakers forged a bipartisan agreement this year on body camera legislation after the shooting death of Walter Scott by a white police office.

"This will not be done in a knee-jerk fashion," said Marlon Kimpson, a Democratic state representative. "I'm going to be in focus groups with business leaders and talking to constituents. The massacre opened up an opportunity but to build a super majority will require a lot of work."

Medicare Advocating a Change for End-of-Life Care

When the life of a loved one is coming to an end, it is reported that there isn’t a single specific point at which end-of-life care begins; it very much depends on the individual. End-of-life discussions are fundamental in ensuring the needs of both the ill and the loved one are met.

Now, Medicare is making advances to have these crucial discussions that will start paying for physicians to have these advanced-care planning conversations with patients. It's a new policy that could be released in the foreseeable future.

This has been a critical issue ever since the Obama administration tried to implement a policy that paid doctors to have private insurers to cover advanced-care conversations in 2010. It didn't pass. At the same time:

many states have passed laws making it easier to document end-of-life care goals in medical records, and in Congress, bipartisan bills in both the House and the Senate have called for physician reimbursement for such conversations. No bills have made it to floor votes, however.

Patient needs are still at the forefront of these discussions, especially since it's been reported that:

"Many patients in the ICU can't make decisions about their own care, surrogates often speak on their behalf and collaborate with the treating physician to determine treatment goals. But in many cases, they have no idea what the patient would want. Recent research shows that fewer than half of terminally ill patients have advance directives. And one study showed that discussions about end-of-life care are most often hampered by patients and their family members who don't want to talk about such plans."

Now, with Medicare's change at hand, an educated and sound recommendation is going to be readily available.

"many surrogates have no experience in making end-of-life decisions for someone else and struggle in that role, says Hutchison. Depressed and anxious over their loved one's illness, making decisions without a recommendation from the treating physician may be overwhelming, Hutchison argues. A physician's input can help family members, who have no medical background or training, to make decisions, but doctors should be open to other perspectives."