Cringe-Worthy Yearbook Quote Goes Viral

It's that time of year again: school is ending, graduation season is upon us, and yearbooks are being distributed. While it's hardly uncommon to look back at one's yearbook and cringe, an image from one yearbook has gone viral. In it, a says that if she had founded America she would have ended "women sufferage"[sic].

Yikes.

Yikes.

Suffrage, of course, is the right to vote. "Sufferage" is not a word. While women in colonial America certainly had fewer rights than they do right now, I think that most would agree that ending women's suffrage would be a backwards step. Now, I'm not going to use this quote to vilify the American education system, but I will say that it's astounding that this made it through rounds of editing and into the final product. One would think/hope that at least someone would have spoken up.

The image was initially posted to the hosting site Imgur, where it received nearly 400,000 views in a matter of hours.

Indicted: All Six Baltimore Police Officers Involved In The Death Of Freddie Gray Charged

Freddie Gray was arrested in Baltimore on April 12, suffered a severe spinal injury en route to the police station, slipped into a coma, and died a week later. The police van ride was 45 minutes long, with officials piecing together what happened that led to his death. Anger poured into the streets, where Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard to maintain order. The State Attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn Mosby, filed charges against the six police officers involved in Gray’s death. Now, nearly three weeks after the charges being filed, the grand jury has decided to indict all of them (via Baltimore Sun):

Some charges were slightly different than what Mosby announced on May 1. The grand jury review is a procedural step to move the case forward to a higher court, from District Court to Baltimore City Circuit Court.

New charges included reckless endangerment, while charges of false imprisonment were removed by the grand jury.

Officer Caesar R. Goodson, the driver of the van used to transport Gray on April 12, remains charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, which is the most serious charge among all six officers. He was also charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, vehicular manslaughter -- gross negligence, vehicular manslaughter -- criminal negligence, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment, which is a new charge.

Lt. Brian W. Rice was charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. A second-degree assault charge and false imprisonment charge Rice had been facing were removed.

Sgt. Alicia D. White was charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment, which is a new charge.

Officer William Porter was charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment, which is a new charge.

Officer Garrett E. Miller was charged with second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. A second-degree assault charge and false imprisonment charge were removed.

Officer Edward M. Nero was charged with second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. A second-degree assault charge and false imprisonment charge were removed.

All six officers have been free on bail.

Police has reportedly been “hesitant” to conduct their duties in Baltimore, leading to a surge in crime. As of three days ago, the rise in crime is ongoing, with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake calling it “disheartening.”

The mayor has also received criticism for saying “we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well” at the onset of the unrest; the first wave being on the night of the White House Correspondence Dinner on April 25. The more destructive phase of the rioting occurred two days later–April 27–when Gray was laid to rest.  

The attorneys of the police officer had asked Ms. Mosby to recuse herself citing conflict of interest issues; the Gray's family attorney gave her a campaign contribution and was on her transition team.  Mosby has also been criticized by some, especially the police union, for acting too hasty in bringing the charges against the officers. 

Nebraska Legislature Votes to Abolish Death Penalty

Nebraska is on the verge of making history. In a bipartisan move, the state’s legislature on Wednesday voted 32 to 15 to abolish the death penalty. All that stands in the coalition’s way at this point is Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, a staunch defender of capital punishment, who has promised to veto the measure.

The Republican and Democratic lawmakers who have united to support the bill oppose the death penalty on moral, religious, fiscal, and limited government grounds.

If passed, the measure would replace lethal injection for life imprisonment. According to Attorney General Doug Peterson, in Nebraska, this sentence would effectively mean life in prison without the possibility of parole.

If the bill becomes law, the Cornhusker State would be the first red state to abolish the practice since North Dakota did in 1973.

“The conservative Republicans’ positions as expressed in Nebraska are basically a microcosm of what’s going on with conservatives about the death penalty nationwide,” Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told The Christian Science Monitor. “Abolition in Nebraska could empower conservatives in other 'red' states to move forward because they know it can be done.”

The legislature needs 30 votes to override a veto from Gov. Ricketts, which could come as early as Tuesday.

NYT: Hillary Emails Contain Sensitive Information, Trace Benghazi Story


The New York Times got a crack at the first tranche of Hillary's emails, and turned up a few interesting tidbits. Before we go any further, please allow me to remind you that the emails being released by the State Department (following a court order to expedite the process) are only the ones that Mrs. Clinton's inner circle didn't unilaterally delete. In other words, these are the emails she's comfortable with the public seeing, via a server she wasn't allowed to have in the first place. Her "I want these emails released, too!" posturing is deeply disingenuous. This point cannot be emphasized enough.  Nevertheless, what has the Times uncovered in the first few hundred pages?

href="http://townhall.com/tipsheet/guybenson/2015/05/19/uh-oh-hillary-used-private-email-address-her-lawyers-claimed-didnt-exist-n2000710">already aware, Secretary Clinton often circulated un-vetted memos of questionable provenance that were provided by political mercenary Sid Blumenthal, without attribution.  The emails indicate that Amb. Chris Stevens, later murdered by terrorists in Benghazi, was asked to weigh in on the analysis and intelligence that came from an unnamed "Clinton friend," whom the Obama White House had explicitly banned from working at the State Department.

(2) Blumenthal helped shape the administration's Benghazi narrative, wrongly reporting the "spontaneous demonstration/YouTube video" claim just after the attacks, before changing his tune the very next day.  Was Blumenthal the original source of the White House's infamous lie?  Why did Hillary, Obama and others stick to the false story for weeks, even after Blumenthal's revised intel quickly aligned with what the US government discovered almost immediately?

Citing “sensitive sources” in Libya, the memo provided extensive detail about the episode, saying that the siege had been set off by members of Ansar al-Shariah, the Libyan terrorist group. Those militants had ties to Al Qaeda, had planned the attacks for a month and had used a nearby protest as cover for the siege, the memo said. “We should get this around asap” Mrs. Clinton said in an email to Mr. Sullivan.

Note Hillary's response. Blumenthal was confirming the true story, which US intelligence was already piecing together -- and she obviously found it compelling and important. Days later, though, she was still spinning an untruthful tale to victims' families.  Why?  Perhaps because of... (3) concerns stressed in a separate email from Blumenthal, warning of Benghazi-related political liabilities:

In early October 2012, a month before Mr. Obama was re-elected, Mr. Blumenthal forwarded Mrs. Clinton an article on a left-leaning website. The article cautioned that the Republicans could exploit the attacks in a “Jimmy Carter Strategy” and use them to paint Mr. Obama as weak on terrorism. Mrs. Clinton forwarded the email to Mr. Sullivan. “Be sure Ben knows they need to be ready for this line of attack,” Mrs. Clinton wrote. She did not say to which Ben she was referring, but one of Mr. Obama’s senior national security advisers is Benjamin J. Rhodes, who handles communications and speechwriting.

Yes, that would be this Ben Rhodes.  (4) "Mrs. Clinton’s emails show that she had a special type of government information known as 'sensitive but unclassified,' or 'SBU,' in her account. That information included the whereabouts and travel plans of American officials in Libya as security there deteriorated..."  It's unclear how much classified material passed through Hillary's under-secured personal server, but given that she used it as her exclusive email source, it seems likely that some did.  A defense intelligence analyst and the former acting CIA director have both stated that foreign intelligence agencies almost certainly penetrated Clinton's "home-brew" email system.  A few additional takeaways from this initial document dump:



Hillary's original excuse for her secret email scheme was the need to consolidate everything to just one mobile device.  This never made any sense, but we've since discovered that she used multiple devices anyway.  Also, her lawyers claimed that the email address she was using in that first screenshot didn't exist at the time.  Oops.  And requests like "please do not forward" obviously do not apply to the Clintons, even when they come from high-ranking White House officials.

White House Press Secretary: Defeating ISIS is “Going to Take Some Time”

The situation in Iraq and Syria appears to be quickly unraveling as ISIS gains ground and continues sacking cities. Nevertheless, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed (and reaffirmed) on Thursday that such territorial losses are not going to induce the president to change his stated strategy.

“What this administration will continue to do is to implement the strategy that the president has laid out, which is to build up the capacity of local fighters on the ground in Iraq and in Syria to take the fight against [ISIS],” he said. “But they will have the strong support of the United States and the coalition of 60 countries that the president leads.”

“And they’ll have that support in the form of offering training and equipment to those local fighters,” he continued. “They’ll be able to get some battlefield advice from coalition personnel that are deployed to Iraq, and they will—importantly—have the support of coalition military air power.”

And yet, this strategy doesn’t appear to be working. The cities of Ramadi and Palmyra have already fallen, raising major questions about how the White House is prosecuting the war.

Earnest, however, suggested a lack of troops—and training—is the chief reason for all the “setbacks,” not the strategy itself.

“We’ve acknowledged for a year now that our efforts in Syria to build up a ground force that can work closely with the coalition is going to take some time,” he said. "There is no natural force that’s there. So there is an active training mission that’s taking place to fill this force.”

“But the president is not going to be in a position where he is going to consider a large scale, US military deployment,” he added. “And for those who are calling on a change in strategy, I would encourage them to be specific. I don’t think that they will find a lot of support on the part of the American people for a large-scale deployment of military resources to essentially re-invade Iraq—or invade Syria.* The president does not believe that would be in the best interests of the United States.”

Contrast the tone of the press secretary’s comments this afternoon to what two national security experts said earlier today in front of the Senate Armed Services committee. There is a very stark difference.

*Fact check: That's not necessarily true.

Illegal Alien Charged With Child Molestation and Pornography Able To Work With Kids Thanks to Obama Amnesty

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley has sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson demanding to know why an illegal alien who was working as a camp counselor, charged with child molestation and with distributing nearly 1000 images of child pornography, may have avoided deportation under President Obama's deferred action program (DACA). 

"This month, I write to you again about another potential DACA recipient who has allegedly distributed and possessed hundreds of images of child pornography and who has used his position at a summer camp, employment he may have legally obtained only with employment authorization he achieved as a DACA recipient, to molest and victimize the children he was tasked with helping. Recent press accounts have reported that Edgar Covarrubias-Padilla, a night counselor at a popular science camp in California was charged with sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy along with distribution and possession of child pornography. Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla allegedly applied for and received deferred action under the DACA program. On Monday, Covarrubias was charged with four felonies, which included possession and distribution of more than 600 child porn images and a charge for lewd and lascivious act with a child under 14," the letter states (bolding is mine). "The Santa Clara County Office of Education confirmed that Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla worked at two campsites over the past two years in various capacities that involved contact with children. According to news accounts, since this story broke last week, the Santa Clara Sheriff’s office has received over 100 calls and 50 emails from concerned parents. Reportedly, at least some of these calls are from parents who believe that their children were among Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla’s victims."

According to Grassley and cited whistleblowers, Covarrubias-Padilla was scheduled for deportation but approved for DACA and a work permit in October 2012. Further, it seems DHS was aware his heinous behavior and allowed him to stay in the country anyway, jeopardizing the safety and well being of the children he was working with. 

"Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla also allegedly filed an application for employment authorization in October of 2012 that was approved with validity until May of 2015. The Committee has received reports that on November 17, 2014, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) placed a note in Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla’s record that indicated that he was part of an ongoing investigation for exploiting children and distributing child pornography. Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla has been employed at the camp for the last two years," Grassley wrote (bolding is mine). "These allegations are deeply troubling because, if true, they suggest that DHS was aware for months or years that Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla posed a public safety threat to the children he was monitoring, yet took no action to revoke his DACA authorization. Of note, news sources have reported that the Santa Clara Sherriff’s Office initiated Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla’s arrest after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contacted them with concerns about Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla’s involvement in child exploitation and child pornography. These reports raise significant questions concerning the coordination of ICE and USCIS, in regards to DACA recipients. These allegations are particularly alarming because they suggest that Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla would not have been placed in a position to abuse and exploit children had DHS properly vetted DACA recipients."

Over the past two months, Grassley has written two letters to Secretary Johnson with inquiries about other criminal illegal aliens. Emanuel Rangel-Hernandez, who was charged with four counts of first-degree murder in North Carolina, and Jose Bojorquez who was recently charged with second degree murder. Rangel-Hernandez and Bojorquez were both scheduled for deportation but were able to staying in the United States thanks to, again, President Obama's DACA program.

Secretary Johnson has been asked to respond to a series of questions about Covarrubias-Padilla and how this happened by May 29.

Hmmm: Fox, CNN Announce Controversial GOP Debate Rules


"Controversial" because the networks are understandably trying to limit the number of participants, as to avoid unwieldy spectacles of 16 candidates trying to get a word in edgewise.  We touched on that concern earlier in the week.  Excluded or marginalized parties will inevitably cry foul ("the establishment is silencing my voice!" or what have you), whipping up anger among their supporters.  Would they have a point, or are Fox and CNN right to establish some boundaries?  The truth may lie somewhere in between, and we'll discuss arguments on both sides in a moment -- but first, here are the hosts' newly-announced ground rules, starting with Fox News:

Fox News announced guidelines Wednesday that will winnow the field of participants in the first Republican debate of the 2016 presidential campaign. The network will require contenders to place in the top 10 in an average of the five most recent national polls in the run-up to the event, narrowing what is expected to be a field of 16 or more by the Aug. 6 event in Cleveland. The rule could trigger an early rush of spending by lower-tier candidates seeking to boost their standing in national surveys before the pivotal first forum.

How would those regulations play out if the debate were held today?

It remains to be seen how many candidates will be included in the Fox News debate under the criteria, which could allow more than 10 participants if some are tied in the polls. The top?10 contenders in the five most recent national polls are former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, real estate tycoon Donald Trump and former Texas governor Rick Perry, according to a Washington Post analysis. Former U.S. senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are a fraction of a point behind Perry. Lagging behind those 12 are Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina and former New York governor George Pataki.

Under this rubric, the clownish Donald Trump -- who'd actually have to formally declare a candidacy and file requisite paperwork, rather than publicly threaten to run to gain attention -- would make the cut, while a sitting governor (and a minority, for those who care about racial optics), a sitting senator, and the only woman in the race would be excluded.  Is that a desirable outcome for the party?  Fox says candidates who fail to make the cut will be afforded airtime on the day of the forum.  CNN is trying a two-tiered approach:

The CNN Republican primary debate on Sept. 16 will be divided into two parts featuring two different sets of candidates: those who rank in the top 10 according to public polling, and the remaining candidates who meet a minimum threshold of 1 percent in public polling, the On Media blog has learned. "The first 10 candidates – ranked from highest to lowest in polling order from an average of all qualifying polls released between July 16 and September 10 who satisfy the criteria requirements ... will be invited to participate in 'Segment B' of the September 16, 2015 Republican Presidential Primary Debate," the network states in its candidate criteria. "Candidates who satisfy the criteria and achieve an average of at least 1 percent in three national polls, but are not ranked in the top 10 of polling order will be invited to participate in 'Segment A' of the September 16, 2015 Republican Presidential Primary Debate." The network also stipulated that "if the number of candidates who qualify for the debate is 14 or fewer, CNN reserves the right to limit the number of participants in 'Segment B' to eight candidates. The remaining qualified candidates will be invited to participate in 'Segment A' of the debate."

So "segment B" is, in effect, the A-team; "segment A" of CNN's debate is already being dubbed the kids' table.  I'm quite sympathetic to the argument that constricting the number of participants, or shunting them into categories of viability, at this early stage is counter-productive.  How useful are national polls at the very beginning of the cycle, really?  Each candidate should be given an opportunity to advance his or her case under the bright lights near the beginning of the campaign season, this line of thinking goes, after which more concrete limitations based on public polling becomes more equitable.  Fair enough, but do attractive and feasible alternatives exist?  Allahpundit floats a series of one-on-one debates, which is great fun to consider, but simply isn't going to happen. DrewM recommends killing the traditional-format debates and replacing them with forums: "Just bring out each candidate and let them respond to two or three questions from a panel of conservative journalists and/or policy experts. Jim DeMint hosted one of these on Labor Day 2011 to great effect. There's no reason it can't be replicated."  Not a terrible plan, but I doubt any of the networks would play along.  The best compromise I've seen comes from Ace:

For one thing, this isn't a normal year. We have a lot of serious candidates. So do we stick with the usual, or do we adjust our practices to take into consideration the unusualness of this season? I think the latter. My proposal is that they split debate night into two panels, over two nights. (Or two panels on one night-- but that would be a long night, with around three hours total debate time plus time in between.) The top six in the polls would do a random draw to be split between the panels, three and three. Everyone else would do another random draw to determine which panel they'd be in. You'd end up having about 6-8 people per panel, which is a workable number.

Using the current RCP national average, the top six -- Bush, Walker, Rubio, Paul, Huckabee and Cruz -- would be randomly split evenly among the two panels, with all remaining qualified candidates being selected (again, randomly) to round out each bifurcated debate field.  Each debate is conducted independently, and could either air on the same night, or be held on back-to-back evenings.  Everyone would receive a reasonable amount of face time, viewers would learn about candidates with whom they're less familiar, and subsequent debate could be winnowed down using various methods.  Those who end up on the outside would still kick up a fuss, but they'd at least have had their shot.  Major changes seem unlikely at this point, but CNN's set-up would only have to be tweaked to accommodate this plan.  Fox's system is far less flexible, although I full expect the network's highly capable triumvirate of moderators -- Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace -- to do an excellent job.  One other point to those who are clamoring for elaborate changes to debate formats: Television is a business, and putting on these debates is quite expensive. Asking a network to pay for, and grant air time to, consecutive debates is no small thing.  And somebody is always going to be unhappy with the rules. The trick is to balance the public good, good television, airtime constraints, and the bottom line. It's a thorny calculus.

Editor's note: Guy Benson is a Fox News contributor.

51 Percent Of Democrats Pretty Much Want To Destroy The First Amendment

So, National Review’s Charlie Cooke found an interesting poll showing that a majority of Democrats–and a substantial proportion of Republicans–want to upend the foundation of First Amendment law in the United States. They want to criminalize so-called hate speech. Nevertheless, 60 percent of Americans say that it’s “okay” publish Muhammad cartoons, and over 70 percent approve of our right to offend. So, what’s going on here?

Party affiliation is the only place where we see a majority for making hate speech a crime. That honor is awarded to the Democrats, where 51 percent agree with that sentiment, according to a YouGov poll. Yet, 37 percent of Republicans also agree, along with 35 percent of Independents. When it comes to age, 18-29 year olds break 42/26 in favor of making hate speech a crime, with 32 percent replying that they’re not sure. More 30-44 year-olds oppose the notion of making hate speech a crime, breaking 38/41/21 in supporting, opposing, or saying they’re not sure when asked about the proposed measure. Similar feelings are exhibited from 45-64 year-olds, who break 38/43/19, but 49 percent of those 65-years of age and older support redefining free speech law. Thirty-three percent oppose and 17 percent aren’t sure in that 65 and older group.

When it comes to gender, men break 38/43/19 concerning supporting, opposing, or not being sure. With women, the numbers are almost the opposite 43/32/25.

Overall, 41 percent support a law against hate speech, while 37 percent oppose; 22 percent are not sure.

I guess the silver lining is that there are a lot of people across the board that are not sure if we should fundamentally change free speech in America. Also, public opinion is highly moldable.

Yet, we seem to be suffering from split personalities because when YouGov asked if hate speech does or does not allow people to say things “intended to stir up hatred against a group based on such thins as their race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation,” 56 percent of Americans said it does allow for such statements, 17 percent disagreed, and 27 percent said they aren’t sure.

There’s also a significant gender gap on this issue. Again, breaking down the numbers between does allow/does not allow/not sure–men overwhelmingly agree that the First Amendment permits hate speech 66/17/18. The same cannot be said of women 47/18/35.

With age group, majorities in all brackets show support for free speech. 18-29 year-olds break 57/18/35; 30-44 year-olds 53/15/32; 45-64 year-olds 58/19/24; and 65 years of age and older 56/21/22. When it comes to party affiliation, a plurality of Democrats agree 48/26/26, but Independents (58/12/31) and Republicans (64/17/19) believe that hate speech is allowed under the First Amendment. If that’s the case, then how could a significant proportion of Americans think that hate speech should be criminalized?

If hate speech is permitted under the First Amendment, then it’s protected speech and laws against it would be considered unconstitutional. Moreover, case law undercuts the imposition of such laws. Hate speech has no defined legal meaning in U.S. law, so the first hurdle would be defining which forms of expression–which at the time would be considered free expression in this heinous alternate universe–should be suppressed by the government. Eugene Volokh wrote in the Washington Post about this matter. It’s a rather dangerous legal minefield [emphasis mine]:

…“hate speech” also doesn’t have any fixed legal meaning under U.S. law. U.S. law has just never had occasion to define “hate speech” — any more than it has had occasion to define rudeness, evil ideas, unpatriotic speech, or any other kind of speech that people might condemn but that does not constitute a legally relevant category.

Of course, one can certainly argue that First Amendment law should be changed to allow bans on hate speech (whether bigoted speech, blasphemy, blasphemy to which foreigners may respond with attacks on Americans or blasphemy or flag burning or anything else). Perhaps some statements of the “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech” variety are deliberate attempts to call for such an exception, though my sense is that they are usually (incorrect) claims that the exception already exists.

I think no such exception should be recognized, but of course, like all questions about what the law ought to be, this is a matter that can be debated. Indeed, people have a First Amendment right to call for speech restrictions, just as they have a First Amendment right to call for gun bans or bans on Islam or government-imposed race discrimination or anything else that current constitutional law forbids. Constitutional law is no more set in stone than any other law.

But those who want to make such arguments should acknowledge that they are calling for a change in First Amendment law, and should explain just what that change would be, so people can thoughtfully evaluate it. Calls for a new First Amendment exception for “hate speech” shouldn’t just rely on the undefined term “hate speech” — they should explain just what viewpoints the government would be allowed to suppress, what viewpoints would remain protected, and how judges, juries, and prosecutors are supposed to distinguish the two. Saying “this isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech” doesn’t, I think, suffice.

The beautiful thing about this country is that you have the right to offend; you can say things that are racist, offensive, and outright absurd without the fear of the secret police placing a black bag over your head later that night. Now, while this is a right, it does not guarantee immunity from the consequences. Don Imus was fired from CBS for calling members of the Rutgers women’s basketball “nappy headed hoes.” ESPN fired a headline writer who wrote, “chink in the armor” about Jeremy Lin, who was playing for the New York Knicks at the time. Paula Deen received intense media scrutiny for admitting to using the N-word multiple times when she was sued for discrimination two years ago. So, it’s not like people who decided to say outrageous things aren’t met with punishment.

Nevertheless, Volokh aptly notes how such a law would fundamentally change the face of the country. I dread the day where we have to debate what’s an acceptable form of expression and what is not, along with legal procedures to censor such speech. A test of one’s citizenship here is showing how much you can stomach things said by individuals you just can’t stand. Instead of supporting laws that would ban this person from exercising his right to free speech, get into the trenches on your own–you can say that he or she is wrong. If you’re not confrontational, just keep moving on with your day; that’s also your right.

Gatekeepers: When Hillary Was Top Diplomat, State Dep’t Staff Sometimes Blocked FOIA Requests

Okay. Let’s recap. In March, we discover that Hillary Clinton had a private email system she used to conduct all of her business when she was Secretary of State. It appears to have been a blatant attempt to circumvent FOIA requests. Nevertheless, she turned over 55,000 pages of emails she deemed were related to her work at State, then deleted nearly 32,000 emails she said were personal. She also wiped the server clean, rendering a third party review totally pointless. Then, we found out from the State Department’s Inspector General that its staff at the department isn’t properly preserving emails. Moreover, Hillary’s emails, which are suppose to be preserved for the public record, were not–and only recently did the State Department begin routinely archiving email correspondences with senior officials.

Now, we have news that State Department staffers sometimes blocked documents requested by FOIA from being released, and sources close to the process said that public records law expert were brought into a meeting to discuss how to “shield documents from disclosure.” The documents related to the Keystone pipeline project in this successful FOIA request, released emails between an official at our Ottawa embassy and a Canadian lobbyist for the project; an environmental group submitted the request. Clinton has been tight-lipped about her position on Keystone, much to the chagrin of green groups. Nevertheless, the release of these documents prompted Hillary’s Chief of Staff at the time–and board member of the Clinton Foundation–to allegedly quarterback the review process for ALL Keystone-related materials that were set to be disclosed. Also, some FOIA interference was reportedly run regarding former President Clinton's speaking engagements. When Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State, the former president said he would submit his paid speech proposals to state for review (via WSJ):

When Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, her staff scrutinized politically sensitive documents requested under public-records law and sometimes blocked their release, according to people with direct knowledge of the activities.

In one instance, her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, told State Department records specialists she wanted to see all documents requested on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and later demanded that some be held back.

In another case, Ms. Mills’s staff negotiated with the records specialists over the release of documents about former President Bill Clinton’s speaking engagements—also holding some back.

The Clinton political staff’s scrutiny of Keystone documents arose after a document request that succeeded. In it, the environmental group Friends of the Earth obtained emails that were sent to Paul Elliott, a lobbyist for the company seeking to build the pipeline, by an official of the U.S. embassy in Ottawa—which is part of the State Department.

In a blog post, Friends of the Earth called the email a “smoking gun” showing “definitive evidence of bias.” A State Department spokeswoman said at the time that the emails weren’t evidence of any bias.

After the episode, Ms. Mills insisted on reviewing all Keystone-related documents being prepared for release, and flagged as problematic a few that the department’s records-law specialists felt obligated to release, said the person with knowledge of the situation.

The Keystone documents Ms. Mills objected to were all either held back or redacted, the same person said. After Ms. Mills began scrutinizing documents, the State Department’s disclosure of records related to Keystone fell off sharply, documents that include a court filing show.

Two others with knowledge of State Department records procedures said political appointees were allowed greater say than the FOIA experts thought was appropriate. It was hard to push back against the political staff, one said.

The pipeline project was so sensitive that an expert on FOIA was invited to a State Department policy meeting to advise on how to prospectively shield documents from disclosure, such as by marking them as involving the “deliberative process,” said a person who attended.

Documents relating to ex-President Clinton’s speeches also sparked scrutiny, said a fourth person familiar with State Department records releases.

Mr. Clinton had agreed, when his wife became secretary of state, to submit proposals for his paid speeches to the department for review. Some document requests related to the reviews. On this matter, too, Ms. Mills’s office sometimes objected to the release of records FOIA specialists thought ought to be handed over, this fourth person said.

Asked who had final say, the person said, “We negotiated it out,” and some documents were withheld or redacted.

Experts on FOIA said it might be acceptable for records reviewers to seek the views of political appointees, but there should be no negotiation. “Ultimately, the career people have to be the ones who make the final call,” said Miriam Nisbet, who recently retired as director of the federal FOIA ombudsman office at the National Archives and Records Administration.

On Tuesday, a federal judge said that the 55,000 pages of emails Clinton turned over must be released on a “rolling basis.” The Republican National Committee is seeking to know more about this alleged FOIA stonewalling from staffers to Mrs. Clinton when she served as out top diplomat (via McClatchy):

In a letter to the department obtained by McClatchy, the Republican National Committee, asks for all records, including memos and correspondence, that mention, reference or relate to FOIAs, including the requests themselves that were sent to or from 41 employees, including Clinton and many of her top aides, including chief of staff, Cheryl Mills.

Also, Hillary's private email use was probably open to hacking from foreign sources,according to security experts.  Oh, and of course, the State Department isn't commenting on the reported FOIA meddling conducted by Ms. Mills at State at this time.


Retired Army General at Committee Hearing: "We Are Losing This War"

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee convened a hearing to evaluate and scrutinize the effectiveness of the Obama administration’s policies in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria. General Jack Keane, who was the first witness to testify, argued that the fall of Ramadi signals—and indeed proves—that the Obama administration's current strategy in the region has failed.

“While there has been some progress and some success, looking at this strategy today, we know now that the conceptual plan is fundamentally flawed,” he stated. “The resources provided to support Iraq are far from adequate. The timing and urgency to provide arms, equipment, and training is insufficient. And as such we are not only failing, we are losing this war.”

“Moreover, I can say with certainty that this strategy will not defeat ISIS,” he added.

And yet, he also explained the importance of defeating ISIS in Syria, which is where the group is headquartered and carries out its operations.

“We have no strategy to defeat ISIS in Syria,” he intoned. “We have no ground force which is [how we defeat them].”

“Yes we have air power,” he added, “but air power will not defeat ISIS. It has not been able to deny ISIS freedom of maneuver or the ability to attack at will. Syria is ISIS’ sanctuary. We cannot succeed in Iraq if ISIS is allowed to maintain that sanctuary in Syria.”

Worse, Keane argued, ISIS is rapidly expanding their baleful influence into other regions of the world.

“ISIS is expanding beyond Iraq and Syria into Sinai, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan,” he intoned. “They are also inspiring and motivating radical sympathizers throughout the world.”

“Yet there is no strategy with our allies to counter that expansion,” he continued. “I would go farther to say that there is no strategy to counter the destabilization of the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Frederick Kagan—who is perhaps most famous for helping devise President George W. Bush’s “surge” strategy—also testified before the committee, noting that ISIS is probably the gravest threat of the 21st century.

“This is not a terrorist organization,” he said. “This is an army that is conducting military maneuvers on an operational level with a great deal of skill. It is not an accident that Ramadi fell over the weekend and Palmyra fell yesterday.”

“This was a coherent campaign plan and a very intelligent one—very well executed,” he continued. “What I can’t discern from the daily operations, let alone from the statements from the administration, is any coherent American strategy to respond to this threat.”

He also argued—compellingly—that ISIS poses a significant and serious national security threat to the United States.

“ISIS is one of the most evil organizations that has ever existed in the world,” he said. “We really have to reckon with that. This is not a minor annoyance. This is not a group that we can maybe negotiate with down the road someday. This is a group that is committed to the destruction of everything decent in the world.”

“This is a group that sells captives into slavery—it’s a major source of financing for them,” he added. “This is a group that engages in mass rape. This is a group that conducts mass murder. And this is a group that is calling for and condoning and supporting and encouraging lone wolf attacks—and it will soon, I think, not be just lone wolf attacks—in the United States and the West. This is a group of unfathomable evil, and unfortunately they are extremely effective. And they have a degree of military capability, not terrorist capability, that we have not seen before in an al Qaeda organization. This is not something where we should be spectators."

Bipartisan Bill Prohibits Rapists From Seeking Child Custody

Republicans, Democrats, pro-abortion advocates and pro-lifers all found some common ground Tuesday when Congress passed H.R. 2772, The Rape Survivor Child Custody Act. The legislation, cosponsored by Reps. Tom Marino (R-PA) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), is an amendment to S. 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. The new bill would provide protection for children conceived in rape and give more power to rape victims themselves by helping prevent sexual predators from gaining child custody.

Rep. Tom Marino’s (R-PA) office provided more details:

The mission of this legislation is simple: prohibit rapists from seeking custody of a child conceived through rape, against the protests of the rape survivor. If signed into law, the legislation would incentivize states to correct an overly complex child custody framework by revoking the parental rights’ of rapists.

The bill also protects rape survivors from further trauma, harassment, and intimidation by their rapist. That protection is vital for a mother who makes the personal decision to keep a child conceived through rape.

The representative also explained what this meant for the vulnerable victims' personal well-being:

“This legislation is crucial for rape victims and their mental wellbeing. It is also vital to the child. This bill is a clear directive to states that demand better protections for rape survivors that are not only necessary but long overdue,” said Marino.

Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, agreed with her politically polar opposite colleague and applauded the legislation.

“This bipartisan bill, which is part of the larger JVTA legislation, is an important step forward for rape survivors, who deserve commonsense protections under the law. No state should allow a rapist to use parental rights as a weapon against a survivor,” said Schultz.

H.R. 2772 passed in the Senate last month, also on a bipartisan basis, with Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) leading the charge.

There was a time when it was dubious whether or not the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act would even see the light of day. For weeks, congressmen bickered over the legislation’s pro-life language. The provision in question would enforce the Hyde Amendment, which prevents taxpayer dollars from going toward abortion. The two sides eventually managed to reach a compromise, and the concluding bill passed unanimously.

Yet, it's only the beginning.

Sadly, and shockingly, this law does not exist in almost two dozen states, National Journal reports. For the states who do enforce this legislation, one look at the fine print proves there is still a ways to go until rape victims get their due justice.

It merely gives states that pass parental-custody restrictions up to 10 percent more in Violence Against Women Act grant money. Most of that money would then go to support programs that assist women who are survivors of sex crimes.

Despite the missing pieces, H.R. 2772 is a good step forward. All congressmen who voted and supported it deserve credit for putting their differences aside and standing up for victims of rape.

Terrific: Ayatollah Khamenei 'Rules Out Broad Nuclear Inspections' in Iran Deal


If you're just joining the Iran negotiations debate, let's bring you up to speed: The Obama administration and international partners struck an interim deal with the regime in Tehran in late 2013, the ostensible purpose of which was to "freeze" Iran's rogue nuclear program while affording more time to hammer out a lasting agreement.  Iran cheated, eliciting excuses from the White House.  Iran also violated other existing international obligations related to weapons procurement as talks were underway, a fact that has been largely shrugged off.  A preliminary framework for a final accord was announced this spring, with US officials extolling it as a tough agreement that would significantly delay Iran's so-called "breakout" capabilities.  Iranian officials responded by rejecting the State Department's 'fact sheet' summary of the agreed-upon terms, insisting that core American demands on inspections and sanctions relief were overstated in the document.  This further alarmed critics who already viewed the West's apparent concessions as a dramatic climb down from established US stances on a host of issues -- from "ending" Iran's nuclear program, to the continued use of secret underground enrichment bunkers, to the testing of advanced centrifuges.  In addition to unleashing a series of goalpost-shifting, eleventh-hour demands, Tehran insisted that international governments lift all nuclear-related sanctions immediately upon the completion of an accord.  The regime's defense minister added that inspectors will not have unfettered access to certain military sites.  The country's 'supreme leader' evidently agrees:

Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday ruled out inspections of Iranian military sites and interviews of Iranian nuclear scientists in any potential deal on its nuclear program...After the last round of talks ended on Friday, a barrage of complaints erupted on the Iranian state news media over reported demands by the United States for broad mandates for nuclear inspectors working for the United Nations nuclear watchdog. The comments by Ayatollah Khamenei seemingly cement the Iranian position that a requirement for inspections of sites not designated by the country as part of its nuclear energy program is a nonstarter. While not new, the statement could further tie the hands of Iran’s negotiating team, led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who on Friday said that a comprehensive deal before the self-imposed June 30 deadline was still possible.

If Iran manages to secure an agreement that entails unconditional sanctions relief and limits inspections to pre-approved, designated sites, the accord would no longer be a bad deal.  It would be an abject capitulation.  Let's recall that two different reports released in the last month have cited evidence of ongoing nuclear cheating by Tehran, that "snap-back" sanctions are a pipe dream (a reality helpfully confirmed by the Russians), and that President Obama has effectively conceded that even if Iran abides by the deal, they'll be a threshold nuclear power just as soon as Western restrictions expire in a little over a decade.  Oh, and there's this:

Saudi Arabia and many of the smaller Arab states are now vowing to match whatever nuclear enrichment capability Iran is permitted to retain. “We can’t sit back and be nowhere as Iran is allowed to retain much of its capability and amass its research,” one of the Arab leaders preparing to meet Mr. Obama said on Monday, declining to be named until he made his case directly to the president. Prince Turki bin Faisal, the 70-year-old former Saudi intelligence chief, has been touring the world with the same message...“Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too,” he said at a recent conference in Seoul, South Korea.

It's almost as if events and actions are vindicating virtually every major fear raised by opponents of the deal. But ephemeral 'legacy' enhancements are more important than realities to some people, it seems. Others have more concrete and lasting concerns:



A Worthy Anti-Poverty Experiment In Central Florida

State are the laboratories for democracy–and what better way to put that framework to good use than test out new ways to fight poverty. Texas has proven to be a leader in justice/prison reform. In Orlando, Florida, the Community Food and Outreach Center (CFOC) is looking for a solution to break the cycle of dependency and making sure Americans, who might be down on their luck, have full bellies, a sense of self-worth, dignity, and have the training capable to putting themselves back on the right track towards a better future.

Typically, the road to dependency starts with handouts in either food or clothing. That short-term need is met, but charitable giving isn’t a consistent base of support. It’s a resource that eventually becomes depleted. The individual continues to struggle, limping on through government assistance. Now, there are some in Washington D.C. who thinks that’s a good thing; more people dependent on government is a surreptitious–and craven–way of enhancing political power.

At CFOC, they offer much more than just affordable food. Individuals are given a case manager who gives them the guidance and training needed to set these individuals on the right path. That training includes skills to obtain a job, life skills, crisis care, and continued mentoring to make sure these individuals find the exit to self-sufficiency.

Through collaborative partners, who are listed on CFOC’s website, emergency housing, utility assistance, long-term housing, medical, and domestic abuse care are also included.

On their website, co-founder Scott George was motivated to do something about the working poor after seeing the many impoverished neighborhoods around Orlando. The city has the lowest median pay out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. Central Florida also has the largest share of low-paying jobs in the country, with almost 40 percent living on less than $25,000 a year.

It’s programs like these that will constitute the blueprint for combating poverty in a sustainable fashion. We also cannot forget about faith-based groups who also have been major players in combating urban-based poverty.

Right now, one could say that there’s an empathy gap in politics, along with solutions being erased through partisan bickering. Commentary’s Noah Rothman, formerly of Hot Air, spoke about this at Americans for Prosperity’s Texas Online conference last year. In a panel discussion about culture, the conversation veered into Mitt Romney’s 47 percent comments, where Rothman noted that just because 47 percent of Americans are on some form of government assistance doesn’t mean they want to be there.

On May 12, Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute joined President Obama and Harvard Prof. Robert Putnam for a conversation about poverty in America. Not only did Brooks reiterate the points made by Rothman, he said that the social safety net is something that should be celebrated as an accomplishment of free enterprise–that we can provide some assistance to Americans we don’t even know since prosperity and wealth creation from the free market has been so great. At the same time, Brooks added that such a safety net should be reserved only for the truly destitute.

So how are we on the center right talking about poverty in the most effective way? Number one is with a conceptual matter. We have a grave tendency on both the left and the right to talk about poor people as “the other.” Remember in Matthew 25, these are our brothers and sisters. Jim Olsen and I have this roadshow -- we go to campuses and everybody wants to set up something, right-left debates, and it never works out, because it turns out we both have a commitment to the teachings of the Savior when it comes to treating the least of these, our brothers and sisters.

When you talk about people as your brothers and sisters you don’t talk about them as liabilities to manage. They’re not liabilities to manage. They’re assets to develop because every one of us made in God’s image is an asset to develop. That’s a completely different approach to poverty alleviation. That’s a human capital approach to poverty alleviation. That’s what we can do to stimulate that conversation on the political right, just as it can be on the political left.

One concept that rides along with that is to point out -- and this is what I do to many of my friends on Capitol Hill -- I remind them that just because people are on public assistance doesn’t mean they want to be on public assistance. And that’s the difference between people who factually are making a living and who are accepting public assistance. It's an important matter to remember about the motivations of people and humanizing them. And then the question is, how can we come together? How can we come together?

I have, indeed, written that it's time to declare peace on the safety net. And I say that as a political conservative. Why? Because Ronald Reagan said that; because Friedrich Hayek said that. This is not a radical position. In fact, the social safety net is one of the greatest achievements of free enterprise -- that we could have the wealth and largesse as a society, that we can help take care of people who are poor that we've never even met. It's ahistoric; it's never happened before. We should be proud of that.

But then when I talk to conservative policymakers, and say how should you distinguish yourself from the traditional positions in a marketplace of ideas from progressives, you should also talk about the fact that the safety net should be limited to people who are truly indigent, as opposed to being spread around in a way that metastasizes into middle-class entitlements and imperils our economy.

It seems in Central Florida, the “truly indigent” are also getting some great assistance from the Community Food and Outreach Center.

Oh Boy: During Special Obamacare Enrollment Period, Zero People Enrolled in Expensive Hawaii Exchange

Earlier this year, Americans across the country were given an extended period of time to sign up for Obamacare in order to avoid being fined by the IRS for failing to obtain health insurance. Under the new law, those who don't have health insurance are penalized. In other words, the government is forcing people to get insurance or be punished.

Like many other aspects of Obamacare, the special enrollment period was an abysmal failure. 

According to Americans For Tax Reform, not a single person enrolled in Hawaii's Obamacare exchange during the extended special session. 

While Hawaii enrolled zero individuals and is the worst performing state, it is not alone. Vermont signed up only 97 households, while Rhode Island enrolled just 25 households.

Hawaii’s dismal performance should not be surprising. The website cost taxpayers $205 million but could only enroll 8,592 individuals in year one. Cost to taxpayers per enroll: $23,899.

The state legislature recently rejected a $28 million bailout for the website meaning that a contingency plan to dismantle the exchange and migrate to the federal exchange will be implemented immediately. Unfortunately, taxpayers are not off the hook yet as it is expected that moving to the federally run healthcare.gov will cost $30 million.

Unfortunately, the ongoing failures aren't isolated to the island state.

Hawaii is not the first website to implode. Oregon’s $305 million exchange was officially abolished earlier this year at an additional cost and of $41 million. The exchange is currently under investigation by numerous federal organizations for how it wasted so much money.

In all, states received $5.4 billion from the federal government for state-based Obamacare exchanges with no strings attached and zero oversight over spending decisions.

But remember everyone, Obamacare is a success...or something

Keep working America!

Bin Laden Documents Declassified: Inside the Mind of The World's Most Wanted Terrorist

After years of waiting and controversy, the United States government has declassified 100 documents from the May 2, 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound. The collection is being called "Bin Ladin's Bookshelf" by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence

"On May 20, 2015, the ODNI released a sizeable tranche of documents recovered during the raid on the compound used to hide Usama bin Ladin. The release, which followed a rigorous interagency review, aligns with the President’s call for increased transparency–consistent with national security prerogatives–and the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act, which required the ODNI to conduct a review of the documents for release. The release contains two sections. The first is a list of non-classified, English-language material found in and around the compound. The second is a selection of now-declassified documents," DNI stated on its website about the documents. "The Intelligence Community will be reviewing hundreds more documents in the near future for possible declassification and release. An interagency taskforce under the auspices of the White House and with the agreement of the DNI is reviewing all documents which supported disseminated intelligence cables, as well as other relevant material found around the compound. All documents whose publication will not hurt ongoing operations against al-Qa‘ida or their affiliates will be released."

The documents counter the narrative put out by the Obama administration that Bin Laden had become an irrelevant player in al Qaeda before his death and show Bin Laden's obsessive goal of killing Americans. Documents also show he was in constant communication with other al Qaeda leaders about potential attacks, current events in the world and specifically wrote to al Qaeda in Iraq (which gave birth to ISIS) to praise them for their work against the United States. 

"O people of Iraq who are carrying sharp swords, destroy the infidels' tanks, smash their heads, stab their throats, increase the prayers, and truly keep the promise and may Allah reward you with the best," Bin Laden wrote. "I direct my speech to the Islamic nation in general. Hear me and learn, the matter is great, and it is the greatest and most important matter in today's world. This is a third world war, which was started by the Zionist-Crusader alliance, against
the Muslim nation, and it is taking place in the land of Iraq, today's world revolves around the house of the Caliphate, Baghdad. Today, the entire world is watching this war, and is watching the two enemies, the Muslim nation on one hand and America and its allies on the other hand. Either good life and pride or suffering and humiliation. Today, the Muslims have a rare and precious opportunity to stop following the West and its slavery, and to destroy the restraints which the Crusaders handcuffed us with."

Further, Bin Laden wrote a letter directly to the American people and talks about the economy and the status of moral in the U.S. military. 

"First of all, I would like to say that your war with us is the longest war in your history and the most expensive for you
financially. As for us, we see it as being only halfway finished. If you were to ask your wise thinkers, they would tell
you that there is no way to win it because the indications are against it. How will you win a war whose leaders are pessimistic and whose soldiers are committing suicide? If fear enters the hearts of men, winning the war becomes impossible. How will you win a war whose cost is like a hurricane blowing violently at your economy and weakening your dollar?" he wrote. Jihad against the tyrants and the aggressors is a form of great worship in our religion. It is more precious to us than our fathers and sons. Thus, our jihad against you is worship, and your killing us is a testimony. Thanks to God, Almighty, we have been waging jihad for 30 years, against the Russians and then against you."

An Al Qaeda job application is found within the document release and includes a section about who the terror organization should contact should the jihadist applying "be martyred."  The application requires applicants to provide detailed information about themselves and asks questions like, "Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?" and "What objectives do you want to accomplish on your jihad path?"

Bin Laden Instructions to Terror Applicants

I'll leave you with this: 

"Bin Laden was in the compound. He heard those helicopters landing and he knew that that meant he was in dire trouble. The next thing he heard was pop, pop, pop and he heard some of his guards going down and then he heard voices, probably initially Arab voices but then, he heard American voices. And eventually, he has an American in the room with him and he was facing his death and he knew it." -General Jack Keane

19-Year-Old Woman Republican Elected to New Hampshire Legislature

She can't yet legally order a beer or rent a car, but 19-year-old college student Yvonne Dean-Bailey was elected yesterday to New Hampshire's House of Representatives in a special election to fill the vacant seat in Rockingham District 32. Dean-Bailey, a Republican, defeated Democrat candidate Maureen Mann in a race that involved an unusual number of high-profile endorsements for both candidates.

From the New Hampshire Union Leader:

The race attracted a disproportionate share of attention on the eve of a presidential primary season.

Republican presidential hopefuls Carly Fiorina and Rick Perry attended events with Dean-Bailey, while Democrat Martin O’Malley helped promote Mann, who is a former state representative.

The election drew enormous interest, and support for and against each candidate, from outside of the district. In Deerfield, for example, turnout was about 26 percent. In Candia, it was 16 percent.

Dean-Bailey was also the subject of a hoax email campaign immediately before Election Day that said she had dropped out of the race. It's clear that this attempt to suppress voters didn't work.

Dean-Bailey is one of the youngest candidates to ever be elected to the NH legislature.

Civil Asset Forfeiture: Is It The Fancy Way Of Saying State-Sanctioned Theft?

On Monday, FreedomWorks and the Center for American Progress (CAP) joined forces to invite bloggers, writers, and some think-tank analysts for a daylong conference on justice reform. One of the aspects I liked about the conference is that it shows on some issues the left and right can agree. It’s disconcerting that we’ve gradually lost the ability to have a conversation with one another–the Indiana RFRA fiasco is a result of this decay in public discourse. So, it didn’t end like the Red Wedding­; it didn’t even turn out like the end of Gangs of New York. In fact, despite our political differences, we found out that we actually agree a lot on the issues regarding mandatory minimums and civil asset forfeiture, which desperately need reform.

According to the Heritage Foundation, civil asset forfeiture is “a legal tool that allows law enforcement officials to seize property that they assert has been involved in certain criminal activity.” Julie Borowski, a former analyst at Freedomworks, gave a thorough presentation on what some call legalized theft (yes, I know some consider taxes to fall into the same category).

The mantra for those who support this legal tool in our justice system can be best described by former President George H.W. Bush who said, “ Asset forfeiture laws allow [the government] to take the alleged ill-gotten gains of drug kingpins and use them to put more cops on the streets.” Yet, it places the burden of proof on the property owner, which is a perversion of justice.

In 2014, U.S. Attorneys seized $679 million in criminal assets and $3.9 billion in civil assets. The truth is that anyone’s property can be taken without being convicted of any crime. Due to the costs of legal fees, some may never be able to reclaim their property. Most perniciously, there’s an incentive for law enforcement to do this since it's a revenue generator, though law enforcement does not want to be viewed this way. Borowski noted that it’s now being used to raise money.

Last October, Lyndon McLellan had his entire life savings confiscated by the IRS on the basis that he could be engaging in “structuring.”

"They asked me if I knew what 'structuring' was and then they showed me some cash deposits I made in a 24-hour period," he told FoxNews.com.

The IRS agents apparently were suspicious because of deposits McLellan had made of just under $10,000. Banks are required to report transactions over $10,000; making multiple deposits of less than $10,000 to evade that requirement is known as "structuring."

Under this pretense, enforcement agents accused McLellan of the con and seized all $107,000 from his bank account.

"It leaves you numb," McLellan told FoxNews.com. "I was in a state of shock."

What's unique in McLellan's case is that he's still battling to get his money back, despite the IRS pledging late last year to pull back on its use of civil forfeiture -- and despite even the IRS commissioner suggesting agents erred in locking down his money.

Before the federal seizure last year, McLellan had spent more than a decade running L&M Convenience Mart, a gas station, restaurant and convenience store in Fairmont, N.C.

In an instant, his business account was gone. And then it got worse.

Rumors quickly spread in the tiny town that McLellan's money was frozen because of suspected ties to drugs, fraying the good reputation he'd spent years building in the community.

"Several people thought it was drug-related but when I told them what really happened they said, 'How in the world can they take your money?' That's the answer I've been waiting on too," he said.

McLellan claims he didn't do anything wrong. The IRS has never alleged he committed a crime nor has the agency brought any criminal charges against him. Instead, McLellan, 50, was verbally accused of structuring cash deposits to avoid bank reporting requirements, under a measure originally meant to target drug dealers, terrorists and others trying to launder money through criminal activity.

Another story involved a Philadelphia family that were evicted after their son conducted a $40 drug deal outside their home. They eventually got their house back, but their son cannot be on the premises–and they live in fear that government will come back to evict them again.  Luckily, the city said they're no longer looking into taking their home. 

While not the safest idea in the world, a 78-year-old U.S. citizen had her entire life savings confiscated when she failed to declare she had more than $10,000 in her possession. She had just sold her house and was carrying a whopping $40k on her in person. Again, no charges were filed against her.

Borowski concluded by saying that this isn’t all doom and gloom. There are tons of state laws being proposed to curtail this practice. In New Mexico, a person must be convicted of a crime before police can seize property.

At the federal level, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act. It requires the government to make a convincing argument for seizing property, and requires that hearings must be held after 14 days to establish probable cause.

There are many, many more cases of government engaging in this practice, which in the Philadelphia house evection case, is based on a preponderance of evidence (51 percent) standard.

[Image courtesy of the Institute for Justice]

FBI Visiting High Schools Warning of ISIS Recruitment Threat

New York City police Commissioner Bill Bratton wants 400 police officers focused on fighting the terrorism threat from ISIS, and now, in Bergen County, New Jersey (right outside of New York), the FBI is going to high schools warning students about the threat posed by the Islamic State’s online recruitment strategy.

The FBI has targeted Bergen County, New Jersey to stopIslamic State militants from getting a stronghold there – and agents have been going to high school with a message.

Christine Sloan was there when agents visited a Bergen County school on Tuesday. An FBI intelligence analyst who did not wish to be identified spoke at the Bergen Arts and Science Charter School in Hackensack.

He warned students about a new threat – a sophisticated recruitment video trying to lure them into joining the terrorist group ISIS.

“There’s a role for everybody. Every person can contribute to the Islamic State,” a young Canadian man tells viewers in the recruitment video. “You can even come here and rebuild.”

“”It definitely was eye-opening,” said high school senior Zoey Zibor. “You know, you learn that it’s in your own backyard. It’s Americans citizens wanting to join these terrorist groups.”

The school in Bergen County was certainly not the only one visited by the FBI, which worries about the potential for young Americans to become susceptible to the group’s propaganda. The law enforcement agency will also be warning other students at schools in the Tri-State area.

Commissioner Bratton specifically identified the threat ISIS poses via social media when he spoke about the need for more police dedicated to counterterrorism on the John Catsimatidis radio show.

“We need to be very concerned about terrorism … The significantly increased threat from ISIS using social media to recruit people not only to go to Syria to fight, but encouraging people … to attack police, to attack government officials, to basically brainwash them under their screwed-up ideology. That threat has expanded significantly in the now 16 months I’ve been police commissioner,” he said.

According to the FBI, more than 150 Americans have traveled overseas to join the Islamic State—some of whom have been teenagers.

Questions for Her Majesty


As we discussed yesterday, Hillary Clinton finally snapped her nearly month-long streak of completely avoiding media interaction, fielding five questions over a few short minutes following an event in Iowa. She served up a brief string of superficial, specious and incomplete replies, then called it a day.  Her perfunctory performance underscored the lack of substantive answers the press has managed to wring out of Democrats' presumptive nominee, who hasn't consented to a bona fide sit-down interview in months.  Mrs. Clinton's answers, such as they exist, are curt, shallow, and are subjected neither to follow-up probing nor challenge.  This unsatisfactory state of play has spawned a flurry of columns and commentary proffering queries that journalists might hypothetically pose to the candidate, should she ever submit to extended questioning (this option is, no doubt, 'on her list for due consideration').  Ramesh Ponnuru's list of 16 questions for Hillary Clinton is well-conceived.  A sampling:

2. Senator Elizabeth Warren says that a future Republican president could use trade promotion authority to undo financial regulation. Obama says that's nonsense. Who's right in your view?

6. What in your view has the U.S. intervention in Libya achieved?

7. The New York Times reported last year that you "seemed flustered" and gave a "halting answer" when asked for your greatest accomplishment as secretary of state. You eventually said that "we really restored American leadership in the best sense." Could you elaborate on what specific accomplishments you had?

10. You've said that you would go further than Obama in shielding unauthorized immigrants from deportation if Congress doesn't act. The Obama administration says that it has already done everything within its power. What legal steps do you think it has failed to take?

11. How much does the gender gap in wages reflect discrimination by employers, in your view, and how much does it reflect factors beyond employers' control?

16. Does a candidate's willingness to regularly answer questions from reporters tell us something about her attitude toward democracy?

Click through to read Ponnuru's relatively innocuous-seeming questions touching on Hillary's ongoing foreign donations and email scandals, as well as a straightforward challenge on the outer limits of her abortion extremism.  Question two is an attempt to force Clinton to take sides in the increasingly bitter feud between two progressive icons on an issue that is dividing her party.  She's stayed almost entirely silent thus far, offering only the most laughably anodyne of "insights" into her thinking on the matter.  Question six puts Clinton on the spot to defend one of the most catastrophic misadventures of this administration's foreign policy, for which she personally advocated, developed and oversaw.  Libya is now an unmitigated failure (much like Yemen, also once touted as a emblem of Obama-era success), a breeding ground for jihadists, and the latest base of operations for a surging Islamic State.  And question seven presents Hillary with another opportunity to provide her baffled supporters with dearly-needed guidance on the "accomplishments" front.  At the Daily BeastRon Christie suggests a Democratic equivalent to the retrospective Iraq War questions that have dogged and tripped up various Republican contenders (who, in fairness, actually accept and answer questions as a matter of course):

Rather than chase announced and presumed Republican candidates such as Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL)—gentlemen who weren’t in the Congress to cast a vote going to war with Iraq more than a decade ago—why won’t the media ask this question of America’s two top diplomats who have steered our foreign policy since 2009: If they knew then what they know now, would Clinton and Kerry still have supported President Obama’s decision to remove our troops in Iraq, which has led to a void now filled by ISIS? Do they agree that the president’s belief in December 2011 that the U.S. was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” that was a “moment of success” is still true today? The media should demand that the current administration account for the deterioration in Iraq as well as ask potential candidates on either side of the aisle running for president how they would move to stabilize the region.

What about that, Madam Secretary?  In light of (a) the extraordinary American sacrifice to liberate and stabilize Iraq in a war that you voted to authorize, and (b) the terrifying rise and march of ISIS, was President Obama's utter abandonment of that country a mistake?  Relatedly, Ponnuru asks, "given what we know now, were you right to oppose the surge of troops that President George W. Bush ordered into Iraq in 2007?"  The surge was an empirical success -- one that Mrs. Clinton adamantly opposed, besmirching the character of our top general in the process -- because that's what the politics of the moment demanded.  What other "bedrock principles" and deep-seated convictions might be subject to change in the future, based on polling and cynical self-interest?  Hillary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq, voted against the Iraq surge, supported President Obama's decision to recklessly wash his hands of Iraq, called Syria's Assad a "reformer" before impotently demanding that he "must go," and avidly supported the disastrous, unauthorized Libya intervention.  Here's Allahpundit paraphrasing MSNBC's Chris Hayes: "How many big intervention decisions does she get to be wildly wrong about before the media concludes that she’s not very good at foreign policy?"  Video, via RCP:



Boehner: By the Way, the VA Is as Terrible as Ever

Last month, we learned that basically no one has been fired from the Department of Veterans Affairs over the course of the past year. As a result, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) took to the podium on Wednesday to vent his frustrations, and castigate a bloated federal agency for their continued fecklessness and failures.

“Next week marks the one-year anniversary since General Eric Shinseki resigned as the Secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department,” he said. “But instead of a new day at the VA, the American people are still seeing more of the same. Last year, Congress gave the VA secretary new authority to fire employees. But while some 110 VA facilities kept secret lists to hide their wait times, just one person has been fired.”

“What the hell happened to the rest of them?” he asked rhetorically.

Astonishingly, however, he answered his own question, noting that almost every one of them got off scot-free—and to this day continue to collect paychecks from the federal government’s coffers.

“If only the Veterans Administration did half as good a job taking care of the bureaucrats as they do our veterans, we’d be in a lot better shape,” he said. “In fact, Congress also gave the VA more than $16 billion to improve care and to shorten waiting times. And yet, the number of patients facing long waits is about the same.”

“The number of patients waiting more than 90 days has doubled [too],” he added. “And at this point, the VA can’t even build a hospital. Just about every project ends up years behind schedule, and hundreds of millions, if not billions, over cost.”

To add insult to injury, Boehner explained, the VA also continues to misappropriate funds and waste taxpayer dollars on fruitless expenditures.

“Just last week the public learned the VA is spending $6 billion a year illegally,” he said. “An internal report exposed examples of overspending on conferences and improper gifts, inappropriate purchases and promotional items. Again, if only VA bureaucrats did as good a job of taking care of our veterans as they do themselves.”

Finally, Boehner reminded his colleagues that with Memorial Day right around the corner, the president should re-focus his attention on the health and well-being of America’s veterans.

“The president owes the American people a real, long-term plan to fix the VA,” he concluded. “Not a promise, not a pledge, not rearranging the chairs on a deck—a real plan to clean up this mess.”

It's Come To This: Water Gun Fights Banned Between Boy Scouts

Just in time for summer the Boy Scouts of America, an iconic organization that has taught important principles for decades, has banned water fights between scouts because they are "unkind." A limit on the size of water balloons has also been implemented.

The official source for this information: the 2015 Boy Scouts of America National Shooting Sports Manual, available as a PDF right here.

You’ll find the relevant sentence on page 99. It reads: “Water guns and rubber band guns must only be used to shoot at targets, and eye protection must be worn.”

Water balloons, meanwhile, have a size limit: “For water balloons, use small, biodegradable balloons, and fill them no larger than a ping pong ball.” (Page 100)

If you need more explanation, see page 61 of the Guide to Safe Scouting. The key paragraph reads:

“Pointing any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual is unauthorized. Scout units may plan or participate in paintball, laser tag or similar events where participants shoot at targets that are neither living nor human representations.”

Why the rule? A Scouter once told me this explanation I liked quite a bit: “A Scout is kind. What part of pointing a firearm [simulated or otherwise] at someone is kind?”

This move can only be described as absurd. I understand the thought process of not wanting boys to point weapons at each other, and I respect it, but for crying out loud we're talking about toy water guns and limits on the size of water balloons (for the record, smaller water balloons hurt more and are harder to break on impact). 

The emasculation and wussification of America's boys, who eventually grow up to be men, continues. Before you know it we'll be living in a country full of basement dwelling, pajama and skinny jean wearing "men." Oh wait, we already are. 

Exclusive: Taya Kyle Responds to Universities Censoring 'American Sniper'

Update: Townhall is giving away free copies of "American Sniper" on DVD. Enter the contest here for your chance to win!

'American Sniper' Chris Kyle is a hero to most Americans for protecting his comrades and taking out terrorists during the Iraq War. The deadliest sniper in US history wrote a bestselling book about his service as a Navy SEAL and it was soon turned into an Oscar-winning film, just released on DVD Tuesday. Kyle’s story turned tragic, however, when he survived four tours in Iraq only to return home and be murdered by a vet he was trying to help.

There was a reason I said 'most' Americans admire Kyle. A select few in the media have suggested the sniper was a racist and, instead of protecting our country, was simply going on 'killing sprees.' As for liberal universities, they have tried to prevent screenings of the film on their campuses because it would be 'unsafe' for students.

Taya Kyle, Chris's poised widow, spoke about this controversy, her lasting love for her husband, her new book ‘American Wife,’ and much more with Townhall.

One of the first things Taya noticed about Chris when they met, was his humility and love for his country.

“He did have such an appreciation for this country and a patriotism that ran more deeply than I had seen before and just that he was willing to die for his country,” she said. “Without sounding cliché and without being flippant, he really felt it would be an honor to do that for this country. He recognized what freedom we have here. He was a cowboy, he was a college student. He had great opportunity and the rest of us did too. I think he had an appreciation for all of it – the land, the history, the people who fought for it for him – all of it.”

Her fondness for him doesn’t end there. She explained what other qualities made Chris a man.

“I think he was confident, but not arrogant,” she said. “He was confident that he wasn’t perfect, he didn’t try to be, but he tried to be the very best person he could possibly be. I think he was unique in that he had high standards for his kids and yet he was soft and loving and forgiving and not expecting them to be perfect. So, have high standards, but don’t expect perfection. Be a strong man, but be extraordinarily loving and soft.”

You can guess why she may have been hesitant to let Hollywood portray the man she loves on the big screen. But, it didn’t take long for her to feel comfortable handing over his story to Director Clint Eastwood. In her book, she provides a few anecdotes about how he and the cast came to stay at a local hotel to get to know her and her family as they prepared to shoot the film, calling Eastwood ‘unpretentious’ and ‘gracious.’ As for Bradley Cooper, who starred as Chris, she said he clearly did his homework.

“I think Bradley just hit it out of the park with knowing Chris’s soul and his spirit and the moments and expressing that and the pain in all that.”

This exclusive clip from the film is just a small glimpse into the struggles military families face when their spouses leave for deployments. Cooper and actress Sienna Miller, who plays Taya, nail the raw emotion of it all.

Divorce is exponentially higher for military couples than the average American family, Taya explained. The high potential for breakdowns in military marriages is one of the reasons Taya helped found the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation. She knows personally how hard deployments can be on husbands and wives, so the foundation is focused on offering experiences like revitalization retreats.

“We’re sending these couples on staycations or vacations where they get the weekend together to just be together,” she explained. “They don’t have to do anything, they make no plans, but we just make sure everything is paid for and seamless so they can just remember what it’s like to just be them outside of all the other stresses that are in their lives. Our main goal is to honor God and to honor this country by honoring and serving those families who serve.”

‘American Sniper’ came out on DVD Tuesday, a disc which includes cool new extras like this. As mentioned above, however, some people are trying to silence Chris’s story. What does Taya think about universities attempting to block screenings of the film?

“I feel like freedom of speech is one of the great things in this country and the freedom to do what you feel is right,” she said. “I would like my kids to go to college and be exposed to the real world and to make their own decisions and find their own path, instead of sending them somewhere where they would be creatively conditioned for one life path or another. In that way I think it’s disappointing that an institution that’s supposed to educate would not be interested in showing the reality that truly is a reality in the world we live in today.”

Taya keeps Chris with her wherever she goes – even on the red carpet. While reporters were gawking over A-list actresses and their gowns at February’s Academy Awards, this American Wife made the biggest fashion statement of all by wearing her late husband’s dog tags.

“I carried them with me because I don’t put too much into material things, but those were just really special,” she explained. “A lot of times I carry them with me to remind me it’s him and me still there, doing our thing. Honestly, it never crossed my mind to do it or not to do it. I just did and I didn’t think about it any further. I didn’t even think people would see it because I just had it in my hand with the purse.”

In her new book, Taya offers a candid glimpse into her journey of coping with life without Chris. One line in the chapter called “Faith” is hard to miss: “I don’t move away from grief, rather through it.” She spoke a little bit more of what that meant for her as she dealt with the pain of losing her husband.

“It’s one of those things that’s so painful, most people instinctively want to get away from it now but you can’t,” she explained. “I’ve been as busy as I can possibly be and I’ve focused on things outside of myself as much as I possibly can. I can testify that it’s not something you can possibly outrun, it’s not something you can ever shake really. Somebody else told me once that grief moves in with you, meaning it moves into your heart and it’s always there for the rest of your life. There’s nothing you can do about it, but you can learn how to live with it. I think that’s true for anybody and somebody they love. You just learn to live with it.”

One way she says she learns to live with it, is by giving her pain to God.

“I’ve learned to release my life to God because I don’t have control of it and I can’t get through it without Him, wanting to be independent,” she said. “Yes, pray, yes, be grateful, but still be independent and strong and making my own way. I feel like life has shown me that actually that’s a whole lot harder and less effective than letting myself give control to God and just taking it as it comes.”

Taya said her children are too young to watch ‘American Sniper,’ but plans to one day watch the entire movie with them. In the meantime, she explains why she exposed them to at least the basics of the film about their dad.

“We did watch the trailer of the movie and spent about 45 minutes going through it frame-by-frame and talking about it and letting them in on it a little bit,” she shared. “I know it’s very hard for them to be young and have a lot going on that they haven’t heard or don’t know about it and I try to assure them that they’ll know in time and there will be a right time to go through it. But I needed to expose them to it a little bit because the commercials tend to be during football games or at their friends’ house. I didn’t want them to be completely blindsided by something.”

The "American Sniper" DVD and Taya's premiere book "American Wife" are both up for grabs. Stay tuned for information on how to enter the Townhall "American Sniper" DVD giveaway.

By the Way, Bill and Hillary Have Banked More than $30 Million Since Last January


She's running for president as a "topple the rich" champion of "everyday Americans," and he's just tryin' to pay the bills, y'all:

Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband made at least $30 million over the last 16 months, mainly from giving paid speeches to corporations, banks and other organizations, according to financial disclosure forms filed with federal elections officials on Friday. The sum, which makes Mrs. Clinton among the wealthiest of the 2016 presidential candidates, could create challenges for the former secretary of state as she tries to cast herself as a champion of everyday Americans in an era of income inequality. The $25 million in speaking fees since the beginning of last year continue a lucrative trend for the Clintons: They have now earned more than $125 million on the circuit since leaving the White House in 2001. In addition, the report shows, Mrs. Clinton reported income exceeding $5 million from her memoir of her time as secretary of state, “Hard Choices.” ...The report makes clear that Mrs. Clinton, since leaving the State Department, has joined the family speechmaking business with gusto. But the former president can still command higher fees than his wife, collecting about an average of about $250,000 per speech to $235,000 for Mrs. Clinton. And while Mr. Clinton’s largest honorarium was the $500,000 he collected from the EAT Stockholm Food Forum in Sweden, his wife’s engagements topped out at $350,000.

I would be remiss if I didn't highlight this little detail.  Nice work, if you can get it: "The former President was even paid $175,000 for a speech in Miami where he appeared via satellite."  Hillary also made six figures for addressing a gathering she didn't physically attend. Also, from the "dead broke" annals:


First of all, good for them.  To the extent that they've taken advantage of what the free market will fetch, their financial success ought to be greeted with applause by conservatives.  Capitalists have no quarrel with people making lots of money in exchange for in-demand goods and services.  On the other hand, to the extent that Bill and Hillary's financial fortune has been amassed via quid pro quo influence peddling, they should (at least) pay a heavy political price.  Is it a coincidence, for instance, that Bill's foreign speeches and paychecks appear to have spiked while his wife was running America's foreign policy?  Potential improprietieabound, involving both the Clintons personally, and their cash cow, not-quite-charity "slush fund."  Corruption is one caveat; hypocrisy is another.  Mrs. Clinton is parroting the resentment-based rhetoric of her party's most committed class warriors, droning on about income inequality and ostentatiously wringing her hands about CEO pay.  Here she is in Iowa last month:


"There's something wrong when CEOs make 300 times more than a typical worker."

As it turns out, the Clintons pulled in more income in 2014 than a number of Fortune 500 CEOs, people who run massive companies that employ thousands of people.  If you have a moment, take the "who made more money" Clinton/CEO quiz.

Oh, Just Some More Donor Disclosure Problems For The Clinton Foundation

It seems the only news about Hillary Clinton isn’t the most flattering; especially when it comes to her family’s non-profit. Guy has documented what seems to be an endless PR nightmare that would sink any other ordinary candidate, but this is the Clintons we’re talking about–they’re the “penicillin-resistant Syphilis of American politics,” as National Review’s Kevin Williamson wrote so eloquently about the former first family.

Nevertheless, the Clinton Foundation has found itself under siege from a torrent of questions regarding ethics, donor disclosures, and tax forms. The Sunlight Foundation has called it a “slush fund”; it hasn’t been the best about donor disclosure; and the Foundation allegedly tried to “strong-arm” a New Jersey-based watchdog group for putting them on their “watch list.”

We had tax filing discrepancies–and now we have some odd accounting math in their donor lists as well (via Politico):

The Chicago media executive hosting Hillary Clinton at his home for an afternoon fundraiser Wednesday ranks in the elite category of those who have given at least $25 million to the Clinton Foundation.

But the Clinton Foundation’s own public records on Fred Eychaner’s contributions illustrate the problems the organization has had with disclosing its donations, bringing it under harsh scrutiny and causing Clinton political trouble as she ramps up her presidential campaign.

The foundation’s website lists Eychaner’s Alphawood Foundation as a donor of somewhere between $10,001 and $25,001, but an examination of the Alphawood Foundation’s Form 990 tax documents reveals that it in fact contributed $7.25 million from 2003 to 2007. That’s not the only point of confusion: The low-profile Eychaner, a major Democratic fundraiser who started Alphawood, is listed by the Clinton Foundation as one of just seven donors who gave more than $25 million.

But it’s not certain that Eychaner personally gave more than $25 million. The Clinton Foundation confirmed that the Alphawood Foundation’s $7.25 million is included in Eychaner’s total, and Alphawood executive director James McDonough told POLITICO that his “understanding is that they’ve lumped all our donations under Fred Eychaner’s name.” It remains unclear whether whether Eychaner would still be above the $25 million threshold if the Alphawood donations were not included in his donation total.

Eychaner’s filing status on the website is unusual. Some foundation backers whose names are disclosed on the site are explicitly listed alongside their foundations, such as “Cheryl and Haim Saban & The Saban Family Foundation,” who have together given the Clinton Foundation from $10 million to $25 million. Like Eychaner, the billionaire Haim Saban hosted Clinton for a campaign fundraiser at his home in Los Angeles earlier this month.

But in Eychaner’s case, his connection to the Alphawood Foundation — which says it works with organizations that focus on “architecture and preservation, the arts and arts education, promotion and protection of the rights of LGBT citizens and people living with HIV/AIDS, and other human and civil rights” — is not noted on the Clinton Foundation site, and the group’s listed donation total is far less than an accurate accounting of its contributions.

The only other individual reported to have given over $25 million to the Clinton Foundation — Frank Giustra, who has himself been the subject of intense scrutiny in news reports and a new book because of his own relationship with the foundation — is listed alongside his Radcliffe Foundation, making Eychaner the only individual listed at that high level without a disclosed institutional tie.

The Giustra relationship is another interesting angle regarding the Clinton Foundation. Giustra, who is now on the Foundation’s board of directors, seemingly benefited from Clinton’s 180 on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Giustra is a Canadian financier who helped found the oil company Pacific Rubiales, which has interests in Colombia. The company has been accused of violating labor rights–a reason many Democrats did not support the trade agreement–but they cut a few checks to the Clinton Foundation, including Mr. Giustra, and the Obama administration–with Hillary as Secretary of State–suddenly changed their tune about the deal. Both of them campaigned against the free trade agreement in 2008. This isn’t an isolated incident.

As Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer wrote, “we will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds.”

Case in point, the Uranium One-Rostadam deal, which Guy details here. In short, The deal is fraught with ethical questions, and it really didn’t sit well with the editorial boards across the country–with the Wall Street Journal noting that the deal reeked of the old corrupt dealings of Tammany Hall.

[Image Courtesy of the New York Times]

This is just another story that adds to the narrative that the Clintons are secretive and play by their own rules–two characteristics that are generally viewed as anathema to voters regarding candidates in elections. Then again, it’s the Clintons. If the progressive left of the Democratic Party were able to field a serious candidate to challenge Clinton, it’s possible that person could mount an effective insurgency against her candidacy. After all, there’s tons of ammunition to use against her besides the fuzzy politics surrounding the Foundation. Barack Obama scored bonus points with the anti-war left in the 2008 primaries after highlighting Hillary’s vote that authorized the use of force in Iraq in 2002.

Yet, Clinton’s campaign is a juggernaut; she’s gobbled up most of the endorsements from the key players; she’s way ahead in the polls; and she’s got the money. It would be incredibly expensive to take on the Clinton machine–and the progressive left doesn’t have the resources. Oh, and while the progressive left is vocal, there aren’t enough of them in the base to mount an effective challenge anyway.

While there is no smoking gun of any illegality concerning the Clintons and their Foundation–no concrete evidence anyway–there are endless ethical questions that aren't going away any time soon–and not answering questions from the media isn’t the best idea either.

Good News: Iran Says Nobody Can Inspect Their Nuclear Facilities

Members of the Iranian regime are in Vienna today for ongoing negotiations over a nuclear deal. Officials from six other countries are at the table, including the United States, and Iran maintains their goal is not to build a bomb. 

Diplomats said ahead of Wednesday's meeting that progress is being made but significant gaps remain on a main document and technical annexes ahead of an end-of-June deadline.

There is indeed one very significant "gap" remaining. 

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today weapons inspectors will not be allowed to monitor or visit nuclear facilities to verify nuclear energy is being pursued for peaceful purposes. Further, Iranian nuclear scientists will not be available for interviews, or what he calls "foreign interrogation." 

“We have already said that we will not allow any inspections of military sites by foreigners,” the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.

“They also say that we must allow interviews with nuclear scientists. This is interrogation. I will not allow foreigners to come and talk to scientists who have advanced the science to this level,” Khamenei said.

Other Iranian officials have repeatedly claimed that inspectors would not be given freedom of access to nuclear facilities — directly contradicting US officials who tout comprehensive inspections as being a key element of a final deal.

What could possibly go wrong?