Tragedy: Murdered NYPD Police Officers Taken From Wives, Child Days Before Christmas

Earlier today in Brooklyn, two New York City police officers were shot execution style in broad daylight by a gang member from Baltimore. The officers were killed while sitting in their patrol car. They were in the area working overtime and participating in an anti-terrorism exercise. They didn't have the chance to pull their weapons in defense. 

Their names were Officer Wenjian Liu and Officer Rafael Ramos. Officer Liu was recently married and is survived by his wife. Officer Ramos turned 40 on December 12 and leaves behind his wife and 13-year old son. 

Rest in peace PO Rafael Ramos and PO Wenjin Liu.

May they rest in peace.

Horror: Two Police Officers Murdered in Brooklyn

Tension between citizens and the police has been at an all-time high in recent months, considering the fallout from grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers who felt they were justified in killing unarmed black men. But this relationship took another tragic turn today, when two New York police officers were shot and killed while sitting in their squad car in Brooklyn. More from the AP:

An armed man walked up to two New York Police Department officers sitting inside a patrol car and opened fire Saturday afternoon, striking them both before running into a nearby subway station and apparently committing suicide, police said.

One law enforcement officer told the New York Post that this was an 'execution.' As for the executor, he is dead:

The suspected gunman fled to a nearby subway station at Myrtle and Willoughby avenues, where he was fatally shot. Preliminary reports were unclear on whether he was shot by police or his own hand.

It's yet unclear whether this assassination was another form of protest against 'police brutality.' But, it seems to be more than a coincidence. Whether it was rioting and looting in Ferguson, Missouri, or blocking traffic and shutting down bridges in New York City, protesters have made themselves heard. How sad, however, that things have come to this.

Some are blaming the media and the federal government for encouraging an anti-cop mentality:

Others are wondering whether this fatal shooting will get as much media coverage as the tragic cases of Michael Brown or Eric Garner:

Michael Brown and Eric Garner should not be dead. They should certainly be remembered. But taking more lives is not the answer. Pray for the NYPD. 

Here Are The Emails Between UVA And Rolling Stone

We all know that Rolling Stone’s UVA story is a complete disaster. Though have no fear; Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who botched the original story, is re-reporting…on her own discredited piece.

To add to the history of shoddy journalism that surrounds this piece, the Federalist published the findings from their FOIA request regarding email exchanges between Rolling Stone and the University of Virginia last night. Most of it surrounds writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely trying to set up a one-on-one interview with university president Teresa Sullivan, which didn’t go as smoothly as Rubin had hoped. The Federalist’s Sean Davis wrote that:

Erdely bristled when told she would not be given a private, one-on-one meeting with Teresa Sullivan, the UVA president.

“I do hope that my interview with President Sullivan will be one-on-one,” she wrote, “as I don’t generally conduct interviews with PR people sitting in.”

Her complaints continued in a separate e-mail to UVA officials.

“As for the presence of other people during the interview: If that’s the only way I’ll be allowed to talk to President Sullivan, then so be it,” Erdely wrote. “But I imagine a university president is fully capable of getting through a phone conversation on her own, without help.”

Additionally, Mollie Hemingway, also of the Federalistwrote that in one email exchange between UVA and Rolling Stone fact-checker, Lisa Garber-Paul; they told her that a case Erdely was referencing in her piece was “objectively false:”

Even though Garber-Paul at no time asked about any of the anecdotes in Erdely’s reporting, the University of Virginia repeatedly told Erdely and Garber-Paul that the facts of one case she was talking about were mistaken. Anthony Paul de Bruyn [University Spokesperson] wrote to Garber-Paul, “It has been brought to our attention by a few students that Sabrina has spoken to that she is referencing an incident where a male student raped three different women and received a one-year suspension. “This is in fact objectively false.”

So, while this latest development isn't exactly a bombshell, over at the Washington Post, former editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Lexington-Herald Leader, Amanda Bennett wrote that Will Dana, RS’s Managing Editor, has done untold damage to everyone involved with this story and should resign for journalistic negligence. Also, she noted that a story having a strong narrative isn’t a bad thing, but without facts; it’s just bias:

Allowing the narrative to take control is what crowds do. It is what mobs do. It is what despots and tyrants do. It is what, unchecked, we all will do.

There is nothing wrong with pursuing a strong story, or even with having a strong point of view. Advocacy demands it. And journalism, like science, is often at its best when pursuing a powerful thesis statement.

But a strong narrative without the underpinning of facts is bias. And bias can morph in the blink of an eye into destruction, fear and suspicion.

You, Will — as editor of a major publication with huge readership and huge credibility — had an obligation to do one thing well, and that was to find out what really happened. Everyone should do this before they make up their minds, forward a post, condemn an actor, a politician, a school, a system. For you, Will, whose publication commands so many resources and so much respect, that was your primary obligation. To temper the narrative with the truth. And it was to do so before you passed this story on to others.

Buying into a story, as your official statement says you did, based on your feelings that it is “credible” is buying into a narrative. And narrative ungirded by facts is bias. The most basic fact-checking involves reaching out to the other side. And that, you tell us, you did not require the reporter to do.

So, Will, if your temptation down the road is to seize on whatever facts your investigation uncovers to say: “See? We told you. We were right all along” — don’t. Just don’t. Instead, look at the harm that you have done by buying into the narrative and not checking the facts.

If it turns out that “Jackie” is a troubled young woman who has turned some trauma in her life into a gruesome fantasy tale, then you have committed the sin of exploitation. Deep, thorough reporting would have exposed the fault lines in the story and spared her and you. If your reporting finds that Jackie is credible and her story, despite inaccuracies in details, is largely accurate, then you have committed another sin by handing detractors of the issue the crowbars with which to pummel your — and her — account. No matter what you find, it is hard to imagine that you will ever restore the story to the credible status that you once believed it deserved.

As I’ve said previously, this isn’t about the hoax of campus rape, rape apologists, or the patriarchy. It’s about bad journalism. Jackie could have been sexually assaulted in some fashion that night. The allegations that she was forced to perform oral sex on five men could be true. Yet, because of RS’s irresponsible reporting, that possible truth is irreparably damaged.

Rolling Stone-UVA E-mails

'Police Brutality' Protesters Still Shutting Down Bridges

It is over two weeks ago now that a grand jury in New York decided not to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner in a chokehold, yet protesters are still making themselves at home on our nation's freeways and bridges. This time, they took over Manhattan Bridge. The New York Times has the details:

Hundreds of people involved in two demonstrations marched onto the Manhattan Bridge on Friday night, snarling Brooklyn-bound traffic, the authorities said.

The Office of Emergency Management took to Twitter to urge drivers to use alternate routes.

Pictures and videos posted to social media show protesters on the bridge who had turned out for separate rallies, one supporting police officers and one and another protesting recent grand jury decisions not to indict officers involved in the deaths of unarmed blacks.

That so called pro-cop protest featured a paltry showing, the majority of people swarming the bridge being angry chanters.

In recent weeks, protesters of Garner's case have been ranting against 'police brutality' on our nation's infrastructure, blocking traffic and/or shutting down bridges entirely. The 11th Street Bridge in Washington, DC, and New York's Brooklyn Bridge and Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, to name a few.

I think anyone would agree that Mr. Garner did not deserve to die, and that the way he did die was tragic. But, what does blocking traffic accomplish? How does shouting at cars on the road honor the man these protesters are supposedly trying to defend? It doesn't. It just makes for a lot of frustrated commuters and a lot of concerned bystanders just trying to enjoy their Friday night.

Put down the signs, and pick up some common sense.

China Makes Soccer Mandatory for Children to Improve National Team

China's Men's National Soccer Team is not good. They've only made one World Cup (in 2002, where they didn't score a goal) and their national team is ranked below small nations with a fraction of China's population. To solve this "problem," Chinese President Xi Jinpang has taken a rather unorthodox step: make soccer mandatory for Chinese children.

From The Economist:

On November 27th it was announced that football would become a compulsory part of the national curriculum at schools. Wang Dengfeng, an education official, said improving the standard of [soccer] in China must “start with children”. By 2017 some 20,000 schools are to receive new [soccer] pitches and training facilities, with the aim of creating 100,000 new players. In 2016 [soccer] will become an option in the national university-entrance exam. This could help overcome resistance among parents to their children being distracted from their academic studies by ball-kicking.

Well, that's one way to do it.

While I think this whole plan is moderately hilarious, it will probably actually work to a degree. China has a population of over one billion—there's bound to be at least some untapped soccer superstar potential amongst its citizenry. Granted, I don't think the Chinese will be hosting World Cup trophy in 2022 in Doha (if it happens), but it will certainly be interesting to see if forcing roughly half a billion children to do a sport will produce results on a worldwide scale.

It's strange China is putting such an emphasis on improving a sports team when there are so many other things that the country could strive to fix.

Louie Zamperini's Son on "Unbroken": "It’s Terrible and Beautiful at the Same Time”

“Unbroken” retells the incredible and deeply moving story of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, a former Olympic runner and WWII bomber who survived 47 days adrift at sea after his plane crash-landed in the South Pacific. From there, he drifted all the way to Japan, where he was eventually interned in several POW camps, and singled out for torture by a sadistic madman nicknamed “The Bird." The best-selling book, written by Laura Hillenbrand, has since been turned into a forthcoming major motion picture directed by Angelina Jolie. I recently spoke to Luke Zamperini by phone, Louie’s only and surviving son, about the best-seller, the movie in general, and his extraordinary late father.

Townhall: When did you first learn of your father's survival story? Did he talk about it often when you were younger, or was it something he preferred to keep private?

Zamperini: Well, I think I’ve always known my Dad’s survival story as long as I can remember. He talked about it quite often to a lot of people. [He] had a comic book that would tell his story which he would pass out to kids -- and I had a copy of that. These were the subjects of my bedtime stories. I’d ask him: ‘Dad, tell me about wrestling the sharks again' and he’d go into the detail about diving overboard off the raft [and] so on and so forth. I was just always aware of it.

Townhall: When I read "Unbroken" last February on a family vacation, I couldn't put it down. It was one of the most incredible stories I had ever come across. I have not, however, seen the movie. Do you think the film lives up to the book's expectations? I know you recently wrote an op-ed for us titled: “Unbroken Film Gets My Dad’s Faith Right.” But did the filmmakers get everything else right, so to speak?

Zamperini: Well, yes. These are two different mediums, and one you can go into much more detail than the other. In the film, you’ve only got X amount of time to get a story across and get people interested in the characters. [W]ith the book, I read it in two days. That was 12 hours of reading, and so you can’t make a 12 hour film. Angelina [Jolie] did a marvelous job. She of course had to leave out some scenes one would expect to be in the film. But she needed to be able to bring it in under two and a half hours -- and have it be as complete as possible. I’ve seen the film five times now and I love it.

Townhall: The trailer looks great. I can’t wait to see it.

Zamperini: Oh yeah, this thing is just beautifully shot. Rogers Deakins [the director of photography] has done an excellent’s got a fantastic score that is just mesmerizing. You’re taken on this beautiful journey through this odyssey that quite frankly has some real grim aspects to it. It's terrible and beautiful at the same time.

Townhall: Laura Hillenbrand writes movingly about your father's conversion to Christianity. He was in a bad place when he returned from the war, almost succumbing to alcoholism. How did his faith change him, other than helping him quit drinking?

Zamperini: Prior to his conversion his drinking was always self-medicating. The real problem was his hatred for the Bird and former prison guards. [A]s a juvenile delinquent he was always pretty resourceful and pretty clever and he was really defiant. And that defiance kind of got him through the prison camp. Yet he ends up with what we now know to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]. It was manifesting itself in a recurring nightmare. He started having this nightmare -- almost the day he met the Bird -- which always involved Louis being attacked by the Bird, and Louis trying to kill the Bird, usually with his bare hands.

(Luke proceeded to explain that his father in November 1949, after hearing a Billy Graham sermon his wife dragged him to against his will, finally remembered a promise he made to God years earlier on the raft in his hour of need: If he beat the odds and survived his ordeal, he told God, he would honor and serve Him for the rest of his life. Of course, he survived. So it was at this moment -- when he finally remembered that binding promise inside Billy Graham's tent -- that he became a devoted Christian).

Zamperini: After his conversion, he was done getting drunk. He was done fighting. He had forgiven his captors, including the Bird. And he went home that night and that was the first night in almost five years that he didn’t have that nightmare -- and he never had it the rest of his life. His PTSD was gone immediately. So instead of harboring all this hatred and this vengeance and this desire to get back and kill the Bird he was able to forgive him. This was the completion of Louis Zamperini. The turnaround started when he discovered sports, but it was completed when he discovered God.

Townhall: That was one of the most amazing parts of the book. The bird, scene after scene, torments Louie and goes after him specifically, and by the end of the narrative, Louie was able to forgive him. It’s really quite an amazing story. 

Zamperini: What was so incredible about the book is that this was not a Christian book. [At] the end, you start feeling sorry for this guy who is destroying his life -- and boom -- the conversion hits you right in the face. I feel like the same thing happens in the film. You witness this terrible treatment and suffering he goes through, and in the end, you find out he forgave these people based on his faith. It’s just super powerful. I think it will be resonating with generations to come.

“Unbroken” opens in theaters everywhere on Christmas day.

Castro's Daughter: America is Dreaming, Cuba Will Never Return to Capitalism

Mariela Castro, Cuban president Raul Castro's daughter and a member of parliament, scoffed at the idea that Cuba would return to capitalism in the wake of the two countries' newly restored relations.

President Obama said Wednesday that Cuba should not put American businesses at a disadvantage and that increased commerce would do good for both countries. He explained that the U.S. would facilitate transactions and make it easier for America to export and sell goods to Cuba. 

Castro's daughter, however, seemed skeptical of Obama's motives. From Havana on Thursday, Mariela Casto said the United States "must be dreaming" it if thinks Cuba will return to "being a servile country to the interests of the most powerful financial groups in the US."

Watch her full comment here:

The Worst Liberal Lies Of 2014

As 2014 comes to a close, what were the biggest liberal lies of the year? Luckily, our friends at the Media Research Center compiled the top five lies made by liberals this year that range from the missing Lois Lerner emails to not knowing who Jonathan Gruber is, or what he did regarding health care policy.

Let's just say this year was exceptionally awful in terms of the garbage the left spewed to some in the media.  

Neighboring States Sue Colorado Over Marijuana Legalization

The Attorneys General of two neighboring states, Nebraska and Oklahoma, are suing Colorado in order to have their marijuana legalization policy declared unconstitutional.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said in a statement that Colorado's policy has "injured Oklahoma's ability to enforce our policies against marijuana." Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning held a news conference, as the Associated Press reported:

"This contraband has been heavily trafficked into our state," Bruning said at a news conference in Lincoln. "While Colorado reaps millions from the sale of pot, Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost."

In a policy statement last year, the U.S. Justice Department noted it doesn't have the resources to police all violations of federal marijuana law. It laid out eight federal law enforcement priorities that states need to protect if they want to authorize "marijuana-related conduct." They include keeping marijuana in-state — something Oklahoma and Nebraska says Colorado has failed to do.

That last part is important. President Obama's Department of Justice has refused to enforce federal drug laws in allowing Colorado's legalization to go forward. They've effectively said that they won't follow the laws laid out by Congress when a state effectively tries to nullify those laws.

The Colorado Attorney General declared that he thought the suit has no merit but, if the provision about keeping the drug in-state is to be taken seriously, there might be something to be concerned about. As USA Today reported:

In June, USA TODAY highlighted the flow of marijuana from Colorado into small towns across Nebraska: felony drug arrests in Chappell, Neb., just 7 miles north of the Colorado border have skyrocketed 400% in three years.

A 400% increase in drug crimes might be considered a big deal.

Unbelievable: Students Back Deporting Americans in Exchange for Illegal Immigrants

How would you feel about deporting one American citizen in exchange for one illegal immigrant? The idea sounds absurd, right? Well apparently not to everyone. 

Campus Reform asked students roaming the George Washington University campus in Washington, D.C. to petition President Obama to "deport one American citizen, in exchange for one undocumented immigrant."

After all, the fake petition reasoned:

"Everyone must be allowed a shot at the ‘American Dream.’ Americans should not be greedy. Let us right the wrongs of our past and make another’s dreams come true."

Unbelievably, more than two-thirds of the students approached by Campus Reform signed the petition. While signing , one man even asked how his fellow Americans would be selected for the deportation process. How thoughtful. 

"I think our immigration rules are crazy and I think it's important," another woman told reporter Maggie Lit. 

Just watch: 

Five Thoughts on Obama Final 2014 Press Conference

President Obama just wrapped up his traditional year-end press conference, wishing the media a Merry Christmas as he prepares to depart for a Hawaiian vacation. A few comments on his performance:

(1) Obama repeated his now familiar spiel about the country being in much better shape now than when he took office, praising what he termed an "American resurgence." He claimed improvement by almost any conceivable measure; "pick any metric," he said. Setting aside numerous metrics like the national debt, poverty rates, median household income, wage growth, workforce participation, and (still) rising healthcare costs, Obama is advancing an argument that Americans just don't believe. Right track/wrong track numbers are in the toilet. His job approval rating is weak. Americans don't believe the country is better off, nor do they feel as though our standing in the world is stronger. But he's welcome to use his bully pulpit to try to convince them otherwise -- if they're still listening to him.

(2) The president's answer on the North Korea/Sony situation was solid. He stated in no uncertain terms that Pyongyang was responsible for the "cyber assault," and vowed that "we will respond." Obama said he wouldn't spell out what that response would be, or when it might come, for public consumption.  Despite expressing some sympathy for the tough spot in which the company finds itself, the president condemned Sony for caving to the terrorists' demands by canceling the release of a comedy film that drew North Korea's ire.  Obama forcefully stated that free societies cannot censor themselves to placate the threats and demands of violent actors. Yes, he can be criticized for hypocrisy here, and I'd be curious about his thoughts on Western media suppressing the Mohammad cartoons, but his tone and message were on point in this case.

(3) He didn't come out and say it, but the president telegraphed an inclination toward vetoing the Keystone Pipeline if and when Republicans pass legislation next year. Obama listed the alleged drawbacks of the popular project, sniffing that it would only create "a few thousand" temporary jobs. At another point in the press conference, he demanded more government spending on infrastructure projects (ignoring his failed "stimulus" altogether, of course). So Obama is unimpressed with temporary, private sector infrastructure jobs, but he's insistent upon taxpayers funding other temporary infrastructure jobs.   Hmm.

(4) Aside from the North Korea exchange, none of my suggested questions were asked. One reporter touched on executive power, but her question was weak. It basically asked if he's worried about Republicans working with him less as a consequence of his unilateral action -- a political process question that skirts around the core issue. On immigration, Obama again claimed that Congress' refusal to carry out his will 'forced' him to act on his own, via an executive decree that he'd repeatedly averred was beyond his presidential authority.

(5) I counted eight total questions (or question sets), all of which came from women. The president did not call on any male reporters, nor did any television reporters get a question. Many of the questions were sharp, and there's obviously nothing wrong with selecting female interrogators, but it's worth noting that Obama's picks ensured that three of the journalists who consistently ask the toughest questions in White House briefings (Fox's Ed Henry, CBS' Major Garrett and ABC's Jonathan Karl) were all shut out. Make of that what you will.

Obama Blames Sony

President Obama blamed Sony, Inc. for the demise of the movie "The Interview" today at his end of the year press conference.

"I think they made a mistake," Obama said in answer to a direct question as to whether Sony made the right decision to pull the movie from theaters.

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” Obama continued. "I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.’”

Obama did not elaborate as to why, if not being intimidated is so important, he did not call Sony to offer his administration's full support. 

Obama also made it clear he has little intention of working with Republicans in Congress on anything in 2015. Asked if tax reform is possible in 2015, Obama launched into a speech about the importance of investing in infrastructure. 

What does infrastructure have to do with tax reform? 

It has long been the Obama administration's position that any tax reform must include new revenues (a.k.a. higher taxes) that can then be immediately spent on new spending programs. Higher taxes has always been a complete non-starter for Republicans in Congress.

Obama also signaled that he will veto any bill in Congress that tries to force him to approve the Keystone pipeline. 

The oil from the Keystone pipeline is "not American oil, it is Canadian oil," Obama noted. “That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks and it would save Canadian oil companies, and the Canadian oil industry enormous amounts of money if they could simply pipe it all the way down to the Gulf,” he continued. 

"It’s very good for Canadian oil companies, and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers, it’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers,” Obama said.

Obama did not say if a new pipeline would benefit American consumers who currently have to put up with oil-train derailmentsPipelines have long been proven to be the safest way to transport oil and gas.

Considering Obama's steadfast opposition to infrastructure programs that Republicans support, like Keystone, and his insistence on higher taxes to pay for more infrastructure spending, it does not look like a deal on either issue is very likely.

MRCTV Discovers That 'Principle Is More Important' Than Fact At Black Lives Matter Rally

Earlier this week, MRCTV’s Dan Joseph ventured into Washington D.C. for the Black Lives Matter protest promoted by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Michael Brown and Eric Garner were the focus of this demonstration–and Joseph got a chance to speak with a few protesters. For starters, some felt that Brown didn’t charge then-Officer Darren Wilson, who then shot him reportedly in self-defense last August.

Of course, the “hands up, don’t shoot” theme was pervasive at the rally. Yet, Joseph noted that narrative is probably not correct (via MRCTV):

Multiple eyewitnesses who testified before the grand jury in Ferguson claimed that Brown’s hands weren’t up at all and that he was charging Officer Wilson when he was shot. Forensic evidence and multiple autopsies that were conducted concluded a similar pattern of events transpired that run contrary to the protesters' mantra.

Despite the doubt cast on the favored slogan, most of the protesters that MRCTV talked to at the Sharpton rally continued to insist that the original narrative is the correct one.

Citing “various news sources,” Sharpton’s protesters defended the notion that Michael Brown had his hands up and was surrendering when he was shot and killed.

Sharpton’s protesters rejected eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence that Brown did not have his hands up and may have been charging the officer who shot him:

  • “No, no, the autopsies don’t have anything to do with that.”
  • “That’s not true; I’ve read the whole report, too.”
  • “No, he didn’t resist arrest.”

“It’s not necessarily the exact motion of ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ – it’s the idea that Mike Brown was an unarmed, innocent man who was shot multiple times,” said one protester, arguing that the principle is more important than the precise details of the event.

Friday Filibuster: The Cuba Libre Edition

The Friday Filibuster: The one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about this week in politics.

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Closing Numbers:

51% of Americans say tough CIA interrogations on suspected terrorists after 9/11 were appropriate.

47% have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party after the midterm elections.

19% of self-identified Republicans favor Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination, dominating the field of Republican candidates

62% of self-identified Democrats want Hillary Clinton to get the Democratic presidential nomination.


Terror Around the World: The hostage situation by an Islamic terrorist and Iranian refugee at a café in Sydney, Australia came to an end Tuesday morning (Sydney time) when police stormed the building after hearing gunfire from inside. The lone gunman, Man Haron Monis, who had a long rap sheet that included murder and rape, was shot dead by police. Two hostages died and several others were wounded. Later on Tuesday, nearly 7,000 miles away, the Taliban gunned down 132 children and nine staff members at a school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. The Pakistani military took swift action, launching massive airstrikes against the Taliban in retaliation. And in Iraq’s Fallujah, one member of ISIS singlehandedly killed more than 150 women and girls.

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Cuba: President Obama’s unilateral move to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba was criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle this week who saw it as a vindication of brutal behavior. Sen. Marco Rubio blasted the new policy, calling it a concession to a tyranny, and slammed fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul for being 'utterly clueless' on the issue. The Cuban American senator also pointed out that by saying the U.S. was trying to colonize Cuba, Obama was using the same talking point as the Castro regime. Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father escaped the country in 1957 after undergoing beatings and torture, said the move will be remembered as a tragic mistake. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest dismissed threats to defund the move, claiming the administration has all the money it needs to move forward with the plan. Many are also wondering if the new “normalization” means Cuba will return cop killer Joanne Chesimard.

The Interview: After hackers released Sony’s films, salary information of top executives, embarrassing emails, social security numbers, employee medical records, and finally, threatened 9/11 style attacks on movie theaters that screen the comedy, Sony caved and pulled the film. The White House called the Sony hack a “serious national security matter” and House Cybersecurity Chairman warned the U.S. power grid and Wall Street could be next. Unsurprisingly, the North Korean government turned out to be behind the ‘cyber warfare.’ One “journalist” said having First Amendment rights comes with the responsibility to not offend dictators, which apparently Paramount, in their decision to ban showings of “Team American,” has taken note of. Meanwhile, we learned this week that the Obama administration tried to open up talks with North Korea last year and failed.

Immigration: A federal judge issued an opinion this week classifying Obama’s executive amnesty as unconstitutional. And a New York Times story shows why an injunction against the program is the only way to stop it. Interestingly, however, the nominee to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.

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Elections and campaigns: The 2014 midterm elections have officially come to an end with Rep.-elect Martha McSally winning the recount in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. On the presidential front, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren insists she’s not running, although she only responded in the present tense. And Joe Biden still hasn’t made up his mind. On the Republican side, Rand Paul may have to jump through legal hoops if he decides to run. Jeb Bush is actively exploring a shot at the White House, even though policy and history are against the Florida governor. Meanwhile, his Floridian protégé Marco Rubio is quietly laying the groundwork for a run. Mittmentum isn’t gone yet, however.

Health Care: Insurers are extending another Obamacare deadline. Costs will now spike in 2016. Meanwhile, Vermont had to abandon plans to establish a single payer system because it’s too expensive. And the guy who outed Jonathan Gruber came forward to reveal another hidden agenda in Obamacare: It’s actually a $250 billion tax grab per year. 

Gun Control: The Senate confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s anti-Second Amendment nominee for surgeon general this week. And families of the victims of Newtown are suing Bushmaster, whether or not the case will go anywhere is a different story.

EITs: Discussions about the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques continued this week, with a former CIA officer saying that Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues raised no objections to the practice in 2002. And former Vice President Dick Cheney went on Meet the Press to defend the CIA and EITs. 

Year-End Presser: Townhall editors Guy Benson and Conn Carroll have a few questions for the president before he heads off on his 17-day vacation in Hawaii. 

Graphics by Feven Amenu. 

Video: Exposing the White House's Dumb 'Executive Action' Numbers Game

Whenever the White House is pressed on President Obama's promiscuous and impactful use of executive action to achieve his policy objectives, they fall back on a specious talking point: Contrary to Republican claims, they say, Obama has issued significantly fewer executive orders than his predecessors from both parties over the last century. The goal is to paint critics as hypocritical, foolish, and blinded by irrational opposition. Many journalists seem to have swallowed Team Obama's story whole. But not USA Today reporter Gregory Korte, or Fox News' Ed Henry, who challenged White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on the president's math, exposing the cynical and contradictory "rules" by which the administration has been playing in order to sustain their misleading claim:

EH: You will remember some months ago the president claimed he was using executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years. 195 executive orders less than Democratic and Republican predecessors but when you add on 198 presidential memorandum, it actually turns out he is using a lot more than his predecessors, right? ...

JE: It was true because the number of executive orders is lower, as you pointed out, than executive orders that have been issued by many of his previous predecessors.

EH: Presidential memoranda have essentially the same effect, despite being called something different. The fact of the matter is that he is taking a lot more executive action.

JE: There is an important difference between executive orders and presidential memorandums. I would grant the premise that the president has used every element at his disposal to use -- to move the country forward and he has done that in a way consistent with the law and precedents and is often carried out in the face of pretty rigid Congressional obstruction….Generally speaking, presidential memoranda are associated with more technical issues and often directives related to a subset of agencies. Executive orders are often more sweeping and impactful...

EH: Generally they are more sweeping, but in the case of immigration, which you will announce was pretty sweeping, it was a presidential memorandum. So by your definition, I am slightly confused? You said the executive order was quite sweeping. The Immigration one actually was not. The point that I was trying to make them the matter what you call it, he was kind of misleading people about how often he was using executive actions.

JE: I think the president was being explicit that his predecessors have issued far more than he has. I do not think anyone has made the case come here that he is not willing to use executive authority to move the country forward. In fact, he has. Thank you, Ed.

"Thank you, Ed.  I've had enough of your questions on this subject."  That is some weak sauce spin from Earnest, parsing terms and harping on semantics to obscure the larger truth.  But as I said on Fox earlier, the numerical quantity and technical categories of executive action are far less relevant than the legality, propriety and consequences of the action being taken:

Even if a president almost never issued any executive orders or memoranda, if he then turned around and exceeded his authority with one giant violation of the separation of powers, those raw numbers don't matter.  They're a distraction.  And while this president's comprehensive hypocrisy on issues from campaign finance, to transparency, to executive power is well established at this point, I couldn't help but quote him as a presidential candidate in the 2008 cycle:

Notice that he wasn't troubled by President Bush's excessive issuance of executive memos vs. executive orders, or whatever.  He was (or at least claimed to be) worried about what he saw as Bush's improper arrogation of power, vis-a-vis Congress.  That Barack Obama is long gone.  Because Barack Obama's guiding principle is employing whatever argument or behavior Barack Obama needs in the moment.  His own standards and previous statements don't matter when the 'greater good' is at stake.

Shorter Marco Rubio: Rand Paul is Utterly Clueless on Cuba; UPDATE: Rand Responds

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) thinks the president’s decision to “normalize” relations with Cuba is “probably a good idea.” Once again, he’s walking a lonely and desolate road as almost all Republicans and even some Democrats oppose such a policy shift. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), for instance, has been sounding the alarm about appeasing an entrenched and despotic dictator, warning that doing so will not bring prosperity and self-government to Cuba as intended. On the contrary, as he stated in his much-watched press conference earlier this week, reconciliation will merely “tighten this regime’s grip on power.”

With respect to the embargo, he also reminded his colleagues last night on The Kelly File that we already trade with Cuba and send Americans there. Thus lifting the embargo, he argued, will not, in any meaningful sense, improve conditions on the island. To emphasis his point, Rubio slammed the junior Senator from Kentucky for regurgitating and believing false talking points.

“Like many people that have been opining, [Rand Paul] has no idea what he's talking about,” Rubio said. “What’s hurting the Cuban people is not the embargo. What’s hurting the Cuban people is the Cuban government.”

Watch the full clip below:

UPDATE: Well that didn't take long:

UPDATE: Read this too.

VIDEO: Rep. Bill Flores: Obama's Legacy a 'Disaster'

Last week, Townhall sat down with Congressman Bill Flores (R-TX) about his new role as the Chair of the Republican Study Committee. 

Read more here.

Flores believes President Obama's attack on family values, his disregard for unborn life, and his careless defense of religious freedom attribute to what he calls a disastrous legacy the American people won't forget. 


Unbelievable: Rolling Stone Writer Is Re-Reporting Her Botched UVA Story

Talk about sending the arsonist to put out the fire. Rolling Stone made it known that a re-reporting mission will be assembled to address the abysmal journalism in their disgraceful Nov. 19 story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. Sabrina Rubin Erdely wrote the piece and came under fire for failing, amongst other things, to reach out to the alleged attackers for their account of the night’s events. Now, it seems Erdely is re-reporting what happened on the night of the alleged assault, a night where the fraternity allegedly at fault held no social gathering.

To recap, the alleged victim named Jackie claims several men gang raped her in a darkened room on a broken glass table. When the ordeal was over, she was bloodied, beaten, and traumatized. Yet, her three friends (“Andy,” “Cindy,” and “Randall”) who also weren’t contacted by RS, claimed that they felt something traumatic had happened to her, but there were no visible injuries on her when they saw her that night. They wanted to go to the authorities, but Jackie was against this course of action.

It’s a far cry from how Erdley described them. In her piece, they were distant, apathetic, and consumed about their position on UVA’s social ladder; claims they rejected in their recent interview with ABC News. Oh, and their real names are Ryan Duffin (“Randall”), Alex Stock (“Andy”), and Kathryn Hendley (“Cindy)”

Now, Erdely is reaching out to them (via Associated Press) [emphasis mine]:

One of the friends, a 20-year-old, third-year student referred to as "Randall" in the Rolling Stone article but whose real name is Ryan Duffin, told the AP that not only did he encourage the alleged victim to go to police, but he started to dial 9-1-1 on his cellphone until she begged off saying she just wanted to go back to her dorm and go to sleep.

"I couldn't help but notice that everything that the article said about me was incorrect," Duffin said.

The AP also spoke with the other two friends portrayed in the article: third-year, 20-year-old U.Va. students Kathryn Hendley and Alex Stock, known as "Cindy" and "Andy" in the article. None of the three friends was contacted by Rolling Stone's reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, before the article was published; each of them rejected multiple assertions made in the article, for which Rolling Stone has since apologized for and noted discrepancies.

All three say Erdely has since reached out to them, and that she has told them she is re-reporting the story. Hendley told the AP Erdely apologized to her for portraying her the way she did.

Erdely and Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana did not respond to an email from The Associated Press on Sunday morning seeking comment.

Should we be skeptical about this effort? Yes! Alex Pinkleton, a student at UVA and a friend of Jackie, was interviewed for the original RS piece, and mentioned that Erdely had an agenda when writing this story (via Newsbusters) [emphasis mine]:

BRIAN STELTER, HOST OF CNN’s RELIABLE SOURCES: So what did you experience with the reporter? She was on campus for a long time. She interviewed you and a lot of other students. What were your impressions of her?

ALEX PINKLETON, FRIEND OF ALLEGED UVA ASSAULT VICTIM: I think she had her heart in the right place. She wanted to bring light to this issue – and it is a prevalent issue at UVA, and on campuses across the nation. However, she did have an agenda, and part of that agenda was showing how monstrous fraternities themselves as an institution are, and blaming the administration for a lot of the sexual assaults.

STELTER: What were some of the questions she asked you that made you feel that way?

PINKLETON: When she asked about my own assault, she kept asking – you know, did he feed you the drinks? Was he keeping tabs of the drinks that night? And he wasn't, and that's something that I had to keep saying over and over again, and I think – I felt like she wasn't satisfied with my perpetrator as someone who wasn't clearly monstrous.


PINKLETON: I think that she should have fact checked, and I'm really upset and angry, like a lot of people are, that that didn't happen. And now, we're in a very difficult situation....

...Again, I think her intentions were good. I just think that the job was done poorly, and I am upset with that aspect of it. But I also know that she was trying to come from a point of advocacy. But as a reporter, you can't be like an advocate and support a story and listen to it and think everything is true; and then, report on it without trying to figure out if it's true.

My job as an advocate was never to question Jackie's story or question the details, because I didn't need to. But the role that she's in, as a reporter....she needed to do that.

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, who incurred the wrath of the right on social media when he penned an inflammatory obituary to the late Andrew Breitbart; said the magazine is feels awful about how this story fell apart, especially on the fact-checking side. According to Taibbi, the process for him is a slow, arduous one, but noted that he feels safe publishing pieces there since he knows everything has been looked at with a fine-tooth comb (via WaPo):

“For people like me and for a lot of the other reporters who’ve worked there over the years, this was a real shock to us because, speaking personally — people laughed at me when I said this on Twitter — what I go through normally in the fact-checking process at that magazine has always been a really difficult, long, thorough, painful process,” said Taibbi. “And that was actually one of the things that always attracted me to working there, which is that I feel safe when I publish things because I feel like it’s been double-checked and, you know, that was always a good feeling. And clearly I think in this particular situation, the controls got broken down somewhere and they’re looking into that. I’m sure they’re coming up with some answers.”

That’s fine, but Erdely’s fact-finding mission is already complete. All she has to do is read the Washington Post. After all, they did the job she was supposed to do when first reporting on this story. Red flags should have gone up when the pictures of her date that her three friends saw on the night of Jackie’s alleged assault turned out to be one of her former classmates from high school. But, Erdely never contacted them, so this tripwire was never seen.

I can only imagine what kind of Frankenstein monster-like article will come out of this re-reporting initiative on behalf of RS. Seriously RS, everyone else did the legwork for you; it’s over now.

Bill, Hillary Used $1.5 Million in Midterm Travel Expenses to Stump for Failed Candidates

The average voter will be happy to know that the Clintons used over $1.5 million this midterm election to campaign for failed Democratic hopefuls. Democratic campaigns and political committees shelled out this exorbitant amount of money for the political duo to use private jets and the like to make speeches that, according to the polls on November 5, reached no further than their podiums.

Here’s just a taste of the waste:

The tally includes $44,360 the final weekend of the campaign for a plane in Iowa. That was when Bill Clinton did a fly-around for failed Democratic Senate hopeful Bruce Braley. There was also a $21,801 charge that weekend to Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s unsuccessful reelection campaign, a POLITICO review found.

For those who haven’t been keeping count, just know that the majority of the candidates Bill and Hillary stumped for lost – badly. In addition to Braley’s and Landrieu’s unsuccessful bids, other failed campaigns included Michelle Nunn in Georgia, Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, and Kay Hagan in North Carolina. Because of the Clintons’ terrible track record this year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) even encouraged social media users to use the hashtag #HillaryLosers on Twitter.

I guess that Clinton charm has lost its power. 

The Clintons couldn't legally pay for their own travel, but they surely could have insisted on more reasonable travel plans and gotten rid of a few stops from their itinerary. Do they know the meaning of being frugal?

They may not be able to get candidates elected, but they proved they definitely know how to waste money!

Five Questions for President Obama

Today at 1:30 p.m., President Obama is scheduled to give his end of the year press conference at the White House. Guy Benson has already posted 7 questions he would like to see asked, and here are five more.

1. Mr. President, some in Hollywood have called the canceling of "The Interview" a "tragic" loss for "freedom of speech and freedom of expression." Do you believe your administration did all it could do to let Sony and its employees know they would not be harmed despite terrorists threats?

2. Mr. President, on Wednesday you called our fifty year old policy toward Cuba an "outdated" and "failed" approach. But research shows that benefits from economic liberalization under despotic regimes almost always benefits the regimes themselves. How will we know if you're new policy isn't also a failure?

3. Mr. President, the unemployment rate has fallen and the economy is growing, all be it slowly. But the gains from this recovery seem to be going almost exclusively to the wealthy. Median income is still $2,000 lower today then when you took office. Why isn't the middle class benefitting from your recovery and what do you plan to do about it?

4. Mr. President, your unilateral executive actions are popular among your liberal base but have eroded any trust you may have had with Republicans in Congress. Are there any areas where you think you can work with Republicans to reform government, and if you pursue tax reform, will you continue to insist on new revenues?

5. Mr. President, considering that your unilateral actions on energy, immigration, and Cuba make cooperation with the new Republican Congress highly unlikely, what other areas is your administration contemplating executive action? 

Year-End Presser: Seven Questions For President Obama

Josh Earnest announced yesterday that President Obama will meet the media for a year-end press conference later on today. In light of the White House press corps' track record of feeble, lethargic performances at these types of exchanges in recent years, I figured I'd offer a small sampling of questions that might be appropriate to put to the president.  These aren't comprehensive, but they're a start:

(1) Mr. President, here is what you said about using executive power to suspend deportation for millions of illegal immigrants in 2011: "With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed...for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President."  Then, after you unilaterally implemented DREAM Act-style enforcement discretion for minors in 2012, you said "I've done everything that I can on my own," adding, "if we start broadening that [action], then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally."  Was your legal assessment of the limits of your own authority inaccurate at the time?  (Be equipped with this information for a possible follow-up).

(2) On a related note, when you were a candidate for president, a central theme of your campaign was criticizing what you called your predecessor's inappropriate arrogation of executive power, at Congress' expense.  You told a crowd of supporters, "The biggest problems that were facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all, and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America."  Some -- including prominent liberals -- would argue that your views on that 'big problem' have evolved ever since you attained that power.  Do you agree?

(3) The Hill reported last week that consumers who selected the most popular 'Obamacare' plans last year are in for double-digit 2015 rate increases.  Many customers now face the prospect of paying even more, or once again switching plans.  A recent Kaiser study found that 41 percent of uninsured Americans are choosing to remain uninsured, with "the vast majority" citing lack of affordability.  You told Americans that your health reform law would save the average family $2,500 per year.  Has that promise, which your adviser  Jonathan Gruber dismissed as wishful thinking, been kept?   Follow up: Every major poll shows that significantly more Americans say the 'Affordable Care Act' has directly harmed their family than who say they've been helped.  Are these people mistaken in the perception of their own lives and finances?

(4) A group of former CIA directors are pushing back hard against Senate Democrats' controversial report regarding the agency's post-9/11 interrogation program.  A core disagreement is whether tough tactics were effective in extracting useful intelligence from high-value Al Qaeda detainees.  Sen. Feinstein's report -- which didn't include interviews with any CIA officials who oversaw or carried out the program -- says that the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" were not at all effective.  Numerous CIA officials strongly dispute that assertion, citing evidence to fortify their position.  Did 'enhanced interrogations' work, and were they appropriate at the time?  (Follow-up: Why are summary executions via lethal drone strikes in line with "our values," but harsh interrogations are not?)

(5) This week, members of the Taliban laid siege to a grade school in Pakistan, massacring 145 students and faculty.  Are you concerned that an American withdrawal from Afghanistan will strengthen these radicals lead to even more atrocities like this?  Does your administration continue to believe that direct negotiations with the Taliban can be a fruitful endeavor?

(6) Two North Korea-themed films have been cancelled in the wake of a major cyber hack and series of terrorist threats -- which the US government have linked to Pyongyang.  Does Kim Jong Un's regime now wield veto power over American consumer's entertainment choices?  Are you troubled by the potential precedent this episode has set regarding free speech and expression?  Is America prepared to retaliate?

(7) A new NBC/WSJ poll shows that fewer than one in five Americans believe you've heard, and are responding to, the message voters sent you and your party last month.  In what ways are you respecting the voters' wishes, as represented by November's Republican landslide victory?  (Be prepared with this reality check in a follow-up).

Journalist: First Amendment Rights Mean Not Offending The North Korean Dictator, Okay?

Did you know that having First Amendment rights in the United States comes with the responsibility not to offend dictators from North Korea? Had no idea? Me either. 

Last night on CNN "journalist" Sharon Waxman, who has worked at a number of media outlets including the Washington Post, argued that having First Amendment rights means we shouldn't be making fun of North Korean dictators because they might get upset. She was of course referring to the recent and massive hack on Sony pictures by North Korea as retaliation for "The Interview," a comedy about assassinating Kim Jong-Un. 

"I also want to point out something else that does not seem to be part of the discussion which is, where are our responsibilities in our exercising of the First Amendment? And I mean both those of us in the media and those of us who are making movies and those of us who are writing about the community that makes movies which is to say what is the thought process behind making a movie in which we decide to depict the assassination of a living foreign leader," Waxman said on air with someone on set in the studio agreeing by saying "good point." 

"I think common sense has to prevail when we express our artistic freedoms," Waxman added.

"Living foreign leader"? More like living, foreign, brutal dictator. What's the process behind this thought process? This is America, we say and do what we want. Period. The entire purpose of the First Amendment is to be able to speak out against tyranny. We don't restrict our First Amendment rights to appease a guy who puts thousands of people into starvation, labor camps. It's "common sense" to mock people like Kim Jong-Un, not to act like cowards and cave to his demands.  


Gutfeld: If Obama Goes to Cuba For Golf, He Should Bring Back Cop Killer Joanne Chesimard

It is rumored President Obama could be taking a trip to Cuba next year to golf. If the president ends up going, Fox News' host, comedian and author Greg Gutfeld wants Obama to bring back cop killer Joanne Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur, upon his return to the United States. 

"Unlike North Korea, Cuba is a jewel of the left because both adore marxist thugs. Those who failed at life but excel at taking it. Do you think that occurred to our President?" Gutfeld said.

As I wrote yesterday, Chesimard escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba after murdering New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster during a traffic stop in 1973. In 1977, Chesimard was convicted and given a life sentence. Now that President Obama has "normalized" relations between the U.S. and Cuba, many in the law enforcement community looking for justice and for Cheismard to be extradited.

History of Christmas Special

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

Hosted by Michael Medved and Dennis Prager.

Grimes To Paul: I'll See You In Court

I already mentioned in a previous post that Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky) route to the presidency isn’t clear-cut or exactly legal. You cannot run for two offices at the same time in Kentucky. To change the law, Republicans would have to go through the legislature, where the GOP failed to gain the majority in the Kentucky State House of Representatives.

Rand’s team has been working tirelessly to find legal avenues that would permit him running for both offices, but wants to avoid a court battle. But, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes isn’t moving an inch. She bluntly says that Paul cannot run for two offices simultaneously–and said she won’t be “bullied” on this issue (via Politico):

“The law is clear,” Grimes told WHAS-TV in Louisville. “You can’t be on the ballot twice for two offices.”

“We’ll look to the court for any guidance that is needed,” she added. “And at the end of the day, we’re not going to be bullied.”

Grimes also told the Louisville ABC affiliate in the interview published on Wednesday that she has not decided whether to seek a second term as secretary of State in the 2015 election.

The 36-year-old left no doubt that she continues to harbor political ambitions beyond the Bluegrass State’s chief elections official. She would be a top Democratic recruit to run for Senate in 2016 if Paul bows out.

Grimes said she knows “there’s a bigger plan in store” and pronounced herself “excited for 2015.”

She’s also been talked about as a Democratic primary challenger to Attorney General Jack Conway in next year’s Kentucky governor’s race or against GOP Rep. Andy Barr in 2016.

Grimes’ comments about Paul seem aimed as much at rallying her liberal base after a tough loss as anything else. If she doesn’t run for reelection as the state’s chief election official, she would have no legal basis to challenge Paul’s dual candidacy.

So, it seems Paul will have to go to court to settle this dilemma, or he could opt not to run and most likely cruise to re-election in 2016.