HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY: JULY 4TH, 2015
Greeks Defy Europe with Overwhelming Referendum 'No'
Greeks voted overwhelmingly "No" on Sunday in a historic bailout referendum, partial results showed, defying warnings from across Europe that rejecting new austerity terms for fresh financial aid would set their country on a path out of the euro. With nearly a fifth of the votes counted, official figures showed 60.4% of Greeks on course to reject a bailout offer from creditors that was the official issue of the ballot. The figures showed the Yes vote drew 40.1%.
Fort Sumter Nixes All Confederate Flags
The flags of the Confederacy that flew high over Fort Sumter, the site where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, have been taken down from the historic site. The decision to remove the flags came from a directive by National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis in Washington, DC which reads: "Confederate flags shall not be flown in units of the National Park system and related sites with the exception of specific circumstances where the flags provide historic context." The site of the Civil War's first battle is clearly a "historic" one, but according to a Fort Sumter spokesperson, it doesn't qualify as a place where "flags provide historical context."
Obamacare Cash Fuels Health Insurance Company Merger Mania
Riding high on Wall Street and flush with taxpayer surrendered cash, big health insurers in particular have been on the prowl for deals. A gusher of Obamacare money is fueling a merger frenzy in the US health insurance industry. Several billion-dollar deals are in the works as health insurers, hospitals and drug companies bulk up in size so they can seize on government spending in Obamacare exchanges, state Medicaid programs and Medicare Advantage for the baby boomers.
Obama Admin. Scales Back Deportations in Open-Borders Policy Shift
The Obama administration has begun a profound shift in its enforcement of the nation's immigration laws, aiming to hasten the integration of long-term illegal immigrants into society rather than targeting them for deportation, according to documents and federal officials. In recent months, the Department of Homeland Security has taken steps to ensure that the majority of the United States' 11.3 million undocumented immigrants can stay in this country.
Chicago Fires 1,400 Teachers to Fund Extravagant Pensions
About 1,400 Chicago public school teachers and staff are expected to lose their jobs in order to finance a pension debt of $634 million, the city announced Wednesday. The layoffs are part of an aggressive $200 million budget cut to help finance the pension payment, which is required of Chicago Public Schools by Illinois law. The rest of the pension payment is coming from heavy borrowing, as the district already has a massive $1.1 billion budget deficit.
Oregon Launches Program to Tax Drivers by the Mile
Oregon's Department of Transportation has been working on the first pay-by-the-mile program in the US for 15 years as a way to eventually replace the gas tax, which has been flat due to an influx of high mileage vehicles and people driving less. Right now the program is voluntary and being capped at 5,000 participants, but an ODOT official said the ultimate goal is to make it mandatory and change the way states pay for roads...forever.
Oregon Bakers Fined, Ordered to Stay Silent About Christian Beliefs
On Thursday, Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweetcakes by Melissa, were ordered to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple for refusing to bake a wedding cake. They were also essentially stripped of their First Amendment rights with a gag order that prohibits them from discussing how their Christian beliefs shapes their views on gay marriage.
Iran Takes Hard Stance on Key Provisions in Nuclear Deal
Iran took a hard stance on two of the biggest demands of world powers in a final nuclear deal Thursday, rejecting any extraordinary inspection rules and warning that if the US and other countries re-impose sanctions after the deal is done, it will ramp up enrichment of bomb-making materials. The hard stance from Iran comes as the head of the IAEA visited Tehran Thursday to deal with issues surrounding the deal and to seek "clarification" of possible military dimensions of programs.
Obama to Host Head of Vietnam's Communist Party at White House
The head of Vietnam's Communist Party will make a first-ever visit to the White House next week, meeting Pres. Barack Obama on the 40th anniversary of the end of the war between the two nations. Nguyen Phu Trong will become the first general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party to visit the United States and the White House. Pres. Obama and Gen. Sec. will hold talks at the White House on Tuesday and discuss ways to improve ties that were normalized 20 years ago between the former foes.
Praising US, Virtues of Hard Work Now 'Micro-Aggression' on Campuses
Simply asking someone "Where are you from?" or calling America "the land of opportunity" is now considered offensive at some colleges and universities, where such "micro-aggressions" are detailed in training programs and seminars for new faculty and staff. Other examples of "offensive" statements include, "I believe the most qualified person should get the job," "Affirmative action is racist," "Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough," "When I look at you, I don't see color," and "I don't believe in race."
Major Union Leader Snubs Clinton; Goes All In for Sanders
In a major blow to the Clinton campaign, longtime union leader Larry Cohen says he's not just endorsing Bernie Sanders, he's volunteering to work for him. For Cohen — and many other union leaders — the tilt away from Clinton boils down to President Barack Obama's recent efforts on trade. Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast-track, has created a lot of tension between the president and many lawmakers within his own party. Though most of the major union leaders have yet to officially endorse a candidate, Cohen's announcement comes as local unions have been increasingly moving to support Sanders.
Obamacare to Punish Businesses That Help Employees with Healthcare
Employers who reimburse their workers for health care costs will face massive tax penalties beginning Wednesday. Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, with its mandate that all Americans purchase insurance and requirement for businesses to offer employees insurance plans, many small companies provided coverage by directly reimbursing medical costs or for the cost of private insurance plans. Businesses do it because that’s a less complicated process than dealing with an official health insurance plan, but continuing to do so after July 1 could cost them hundreds of dollars in fines each day.
Putin: America Is Godless, Has Turned Away from Christian Values
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the West, including the United States, for eschewing Christian values and opting instead for a "path to degradation." In his State of the Nation speech last month, Putin asserted that, "Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values… Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan." Russia has adopted new laws that ban homosexual propaganda and criminalizes the insulting of religious sensibilities.
Obama Announces Full Diplomatic Relations with Cuba
Pres. Obama formally announced on Wednesday that the United States and Cuba have both agreed to open embassies in each other's capitals following more than a half-century of hostilities between the two nations. The US Embassy in Havana is scheduled to open on July 20, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said. The US and Cuba have been negotiating the re-establishment of embassies following a surprise announcement in December that secret talks between the global foes had led to a landmark agreement.
Chicago Communities Brace for Violence During July 4 Weekend
The Fourth of July weekend is a time of festive celebrations for many, a time to join friends and family, a time to shoot off fireworks, grill outside, mark the nation's birth and enjoy the summer. But this year, in some of Chicago's more dangerous neighborhoods, the holiday also ushers in anxiety and fear as many brace for the seemingly inevitable violence. Some residents on the South and West sides won't be taking any chances, packing up their families for the weekend and heading for hopefully safer locales.
NSA Resumes Collecting Bulk Phone Data with Court Approval
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court gave the National Security Agency the green light to collect America's domestic cell phone records for at least five more months, despite a federal appeals court ruling that determined the surveillance program was illegal, putting the two courts at odds. The American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday it would ask a United States Appeals Court to issue an injunction to halt the surveillance program, which allows for the collection of phone metadata, including call times, dates and durations, to scan for links to foreign terrorists.
A Pirate's Life for Me
Do you like Pirates? I know I do. I could watch Pirates of the Caribbean over and over again. Many people who live on the coast have pirate bumper stickers that say Salt Life. But Pirates have bad reputations because they pillaged innocent people, even though we don't normally associate them in that way. Usually, we associate them with island vacations where people let go of their worries and play instead of worrying about work. Still, maybe we ought to ban pirates because they didn't respect the rights of those they pillaged? On second thought, that might make some people very sad. Pirate aficionados derive joy in thinking about living by their own rules and leaving behind their responsibilities. Pirates are so popular among some groups of people that there are toys, flags, clothing, and even a Talk Like A Pirate Day. Besides, just because some people find pirates offensive, the First Amendment protects free speech, so long as it isn't inciting people to violence. Many people like to buy Confederate Flags and clothing with the Confederate flag logos. Those who appreciate the flag logo most often associate this emblem with the idea of states' rights. The flag was first flown by the Confederacy in the Civil War, a war in which many slave holding states asserted their right to secede from the union, rather than change their economy, which relied on slave labor. In the beginning, this "war between the states" was about preserving the union. After fighting for two years, however, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared that all slaves in states rebelling against the Union were free, leaving slavery intact in the Border States. Freeing the slaves in the Confederate States became a Union war objective. Although the Confederate States of America wanted to maintain a way of life which included the subjugation of a group of people based on their color, today, many people would agree that not unlike the Pirate Flag, the Confederate Flag has come to symbolize states' rights, not the subjugation of a group of people.
The US Supreme Court
Has Gone Rogue
Many on the Right side of the aisle are outraged. Gay marriage – a social issue at its core – has been validated by the US Supreme Court. The outrage is palpable. And while there is legitimacy to this outrage – especially with regard to the Court's transgression of the 10th Amendment – the decision on gay marriage is a "bright shiny thing" that serves to quickly file us past an earlier decision that directly threatens the constitutional structure of our government: The Court's ruling on King v. Burwell; the Obamacare subsidies. No matter how you feel about the issue of gay marriage, the Court's ruling on this social issue is an attack on the 10th Amendment, the rights of States to have authority over all things not enumerated in the US Constitution. But comparatively, the Court's decision on Obergefell v. Hodges is a "mosquito bite" to yesterday's "beheading" of our balance of powers at the federal level. We are being led away from what is tantamount to a "genocidal slaughter" of the Separation of Powers to gawk at a "highway accident." With yesterday's decision we are all – Liberal and Conservative, Republican, Democrat and Libertarian – losing our government to a transformative end stage; a commingling of constitutional branches and a centralized governmental authority in the federal government; something uniquely anathema to our basic governmental structure.
This Independence Day
Practice Free Speech
This Fourth of July we will celebrate our independence and freedoms. But are we now more politically correct than free? Last week, Apple Computer removed several Civil War games that uses Confederate flag imagery from its app store. Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Twitter that he wished to honor the Charleston shooting victims "by eradicating racism & removing the symbols & words that feed it." Recall that Soviet leaders hoped they could drop executed party members down an Orwellian memory hole by airbrushing them out of photographs. Apple relented a few days later and agreed to reinstate some games if they merely, for example, displayed little troops carrying the infamous Rebel banner. But the partial retreat came only after the Game Labs Team, which develops computer simulations, blasted Apple: "Spielberg's Schindler's List did not try to amend his movie to look more comfortable. The historical Gettysburg movie (1993) is still on iTunes. We believe that all historical art forms: books, movies, or games such as ours, help to learn and understand history, depicting events as they were. True stories are more important to us than money...We can't change history, but we can change the future." Nor are games the only focus of a PC purge. MSNBC's Al Sharpton and Sharpton's National Action Network are demanding that the Pentagon eradicate "all remnants of the Confederacy" from its military bases, including the names of Confederate officers who didn't own slaves. They recently staged a protest outside Fort Hamilton Army base, in Brooklyn, calling for the Pentagon to rename General Lee Avenue, which runs through the base. Memphis mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. is demanding that the grave of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest be dug up and exiled from the city. Huffington Post commenters are demanding that statues of Confederates in Washington, DC, be pulled down.
Independence Day, 2015
COL. ROBERT PAPPAS, USMC (RET.)
When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, its signers knew that doing so would chance individual and collective disaster. Despite that, they wrote then signed the words, "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." They understood that the path upon which they had embarked could mean the loss of their possessions, their property, their families and even their lives; and in the end, they suffered losses that are beyond contemporary comprehension. Yet, from that day to this, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans have risen to challenges that have immortalized the high ideals of the signers, withstanding the tests of politics, war and time. From its humble beginnings as a group of beleaguered and isolated colonies, the United States of America has risen to world preeminence. That did not happen simply because its founders inscribed their signatures upon that, now sacred document. It happened because the high ideals contained therein have animated the imagination of the American people, permeating its social fabric and national soul. Every challenge to its sovereignty has been defeated, every attempt to stop the spirit of freedom that courses through its veins has been surpassed, and every attempt to pervert its destiny has failed. The greatest danger to America is not from without, it resides within. It is the danger of unimaginable prosperity with undisciplined freedom and irresponsible behavior. Danger to America lies in pervasive failure of personal honor, honesty, integrity, trust, responsibility, and accountability. The danger to America is in forgetting moral imperative that life is about people, and in ignoring the transient nature of the human experience. Yet despite these dangers, there remains bright hope in America.
Be the Best Saboteur You Can Be
There is no conservative party. There is a Republican Party. The purpose of the party and its politicians, much like that of its Democrat counterpart, is to obtain money and privileges for its major donors. That doesn't mean that its members don't have other ideals and agendas, but Republican politicians who rise high enough come from an urban and suburban establishment that is more liberal than its base. Expecting them to care as much about your issues as you do is unrealistic. They will only do the right thing insofar as it helps them: a) Get control of money; b) Advance their careers; and c) Become popular. And this is a good thing. It means that they're controllable. It means that the Democrats are also controllable. And this is how the left took over the Democrat Party. The only way to interact with the large body of politicians is through the carrot and the stick. The "destructive" Republican saboteurs the establishment complains about, whatever their motives, are serve as the stick, undermining and sabotaging efforts to conduct business as usual. The only way conservatives can get anything done now is by threatening business as usual. Washington DC is never going to be the solution, but to the extent that its business as usual is threatened, sabotaged and held hostage, it will have trouble putting its boot on ordinary people. Until the Republican establishment changes its ways, populist saboteurs are the best conservative weapon. Don't expect them to do the right thing. Don't be disappointed when they don't. And certainly don't expect them to solve all this.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"One half of our brethren who fight and pay taxes, are excluded, like Helots, from the rights of representation, as if society were instituted for the soil, and not for the men inhabiting it; or one half of these could dispose of the rights and the will of the other half, without their consent." ~ Thomas Jefferson