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.
State Department Asserts Privilege Against Benghazi Committee
The State Dept. has informed the House Select Committee on Benghazi that it is withholding "a small number" of documents from investigators on the basis of "important executive branch institutional interests." The statement, made in a letter from Asst. Sec. of State Julia Frifield to committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, amounts to a de facto claim of some form of executive branch privilege. Frifield made the claim in a letter turning over 3,600 pages of Benghazi-related documents from Susan Rice, Jake Sullivan and Cheryl Mills.
Defiant ISIS Kills 50 in Egypt in Wake of President's Crackdown
Islamic militants on Wednesday unleashed a wave of simultaneous attacks on Egyptian Army checkpoints in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula, killing at least 50 soldiers, country officials said. The coordinated assaults, which included up to 70 militants, came a day after Egypt's president pledged to step up the battle against Islamic militants and two days after the country's state prosecutor was assassinated in the capital, Cairo. The BBC reported that the clashes are ongoing, with militants reportedly overtaking a main police station.
Obama Defies Federal Judge; Fails to Rescind Illegal Amnesties
The Obama administration still hasn't fully rescinded the 2,000 three-year amnesties it wrongly issued four months ago in violation of a court order, government lawyers recently admitted in court, spurring a stern response from the judge who said the matter must be cleaned up by the end of July — or else. It's the latest black eye for Pres. Obama's amnesty policy and the immigration agency charged with carrying it out. The agency bungled the rollout, issuing three-year amnesties even while assuring the judge it had stopped all action hours after a Feb. 16 injunction.
Supreme Court to Rule on Public-Sector Union Fees
The Supreme Court will consider limiting the power of government employee unions to collect fees from non-members in a case that labor officials say could threaten membership and further weaken union clout. The justices said Tuesday they will hear an appeal from a group of California teachers who say it violates their First Amendment rights to have to pay any fees if they disagree with a union's positions and don't want to join it.
Obama Making Millions More Americans Eligible for Overtime
Pres. Obama announced Monday night a rule change that would make millions more Americans eligible for overtime pay. The rule would raise the salary threshold below which workers automatically qualify for time-and-a-half overtime wages to $50,440 a year from $23,660. The administration has the power to issue the regulation, which would restore the overtime salary threshold to roughly where it stood in 1975 in terms of purchasing power, without congressional approval.
Ex-Im Bank Expires as Business Lobby Continues to Push for Renewal
Funding for the US Export-Import Bank expires at midnight, but efforts by conservative members of Congress to seal the agency's fate once and for all are not done yet. Since Congress failed to act on a funding bill for the bank, which finances the purchases of US exports by foreign governments and corporations, appropriations for the bank have run out. But that doesn't mean an end to its subsidies. Ex-Im funding is already secured through September, meaning it can disburse roughly $112 billion in financing already committed.
Judge Frees Florida Imam Eyed as Terror Mentor
A gang leader-turned-radical-Muslim imam considered so dangerous he was kept in shackles and assigned his own guard while he was held in a Florida prison for four years has been freed by a federal judge who said he believes Marcus Dwayne Robertson is a "very bad man," but that federal prosecutors were "woefully inadequate" in making their case for keeping him behind bars. Robertson, a charismatic former US Marine trained in special operations, once headed a murderous New York gang before resurfacing as a radical imam in Florida who the federals say radicalized young men and sent them overseas to join terrorist groups.
Negotiators Extend - Again - Deadline for Iran Nuclear Talks
President Obama threatened to "walk away" from nuclear talks with Iran if a pending agreement doesn't provide for robust inspections, as the negotiations were extended past their original Tuesday deadline. The President spoke shortly after the State Department confirmed that the Iran talks were being extended another week, in pursuit of a final deal.
Islamic State Grows to Rival Al Qaeda in Yemen
Al Qaeda's leadership of Islamist militancy in Yemen is being challenged amid the chaos of civil war by its rival Islamic State, which could become a bigger threat to the group than the US drones that periodically kill its commanders. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula remains the country's top militant network and its several thousand fighters and bomb makers, who have repeatedly tried to bring down Western aircraft, are still seen as a serious threat by Washington. But followers of Islamic State in Yemen have sought to steal al Qaeda's thunder by launching a string of attacks against the Zaydi Shi'ite Muslim Houthi group, which is fighting a messy war against a Saudi-led coalition of Arab counties.
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.
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.
Candidates Didn't 'Embarrass' Themselves in Rebuking SSM Ruling
ANDREW C. MCCARTHY
From what he bizarrely frames as a conservative perspective, Joseph Curl has penned a Washington Times op-ed ripping the purportedly out-of-touch reaction by Republican presidential candidates to the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage (SSM) ruling. Mr. Curl takes Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and Scott Walker to task over their harsh criticism of the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. A bare 5-4 majority of the justices compelled all fifty states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Thus have five unelected lawyers wrested control over the definition of marriage from the people of the states, to whom the Constitution commits it. Curl says the candidates have embarrassed themselves. The only embarrassment, besides the decision itself, is Curl's defense of it. In lauding Obergefell, he equates state refusals to license SSM with anti-miscegenation laws. It is a frivolous analogy, yet one Curl sees as a showstopper: "First, let's do one simple exercise: Substitute 'interracial' for 'same-sex.' Argument over." As Justice Clarence Thomas put it in his dissent, "The suggestion ... that anti-miscegenation laws are akin to laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman is both offensive and inaccurate." Prohibitions on interracial marriage, Justice Thomas elaborated, trace directly to the "sordid history" of slavery and the post-Civil War white supremacy system. In stark contrast, the "traditional definition of marriage," which has prevailed in every society that has recognized marriage throughout human history, "arose not out of a desire to shore up an invidious institution like slavery, but out of a desire to increase the likelihood that children will be born and raised in stable and enduring family units by both the mothers and the fathers who brought them into this world."
Our Judicial Oligarchy
In response to the US Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision, much of social media instantly descended into a mob of gleefulness, unrestrained by reason or critical thinking. People were so ecstatic at the arrival of nationwide same-sex marriage that they could not realize what they were losing in the process. Last Friday, the Supreme Court stole from them, and all of us, something fundamental: the right to govern ourselves. The decision last week was not about whether gay marriage is a good or a bad idea. Reasonable people can disagree about that. The question was: who decides? Do the people decide by debate and deliberation, through referendums, legislative action, protests, and other democratic activity? Or do nine lawyers decide the issue by majority vote, without accountability to the people? Justice Kennedy's opinion — which reads like a sociological treatise rather than a legal judgment — is nothing less than a sweeping assertion that constitutional text and history can be dispensed with when making judicial determinations. All that really matters is which rights the Court sanctions and which it does not. As long as it can get away with overturning democratically-adopted laws by inventing new "liberties" out of thin air, it will do so. This is a prescription for the end of democracy, as issue after issue will be removed from the arena of democratic choice and decided by judges. Just as it has now become impossible for any state to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman — a definition largely uncontested until 15 years ago — so too will other contentious issues be resolved by the decree of a Supreme Court impatient of democratic change.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"The policy of the American government is to leave its citizens free, neither restraining them nor aiding them in their pursuits."
~ Thomas Jefferson