Month: October 2017

U.S. ramps up air war against Islamic State in Yemen as fight subsides in Iraq and Syria

As the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria comes to a close, U.S. military and counterterrorism officials are setting their sights on the group’s growing presence in the war-torn country of Yemen. The number of U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State’s Yemeni faction has increased in the past several weeks as the mission for American drones and warplanes against the group’s bastions elsewhere in the Middle East ramp down. A trio of deadly strikes this month against Islamic State training camps in Yemen marks a refocus by American counterterrorism forces back onto the Gulf state that has been a regular target of U.S. forces battling the al Qaeda faction known as al Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula, or AQAP, for the past two decades. But strikes in the country this month are the first time Washington has gone after the Islamic State inside Yemen. The uptick in U.S. operations against the Yemeni-based Islamic State cells began in mid-October with an airstrike against a suspected camp in the country’s al Bayda governorate. The strike, which the Pentagon said was critical to “disrupting the organization’s attempts to train new fighters,” was the first such strike specifically targeting Islamic State in the country. On Wednesday, American forces launched a pair of airstrikes against another suspected target in al Bayda, reportedly killing nine jihadis tied to Yemen’s Islamic State factions. All told, American warplanes killed roughly 60 insurgents from the group during all three strikes, said Central Command officials, according to reports. “ISIS has used the ungoverned spaces of Yemen to plot, direct, instigate, resource and recruit for attacks against America and its allies around the world,” Pentagon officials said after the initial Oct. 9 strike, using an acronym for the group. “U.S. forces are supporting ongoing counterterrorism operations in Yemen against ISIS and AQAP to degrade the groups’ ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to hold territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen,” Pentagon officials added. U.S. forces have launched over 100 airstrikes against al Qaeda in Yemen this year, according to figures compiled by the Washington-based think tank the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The high rate of airstrikes this year under the Trump administration dwarfs the previous high of 46 strikes in 2016 ordered by President Obama.

Senate confirms Amy Coney Barrett to bench; Democrats had questioned her ‘orthodox’ Catholic faith

The Senate confirmed a Catholic woman Tuesday to sit on an appeals court seat over the opposition of Democrats, sparking complaints from Republicans who said they fear some in the chamber are imposing religious tests that would deny faithful Catholics a chance at judgeships. Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, was cleared on a 55 to 43 vote, with all of the opposition coming from members of the Democratic Caucus. Just three Democrats joined the GOP in backing her nomination to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. She was the first of three women, and four appeals court nominees total, that Republicans intend to confirm this week. “I assume that all three of these impressive women will receive strong support from our Democratic colleagues, who never seem to miss an opportunity to talk about a ‘War on Women,’” Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mr. McConnell on Tuesday. Ms. Barrett, a devout Catholic, drew questions about her faith during her confirmation hearing last month. Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, asked her if she was an ‘orthodox Catholic’ while Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, told Ms. Barrett ‘the dogma’ lives loudly within her. And on Monday, Republican senators alleged Democrats of ‘Catholic bigotry’ in their refusal to support Ms. Barrett’s confirmation, saying their attempt to mount a filibuster against her was proof. But Mr. Durbin said he was only asking Ms. Barrett about her academic writing where she used the term ‘orthodox Catholic’ and he wondered what she meant by that. He also said his opposition to her wasn’t because of her faith, but rather because she hasn’t spent enough time in a courtroom. “I’ll let my record speak for itself about the numbers of Catholic nominees that I have appointed to the bench,” he said on the chamber floor Tuesday. “I don’t believe she has sufficient experience to be a circuit court judge.” Progressive groups didn’t say Ms. Barrett was unqualified based on her faith, but worry she will rule against women’s right to abortion access and gay rights. “Professor Barrett’s past statements and writings show a strong, personal bias against reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights. And more broadly, her record demonstrates a dangerous lack of deference to long-standing precedent and judicial restraint,” said Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “If Donald Trump succeeds in packing the courts with judges who share his hostility to civil rights, we will lose one of the only remaining checks our nation has on his virtually unlimited powers, and the consequences will be felt for decades to come,” said Sharon McGowan, strategy director for Lambda Legal. Mr. Durbin also said he will reject the other three circuit court judges this week. One of those, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who is nominated to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, overcame an attempted filibuster by Democrats on Tuesday in a 60 to 38 vote. Mr. Durbin said he rejects Justice Larsen because she was on the list of 21 judges suggested to Mr. Trump during his campaign as potential Supreme Court nominees by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation to fill the vacancy after the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016. “Clearly, those right wing organizations are confident that they will like her rulings if she is confirmed,” he said. Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid for the 10th Circuit and Stephanos Bibas for the 3rd Circuit are also set to receive confirmation votes by the end of the week, according to Mr. McConnell. The Senate confirmed Trevor McFadden for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday.

Starnes: Video: Tens of Thousands of Young Farmers Celebrate America

American patriotism is not exactly in vogue these days among Democrats, Hollywood starlets and the National Football League. It’s considered fashionable among the social justice crowd to take a knee during the national anthem, burn the American flag and dishonor our troops. But that’s hardly the prevailing opinion across the fruited plain – where tens of thousands of young teenagers are rising up and publicly declaring their love for America and their devotion to freedom. Last week, some 65,000 members of the Future Farmers of America Organization gathered in Indianapolis to celebrate our great nation. I received a video of the jaw-dropping celebration from Deb Zippel, one of our faithful readers in Minnesota. Her daughter is studying to be an agricultural education teacher and was in attendance at the gathering. Jaci Dietrick, an FFA member from Newcastle, Oklahoma, walked onto the stage and delivered a stirring rendition of “God Bless the USA.” “Ladies and gentlemen, we live in the greatest country in the world and that’s only because we have men and women fighting daily for that freedom,” she told the massive crowd. “Thank you for standing.” And that’s exactly what they did – tens of thousands of young people rose to their feet and began singing along with vocalist. And when she started crooning about those lakes in Minnesota and the in hills in Tennessee – well, the young patriots dutifully let out hoots and hollers. When the singer concluded the song, the entire audience erupted with boisterous chants of “USA USA”. You would be hard pressed to find any snowflakes laden with microaggressions in the FFA. “These kids are the ones that get it,” Miss Deb told me. “They are hard working. They don’t expect it to be handed to them.” Miss Deb said her daughter worked two jobs to pay her way through college – “including getting up at 4 a.m. to milk cows and working an organic farm and squishing potato bugs by hand.” It’s that kind of hard work and determination that makes America the most exceptional nation on the planet. Thanks to young farmers across the fruited plain for reminding us there’s a generation rising that is proud to be American!

Agreed!  To see the video of Jaci singing “God Bless the USA,” click on the text above.  We need to rub this in the faces of Roger Goodell and those self-righteous, entitlement-minded, millionaire NFL players who have been rubbing their liberal, anti-America politics in our faces.  Thanks to Todd Starnes for sharing this story with us.  We take our hats off to these kids with the FFA!  Outstanding!!    🙂

Fans Bail on ‘Monday Night Football’ As Ratings for Chiefs-Broncos Crash

No matter who dresses up as what at the NFL offices in New York, it’s not likely that their Halloween costume will scare Commissioner Roger Goodell more, than the ratings for Monday Night Football. According to Deadline Hollywood, “With a 7.2 in metered market results, last night’s MNF was down 9% from last week’s Philadelphia Eagles’ 34-24 triumph over the Washington Redskins. “While not the season low of the October 16 battle between the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts, last night’s Chiefs vs. Broncos match-up is very close to the previous MNF season low of the October 9 Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears games.” Deadline Hollywood continued, “Year-to-year, last night’s Week 8 game was dead even with the Week 8 game of the 2016/2017 season when the Vikings and Bears pulled in a 7.2 MM rating in their October 31, 2016 match-up.” Bad ratings are never good for the league, and will always cause concern. However, the numbers from the Chiefs-Broncos game should cause particular concern. Both the Chiefs and the Broncos were .500 or better, and both teams are longtime rivals in the same division. Which means, the game had playoff implications. Not to mention that we’re now halfway through the NFL season, and, normally, by this point the league has gained some kind of consistent performance with the primetime numbers. Though, other than the numbers being consistently bad, that hasn’t happened.

House Tax Plan May Kill Deduction Taken by 95% of Itemizers

The tax plan the House Ways and Means Committee will release on Wednesday may eliminate the federal income tax deduction that people are currently permitted to take for the state and local income or sales taxes they have paid. That deduction, according to the latest Internal Revenue Service data, was taken by 42,502,130 tax filers—or 95 percent of the 44,671,840 tax filers who itemized their deductions in tax year 2015. The deduction allowed those 42,502,130 tax filers to reduce their federal taxable income for 2015 by a combined $351,163,796,000. The tax reform framework that the White House, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee agreed to in September said the tax plan it envisions “eliminates most itemized deductions, but retains tax incentives for home mortgage interest and charitable contributions.” It did not say it would retain the deduction for state and local income and sales taxes.

Nor should it.  We need to get to a “flatter,” fairer income tax, as long as we have it.  For more, click on the text above.

French: Progressives Are Now Arguing that the First Amendment Is Profoundly Limited on College Campuses

There are a few ways to respond to radical demands for campus censorship. One is rather simple: Enforce decades of constitutional jurisprudence, and clearly signal to disruptive protesters that lawbreaking is grounds for serious discipline. Follow the law and the debate about free speech won’t end, but the wave of shout-downs will pass. Students, after all, don’t want to sacrifice their shot at a degree to stop, say, Ben Shapiro or Charles Murray from speaking. As a general rule, they’ll do what the college allows them to do, and nothing more. Then there’s the opposite response: A number of progressive administrators, professors, and activists (over the objection of more liberty-minded colleagues) are seeking to redefine and ultimately eliminate the very concept of a “marketplace of ideas” on college campuses. They argue that the ultimate mission of the university is education, not providing a platform for any crazy idea someone wants to share, and that school administrators should thus have the right to determine who speaks on campus and how they speak based on whether the speech in question furthers this educational mission. That, in a nutshell, is Yale Law School professor (and former dean) Robert Post’s argument in an extended piece in Vox. To justify an administrative role in determining not just who speaks on campus but what they are permitted to say, Professor Post says this: “The entire purpose of a university is to educate and to expand knowledge, and so everything a university does must be justified by reference to these twin purposes. These objectives govern all university action, inside and outside the classroom; they are as applicable to nonprofessional speech as they are to student and faculty work.” This is remarkably similar to the arguments made to my colleague Charlie Cooke in a recent and heated debate at Kenyon College. If speech is so offensive, hurtful, or maybe just plain wrong that administrators believe it would impair the educational mission of the university, then, the thinking goes, they should have the power to restrict that expression. There are multiple problems with this argument, but I’ll focus on two: It’s both unlawful and absurdly impractical. First, the law. When analyzing a free-speech case, the first question you need to ask is, “Who is speaking?” In the context of a public university, there are usually three relevant speakers: administrators, faculty, and students. Administrators have the general ability to define the mission and purpose of their schools’ academic departments. They can mandate, for example, that their science departments operate within the parameters of the scientific method and on key issues apply accepted scientific conclusions. But this power isn’t unlimited. They can’t lawfully decide, say, that evolutionary biology will be taught only by atheists. In that case, the speech of the administrators collides with the First Amendment rights of the professors, and the professors win. Similarly, while professors have the right to shape and control their classroom (some permit profanity and insults while others sharply limit discussion) and even have the right to require students, within the classroom context, to defend views they may find abhorrent, their control is not absolute. They can’t mark down conservatives for being conservative or silence Christians for being Christian. They can grade ideas and expression for academic rigor, but they cannot discriminate purely on the basis of ideology or faith. Just as you can’t “punch a Nazi,” you can’t “flunk a Nazi” if their work meets the standards of the class. One of my old cases is instructive. Shortly after California voters passed Proposition 8, a ballot measure that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, a speech professor at Los Angeles City College walked into his class and declared that any person who voted for Proposition 8 was a “fascist bastard.” One of his students, a young man named Jonathan Lopez, decided to respond in a speech assignment. Lopez was asked to deliver a speech on “the topic of his choice,” and he chose to discuss and define his Christian faith. In the course of discussing the fundamentals of his faith, he briefly addressed marriage. His professor stopped his speech, angrily confronted Lopez, and then dismissed the class. Rather than grade his speech, he wrote on the evaluation paper, “Ask God what your grade is.” The professor’s “speech” thus collided with the student’s First Amendment rights, and the student’s rights prevailed. In sum, individuals at each layer of university life enjoy considerable First Amendment protection. Indeed, no lesser authority than the Supreme Court has decisively declared that “the vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools.”

Exactly..  To read the rest of this outstanding legal op/ed by attorney David French, click on the text above.

Consumer confidence hits highest level since December 2000

Consumers were even more optimistic in October than economists polled by Reuters expected. Consumer confidence rose to 125.9 in October, according to the Conference Board. The index “increased to its highest level in almost 17 years,” Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement. That was in December 2000, when the index hit 128.6. The economic weight of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pulled down the spirits of U.S. consumers in September, when the index was relatively flat. In October, “consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved,” Franco said. “[This was] boosted by the job market which had not received such favorable ratings since the summer of 2001,” Franco said. The high level of confidence suggests the economy will continue to expand “at a solid pace” for the rest of 2017, Franco added. The index takes into account Americans’ views of current economic conditions and their expectations for the next six months. Economists pay close attention to the numbers because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

Great news!!   🙂