Sunday night, CBS will debut “Madam Secretary,” a series starring Téa Leoni as a newly appointed U.S. secretary of state. To get the lowdown, The Daily Signal checked out Politico Playbook’s meet-the-cast-and-crew event Friday at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill featuring stars Leoni and Tim Daly and producers Morgan Freeman, Lori McCreary and Barbara Hall.
Whether or not you tune in, here are nine facts to brief you on the new “political drama” about power in Washington:
1. Despite taking place largely in Washington, “Madam Secretary” was mostly shot in New York City because producers got tax incentives.
2. Although the producers say the show drew inspiration from Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state (what, Madeleine Albright and Condi Rice are potted plants?), they didn’t not meet with Clinton or her team before filming.
3. The pilot episode of “Madam Secretary” centers around a hostage situation in Syria. Barbara Hall, executive producer and writer, said she chose Syria because she “thought that’s a place where we’re going to be dealing with troops for a long time.”
4. The second episode, although titled “Another Benghazi,” continues to focus on a hostage crisis in Syria. Darn.
5. Téa Leoni, who plays Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, said she drew inspiration for the character from the “strong” women who helped raise her.
6. Tim Daly, who plays the secretary of state’s husband, Henry McCord, said he met former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Albright, he said, is a big fan of his show “Private Practice.” During casting, Morgan Freeman added during the Politico event, he thought Daly looked too young for the part.
7. The president and administration Elizabeth McCord serves has yet to be named as Republican or Democrat because, the producers said, they hope to highlight “process,” not politics. “I think a lot of the time, the way we consume politics is to take a stand and take a position, and to ignore the process,” Hall said. “Especially in the State Department … You have international relations to consider, you have domestic relations to consider, and you have interoffice relations to consider.”
8. Hall was a co-executive producer of “Homeland,” the Emmy-winning Showtime drama. She grew up in Chatham, Va., and attended James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.
9. McCreary said she was inspired to create “Madam Secretary” after seeing Hillary Clinton make her “What difference does it make?” remarks before a Senate committee in testimony last year about the deadly Sept. 11, 2012 terror attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
The post 9 Diplomatic Facts to Know About ‘Madam Secretary‘ appeared first on Daily Signal.
As the Islamic State terrorist organization commands attention with its cold-blooded tactics of rape and murder, another group of violent extremists in Syria considers itself tougher — and actually may have more ambition to attack the United States.
The group, known as Khorasan, was acknowledged and named publicly for the first time Thursday by National Intelligence Director James Clapper.
Clapper confirmed that Khorason may pose as great a threat to the U.S. as the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL. “There is potentially yet another threat to the homeland, yes,” he said at an intelligence conference in Washington.
In an interview with The Daily Signal, James Phillips, an expert on the Middle East at The Heritage Foundation, breaks down the basics of the Khorasan group, explains their ambition and discusses the threat they pose to Americans.
The Daily Signal: What exactly is the Khorasan group and what is their aim?
Phillips: The Khorasan group is a cell of veteran terrorists belonging to the al-Qaeda core group — the high command of the al-Qaeda network that relocated to Pakistan after the 2001 defeat of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, reportedly dispatched the Khorasan group to Syria to link up with al-Qaeda’s official franchise in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra — which means “the Victory Front.”
U.S. intelligence officials believe their mission is to recruit European and American Muslim militants who have traveled to Syria to fight alongside Islamist extremist groups that form part of the rebel coalition fighting Syria’s Assad regime.
The Khorasan group hopes to train and deploy these recruits, who hold American and European passports, for attacks against western targets.
Q: How long has the group been around? Did they only recently get on America’s radar?
A: Al-Qaeda has sought to attack America, the “far enemy,” for more than two decades and the Khorasan group is its most recent vehicle for launching such attacks.
U.S. intelligence agencies have been aware of its efforts for many months, but did not publicly acknowledge it by name until Thursday, when Director of Intelligence James Clapper confirmed its existence at an intelligence conference in Washington.
Jabhat al-Nusra proclaimed its formation in 2012, and the Khorasan group probably was deployed in Syria some time after that.
Q: What is their main goal in Syria?
A: The Khorasan group is focused on launching terrorist attacks on western targets outside Syria, while cooperating with the al-Nusra Front, which focuses on overthrowing the Assad regime and eventually establishing an Islamic state in Syria.
ISIS is an al-Qaeda offshoot that broke away from the leadership of Zawahiri and proclaimed that it already has established an Islamic state in Syria and Iraq.
>>> Commentary: What ISIS Is Trying to Do With Its Slick Videos
The brash and ambitious ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghadi, belongs to a new generation of al-Qaeda leaders and sees himself as Osama bin Laden’s true successor.
The al-Nusra Front has clashed violently with ISIS inside Syria, but the Khorasan group as far as I know has focused exclusively on organizing attacks on western targets rather than on rival Islamist extremist groups or the Assad regime.
Q: Is it true that the Khorasan group is working with al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate on making bombs? How sophisticated are the bombs? Could they get past airport security?
A: U.S. intelligence officials report that the Khorasan group has cooperated closely with AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), one of the most dangerous al-Qaeda franchises. AQAP’s innovative bomb-maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, has developed sophisticated explosive devices that have been placed on at least three aircraft bound for the United States.
>>> Commentary: 11 Reasons Why ISIS Might Be More Dangerous Than al-Qaeda
He has pioneered new techniques for making bombs that are extremely difficult to detect, including the one worn by the “underwear bomber” who sought to destroy an American airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.
Now the Khorasan group is seeking to match up Western recruits developed by al-Nusra with bombs developed by AQAP. This threat has prompted heightened security precautions at airports.
Q: The Khorasan group has been described as being more of a threat to the U.S. than ISIS. Is that true?
A: I think each group presents a diverse set of threats to the United States and its allies. ISIS now poses primarily a regional threat, but could soon pose a threat to the U.S. homeland by inspiring “lone wolf” terrorist attacks or more complex terrorist operations.
The Khorasan group currently poses more of a threat to the U.S. homeland, because of its greater experience in transnational terrorist operations and access to more sophisticated bombs.
Q: Has the Khorasan group been subject to American military action? If not, why not?
A: The Khorasan group is much smaller and harder to target with conventional military attacks than ISIS, which has mushroomed into a quasi-state with a hybrid army that is more visible and vulnerable to attack.
As far as I know, Khorasan has not been singled out for attack, but it may have been hit in attacks targeted at its al-Qaeda fraternal partners.
But since it operates in areas controlled by al-Nusra, which apparently is not included in the Obama administration’s strategy for combatting terrorism in Syria, the Khorasan group may be relatively free from worrying about immediate U.S. military action.
Q: How would you characterize the threat that the Khorasan group poses to the U.S., especially compared with core al-Qaeda or ISIS?
A: The Khorasan threat is part of the al-Qaeda network’s war against America. ISIS has drifted away from its al-Qaeda parent organization, but continues to mount terrorist threats, primarily in the Middle East region. All of the groups are poison fruit from the same Islamist extremist ideological tree, but they have different priorities in launching their attacks.
The post Q&A: Meet Khorasan, the Terrorist Group That Might Be Scarier Than ISIS appeared first on Daily Signal.
After two months on the job, the reshuffled leadership of the House of Representatives drew accolades this week from the Republican conference’s conservative faction for working to make sure the voices of all members are being heard.
During the monthly gathering Thursday called Conversations With Conservatives, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., commended the newly elected members of the leadership for creating an atmosphere where GOP lawmakers could “vent” and engage in debates over a range of policy issues facing the chamber.
“I’m very pleased with the tenor of the conference, the direction of the conference, the practices of the conference,” Mulvaney said.
After then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia lost his primary in June, Republicans voted to elect a new No. 2 under Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. They chose Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, formerly in the No. 3 slot as majority whip. To replace him, they elected Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
During Thursday’s gathering with reporters, Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, who had challenged McCarthy in the race for leader, cited the Republican conference’s internal debates on immigration reform and on arming and training Syrian rebels to fight the terrorist group ISIS.
Such discussions “bode well” for leadership and members who “want to feel like their voices have been heard,” Labrador said, adding:
The people who are now leading the conference understand what a hunger there was for the conference to be listened to more.
The post Listen Up: House Conservatives Like the New Leadership Tone appeared first on Daily Signal.
The protests outside fast-food establishments last week featured calls for a $15 hourly wage. Unemployment is only the most obvious unintended consequence we could expect under such a large forced increase in wages. For consumers, the most noticeable difference would be the price of fast food: A typical fast-food meal would probably cost about $2 more. For example, a Big Mac meal would cost $7.82 instead of $5.69.
My Heritage Foundation colleague James Sherk used research on the price responsiveness of fast-food consumers to calculate how a typical fast-food establishment would respond to an increase in wages from $9.04 (the 2013 average) to $15.50. If the high wage were imposed, prices would rise on contact because the wage bill would vastly exceed most establishments’ small profit margins.
But the reactions wouldn’t stop there: Faced with higher prices, consumers would buy less fast food, substituting home cooking, prepared food and sit-down dining. The appeal of fast food, after all, lies in its cheap convenience. With lower sales, restaurants would most likely raise prices even more (and lay off staff) to maintain profitability.
Sherk estimates that in the short run, prices would rise 38 percent, production and hours worked would fall 36 percent, and wages would decrease to 1 percent of revenue from 3 percent in 2013. In the long run, some restaurants would close, and the survivors would shift to fewer, higher-skilled workers and more labor-saving technology.
Some workers would come out ahead from a $15 fast-food wage: those with the most experience and the highest efficiency. Sadly, marginal workers–including those with the worst alternatives and the fewest marketable skills–would be left behind.
Originally appeared on WSJ.com.
The post Higher Fast Food Wages Could Leave Some Workers Behind appeared first on Daily Signal.
SANTA FE, N.M. – There is now a state element to wooing The Bachelor.
“We’re really excited,” said Rebecca Latham, communications director for the tourism department, who confirmed Monday the state agency will pay $50,000 to the show’s producers. In return, the producers agreed to tape a two-hour episode of the show at various locations in the state capital this fall.
The Santa Fe City Council originally committed up to $100,000 for the effort, but Randy Randall, director of the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau,told the Santa Fe New Mexican the city won’t pay more than $50,000.
All told, $100,000 in public money from New Mexico will be spent.
“A 30-second ad during ‘The Bachelor’ would run about $200,000, and we really feel it’s a steal to get it at $50,000 in front of a huge prime-time viewership for two hours,” Latham told New Mexico Watchdog.
The $50,000 purchase will not include any commercials promoting New Mexico tourism, but Latham said the exposure makes the expenditure of taxpayers dollars a good investment. The $50,000 will come out of the New Mexico Tourism Department’s $7 million annual advertising budget, Latham said.
The show, which debuted in 2002, features one bachelor choosing a potential wife from a pool of 25 women, and culminates with a choreographed ceremony with the husband-to-be offering his choice a red rose. “The Bachelor” is one of ABC’s highest-rated shows, drawing 14.3 million viewers last season.
Great Britain can breathe a huge sigh of relief. The people of Scotland voted Thursday to remain a part of the United Kingdom. This is great news not only for Britain, but also for the United States.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is America’s closest ally on the world stage.
The financial markets in London would have gone into freefall, with the pound plummeting, and a cloud of economic uncertainty hanging over the world’s sixth largest economy.
The Anglo-American “Special Relationship” is the engine of the free world, the most robust and enduring partnership of modern times. Anything that weakens that relationship is a negative for America. As the “Iron Lady,” Margaret Thatcher, liked to say, America “needs friends in the lonely task of world leadership,” and Americans have no better friends than their British allies across the Atlantic.
Had Scotland opted for independence, Britain would have been thrown into turmoil. At a stroke, its population would have shrunk (following an 18 month transition period) by 5 million people and its land mass reduced by roughly a third.
The financial markets in London would have gone into freefall, with the pound plummeting, and a cloud of economic uncertainty hanging over the world’s sixth largest economy. Undoubtedly, Wall Street would have taken a big hit too.
In addition the prime minister, David Cameron, would have faced a fight for his political survival, with a mounting rebellion within the ruling Conservative Party. The ensuing political instability in Westminster would have made it impossible for the British government to focus on the urgent task of fighting the ISIS menace in Iraq and Syria, throwing U.S. plans to build an international coalition against the Islamist threat into question. The last thing the United States needs as it goes to war against ISIS is its closest friend and partner at war with itself.
Thursday’s “no” vote also removes a massive headache that would have faced both British and U.S. defense chiefs. Britain’s nuclear deterrent is submarine-based, and entirely located in Scotland.
If Scotland had opted for independence, London would have been forced to relocate its nuclear weapons, with no natural base in England or Wales. The Scottish nationalists had threatened to turn Scotland into a nuclear-free zone, a stance that goes against the spirit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is a nuclear alliance.
Americans should welcome the Scottish referendum result as a reaffirmation of a union that has existed for more than 300 years. It is a union that forged a mighty empire that gave birth to many of the world’s greatest democracies today, from the United States and Canada, to Australia and India.
Scots have played a huge role in that history, as soldiers, sailors, airmen, explorers, economists, inventors and entrepreneurs. The fabric of Scotland’s rich and varied past is intricately interwoven with that of the rest of Great Britain. The British people can now look forward to a future with Scotland as an integral part, and this can only be good for America as well.
Originally appeared on FoxNews.com.
The post The Crazy Turmoil That Could Have Happened If Scotland Voted to Be Independent appeared first on Daily Signal.
Good jobs, paying $15 to $20 per hour, went unfilled. The company even hesitated to expand because it could not find enough drug-free applicants.
Times have changed.
Company president Jim Hatt said the economy is so slow the market has begun to attract more qualified workers. Business still is not where he would like to see it, but now he can find employees who can pass a drug test, which he says the company is forced to do by its insurance company.
Gov. Scott Walker appears to be taking such concerns to heart.
The Republican governor on Sunday unveiled his jobs plan for his next term, should he survive what polls show is his dead-heat gubernatorial race against Mary Burke, a Democrat, former commerce secretary under Walker’s predecessor Jim Doyle and member of the Madison Metropolitan School Board.
Walker’s 62-page plan proposes more property and income tax cuts, increased tax relief for manufacturing and agriculture and reduced barriers to business creation, according to Walker’s campaign.
But the most controversial points are the governor’s proposals to require drug testing for individuals filing for unemployment and for “able-bodied, working-age adults requesting food stamps” through the state’s FoodShare public assistance program.
The bottom line, Walker says, is the bottom line: Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for public assistance programs for individuals who can’t pass a drug test.
Burke and her supporters have ripped Walker for missing the mark on his 2010 campaign pledge that Wisconsin’s economy would create 250,000 jobs during his first term. The number, to date, is north of 100,000, but it’s a long way from the massive contraction under Doyle, Walker’s allies point out.
“Wisconsin is back on under Governor Walker, and voters cannot forget the poor results and extreme mismanagement of the Doyle-Burke Administration that caused 133,000 jobs and 27,000 businesses to flee the state,” said Republican Party of Wisconsin Executive Director Joe Fadness in a statement.
The post Scott Walker Proposes Drug Testing for Those Filing for Unemployment Benefits, Food Stamps appeared first on Daily Signal.
Politics is often filled with paradoxes, and here is one that nearly defies explanation. The demographic groups that voted most heavily for Barack Obama in 2012 have suffered the most from this president’s economic policies. Maybe the people in these demographic groups — blacks, Hispanics, single women and young people — are economically uninformed, or maybe for these groups, when it comes to voting, it’s not the economy, stupid.
Whatever the explanation, the facts speak for themselves: Obama voters have not benefited from his policies.
I looked at the most recent Census Bureau data as analyzed by statisticians from Sentier Research. Last month, Sentier released “Household Income on the Fifth Anniversary of the Economic Recovery: June 2009 to June 2014.” This report found, depressingly, that five years into an “economic recovery,” real median household income “is now 3.1 percent below that of June 2009 when the ‘great recession’ officially ended.” In dollar terms, real median household income fell by $1,698. So much for the Obama claim on Labor Day that “by nearly any measure, the economy is doing better.” Well, actually, for more than half of Americans, their personal financial situation is worse.
The poor and unskilled that Obama says he cares so much about saw their incomes fall by 7.4 percent for those with less than a high-school diploma
Now let’s look at who the Obama voters were in 2012 — and the numbers weren’t a whole lot different in the “hope and change” election of 2008. The demographic groups that were crucial to his victory were: young voters 60 percent (for Obama), single women 67 percent, Hispanics 71 percent and blacks more than 90 percent.
Here’s how these groups have fared economically since Obama became president. According to the Sentier research, single women with and without children present saw their incomes fall by roughly 5 percent. Those age 25-34 experienced an income decline of 4.4 percent. Black heads of households saw their income tumble by 7.7 percent, while the income of Hispanic heads of households fell 5.6 percent. In other words, many of these groups experienced double the income fall than the average voter.
Oh and by the way, the poor and unskilled that Obama says he cares so much about saw their incomes fall by 7.4 percent for those with less than a high-school diploma and 8.2 percent for those with only a high-school diploma.
In dollar terms, between the time the Obama recovery began in June 2009 and June of this year, median black household income fell by nearly $3,000, Hispanic households lost nearly $2,500, and female-headed households lost roughly $1,500.
The jobless numbers show pretty much the same pattern. July’s Bureau of Labor Statistics data (the most recent available) show a national unemployment rate of 6.2 percent. The highest jobless rates by far are for key components of the Obama voter bloc: blacks (11.4 percent), Hispanics (7.8 percent), those with less than a high-school diploma (9.6 percent). For teens, it’s 20.2 percent.
In the 1980s and 1990s, it was blacks and women who had the largest percentage income gains. Now that progress in reducing racial and gender income gaps has reversed course under Mr. Obama. The income gains under Mr. Obama have been concentrated in those in the top 20 percent of income.
One reason incomes haven’t risen for most groups is the steady decline in labor-force participation. That number has dropped to 62.9 percent from 65.5 percent five years ago. This means a 6.4 million drop in workers earning paychecks.
Income redistribution isn’t an economic strategy for growth. It’s a lifeboat strategy. It would be hard to point to a single initiative the Obama administration has proposed that would help businesses grow and invest. In fact, as the Burger King fiasco documents, companies are leaving the United States owing to taxes and regulation. The poor and minorities have taken the big hit — and that’s the real injustice of Obamanomics.
Originally appeared in the Washington Times.
Voter-ID opponents have suffered another stunning blow.
On Friday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved the injunction that had been issued against Wisconsin’s voter-ID law by a federal district court in April. The court told Wisconsin that it “may, if it wishes (and if it is appropriate under rules of state law), enforce the photo ID requirement in this November’s elections.” In reaction, Kevin Kennedy, the state’s top election official, said that Wisconsin would take all steps necessary “to fully implement the voter photo ID law for the November general election.” The appeals court issued its one-page opinion within hours of hearing oral arguments in the appeal.
As I explained in an NRO article in May, the district court judge, Lynn Adelman, a Clinton appointee and former Democratic state senator, had issued an injunction claiming the Wisconsin ID law violated the Voting Rights Act as well as the Fourteenth Amendment. Adelman made the startling claim in his opinion that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2008 upholding Indiana’s voter-ID law as constitutional was “not binding precedent,” so Adelman could essentially ignore it.
However, that was too much for the Seventh Circuit. It pointed out, in what most lawyers would consider a rebuke, that Adelman had held Wisconsin’s law invalid “even though it is materially identical to Indiana’s photo ID statute, which the Supreme Court held valid in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008).”
It was also obviously significant to the Seventh Circuit that the Wisconsin state supreme court had upheld the state’s voter-ID law in July, since the three-judge panel cited that decision, Milwaukee Branch of NAACP v. Walker, too. In fact, the appeals court said the state court decision had changed the “balance of equities and thus the propriety of federal injunctive relief.”
In other words, there was no justification for striking down a state voter-ID law that was identical to one that had been previously upheld by both the Supreme Court of the United States and that state’s highest court.
This decision is only on the appropriateness of the injunction that was issued. But in a bad omen for the plaintiffs, the Seventh Circuit said the “state’s probability of success on the merits of this appeal is sufficiently great that the state should be allowed to implement its law, pending further order of this court.” The appeal “remains under advisement” and the court said that “an opinion on the merits will issue in due course.”
This is also another big defeat for Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced in July that the Justice Department would be intervening in this lawsuit. The Department lost a lawsuit that claimed South Carolina’s voter-ID law was discriminatory in 2012, and a federal judge recently refused to issue an injunction against North Carolina’s voter-ID law in another lawsuit filed by Justice.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is in a hard-fought reelection campaign, said after news of the Seventh Circuit’s action came out that “voter ID is a commonsense reform that protects the integrity of our voting process.” Echoing similar claims by state representative JoCasta Zamarripa of Milwaukee, Dale Ho, a lawyer at the ACLU, claims this will cause “chaos at the polls,” despite the fact that there has been no such “chaos” in any of the other states that have implemented voter-ID laws over the past ten years.
What this decision means is that, as Governor Walker said, at least in Wisconsin, it will now be “easier to vote and harder to cheat.” And it adds to the long string of losses suffered by opponents of voter-ID laws. Slowly but surely, voter ID is getting implemented across the country.
Originally appeared on National Review Online.
SANTA FE, N.M. — Describing the immigration crisis as “spiraling out of control,” a coalition of five sheriffs’ organizations in the Southwest released a three-page statement calling on the federal government to resist “outright amnesty” for people in the country illegally.
The document called for increased funding for border security programs, including removal programs supervised by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and DNA samples, fingerprinting and iris scans for people apprehended for entering the U.S. without documentation.
“The immigration crisis has overwhelmed the capabilities of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and all the federal agencies attempting to assist in the efforts to secure our borders,” said the statement, approved by the boards of the Western States Sheriffs’ Association, the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition, the Southwestern Border Sheriffs’ Coalition, the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association and the National Sheriffs’ Association.
The groups are meeting in Santa Fe through Wednesday.
“We’re not just saying we have problems,” said Donald Reay, executive director of the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition, based in El Paso. “We’re saying we have solutions to those problems.”
The sheriffs’ statement went on to say the coalition is willing to form a “united security zone in sufficient depth along the border” to ensure safety.
That prompted criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Sheriff’s deputies may need more resources to do their jobs, but enforcing federal immigrations laws is not one of them,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the Regional Center for Border Rights of the ACLU of New Mexico.
The sheriff’s coalition statement says, “Amnesty is not the answer.”
But wouldn’t the sheriffs’ five solutions be expensive?
“When you weigh the expense versus the benefit, absolutely not,” said Reay, who didn’t offer an estimate of the cost. “Because you are saving lives, you are identifying people later who are possibly criminals.”
The post Sheriffs in the Southwest: Border ‘Spiraling Out of Control’ appeared first on Daily Signal.
The U.S. Congress heard recently from the President that the world is a dangerous place and that we may need to defend our national security soon. That is as it should be. But before the first bullet is fired in most contests, there’s usually an information war that must be won, and there the Senate has dropped the ball by not taking up a House bill that reforms U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB).
Consider the hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, a prime example of the importance of the communications war. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his southern neighbor marks the first time since World War II that a European country has officially annexed the territory of another.
But before Putin invaded Ukraine he occupied the Russian mind. Having taken complete control of his country’s media, Putin was able to paint Ukraine’s new leaders as “Nazis” and the country’s Russian minority as “oppressed.” Thus brainwashed, Russians clamored for intervention; Putin merely acceded to their demands. No Roman emperor ever did it better.
Just as the Obama Administration pulled all troops out of Iraq and did not leave a residual force, so it also dismantled our information armory.
It is the same with the conflicts we face with Islamists from Boko Haram in Nigeria to the Taliban in Pakistan, and of course with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The battle for hearts and minds takes place in every conflict we face. Very often, the first ammunition fired are sound bites and pixels of information. For the West, when it sticks by its values, this means using the truth.
We used to be good at lobbing the truth over the parapets, beaming Voice of America broadcasts into the darkest of dungeon-nations, unstintingly showing the benefits of religious tolerance, freedom of speech and association and all the other rights that provide liberty.
Then we unilaterally disarmed. Just as the Obama Administration pulled all troops out of Iraq and did not leave a residual force, so it also dismantled our information armory.
Most damningly, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees most of the activities of U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB), all but eliminated broadcasts in Russian and Ukrainian in the past few years.
Acting through the USIB, the Administration has also made deep cuts in the Office of Policy, which creates the editorials that explain U.S. policy to foreign audiences. Last September Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, complained that these cuts were in contravention of the VOA charter and public law. Those complaints went completely unheeded by IBB Director Richard Lobo, an Administration appointee.
Often times, VOA staff have sought to define their mission not as purveyors of American values and explainers of policy overseas, but as straight up journalists who must criticize both.
Standing behind these issues is also the ideological baggage that the Obama Administration has brought in. President Ronald Reagan had no compunction about calling the Soviet Union “the evil empire”—drawing derision from Paris, Bonn and the Upper West Side, but giving comfort to prisoners in the Gulag, who heard from it after word had been beamed in by VOA. President Obama, by contrast, has reportedly banned the administration from using such terms as “jihad” and “Islamic terrorism.”
The United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014, or H.R. 4490, won’t fix the Obama Administration’s ideological biases, but it would do much good.
Among its many positive aspects, H.R. 4490 would provide adult supervision for the $700 million broadcast group, replacing the BBG with a “United States International Communications Agency,” and establishing within the agency a Board of Directors and a Chief Executive Officer.
The role of VOA in public diplomacy is moreover underlined: the bill expresses the sense of Congress that VOA “has been an indispensable element of U.S. foreign policy and public diplomacy efforts and should remain the flagship brand of the Agency.”
The other so-called “surrogate” institutions, such as Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network, would be consolidated into a “Freedom News Network” to facilitate better management.
H.R.4490 is, moreover, that rarest of things: a bipartisan bill, introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., not exactly ideological birds of a feather.
The bill passed the House by a voice vote on July 28 and now awaits action from a Senate that has precious few days left in this session. Senators serious about facing up to the challenges posed by ISIS, Putin and others should understand that information wars well fought can avoid ones that involve real bullets.
Originally appeared in the National Interest.
The post Why Won’t the Obama Administration Fund Efforts to Make the Rest of the World Not Hate Us? appeared first on Daily Signal.
Police may soon have new technology to help them identify texting drivers.
A Virginia-based company called ComSonics is developing a detection device resembling a radar gun that can pick up the distinctive radio signals generated by texting, according to the Virginian Pilot. Being able to distinguish between a phone call and a text would be useful for police in states like Virginia, where it is legal to talk on the phone while driving, but not to text.
The device is currently in production and has several potential flaws that ComSonics is still addressing – such as determining which person was texting in a car with more than one passenger.
“Police have an obligation to make sure the roads are safe,” said Andrew Kloster, a legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation. “And states generally have the authority to pass laws that prohibit you from driving while doing things that might impair your driving. This seems like a reasonable effort to do so.”
Kloster is not concerned about privacy issues, but did raise another concern.
“It’s not really a privacy issue since they’re looking at the fact that you texted rather than what you texted. In my mind, the bigger question is an evidentiary one. If I’m driving, and my wife sends a text message on my phone, and I’m pulled over, what happens then? I don’t think that would be good enough evidence to get a conviction.”
Jordan Richardson, a visiting legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, raised another concern.
“In an age where the police have been caught using ticket quotas, this would give them an additional excuse to pull over drivers,” said Richardson.
According to CBS, the device is not yet in production because the company is still waiting for “legislative approval and a commitment from law enforcement.”
The post This New Technology Could Allow Police to Catch You Texting While Driving appeared first on Daily Signal.
Producers continue to rebuff talk that the new CBS political drama, “Madam Secretary,” is based on Hillary Clinton. They will, however, admit that the former secretary of state, senator and first lady had undisputed influence on the show’s storyline.
Appearing today at an event in Washington, D.C., Lori McCreary, executive producer of “Madam Secretary,” reiterated that the idea for the show starring Téa Leoni originated with news clips of Clinton testifying before a congressional panel on the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
McCreary recalled seeing Clinton pound her fists on the table at the hearing — the one on Jan. 23, 2013 where she uttered the now notorious line, “What difference does it make?” — and wondering what it was like to be a female secretary of state.
“Madam Secretary,” which premieres Sunday, centers on the life of Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, played by Leoni, and the events that shape her professional and personal life.
When crafting her character, Leoni said at the event at the the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill sponsored by Politico, she drew inspiration from the women who raised her. And also from another former State Department head who recently came out with a book — Henry Kissinger.
Congressional investigators continue to work to learn what happened before, during and after the events in Benghazi that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.
On Wednesday, the House Select Committee on Benghazi held its first public hearing examining the attacks.
The post The Benghazi Moment That Inspired TV’s ‘Madam Secretary’ appeared first on Daily Signal.
Without question, the Obama administration has been slow in coming up with a strategy to counter the threat from ISIS terrorism.
This week, Rick Stengel, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, made the case for soft power. He told a packed audience at the American Security Project his office faces challenges as momentous, but far more complex, than any the United States has seen since the fall of Soviet communism.
Stengel, a former TIME magazine editor who has been on the job for six months, is the eighth person to hold the public diplomacy post since it was created in 1999. Regardless of who serves in the post, U.S. messaging will be only as convincing as the man in the White House, where a gaping international leadership vacuum has developed under President Obama.
Stengel described U.S. leadership in the 21st century as a “gyroscope in a multifaceted world.” Hardly words of comfort for countries in trouble such as Iraq or Ukraine.
In discussing the part public diplomacy can play in the “gigantic global conversation,” Stengel inadvertently made a troubling point. “We need to figure out what to answer when people talk to us,” he said. “We have to explain our policy. We should be the nation that listens.”
This reflects the Obama administration view of the Internet as the key tool for public diplomacy. It is a view that has caused a de-emphasis of other public diplomacy tools such as U.S. International Broadcasting, one of the largest accounts in the public diplomacy budget, but one that is constantly under stress even as countries such as Russia and China beef up their broadcasting capability.
Stengel acknowledged reliance on the Internet can be problematic. “We are seeing a closing off of the Internet and the information space by illiberal autocracies,” he said. “People can close off information space. We did not expect this.” He also said he was “amazed at the surge” in Russian propaganda “in the Near Abroad,” although growing Internet censorship and other similar Russian behavior have hardly been secrets.
ISIS propaganda is the other main challenge of the moment. Stengel correctly described ISIS as combining savagery with sophistication in the digital space. Here the main weapon is the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counter Communication—a small, but critical office whose mission is to “coordinate, orient and inform government-wide foreign communications activities targeted against terrorism and violent extremism.” Six weeks ago, the CSCC added English to the languages in which it broadcasts, which also include Arabic, Pashtu and Dari.
Elements of a more serious strategy did appear to be emerging relating to the Middle East. “We need to harden the soft-power landscape,” Stengel acknowledged. He said fighting lies about the United States among Middle East conspiracy peddlers probably would be a wasted effort, but we should “focus on persuading people that being in a coalition with the United States is in their interest.”
But to do that the United States has to be seen as a bedrock of commitment, not a “gyroscope.”
The post What Should U.S. Diplomacy Strategy Be in a Time of Terrorism? appeared first on Daily Signal.
Once again, university officials have shown how progressive and tolerant they are by forcing Young Americans for Freedom at Pennsylvania State University to remove its table from a so-called “free speech zone.”
The YAF activists’ crime? Handing out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day, Sept. 17.
Sound familiar? It should. Last year, Robert Van Tuinen, an Army vet and student at Modesto Junior College, was shut down passing out copies of The Heritage Foundation’s “Guide to the Constitution.” He sued his college and it eventually settled the lawsuit, paying him $50,000.
This year, it was Penn State’s turn to continue the tradition of violating the Constitution on Constitution Day. But why? Lawyers for public universities should know that shutting down speech exposes them to First Amendment lawsuits. Furthermore, passing out copies of the Constitution performs a valuable educational service that many universities don’t perform on their own. If anything, Penn State should be thanking Jolie Davis and the other PSU YAF student activists.
Penn State officials offered no justifiable reason for shutting down the activists. One university administrator suggested Penn State has a neutral policy on the books, prohibiting all tables in the free speech zone. Even if this were true, it still might fall afoul of the First Amendment. But the as one student noted: “We’ve seen people’s tables out here all the time!” In other words, whatever the formal policy on the Penn State books, the university traditionally allows student organizations to have tables.
In fact, the YAF chapter at Penn State had placed a table at this exact spot before without any reported harassment from school authorities, but this time they handed out more than Constitutions – they included information about Penn State’s restrictive speech code. This is probably the real reason for the targeting. But Penn State officials might want to do some work on that speech code. They also might want to avail themselves of one of the copies of the Constitution the activists were handing out—or, better yet, the newly revamped Heritage Guide to the Constitution.
Then then need to read it and learn it and come to understand it. If they do, we won’t see them inhibiting Constitution Day events anymore.
The post Here We Go Again: Students Prohibited From Passing Out Constitutions on Constitution Day appeared first on Daily Signal.
Australian security officials say they stopped a suspected plan by Islamist extremists to capture random citizens and behead them in public and on camera.
More than 800 security personnel raided 25 homes across two cities early yesterday morning in what authorities said was the largest counterterrorism raid ever conducted in Australia.
Authorities said they arrested 15 suspects, one of whom, Omarjan Azari, 22, appeared in a Sydney courtroom later in the day. The raids also resulted in the seizure of computers, documents and a firearm.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters that intelligence showed the directive for the attack came from an Australian who holds a senior position in the Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Last week, Abbott announced that his nation’s terrorism-alert level had been raised from medium to high.
Nile Gardiner, a leading authority on transatlantic relations at The Heritage Foundation, complimented Australia for acting quickly to stop the alleged terror plot.
“Australia’s highly effective anti-terror raids are a reflection of the fact that the free world is engaged in a global war against a vicious Islamist enemy that seeks our destruction,” Gardiner said.
He credited Abbott with “decisive leadership.”
On the same day as the raids, Australia extended its participation in the fight against the Islamic State, sending 200 special forces troops to the United Arab Emirates as part of a U.S.-led coalition against the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.
Australia estimates that 60 of its citizens are fighting for militant groups in the Middle East and 100 more support extremist groups from within Australia, the Associated Press reported.
Helle Dale, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, said:
The arrests by Australian authorities of terrorist plotters planning savage attacks on Australian citizens shows both the ambitions and the limitations of the ISIS terror and propaganda strategy. The group persuaded unhinged individuals to heed its calls to murder, but vigilance, intelligence and good police work won the day.
The post Australia Foils Terror Plot to Randomly Behead Civilians appeared first on Daily Signal.
In March 1973, a limping Air Force pilot stepped off a bus in Hanoi, North Vietnam, after being shot down, beaten, tortured and held more than five years as a prisoner of war. In 2008, amid the heat of Sen. John McCain’s campaign for president, a former reporter for the Swedish broadcasting network SVT came across previously unseen footage of his initial release before the flight home. In honor of POW/MIA Recognition Day in the United States, watch this AP video depicting McCain and other newly freed POWs.
The post To Mark POW/MIA Recognition Day, Watch John McCain Begin His Trip Home appeared first on Daily Signal.
“Jesus on Trial,” the new book by conservative author and lawyer David Limbaugh, just took the #1 spot on Amazon, but is nowhere to be found on the New York Times best-seller list.
The Washington Examiner reported Thursday that Limbaugh’s book was omitted from the print hardcover best-seller list “despite having sold more copies than 17 of the other books.”
Among the 20 print hardcovers on the list was one which sold only 1,570 copies. In comparison, “Jesus on Trial” sold nearly 10,000 during its first week in stores, according to the Examiner.
The noticeable absence of Limbaugh’s new book comes just months after the New York Times was criticized for excluding “America: Imagine a World Without Her” by conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, from their best-seller list.
“It’s their newspaper, and they have a right to rig their list anyway they want, but if they are doing it, people should know,” D’Souza told the Examiner in June.
Nonetheless, D’Souza’s “America” now joins other conservative books such as Dr. Ben Carson’s “One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future” and Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s “Happy, Happy, Happy” on the Times’ list of bestsellers.
In “Jesus on Trial,” Limbaugh, who also penned the best-seller “Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity,” uses his legal background to creatively dissect and defend the Canonical gospels. By introducing evidence and asking challenging questions, Limbaugh strives to prove the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Danielle Rhoades Ha, director of communications for the New York Times, responded to The Daily Signal’s inquiry with the link to a detailed description of the methodology used to determine the Times’ best-seller list — the first sentence of which states that “rankings reflect sales reported by vendors offering a wide range of general interest titles.”
The post Why Is Limbaugh’s Best-Selling Book Not On New York Times List? appeared first on Daily Signal.
Of late, Hollywood has given us all kinds of movies about the military. The worst of them—such as “Green Zone,” a dreadful 2010 film that rightfully bombed at the box office—demonize and diminish our men and women in uniform to feed Tinseltown’s impulse to please the Code Pink crowd.
But sometimes, a maverick movie breaks out that portrays the heroic side of service. Films such as “Lone Survivor” (2013) often get scorned by the left and snubbed at the Oscars but earn significant applause in the theater.
Life is not easy for many veterans. They make up a significant portion of the homeless population. About 18 per day commit suicide.
It’s all too rare we see movies that humanize those who fight for us, that deliver a truly honest portrayal of the difficulties of balancing service and sacrifice. There is a movie that’s getting a limited theatrical release that does just that.
“Fort Bliss” is the fictional account of an Army medic who returns from combat deployment overseas and struggles to reconnect with her five-year old son. Filmmaker Claudia Myers found inspiration for the film from working with the military.
“It made me realize I’d been very sheltered from this aspect of the war,” she said in a recent interview. “I didn’t understand….there was a story there to be told.”
There is more than a little realism in this story. And, that’s something America needs more of. There has been an outpouring of concern for veterans who have served since 9/11, but much of that empathy has been a reaction to the costs of conflict.
But there are more than 22 million living veterans, and life is not easy for many of them. They make up a significant portion of the homeless population. About 18 per day commit suicide. Nearly a half-million are living with wounds sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Through it all, they are veterans, not victims. They want to be like the rest of us, to come home and reconnect with jobs and families. A movement has arisen to press communities to have a more realistic appreciation for America’s veterans and to understand better how we can serve them.
That said, there ought to be more films like “Fort Bliss,” but Americans would never know that if they don’t get to see the film. The film has gotten rave reviews at a handful of screenings, such as one at the GI Film Festival where it won the award for Best Narrative Feature, but that’s about it. Today the film opens in limited release in just three theaters in New York, California and Texas. If it does well, it might earn more screens along the way.
The White House yesterday released a list of executive actions to “combat climate change” with “solar deployment and energy efficiency” regulations that promise to cut 300 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 and allegedly billions from electricity bills. For the most part, the list doesn’t consist of anything new or grand but is a collection of actions the Obama Administration and the private sector were already doing and which will have as good as zero impact on global temperatures.
On the list are a number of initiatives that don’t appear to cut any CO2 emissions: solar job training on several military bases, a Website for federal solar energy resources and data, an updated guide to federal financing tools, four government studies, a roundtable discussion on increasing access to capital for solar projects, and a business plan competition.
Another item on the list will cost taxpayers a pretty penny. The Department of Agriculture will award $68 million in loans and grants to renewable energy and efficiency projects on farms, ranches, and rural small businesses. Why these continued investments/subsidies are necessary is unclear, considering that one of the aforementioned government studies found that installation prices for residential and commercial solar projects continued a “precipitous decline in 2013” even as state and local utility cash incentives have fallen 85–95 percent over the past decade. The cost of utility-scale project installation has also fallen 40 percent since 2007.
Others “deployments” on the list will cut carbon dioxide emissions. The White House announced energy-efficiency regulations for commercial air conditioners and new commercial and residential building code standards by the Department of Energy (DOE). Allegedly these have and will continue to cut millions of CO2 emissions and save homes and businesses billions of dollars on energy bills. But not for free.
Americans make energy-efficiency decisions all the time and invest in efficiency upgrades when it makes sense for their unique circumstances and goals. In calling for new efficiency regulations, the DOE prioritizes energy efficiency over other preferences customers and businesses might have—safety, size, performance, or price, to name a few. Not only does this limit customer choice, but it’s likely that the regulations will increase up-front costs for customers. Manufacturers will have to divert investments to meet government compliance, regardless of whether customers want to pay for that or not.
But to what end? Many Americans would like to lose weight, but that at least has the benefits of improved health, more energy, and personal satisfaction. The Obama Administration fails to explain what exactly will be accomplished by preventing 300 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Climatologists at the Cato Institute modeled the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule to cut CO2 emissions from the electricity sector 30 percent by 2030, or 750 million tons worth. Using U.N. assumptions about emissions and warming and a model created in part by the EPA, they found that it would only impact global temperatures (allegedly the problem we are trying to solve) by 0.018 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. The impact that cutting 300 million tons would have on temperatures is far less.
While the White House wages war on climate change, American freedoms and common sense are casualties.
The post Combating Climate Change with Sunshine and Fuzzy Math appeared first on Daily Signal.