Obama Administration Waffles On U.N. Nominee Who Helped Take U.S. Hostages In 1979

In a rare bipartisan vote Monday, the Senate passed a bill sponsored by Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blocking Iran’s selection of Hamid Abutalebi from entering the United States as that country’s newest United Nations representative.

Abutalebi remembers the yellow-ribbon days of the Iranian hostage crisis well – he was one of its orchestrators. One of Cruz’ chief objections to Abutalebi’s nomination concerned his involvement in the Iranian militant group responsible for capturing 52 Americans in 1979 and holding them hostage for 444 days.

“Abutalebi was one of the Iranian militiamen which stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held the staff hostage for over 400 days,” reported  Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot late last month. “Iran has submitted a diplomatic visa request to the State Department for the 56-year-old statesman, who has previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium and Italy.”

mergeSchumer (left) and Cruz (right) reached rare bipartisan accord on the decision to shun Iran’s choice of representative to the United Nations this week. CREDIT: UPI

Cruz called Abutalebi’s selection to the U.N. “deliberately insulting and contemptuous,” a sentiment supported across the aisle from workaday political nemeses like Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

“I thought it was totally inappropriate that Mr. Abutalebi was nominated in the first place,” Schumer said. “It may be a case of strange bedfellows, but I’m glad Senator Cruz and I were able to work out a bill that would prevent this terrorist from stepping foot on American soil. We ought to close the door on him, and others like him, before he even comes to the United States, and that’s exactly what this bill will do.”

With that kind of broad consensus as a backdrop, and with a companion bill before the House of Representatives, the only uncertainty late Tuesday was how the Obama Administration would receive a bill to spurn the Iranians, once it comes across the President’s desk for a signature.

Well, the White House’s response at first seemed to place the Obama Administration in full accord with the bipartisan Senate vote, but things got murkier the longer reporters probed Press Secretary Jay Carney to clarify Obama’s position. Here’s how Reuters reported it:

The White House made clear on Tuesday that it did not welcome Iran’s choice of Hamid Abutalebi as its new United Nations ambassador, saying officials had told Tehran that the selection was “not viable.”

But White House spokesman Jay Carney stopped short of saying Abutalebi would be barred from entering the United States because of his alleged role in the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, during which radical Iranian students held U.S. Embassy staff for 444 days.

“We’ve informed the government of Iran that this potential selection is not viable,” Carney told reporters.

Asked to explain what “not viable” meant, Carney said: “It’s diplomatic jargon to mean what you want it to mean.”

But isn’t that exactly the phrase Carney had just used?

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Supreme Court Pans New Mexico Photographers’ 1st Amendment Appeal For Refusing Service To Same-Sex Couple

The Supreme Court is declining to hear the case of a New Mexico photography business that claimed its refusal to photograph a homosexual wedding represented a protected exercise of its free speech as delineated by the 1st Amendment.

The case arose from an Albuquerque husband-and-wife photo studio’s refusal to shoot a lesbian wedding in 2006, when Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin told a female couple they would shoot only “traditional weddings.” Although the female couple secured the services of another photographer, they filed a complaint against the Huguenins with the State Human Rights Commission. The ensuing case resulted, ultimately, in the “traditional marriage” defense losing out before the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The Huguenins petitioned the Supreme Court, arguing that they declined to shoot the same-sex wedding because of their belief that the 1st Amendment protects their right to control the message they send through their photographed work.

From USA Today:

“Of particular relevance here is the Huguenins’ sincere religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” their petition said. “They believe that if they were to communicate a contrary message about marriage — by, for example, telling the story of a polygamous wedding ceremony — they would be disobeying God.”

That set the case apart from legislative efforts in some states to establish religious exemptions to anti-discrimination statutes. The Huguenins’ lawyers and supporters did not claim that businesses such as restaurants and hotels can refuse to serve gays and lesbians.

But the Supreme Court passed on the case Monday; therefore, the New Mexico Supreme Court’s decision will stand.

“The case would have posed an important constitutional question with potentially sweeping implications: whether merchants whose products are inherently expressive must serve customers even when it conflicts with their beliefs,” the paper observed. “That could include marketers, advertisers, publicists, website designers, writers, videographers and photographers — and perhaps others.”

Obama Rolls Out Pen And Phone Today To Take On ‘Income Inequality’

President Barack Obama’s announced pen-and-phone gambit in January may have simply been his way of telling people how he’s planning to use his position to help set up Congressional Democrats for re-election in 2014.

This week, Obama will bring his power of executive order to bear in two anticipated actions that both focus on a favorite election-season talking point for Democrats: income inequality.

Obama is expected to sign an executive order today requiring the Department of Labor to establish new regulations that force Federal contractors to give the government detailed information about the demographic makeup of the employees they pay — including information about employees’ race and gender as a function of how much they’re paid.

In February, Obama issued an executive order requiring Federal contractors to pay their employees a minimum of $10.10 per hour as the first of several promised White House initiatives this year intended to whittle away at income inequality, which Obama has identified as a societal problem that progressivists in the Democratic Party are especially qualified to solve.

Obama is also expected to sign an executive order today that forbids Federal contractors from reprimanding employees who publicly discuss their pay.

The signings, announced to media ahead of April 8 in anticipation of “Equal Pay Day.” Every year since 1996, the National Committee on Pay Equity estimates how much longer women must work into the new year in order to earn the same amount of compensation that men earned by the close of the previous year.

“The White House did not respond Monday to questions about whether it will issue a report dissecting how men and women, or a variety of racial groups, fare in its salary pool,” reported David Martosko of the Daily Mail. “That may be because 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has never paid the same levels of earnings to men and women — not even in the current administration.”

According to an analysis by The Daily Caller of last year’s Report to Congress on White House Staff, the Obama Administration paid females 11.8 percent less than males in 2013 — an improvement over the previous year, when female staffers were paid 18 percent less.

 

Ft. Hood Mom Questions Logic Of Gun-Free Bases

“Well for one thing, they’re trained. They know rules of engagement; we send them off to war, they have their guns, they come home, and then they’re taken away from them on their homes bases. They can’t defend their family, their coworkers; they can’t defend themselves.”

Those are the word of Lynda Voyles-Konecny, the mother of an enlisted son who was reportedly only 100 feet from Ivan Lopez, the man who killed three people at Ft. Hood, Texas last week before killing himself.

Voyles-Konecny sat down with WHNT-TV in Huntsville, Ala. over the weekend to discuss the logic of denying servicemen access to weapons while on base. Here’s a link to the story, which includes a video interview.

“They started describing the buildings where these things were going on,” said Voyles-Konecny, who said she and her family all have legal concealed-carry permits. “I knew exactly where my son was and where the shooter was because I’ve been at Fort Hood…I’m in a better position to defend my family than he is, and that’s a shame.”

Mike Lee: End Washington Cronysim – But First, End GOP Cronyism

Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) had a guest column online today at National Review, calling for his party peers to take a stand against the corporate welfare and “crony capitalism” that permeated Washington politics before the Obama era, and has accelerated, at the acquiescence of both parties, since.

“From the stimulus to cash-for-clunkers, from the bailouts to cap-and-trade, from Dodd-Frank to Obamacare, every name-brand initiative of the Obama era has distorted public policy to privilege well-connected insiders and elites at the expense of taxpayers and consumers,” wrote Lee.

“The Right’s [recent] resistance to corporatism is a welcome development. Special-interest favoritism represents a uniquely malignant threat to the economic, political, and social ecosystem that makes America exceptional.”

That’s all well and good, he argues – but it’s difficult to ask for the public’s trust when it’s clear that cronyism existed within the Republican Party before Obama came to Washington, and that internal resistance to change the culture is as strong within the ranks of the GOP as it is with Washington in general.

Obamanomics has delivered record corporate profits but sagging middle-class wages and an anemic, jobless recovery. It has promoted and exacerbated inequality. It has isolated the poor and squeezed the middle class.

It has also exposed the president’s party to extreme political vulnerability.

But to seize this opportunity — to fix what’s broken in Washington and our economy — a still-distrusted GOP first must end cronyism in our own ranks. The GOP has to close its branch of the Beltway Favor Bank and truly embrace a free-enterprise economy of, by, and for the people.

Impossible? That’s what they said about earmarks.

Too radical a change? These are principles we already espouse.

Imagine a reformed Republican party seizing the moral high ground against political corruption and economic dysfunction. Imagine its leaders, advocating populist, free-market reforms to restore jobs, growth, and fairness to the economy. Faster than you can say “TARP,” we could pin the Left between their egalitarian facade and their elitist agenda, and force them to choose between K Street and Main Street.

That Republican party could not only unify and excite conservatives, but appeal to hardworking families in the purple and blue communities that President Obama’s special-interest favoritism is leaving behind.

Lee then offers a litmus test to determine the GOP’s sincerity when it comes to changing the party’s furtive policy tie-ins with corporate benefactors: whether Congress will renew its authorization of the Federal Export Import Bank (or “Ex-Im” Bank), which uses American tax dollars to subsidize loans to American exporters.

“Most of the benefits go to large corporations that are perfectly capable of securing private financing anywhere in the world,” wrote Lee. “In short, Congress allows the Ex-Im Bank to unnecessarily risk taxpayer money to subsidize well-connected private companies… Whether the beneficiaries of particular Ex-Im Bank loan guarantees are respected, successful companies like Boeing or crony basket cases like Solyndra is irrelevant.”

If Congressional Republicans keep mum when the Ex-Im reauthorization comes up this summer, Lee says it’ll be a sure sign that all the GOP talk about ending cronyism on Capitol Hill is just so much sound and fury for the TV cameras.

For some context on Lee’s capacity for sincerity, though, it’s perhaps helpful to remember that Lee had no problem letting his mortgage bank eat the losses on a short sale of his Utah home to a friend and campaign donor back in 2011, not long after he was elected to the Senate.

Amateurs Who Read News On The Internet Predict World Events Better Than CIA

It may not surprise you, but a consortium of assiduous, conscientious amateurs can better predict the future of human affairs on Earth — for a fraction of the cost — than the CIA can.

The Good Judgment Project (GJP), an endeavor that uses the Internet to link 3,000 unpaid news followers from various walks of life, has managed to accurately anticipate global trends and events more accurately than state-sanctioned, state-funded intelligence agencies like the CIA.

From a recent Reason report:

Elaine Rich is a pharmacist in her 60s. She and a team of 3,000 other amateur forecasters in the Good Judgment Project (GJP) use Google to keep current on the news. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employs over 20,000 professionals, operates with an annual budget north of $14 billion, and has access to oodles of classified information.

Which of these groups is better at predicting world affairs?

When it comes to “everything from Venezuelan gas subsidies to North Korean politics,” reports National Public Radio (NPR), amateurs outperform the pros. Rich, in particular, has “been put on a special team with other superforecasters whose predictions are reportedly 30 percent better than intelligence officers.”

GJP originated as one of several competitors in a government-sponsored “forecasting tournament” that challenges teams to devise their own methods to most effectively predict world events. That competition has been going since 2011, and is currently setting up for its final year.

If you’re interested — and this is by no means an endorsement either of GJP or the competition itself — you can even participate. GJP says having a college degree might be helpful, but it isn’t as important as “a curiosity about how well you make predictions about world events.”

Hillary Can’t Remember A Single Accomplishment From Her State Department Tenure

In an effort to answer a simple question Thursday about her accomplishments as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton stammered her way into one of the great non-answers for which she’s famous.

Speaking with an interviewer at the Women of the World Summit in New York, Clinton was asked:

“When you look at your time as Secretary of State, what are you most proud of? And what do you feel was unfinished, and maybe have another crack at one day?”

Her answer was lengthy, but it did not contain one word that acknowledged the question set before her:

Well, I really see — that was good — that’s why he wins prizes. Look, I really see my role as Secretary, in fact leadership in general in a democracy, as a relay race. When you run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton. Some of what hasn’t been finished may go on to be finished, so when President Obama asked me to be Secretary of State I agreed.

…We had the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we had two wars. We had continuing threats from all kinds of corners around the world that we had to deal with. So it was a perilous time frankly. What he said to me was, ‘Look, I have to be dealing with the economic crisis, I want you to go out and represent us around the world.’ And it was a good division of labor because we needed to make it clear to the rest of the world, that we were going to get our house in order. We were going to stimulate, and grow, and get back to positive growth and work with our friends and partners.

 

EPA Conducted Toxin Tests On Human Subjects Without Disclosing The Health Risks

Reports emerged Wednesday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has, in recent years, carried out tests of dangerous pollutants on human subjects without fully disclosing the risks — even as it sought “informed” consent from the participants.

According to The Daily Caller News Foundation, the EPA conducted a series of experiments in 2010 and 2011 intended to assess how exposure to particulate matter from diesel exhaust affected human health. But the agency did not consistently disclose the risks associated with exposure to diesel particulate matter (PM), even though some test subjects came into the test with respiratory illnesses like asthma and heart disease.

The Daily Caller’s report drew information from a copy of the EPA Inspector General’s report on human testing practices, which The Daily Caller obtained last week:

These experiments exposed people, including those with asthma and heart problems, to dangerously high levels of toxic pollutants, including diesel fumes… The EPA also exposed people with health issues to levels of pollutants up to 50 times greater than the agency says is safe for humans.

The EPA conducted five experiments in 2010 and 2011 to look at the health effects of particulate matter, or PM, and diesel exhaust on humans. The IG’s report found that the EPA did get consent forms from 81 people in five studies. But the IG also found that “exposure risks were not always consistently represented.”

“Further, the EPA did not include information on long-term cancer risks in its diesel exhaust studies’ consent forms,” the IG’s report noted. “An EPA manager considered these long-term risks minimal for short-term study exposures” but “human subjects were not informed of this risk in the consent form.”

According to the IG’s report, “only one of five studies’ consent forms provided the subject with information on the upper range of the pollutant” they would be exposed to, but even more alarming is that only “two of five alerted study subjects to the risk of death for older individuals with cardiovascular disease.”

Crucially, the Inspector General’s report also observed the inherent hypocrisy in the EPA’s unethical use of human subjects without informing them of the health-related risks they’d be facing. “This lack of warning about PM is also different from the EPA’s public image about PM,” the document states.

And how’s this for understatement:

The EPA’s diesel exhaust studies did not include language about the long-term cancer risks of diesel exhaust… [E]vidence suggests that at least some human study subjects would like to know if a study involves risk of death, even if the risk is very small.

What does the “P” in “EPA” stand for again?

Charles Koch Doesn’t Sound Like A Guy Who’s Playing Defense

After weeks of flogging from the progressive left, and with months more to come, libertarian oil mogul Charles Koch poked his head out of the ground yesterday to pen an opinion column for The Wall Street Journal. He struck a tone that didn’t sound defensive, nor did it sound particularly aggressive. It simply sounded like the opinion of a man who’s confident in his beliefs.

Despite daily beratings from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who in recent weeks has developed a near-fetishistic public enthrallment with the evil Koch brothers, Koch’s piece focuses less on self-defense and more on explaining why hand-holding government (Koch repeatedly refers to our present government as “collectivists”) has positioned itself as the average American’s chief obstruction to prosperity and self-determination.

Koch never mentions Reid, or any of his other progressive critics, by name. He doesn’t mention President Barack Obama, either — and the tone of his piece implies that his concern over the present state of American politics transcends whoever’s in the Oval Office at the moment.

Instead, Koch contrasts the nanny-state government we have with a government that serves to foster individual liberty. And he explains that he’s only recently seen a need to expand on Koch Industries’ long history of funding educational outreach by throwing his money into the political sphere.

Here are some highlights:

Unfortunately, the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government. That’s why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles. I have been doing so for more than 50 years, primarily through educational efforts. It was only in the past decade that I realized the need to also engage in the political process.

… The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism.

More than 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson warned that this could happen… Collectivists…promise heaven but deliver hell. For them, the promised end justifies the means.

…[Character assassination] is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinsky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society — and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers.

… Rather than try to understand my vision for a free society or accurately report the facts about Koch Industries, our critics would have you believe we’re “un-American” and trying to “rig the system,” that we’re against “environmental protection” or eager to “end workplace safety standards.” These falsehoods remind me of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

Koch goes on to list many of the benefits to society a well-run capitalist enterprise, operating on free-market principles, can produce. Most of those highlights focus not on his or his brother’s (or their father’s) personal achievements. Rather, Koch talks about the diversity of his 60,000-member workforce (one-third of the company’s U.S. employees are union members!) and how he tries to apply his own principles in the operation of his company — even when declining a government handout affects the bottom line.

“Far from trying to rig the system, I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs — even when we benefit from them. I believe that cronyism is nothing more than welfare for the rich and powerful, and should be abolished,” he wrote.

“If more businesses (and elected officials) were to embrace a vision of creating real value for people in a principled way, our nation would be far better off — not just today, but for generations to come. I’m dedicated to fighting for that vision. I’m convinced most Americans believe it’s worth fighting for, too.”

Texas Man Freed After Video Evidence Shows Arresting Cop Lied To Secure Jail Time

Ronald Jones, a Dallas man caught between a malicious police officer and his destination one December night in 2009, went to jail for more than a year after Dallas cop Matthew Antkowiak fabricated a story that seemed to support an aggravated assault charge.

Now Jones is free, and $1.1 million richer, after settling a lawsuit against the city in which video evidence taken from the police cruiser – evidence which wasn’t presented at the time of Jones’ incarceration – shows that every word of Antkowiak’s allegation against the 62 year-old man was false.

Jones, who is black, was set to face trial for allegedly attacking Antkowiak and possessing a crack pipe after the officer, en route to an unrelated call involving two white suspects, spotted him on foot and stopped him. But it was Antkowiak who not only attacked Jones, but also apparently arranged to have the cruiser’s camera turned off long enough to obscure discovery of the alleged crack pipe.

Jones was obviously a confused pedestrian who never saw any of it coming.

According to WFAA in Dallas, Jones’ attorney requested the dash cam footage and revealed its contents only a day before Jones was set to face trial:

“Mr. Jones is walking down the street. Doesn’t fit the description at all,” said his attorney, Don Tittle.

The officer claimed Jones was throwing beer cans, so he pulled him over to arrest him.

“From there, he pulls one of Mr. Jones’ arms up very aggressively and Mr. Jones turns around to see what is going on and why was he being placed under arrest, and from there it goes,” Tittle said.

The officer took Jones to the ground and hit him a few times. The two struggled as more officers arrived.

Two dash camera videos obtained by News 8 show multiple officers on top of Jones; one officer is seen kicking him several times.

Jones’ attorney [said] the 62-year-old client was crying for help.

In his report, Officer Antkowiak stated that Jones “…took his right hand and grabbed the officer by his throat, choking him and lifting him off the ground.”

But take a closer look at the dash camera video; it’s Antkowiak who is on top of Jones, choking him.

In his official report, Officer Antkowiak also claimed that Jones “kicked him in the testicles and groin area, while still choking him.”

But that never happens on video.

Jones’ attorney says on the second dash camera video, the officer is asked to turn off the camera. Then the officers said they found a crack pipe and claimed Jones was intoxicated.

The city awarded Jones the $1.1 million settlement in late March.  On the strength of the video evidence, which came to light in 2011, the DA dropped all charges against Jones. Antkowiak resigned in disgrace, but no other officers were disciplined. According to WFAA, police chief David Brown said the city agreed to settle with Jones only because “focus groups told them they would lose the case” in the resulting lawsuit.