Cruz warns of federal land grab in Defense bill

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) issued a statement Wednesday urging his congressional colleagues to reject the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act because of an “extreme land grab” and other pork included in this year’s rendition.

The more than $580 billion bipartisan military funding bill includes expected national security provisions in addition to some energy and public lands provisions not related to the nation’s vital security interests.

“At a time where jobs are scarce and the federal government has removed billions of acres of land from productive use, Congress should not be restricting more than a half-million new acres,” he added.

Among the provisions Cruz has taken issue with are:

  • 250,000 acres of new wilderness designations.
  • 400,000 acres withdrawn from productive use (for energy, mining, timber, etc.).
  • 15 new national park units or park expansions.
  • Eight new studies for national parks.
  • Three new wild and scenic river designations and three new studies for additional designations.
  • Study to begin the National Women’s History Museum.

“With the military’s shrinking budget, it is offensive that this bill would be used to fund congressional pork,” Cruz said.

The 2015 Defense bill slowed the annual rate of growth for service members’ housing allowances and a more modest pay raise than the private sector average.

The Republican is urging Congress to reject the 2015 NDAA, a bill he calls an “attempt by self-serving politicians to exploit the men and women of the military to serve their special interests.”

But Cruz faces an uphill battle getting members of either party to alter the Defense authorization, long considered a piece of annual must-pass legislation.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Armed Services Committee’s top Republican, told The Hill that he too disproves of the land provisions, but added, “[Y]ou have to have a bill. That’s what people lose sight of.”

The GOP’s immigration balancing act

With Congress in full lame-duck mode, Republican lawmakers are struggling to formulate a plan to fulfill promises that the GOP would defeat President Barack Obama’s immigration overhaul at all costs.

On Tuesday, reports indicated that GOP lawmakers in the House have mostly ruled out attempts to force an immigration battle by initiating a government shutdown next week.

Instead, many are advocating a vote on a largely symbolic measure that would disapprove of Obama’s immigration executive orders but still fund immigration enforcement through March 2015. Some GOP lawmakers said the move will make it easier to block the immigration overhaul when they have majority control over both legislative bodies in 2015.

Here’s how two Republicans described the strategy to Talking Points Memo:

“You need to utilize every political means that you can in the environment that you’re in. We have limited capabilities now politically, with one house of government,” freshman Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) said.

“We’re not going to take that bait,” Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) said of a potential shutdown. “We learned from what happened last time. We also learned that no matter what we do until we get a dance partner in the Senate … we’ve got to be realistic. And shutting down the government is not a realistic alternative at this juncture.”

House Republicans could vote to state their displeasure with Obama’s actions as early as Thursday. But that won’t really matter, as outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has made clear that the resolution will never see the light of day in his chamber.

House Republicans are then expected to vote on separate legislation funding government operations through September 2015, with a continuing resolution that would cut most immigration funding by March.

The continuing resolution caveat isn’t ideal for Senate Democrats, but it’s better than a drawn-out budget battle.

Breaking from House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) establishment, the GOP’s most conservative members are advocating for holiday budget drama.

If the party doesn’t do all it can, they contend, Republicans risk failing on promises the party made ahead of the midterm elections.

“Do what you said you would do,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said during a Wednesday press conference.

The lawmaker is calling for the addition of a rider to the budget bill to strip funding for Obama’s actions as soon as possible.

“What the president is doing is dangerous,” Cruz said. “If the president doesn’t have to follow the law, what is the point of electing Congress?”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has also called for a rider to strip immigration funding, saying Tuesday that Congress’s current plan is too watered down.

“The executive amnesty language is substantially weaker than the language the House adopted this summer, and does not reject the central tenets of the President’s plan: work permits, Social Security and Medicare to 5 million illegal immigrants — reducing wages, jobs and benefits for Americans,” he said.

Sessions also noted that the use of a rider to restrict funding for controversial programs is fairly common.

“Congress must respond to the president’s unlawful action by funding the government but not funding illegal amnesty,” he said. “This is a perfectly sound and routine application of Congressional authority. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reports that last year’s omnibus spending bill included 16 such funding restrictions on fee-based programs.”

Rand Paul slams John McCain’s hawkish foreign policy

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a “wacko bird,” took Senate hawk John McCain (R-Ariz.) to task this week, saying his elderly colleague would like to see the U.S. involved in “15 wars more.”

“I want less, McCain wants more [military intervention],” Paul said at a Wall Street Journal event. “He wants 15 countries more, 15 wars more. But the thing is, is that there is a more and a less argument.

“When you poll that in Iowa, 45 percent agreed with McCain and 41 percent agreed with me.”

The numbers come from a recent Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll question pitting Paul’s policy positions against McCain’s.

Paul offered that his Senate re-election platform, as well as any future presidential plans, includes advocacy for war only as a last result.

“If I’m ever commander in chief, I will not want to take the country to war,” the senator said. “It will be the last resort and only when the country is united.”

The lawmaker said he “begrudgingly” supports current U.S. efforts to quell unrest in the Middle East, but reminded the audience that he argued against arming so-called moderate rebels in Syria last year. Many of the weapons have since been commandeered by radicals.

On Wednesday, Paul introduced legislation that would levy a congressional declaration of war against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria if passed.

“Six hundred tons of weapons went into Syria in 2013 alone… Many of them found their way into the hands of ISIS,” Paul said. “I don’t think there are any moderates there. There’s two million Christians who are on the other side of the war. It’s a messy civil war and we shouldn’t be involved in it.

“The only reason I’m for getting back involved over there is not because I think there’s any end to the war between Sunnis and Shiites or there’s any end to the Syrian civil war or there would be anything that great by replacing Assad with ISIS,” Paul said. “But the reason I get involved is because we have an embassy and a consulate to defend.”

The lawmaker added that a true defeat of ISIS will only come with populist revolt against the group’s barbaric form of Islam in the Middle East.

Paul said that many Americans agree with his positions despite GOP establishment smears over his foreign policy positions.

“This is not a small movement, nor is it easy to say people like myself, who believe in less intervention, can be characterized as people who don’t believe in a strong national defense,” he said. “That is a caricature and I will have to fight that, but we’ll see what happens.”

Militarized police are here to stay

President Barack Obama and Congress have moved to assuage calls for the demilitarization of American police by paying lip service to the issue without making any real effort to curtail the amount of battlefield equipment being deployed to American streets.

The White House, with the Monday release of its review of police militarization, announced plans to conduct more oversight of the military equipment acquisition programs and require more thorough training for local police receiving wartime equipment.

A new executive order also calls for “after-action analysis reports for significant incidents involving federally provided or federally-funded equipment.”

In addition, Obama is forming a “Task Force on 21st Century Policing” designed to “promote effective crime reduction while building public trust” and examine the use of military equipment on the nation’s streets.

As far as the White House is concerned, militarized police are here to stay. In fact, the administration’s actions, though cleverly disguised as a response to populist calls for demilitarization, mostly further institutionalizes the military-to-police equipment pipeline.

Administration officials have attempted to quiet talk about police militarization by repeatedly claiming that the military vehicles make up only a small percentage of the equipment benefitting local law enforcement involved in the surplus programs. In case you’re wondering, the small percentage still equates to a lot of military vehicles on U.S. streets.

From the president’s “Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition” report:

Examples of controlled property provided include: 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night vision devices, 5,235 high mobility, multi-purpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs), 617 mine resistant ambush protected vehicles and 616 aircraft.

A White House official, in a conference call with reporters Monday, said the president was complying with the wishes of Congress.

“Our assumption is Congress has an intent here to support local law enforcement with the use of this kind of equipment,” the official said. “Our focus is on what kind of protections are in place to make sure it’s used properly and safely.”

Congress recently killed the bipartisan Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, which would have limited the transfer of military equipment to police. The bill was introduced by Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and had the backing of 45 co-sponsors, including Republican like Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Walter Jones of North Carolina and Tom McClintock of California.

Cruz offers his own foreign policy plan

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) continued his efforts to foist himself as a foreign policy strongman Tuesday with deep criticisms of the Obama administration’s actions overseas and presented his own plan for “reasserting American leadership in the world.”

Cruz told a Washington gathering of Concerned Veterans for America that the “the Obama-Clinton foreign policy” has resulted in a world in crisis.

“It’s almost as if the whole world is on fire right now,” he said, according to Business Insider. “Leading from behind doesn’t work.”

Instead, Cruz argued that the U.S. should follow a three-point foreign policy approach centered around being a leading voice for freedom, having a clear vison for military deployment and maintaining a capable national security staff.

Cruz cited President Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech as an example of the power of the nation’s ability to inspire freedom throughout the world.

“One of the most striking and inexplicable aspects of the last six years is the almost complete absence of American leadership speaking out for freedom,” he said.

Cruz accused the Obama administration of focusing more on photo ops and press releases than the nation’s vital national security interests to make the case for his second foreign policy point.

“The singular failure of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has been a failure to focus on the vital national security interests of the United States,” Cruz said. “If and when we have to [use force], it should be with a clear, stated objective up front. We should go in with overwhelming force and then we should get the heck out. It is not the job of our military to produce democratic utopias across the world.”

Obama’s Defense personnel issues are at the center of Cruz’s third foreign policy point. The lawmaker noted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s resignation.

“What a failure of leadership at a time when the world is on fire,” said Cruz. “It seems what the administration is looking for is a defense secretary who will follow the orders of a political White House.”

Cruz recently suggested that former Sen. Joe Lieberman would be a good replacement for Hagel.

McConnell surprised at Obama’s actions since midterm losses

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he’s “perplexed” by President Barack Obama’s doubling down on certain leftist positions after Democrats suffered a “butt-kicking” in the midterm elections.

The remarks came as McConnell appeared at an event sponsored by The Wall Street Journal CEO Council Tuesday.

“By any objective standard the president got crushed in this election,” he said, according to WSJ. “So I’ve been perplexed by the reaction since the election, the sort of in your face dramatic move to the left. I don’t know what we can expect in terms of reaching bipartisan agreement.”

GOP lawmakers have been extremely critical of Obama’s decision last month to issue an executive order granting amnesty to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. In addition, the president has unilaterally worked out a greenhouse gas agreement with China and called for new regulations on Internet providers.

“We need to quit rattling the economy with things that are perceived by the voters as disturbing,” McConnell said, vowing to avoid another government shutdown to walk back Obama’s actions.

The GOP suffered falling approval ratings as a result of the last economic shutdown.

The lawmaker suggested that Republicans will attempt to undo Obama’s immigration actions by voting on individual components of the omnibus immigration bill produced last year by the bipartisan Gang of Eight.

“What I think we ought to do is bust it up, pass as much of it as we can, starting with border security, which is a way of reassuring the American people that we’re not going to have another calamity like we’ve had,” McConnell said.

“I would bust it up if I were setting the agenda in the Senate, start with border security, H-1B visa expansion, H-2A ag worker provisions, E–Verify and some of the other things I think we can get pretty broad agreement on,” he continued.

McConnell also told the gathering that the new Republican majority is willing to work with the president moving forward despite “a deep philosophical difference” that could cause problems.

Obama announces law enforcement body cam plan and military equipment review

President Barack Obama on Monday unveiled a plan to provide $263 million in funding to be used by law enforcement agencies to improve resources, training and accountability. The White House also announced that the president plans to rework the process by which the federal government hands military equipment over to local police departments.

The announced reforms come amid continued national protests over a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

Obama’s proposed $263 million spending package includes $75 million to help pay for the purchases of body mounted cameras for officers throughout the nation. The plan would also require state and local governments to shoulder some of the cost of equipping officers with as many as 50,000 body cams.

The remaining funds would go toward increasing community outreach programs designed to foster better relationships between officers and the communities they police, according to officials.

Police in Ferguson came under national scrutiny in the weeks following Brown’s death as street protesters, violent and not, were met with a heavily militarized police response. National headlines about the heavy-handed police tactics led to political calls for a reduction in the amount of military equipment made available to local police departments.

A review of the military equipment program ordered shortly thereafter by Obama has revealed “a lack of consistency in how federal programs are structured, implemented and audited.”

The Obama White House has suggested that it doesn’t plan to do away with the programs, which have handed $18 billion worth of disused military equipment to local agencies in the past five years. Instead, administration officials suggest an approach to keep the program in place while addressing concerns that “training has not been institutionalized, specifically with respect to civil rights and civil liberties protections, or the safe use of equipment received through the federal government.”

To that end, the president’s staff is currently working on an executive order that will require federal agencies like the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Justice and Treasury and the Office of National Drug Control Policy to huddle with local law enforcement and civil liberties groups to recommend changes.

Obama is also creating a new “Task Force on 21st Century Policing” designed to “promote effective crime reduction while building public trust.”

The task force will be headed by will be chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, a former assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs and current professor at George Mason University.

Democratic organizer called for blatant voter fraud in key Senate race

The Black Conservatives Fund (BCF) has released damning video footage of desperate Democratic attempts to defend Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s seat from Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy. In the videos, an organizer calls on supporters to commit voter fraud and promises that Landrieu “will go on to support Barack Obama 97 percent of the time.”

A Cassidy victory in the runoff would underscore the GOP’s already impressive midterm election results with a ninth Senate pickup, which would give Republicans a 54-46 majority over their Democratic colleagues.

Leading into the runoff, conservative groups have rallied behind Cassidy; and he has enjoyed all manner of high-profile endorsements. By comparison, Democratic groups have offered only lukewarm support for Landrieu, largely because of the presumption that her re-election effort is a lost cause — “unless he makes a big mistake, says something stupid or some scandal erupts,” as University of Louisiana at Monroe political scientist Joshua Stockley told The Washington Post.

The pair of videos released by the BCF, a political action committee established to engender black support for conservative candidates, reveals how the desperation is affecting Landrieu’s camp.

A video released by the group Friday shows Don Cravins Jr., Landrieu’s chief of staff, rallying support for the candidate by promising that she’ll help Obama fulfill some of the promises that his supporters feel he’s failed to deliver.

“He can’t finish his agenda because he doesn’t have people like Mary Landrieu with him,” he says. “… So I’m asking you tomorrow to go out and vote for Sen. Landrieu.

“She’s been in office for 18 years, and in the Senate,” he continues. “That’s what you need to get things done.”

If she’s re-elected, he adds, “She will go on to support Barack Obama 97 percent of the time.”

On Monday, the group released another rally video taken Nov. 3. It features the chief of staff’s father, Opelousas Mayor Don Cravins Sr., who encouraged voter fraud to reach Democrats’ legislative goals.

“That’s the kind of progress that we want, Opelousus,” he says, adding that Democrats need leadership and someone who knows how to do business.

“And that’s why I’m asking that you go out tomorrow and vote for [ballot] No. 99,” he continues. “If you early voted, go vote again tomorrow.”

Amid cheers, he adds, “One more time’s not gonna hurt [and] tomorrow we’re gonna elect Earl Taylor as D.A. so he won’t prosecute you if you vote twice.”

Republican Louisiana state Sen. Elbert Guillory, speaking on behalf of the BCF, said that he attributes the messaging to desperate Democratic attempts to increase election numbers among the black community where he says the party’s failures have been felt most heavily.

Ferguson leads to calls for police body cameras

In light of civil unrest sparked by the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) is calling for legislative changes to require all of the nation’s law enforcement officers to wear body cameras on duty.

“We oughta pass national legislation that will — will — will create, I think, a positive atmosphere after this thing is over,” he said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

“And that is that police officers, law enforcement officers, must wear cameras and that, as we did years ago with the COPS program, we would make federal grants available to small communities that couldn’t afford to have these cameras.”

Cleaver is one of many people, including Brown’s family, who believe a body cam could have made a difference in the case of the young man’s death.

A grand jury on Tuesday announced its decision not to charge Brown’s killer, Officer Darren Wilson.

In a subsequent statement, Brown’s family expressed disappointment and called on supporters to: “Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.”

Members of the law enforcement community have also spoken up, saying that body cams could benefit officers as well as civilians.

Chuck Drago, a former Florida police chief turned law enforcement consultant, told Bloomberg that the cameras often help officers prove that a suspect was in the wrong.

“Police officers do the right thing 99.9 percent of the time, and they should have proof of that,” he said.

Ted Cruz’s bizarre desire for Joe Lieberman to head Defense

FILE/Prior to his retirement from Congress, Lieberman routinely argued in favor of the hawkish foreign policy positions that would have placed the U.S. in the middle of international conflicts.

In a move that could turn off some of his lingering libertarian-leaning fans, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) floated former independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, a foreign policy hawk, as an ideal candidate to replace ousted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

“We need a Secretary of Defense who is squarely focused on defending the national security interests of the United States, first and foremost, and especially preventing a bad deal over Iran’s nuclear weapons program that could do irreparable harm to us and our allies. One strong option would be former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a member of the President’s own party with deep experience and unshakable commitment to the security of the United States. I urge the President to give him full and fair consideration for this critical position,” Cruz said Monday in a prepared statement.

Prior to his retirement from Congress, Lieberman routinely argued in favor of the hawkish foreign policy positions that would have placed the U.S. in the middle of international conflicts. His strongest foreign policy allies were often Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both of whom are notably hawkish on overseas issues.

Lieberman joined McCain on a 2012 trip as conflict heated up in Syria to support rebel fighters at the Turkish border, announcing: “Diplomacy with [President Bashar] Assad has failed and it will continue to fail so long as Assad thinks he can defeat the opposition in Syria militarily.”

And in August 2012, Lieberman joined McCain and Graham (the Three Amigos, as they’ve been called in political circles) to pen a Washington Post op-ed calling on the U.S. to arm Syrian rebels and take on a strong support role in the conflict.

“The U.S. reluctance to intervene in Syria is, first of all, allowing this conflict to be longer and bloodier, a radicalizing dynamic,” they wrote. “Contrary to critics who argue that a greater U.S. role in Syria could empower al-Qaeda, it is the lack of strong U.S. assistance to responsible fighters inside the country that is ceding the field to extremists there.

The former lawmaker has spent much of his time since leaving office criticizing the Obama administration’s foreign policy, calling out the administration for everything from being too easy on Iran to failing to adequately support Israel during 2014 unrest in Gaza.

Speaking about nuclear relations with Iran this year, Lieberman said that he believes not reaching a deal with the country is a better option than a deal that allows the Iranians to continue with even the most modest nuclear ambitions.

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, argued that accepting positions such as Lieberman’s would effectively put the U.S. on course for direct military conflict with Iran.

Parsi wrote in a Reuters column earlier this year after Congress balked at an Obama administration plan to ease sanctions on the country:

It’s very simple: If you prefer war with Iran over a deal with Iran — even one that would prevent it from building a bomb — your best and possibly last opportunity to kill the deal is immediately after the nuclear talks have concluded. That’s when distrust of Iran’s intentions will remain pervasive and when its commitment to carry out its side of the deal will still have to be demonstrated. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor pursued this tactic in January after an interim agreement was reached in November last year.

But it’s unsurprising that Lieberman takes a hardline stance against working with the Iranians in spite of the potential for war; he’s been itching for a U.S. attack on the country for years.

In a 2006 interview with the Jerusalem Post, Lieberman said that the U.S. should launch pre-emptive strikes on Iran to “to delay [the nuclear program] to deter it hoping that you set the program off course so that by the time they catch up back to where they were there’s been a change in government. That’s the limited objective that I would see.”

In June 2007, with no real evidence, Lieberman claimed the Iranians were training Iraqi insurgents and called for the U.S. to strike over the Iraqi border into Iran.

Oddly enough, Iran has (admittedly for selfish reasons) been a key supporter of the U.S.-installed government currently being ripped apart in Iraq by Islamic State radicals who have proliferated in the Middle East as a result of ongoing unrest.

Lieberman has been predictably against the idea of allowing Iran to participate in the fight against ISIS.

If conjecture isn’t a concern, understanding how Lieberman wants the U.S. to handle affairs in the Middle East is a simple matter of connect the dots. Intervention in Syria, war with Iran, redoubling of efforts in Iraq, and once the fighting slows in each case, an ongoing peacekeeping presence (occupation) forevermore.

With that in mind, Cruz’s endorsement makes sense considering the lawmaker’s well-publicized efforts to position himself as the Jewish lobby’s top Washington ally. Israel’s leadership hasn’t exactly been reluctant to suggest that it’s Washington’s responsibility to insulate the country from its Arab neighbors — a view Lieberman certainly shares.

To Lieberman, the U.S. has always been a country devoted to nation building and military interventionism.

He said as much in a piece titled “The Myth of Fortress America,” which he co-published in Foreign Policy magazine with former GOP senator Jon Kyl. The two are co-chairs of the American Enterprise Institute’s American Internationalism Project.

“The time has come for the advocates of U.S. passivity to stop talking about the popular mandate [for nonintervention] they never had and to speak honestly to the American people,” he wrote. “And it’s high time for others to stop cowering before this imaginary consensus.”

Lieberman’s gung-ho attitude toward military action has led many to question Cruz’s endorsement.

Jack Hunter of the conservative publication Rare had this to say via Facebook: “This is as bad as saying John McCain or Lindsey Graham would be a good defense secretary. A huge slap in the face by Cruz to any libertarian who ever supported him. Right now, I’m ashamed I did.”

Indeed.

If the foreign policy positions of Cruz’s Defense pick aren’t enough to disgust people who support the Texas lawmaker because of his faux libertarian comportment, there’s another thing small government types should know: Back in 2002, Lieberman led the fight to create the Department of Homeland Security.

Lieberman has almost no chance of becoming the nation’s next Defense Secretary, but that Cruz suggested him brings other concerns for libertarian-leaning conservatives as the Texas Republican’s political ambitions continue to grow. Who might Cruz pick for his own Cabinet if he were ever elected president? And how might he — and other politicians using libertarian popularity to gain power in the GOP — evolve leading up to, and after, such a scenario.

Romney 2016? Some say it’s so

Republican voters continue to favor former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in a field of likely 2016 GOP presidential contenders.

The results of a new Quinnipiac University poll show 19 percent of 1,623 likely Republican voters picking Romney when asked who they’d vote for if the GOP primary were held now.

Romney is followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was favored by 11 percent of those polled.

Rounding out the top five were author and neurosurgeon Ben Carson and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — both with 8 percent support — and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who 6 percent support among the respondents.

Here’s how other names tossed around for 2016 stacked up:

  • Ted Cruz: 5 percent
  • Mike Huckabee: 5 percent
  • Scott Walker: 5 percent
  • Marco Rubio: 2 percent
  • Rick Perry: 2 percent

Sixteen percent of respondents said they weren’t sure who they would support.

The early support for a renewed Romney campaign is most likely attributable to name recognition for the former governor’s previous two failed presidential bids.

Whether Romney will throw in for a third attempt at the presidency remains to be seen, but there is plenty of political chatter suggesting that the GOP establishment is encouraging him.

In October, a former Romney advisor told National Journal, “I think he wants to be in a position where if everyone else implodes, he’s the one that party leaders call to save the day.”

And Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is said to have presidential ambitions of his own, recently predicted that Romney could resurface in 2016.

“There’s one bucket that, for lack of a better word, I’ll call the ‘moderate establishment’ bucket. It’ll be some combination of Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney,” Cruz told a group of potential donors, according to the New York Observer. “My guess is two of the three will run. And my view is whoever’s in that bucket will raise tons of money. A lot of donors will rush to write them checks. And yet if the nominee comes from that bucket, the same voters who stayed home in 2008 and 2012 will stay home again and Hillary’s the winner.”

Happy Thanksgiving! Now watch this ridiculous frozen chicken funeral

A self-described group of animal liberation activists recently made a scene at a Berkley, California, supermarket where they held a funeral for a frozen chicken.

The commotion began when a young member of the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere plucked a frozen chicken from the store’s poultry section saying, “In memory of a life lost.”

The man then shouted, “It’s not food; it’s violence.”

“We are here today to mourn the lives of those who lie dead behind us,” he said after the chicken was placed in a coffin. “Each one of these animals whose legs, ribs and other mutilated body parts are sold here, had stories of their own.

“They had rich emotional lives filled with desire, curiosity, pain and sorrow,” he continued. “All cut short, because they were born of a different species than us.”

The man goes on to accuse “institutions” like the grocery store of “silencing the terrored screams that accompanied their deaths.”

The ridiculousness continued for several more minutes as store employees politely asked the shrieking activists to knock it off.

The best part of the whole video is the heckling taking place in the background.

One man cheered, “Ribs!”

As the scene unfolded, a woman asked, “Is this real life?”

Indeed, it is.

Direct Action Everywhere has pulled similar stunts in the past.

They recently sent one activist to a trendy restaurant to berate diners for victimizing her “little girl,” Snow. Snow, in case you were wondering, is actually a little chicken.

They also routinely show up at fast food joints.

Free speech is free speech. Though it is fun to consider whether the nation’s founders could have ever envisioned a day when the people of this country would have it so easy that there’s time for bitching about easily available pre-processed chicken sitting on a store shelf.

Click-baiting or insanity? Florida paper calls for outright gun ban

“One of the frequent refrains of gun freaks about President Obama is ‘He’s coming for our guns.’ Obama never said such a thing. But I will:

We’re coming for your guns. And someday, we’ll take them.”

So reads the conclusion of a Nov. 23 column written for the Tallahassee Democrat, a Gannett newspaper, by columnist Gerald Ensley. The promise follows nearly 1,000 words of anti-gun keyboard excrement complete with promises that taking guns from responsible owners will stop shooting deaths, the insistence that (non-assault) rifles and shotguns would be ineffective in mass shootings, and the insinuation that it’s government’s responsibility to “prevent humans from having easy access to tools they can use to harm other people.”

“I’m not talking about gun control,” Ensley writes. “I’m not talking about waiting periods and background checks.

“I’m talking about flat-out banning the possession of handguns and assault rifles by individual citizens. I’m talking about repealing or amending the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Even as he’s arguing for the complete ban of handguns and so-called assault rifles via abrogation of the 2nd Amendment, the author says that the nation should “let the hunters keep their rifles and shotguns.” That’s because the writer classes those as less-lethal killing machines.

“But we need to ban handguns and assault rifles for all but police and military,” he adds.

Police, military and… criminals.

“Gun freaks say if you take away their guns only outlaws will have guns,” he also writes. “That’s a chance worth taking. Because if we ban guns, eventually the tide will turn. It might take 10 years or 20 years. Hell, it might take 50 years. But if we make it illegal to own a handgun, eventually there will be no handguns.”

(Are there still American cars in Cuba?)

Because, you know, allowing criminals to be the only people armed in gun-free zones has worked out so well. Let’s have 50 years of the nation as one big gun-free zone.

Ensley doesn’t exactly come across as an authority on guns or gun violence. And aside from attempts to insult “gun freaks” and his assertion that Americans ought to support the government’s taking away a right, his column offers little value beyond ridicule.

That has led some people to question his true motive.

Lee Williams, writing for The Gun Writer blog, posits:

Gannett recently went through a massive round of layoffs concealed as a restructuring plan.

With the new plan, came new priorities.

News stories and columns are now driven solely by metrics — clicks.

Reporters and columnists are expected to write about “passion topics,” and not waste their time writing about issues that aren’t fueling clicks on their website.

One executive editor at an East Coast Gannett paper candidly told his readers that his reporters will write stories “based on what you read and click on.”

I think the quest for click fuel has affected Mr. Ensley, and by calling for a gun ban, he essentially hit a home run.

Williams also points out that Florida isn’t exactly fertile ground for launching an effort to scrap the 2nd Amendment.

Whether Ensley’s effort to undermine the 2nd Amendment comes from a place sophomoric utopian longing or an effort to garner clicks by upsetting “gun freaks” doesn’t matter.

What is important about Ensley’s column is that it underscores the importance of responsible gun owners acting as ambassadors to those less acquainted with the joy of shooting sports or the self-defense benefits of firearm ownership.

Ensley basically admits that his position would reduce its adherents to effete, “civilized” pacifists too refined and morally inviolate to be shackled by constitutional rights: “We need to teach our children handguns are wrong.”

Take advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday and take your grandchild, cousin, sibling, college liberal or leftist in-law out to the range. Show them that all guns, handled responsibly and with respect, are simply tools. We need to teach our children that being victimized by an unhinged minority is wrong.

More schools look to armed teachers as first line of defense against shooters

Officials at an Ohio school district are considering a proposal that would place guns in strategic locations on campuses to give teachers and faculty a potential advantage in the event on an active shooter scenario.

Riverside Local School board members discussed the issue of guns on campus for protection last week and will revisit proposals in mid-December, according to a report in the Dayton Daily News.

One such proposal would involve placing firearms in hidden lockboxes throughout the school and training willing teachers and staff to be part of an armed response team. Only those trained would be able to access the firearms.

The plan would follow the lead of Ohio’s Sidney City School District, which recently added hidden firearms and a collection of bulletproof vests to its safety provisions.

According to reports, 37 teachers in the district have access to the guns.

“We have some families that have indicated to us that they have open enrolled their children in Sidney City Schools because of the school security measures we have taken,” that district’s superintendent, John Scheu, told WDTN over the summer.

Sidney schools also feature signs notifying visitors that the campus is protected by an armed response team.

Riverside superintendent Scott Mann told local reporters that his district is investigating a similar plan because he believes the threat of an immediate armed response could be enough to deter would-be attackers.

“If people know you are protected and that can help us a little bit more, I’m all for it,” Mann said. “Just to reiterate — it’s going to be a community decision.”

Riverside board members have also discussed allowing teachers to carry firearms on their person, but Mann said he doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

“I do not want guns on teachers in the classroom,” Mann said. “I think that’s one of the worst safety plans you can have.”

The Ohio school districts aren’t alone in looking at ways to protect students by arming teachers.

In January, officials at the Argyle Independent School District in Texas voted in favor of allowing school marshals on campus under the Protection of Texas Children Act, meaning students started the school year with the knowledge that some teachers on campus are armed and prepared to defend themselves and students against armed intruders.

And for those who are unaware of the policy, Argyle ISD schools send a clear message with signs at campus entrances informing visitors, “Please be aware that the staff at Argyle ISD are armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students.”

Argyle is one of a handful of Texas school districts which have chosen to take advantage of the added safety provided by arming teachers.

Laws allowing armed teachers also exist in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee.

GQ magazine ranks Obama among ‘least influential’ people of 2014

For the past year, the Obama administration has seldom gone more than a few days without having to answer questions about political scandals, foreign policy ineptitude, failed promises or presidential overreach. That appears to be why GQ magazine is the latest in a list of unlikely Obama critics as the president enters the final stretch of his White House tenure.

The magazine, in its “The Least Influential People of 2014″, includes Obama on a list that includes the likes of U2’s Bono, former NBA owner and racist Donald Sterling, the Malaysia Airlines searchers at CNN, former Alaska Gov. and matriarch of white trash brawlers Sarah Palin, perpetual war hawk John McCain, and others.

Here’s what the magazine’s Drew Magary has to say about Obama:

Why are you still on Martha’s Vineyard?! Missouri is BURNING. Putin is conquering Europe. The CDC is playing nude Twister with Ebola patients. U2 is forcing bad songs on everyone. The NSA won’t stop watching me masturbate. I need you ON THIS. Are you even president anymore? When Obama got blasted for golfing shortly after ISIS beheaded journalist James Foley, he said, “I should’ve anticipated the optics.” How do you win the presidency without knowing that golfing makes you look rich and indifferent?

The president also made the magazine’s “least influential” list last year and years prior.

Magary wrote for the 2013 list:

He can blame Republicans in Congress all he likes and get away with it because congressional Republicans are the worst. But the fact remains that I have spent the majority of this man’s presidency watching bad things happen, then hearing a thoughtful speech about how we gotta make sure the bad things never happen again, and then watching as nothing gets done. Next time there’s an election, I want Nate Silver to analyze the data and tell me who to vote for so that I don’t end up casting my ballot for a very eloquent hat stand.

The president’s failure to live up to his hope and change rhetoric has evidently caught up to him in recent years, as GQ notably named the president “Man of the Year” in 2008 and “Leader of the Year” in 2009.

Holiday 2014: Spending up, Internet sales to increase

As the holiday shopping season kicks into full swing this week, new polling data suggest that retailers should expect a slight uptick in shopping activity ahead of Christmas 2014.

According to numbers from the Gallup polling agency, Americans will spend an average of $720 on gifts for loved ones this year, up 3 percent from an estimated average of $704 in November 2013.

Twenty-one percent of Americans told pollsters that they plan to spend at least $500 on holiday gifts, while a quarter said they will spend $1,000 or more on gifts this holiday shopping season. Among those planning to spend less on gifts, 24 percent report that they will likely spend less than $250 on holiday shopping and 15 percent plan to spend between $250 and $499 this year.

Nine percent of those polled said they don’t plan to spend anything on gifts or don’t celebrate Christmas.

If holiday spending is an indicator of economic confidence, Gallup notes: “Though up from 2013, the current spending estimate is well below the November reading in several earlier years, particularly in 2006 and 2007, when the figure exceeded $800.”

The National Retail Federation predicts holiday spending patterns similar to those recorded by Gallup, estimating that Americans will spend an average of $718 on gifts this year.

The retail business group is predicting $620 billion in total holiday sales. That would equate to a 4.1 percent sales hike over the $579.3 billion in 2013 holiday sales.

With Internet sales tax proposals making headlines in recent months, it’s worth noting that retail analysts are referring to 2014 as the year of the omnichannel consumer. That means shoppers are expected to rely on apps and online shopping in addition to traditional retail to check off their holiday wish lists.

Market watchers such as the analysts at IHS Global Insight expect that one $1 of every $7 spent by holiday shoppers this year will come in the form of ecommerce.

Forget the turkey, pardon the economy

The Obama administration last week continued its tradition of dumping its massive regulatory agenda just as Washington shut down for the holidays. This year’s Unified Agenda is comprised of 3,415 regulations, 189 of which are expected to cost more than $100 million.

The latest semi-annual regulatory road map includes an unsurprising dictate for the Environmental Protection Agency to finalize of greenhouse gas rules for coal-fired power plants by 2015. It also calls for the issuance of a final rule on coal ash residue no later than Dec. 19.

The coal as rule could result in as much as $20.3 billion in compliance costs, most of which will be paid by the power sector.

Another EPA rule listed for finalization in the agenda is the government’s attempt to redefine the Clean Water Act’s “Waters of the United States” rule, a process that has been criticized by the nation’s agribusiness community as well as concerned landowners.

Another rule, called a regulatory surprise by The Hill newspaper, is a Consumer Product Safety Commission plan to rethink flammability standards for upholstered furniture. Compliance costs for that regulation are expected to reach upwards of $100 million.

There are also less-controversial provisions included in the agenda — such as a proposed Department of Labor rule to limit workers’ exposure to silica dust.

Because of labor and consumer protections included in the agenda, some pro-regulation groups have decried the administration’s effort to bury the regulatory agenda.

“It’s become an unfortunate tradition of this administration and others to drop these regulatory agendas late on a Friday and right before a holiday,” Matt Shudtz, executive director of the Center for Progressive Reform, told The Hill.

“It’s unfortunate because it’s an update on protections for Americans of all stripes,” he continued. “It lays out the administration’s plan and it deserves more attention.”

Other groups, like the conservative American Action Forum, posit that the Obama White House has good reason to keep its regulatory agenda out of the headlines.

The AAF notes that, since 2009, the administration has created an estimated $16 billion in regulatory compliance costs each year, “tantamount to having a $160 billion tax increase over 10 years.”

From the conservative think tank: “If the administration proposed $160 billion in taxes (over ten years), there would be no question that it would damage growth significantly and would be unpopular with the electorate.

“The Unified Agenda is a tax increase, anti-growth agenda.

SNL mocks Obama’s executive order with ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ parody

Last week’s rendition of “Saturday Night Live” opened with a skit criticizing President Barack Obama’s decision to grant amnesty to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants via executive order. The skit updates the “Schoolhouse Rock!” classic “I’m Just a Bill.”

In the SNL skit, a “Bill” (Kenan Thompson) is tossed aside by President Barack Obama (Jay Pharoah) in favor an executive order (Bobby Moynihan) to explain how government has really worked in Washington for the past several years amid congressional dysfunction and presidential defiance.

As “Bill” explains his function and how he comes to be, just as he does in the original “Schoolhouse Rock!,” Obama (Pharoah) appears in the skit, knocks the bill down and announces: “There’s actually an even easier way to get things done around here, and it’s called an executive order.”

Enter the executive order (Moynihan), singing: “I’m an executive order and I pretty much just happen… That’s it.”

Asked whether he has to go through Congress, the executive order replies: “Ahh, that’s adorable. You still think that’s how government works.”

By then, “Bill” has returned to protest: “Look at the midterm elections. People clearly don’t want this.”

He is, again, knocked down.

The executive order goes on to explain how presidents have long used his kind to do things like “create a new national park… or a new holiday” before being cut off by the president, who adds, “or bring legal status to 5 million undocument[ed] immigrants.”

To that, the executive order exclaims: “Wait, what?… Oh my God! I didn’t have time to read myself. Whoa! OK, go big or go home, huh?”

Majority still want government out of healthcare

New polling data shows that, for the third consecutive year, a majority of Americans agree that government should not be responsible for providing Americans with healthcare coverage. That’s particularly bad news for the president’s healthcare law, as it has come under renewed fire for comments made by Obamacare architect Johnathon Gruber.

In Gallup’s annual health and healthcare poll, 52 percent of American likely voters said that government has no business in providing universal healthcare. That’s compared to 42 percent who said the government is responsible for providing healthcare coverage for Americans.

As recently as 2006, a strong majority (62 percent) of Americans believed government should provide healthcare.

Gallup reports that age, race and party affiliation all affect opinions on healthcare:

Two-thirds of nonwhites and 60% of 18- to 34-year-olds, both significantly Democratic constituencies, believe it is the government’s responsibility. This sentiment drops well below the majority level among whites and those aged 35 and older, who tend to be more Republican. Even among the group of Americans aged 55 and older, many of whom have government-provided Medicare but who lean Republican politically, 58% say it is not the government’s responsibility to provide healthcare.

The polling data comes as controversy continues to surround Gruber, the Obamacare designer who insulted American voters during a speech and believed trickery was the best way to sell Obamacare on the public.

Lawmakers: Immigration plan could lead to violence, get Obama jailed

Republicans in Congress have spent much of this week warning that the consequences of President Barack Obama’s unilateral immigration reform will be dire. One lawmaker went as far as saying the president’s plans could result in violence in the nation’s streets, while another said that the executive actions could get Obama impeached — or even jailed.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), in an interview with USA Today’s “Capital Download,” predicted that the president’s actions may anger Americans who believe the task of immigration reform should have been left up to Congress.

“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very dangerous situation,” Coburn said. “You’re going to see — hopefully not — but you could see instances of anarchy.”

When asked what he meant, Coburn replied, “You could see violence.”

Coburn, who announced that he will retire when his term is up, has had a good relationship with the president inside and outside the Capitol, despite his conservative leaning. But the senator pulled no punches in announcing that Obama’s immigration plan is bad for the country.

“What our country needs now is to be pulled together, not divided further,” Coburn said. “I think it’s a terrible political mistake to divide… us further.”

Coburn noted that the president will probably be challenged and will lose in the nation’s courts, but he added that it will take years. What will happen immediately, the lawmaker contends, is irreparable harm to Obama’s relationship with the new Congress.

The government dysfunction on display could lead Americans to question why they must follow the rule of law when the president doesn’t.

“Instead of having the rule of law… in our country today, now we’re starting to have the rule of rulers, and that’s the total antithesis of what this country was founded on,” Coburn said. “Here’s how people think: Well, if the law doesn’t apply to the president… then why should it apply to me?”

Obama, he continued, is acting like “an autocratic leader that’s going to disregard what the Constitution says and make law anyway.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said that he believes Obama’s unilateral immigration actions are grounds for impeachment and could possibly land Obama in jail.

Brooks based his opinion on a federal statute that makes it a crime to help immigrants enter the country illegally.

“At some point, you have to evaluate whether the president’s conduct aids or abets, encourages, or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross into the United States of America,” he said, according to Slate. “That has a five-year in-jail penalty associated with it.”

Brooks made the remarks before the president’s immigration overhaul had been revealed in full, so the lawmaker said he wasn’t certain of the grounds on which Obama could be impeached.

“If the president is simply not obeying a statute that is noncriminal in nature, that does not necessarily rise to a high crime or a misdemeanor,” Brooks said.

“I don’t know what he’s going to do yet,” he continued. “Until we see what he’s going to do, it is difficult to say whether he is violating a civil statute or violating a criminal statute.”

Because Congress’s Thanksgiving recess kicked off ahead of the president’s immigration announcements, Americans will have to wait to see what, if any, legislative plans the GOP has to respond to Obama’s reforms.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggested Wednesday that lawmakers could pass a resolution announcing that the president acted against Congressional will.

“What I would recommend to the House is, they should immediately pass a resolution saying that what he is doing is contrary to the will of the House of Representatives,” he said on Fox News. “That would set up, I think, a very clear-cut case in the court.”

The Kentucky lawmaker also believes that Obama can be challenged in the courts based on a legal precedent (Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer) which says the president’s executive power is diminished if he acts clearly against Congress.

“It may take a while to get him,” Paul said. “But the thing is, history will treat him unkindly on this if he thinks he can become king.”

Florida police say they were fired for blowing whistle on ticket quotas

A group of former Waldo, Florida, police officers have filed a lawsuit that, if successful, would blow the lid off a case of small-town corruption at its worst. The officers allege that they were fired after blowing the whistle on a ticket-writing scheme designed to increase city revenue.

The lawsuit resulted from a long-running scandal that broke after five of the town’s seven officers made public that they were being forced to meet an illegal 12-ticket-per-day quota. Because of the scheme, the north Florida town had become a notorious speed trap.

CBS reported earlier this year:

Waldo’s seven police officers wrote nearly 12,000 speeding tickets last year, collecting more than $400,000 in fines — a third of the town’s revenue.

The problem is there are six different speed limits in just a couple of miles. Drivers enter the city at 65 miles per hour. It then drops to 55, 45 and then 35.

Officers Brandon Roberts, Jeffrey Pedrick, Roy Steadman and Brian Shoaf, plaintiffs in the Alachua County case, say that they tried to bring the ticketing scheme and other misconduct occurring in the police department to local officials’ attention only to be stonewalled and threatened.

Via Courthouse News:

The plaintiff officers say that on Aug. 8, 2014, they submitted a written complaint to Waldo City Manager Kim Worley, and requested the city hold an emergency meeting to discuss their allegations.

They then filed an online complaint with the Florida inspector general’s office in order to secure whistleblower protection while they pursued their effort to expose wrongs at the Waldo Police Department.

According to the complaint, Worley rejected the requested emergency meeting of the city commission, and also rejected the plaintiffs’ request to meet with each city commissioner individually.

“On August 20, 2014, Worley conducted a meeting with Plaintiffs and brought her own counsel in an effort to intimidate Plaintiffs with implicit threats about job security if they continued to pursue their objections and claims,” the complaint continues.

State investigators eventually got involved, putting pressure on local officials and making it impossible for them to continue ignoring the officers’ complains. Before any action was taken on the city’s part, however, Waldo Police Chief Michael Szabo and the department’s interim chief resigned as a result of the state investigation.

The city manager also suggested that Waldo’s commissioners should close down the police department due to “budget problems” as the investigations heated up.

“Worley made this claim despite the fact that the City Commissioners already had approved the 2015 budget, and Plaintiffs had presented other and additional avenues of reducing the budget further to continue to operate the police department without the illegal revenue from Chief Szabo’s quota scheme,” the plaintiffs said.

The commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of eliminating the police department and allowing local patrols to be picked up by the county sheriff’s department. The town’s police department was also reportedly taken over by a sheriff’s deputy.

But the officers involved in the lawsuit are crying foul, noting that the former police chief and other department officials not involved in exposing local corruption and highway robbery were re-hired to “assist” the city moving forward.

The whistle-blowers, according to the complaint, “[W]ere terminated without any significant prior incidents or disciplinary history with Defendant warranting their termination.”

This wouldn’t be the first time officers were punished for informing the public of unsavory police tactics.

In July, Reason Magazine told the story of former Auburn, Alabama, police officer Justin Hanners, another officer punished for blowing the whistle on ticket quotas.

Hanners filed formal complaints to his chain of command and, getting nowhere, eventually began to speak out publically about the abuses. His superiors order him to shut up about the abuses — and when he didn’t, Hanners was fired.

DHS: Prepare for another immigration surge

As the nation awaits President Barack Obama’s unilateral immigration reform announcement, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says that the U.S. should brace for another surge in illegal immigration.

Speaking before the National Press Club on Wednesday, the Washington Times reports that Johnson said the surge will likely result “as the U.S. economy picks up and as seasonal patterns change…”

“We’re determined that we need to do more ourselves for border security,” Johnson said. “I’m concerned about the possibility of another rise in illegal migration.”

The DHS secretary said that provisions to strengthen border security will likely be included in the immigration-related executive actions President Obama is set to reveal Thursday evening.

Johnson’s focus on border security at DHS has been more pronounced than that of his predecessor, Janet Napolitano.

The president touched on the issue of border security in remarks he made Sunday.

“We’ve got severe resource constraints right now at the border not in apprehending people, but in processing and having enough immigration judges and so forth,” Obama said, according to ABC. “And so what’s within our authority to do is reallocating resources and re-prioritizing since we can’t do everything.”

He also acknowledged that DHS will likely be greatly affected by his immigration policy changes.

“Any executive action that I take is going to require some adjustments to how DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, operates where it’s deploying resources, etc.; how are folks processed; what priorities are set up,” Obama said. “And so I want to make sure that we’ve crossed all our t’s and dotted all our i’s — that that’s my main priority.”

Terror-related death toll on the rise, radical Islam deserves most blame

A new study conducted by the Institute for Economics and Peace reveals that nearly 18,000 terror-related deaths occurred throughout the world last year; 82 percent of those were relegated to just five countries.

The institute’s 2014 Global Terrorism Index relays that global deaths at the hands of terrorists increased 61 percent in a year. The figure, while high, is unsurprising given a recent resurgence of Islamic extremism in the Middle East and elsewhere.

From the index: “In 2013, 66% of all fatalities from claimed terrorist attacks were caused by four terrorist groups: the Taliban, Boko Haram , ISIL and al-Qa’ida. The primary targets of terrorist attacks are citizens and private property.”

Eighty-two percent of terror-related deaths occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.

Iraq, where ISIS extremists are currently gaining ground, was the country most affected by terrorism last year, with 2,492 attacks killing 6,362 people within its borders in 2013.

According to Institute Chairman Steve Killelea, the religious ideology associated with a majority of the terror attacks limits global actors’ ability to quell the bloodshed.

“Over the last decade the increase in terrorism has been linked to radical Islamic groups whose violent theologies have been broadly taught. To counteract these influences, moderate forms of Sunnis theologies need to be championed by Sunni Muslim nations. Given the theological nature of the problem it is difficult for outside actors to be influential,” said in a statement.

According to the report, terror attacks that killed more than 50 people occurred in 24 countries; 75 countries suffered no terror attacks.

While the global terror numbers are staggering, the Institute notes that people throughout the world are still 40 percent more likely to be killed in homicides than terror attacks. For those of us in the U.S., that figure jumps to 64 times more likely.

The full Global Terrorism Index can be viewed on the Vision of Humanity website.