Thursday, December 31, 2015

Islamic State Supporter Charged with Plotting New Year's Eve Terror Attack in New York (VIDEO)

The security preparation are so high this year that the terrorists would have to be the most brilliant ever to pull something off.

At CBS News New York, "FBI: Man Plotted NYE Attack."

And at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, "Rochester man linked to ISIS planned New Year's Eve attack on bar, feds say."

Munich Train Stations Evacuated Over Terror Threat (VIDEO)

At the Telegraph UK, "Munich terror alert: Two railway stations 'evacuated' as German police warn of threat by Islamic State suicide bombers."

Kindle Book Deals Up to 85% Off

At Amazon, Shop - Kindle Book Deals.

And from Victor Davis Hanson, The Decline and Fall of California: From Decadence to Destruction.

BONUS: Mexifornia: a State of Becoming.

Battle Against Islamic State is Redrawing the Map of the Middle East

From Liz Sly, at WaPo, "How the battle against the Islamic State is redrawing the map of the Middle East":
AMIRIYAT FALLUJAH, Iraq — Along the vast, zigzagging perimeter of the Islamic State’s self-styled state, the militants are steadily being pushed back as the forces­ ranged against them gain in strength.

In the process, new borders are being drawn, new fiefdoms are being carved out and the seeds of potential new conflicts are being sown.

A war seen by the United States as primarily aimed at preventing future terrorist attacks in America is being prosecuted for very different reasons by the diverse assortment of Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni fighters battling in both Iraq and Syria, often in pursuit of competing agendas that work to subvert the goal of defeating the militants.

In northern Iraq and Syria, Kurds are busily carving out the borders to new Kurdish enclaves. Shiite militias, now the most powerful force in Iraq, are extending their reach deep into traditionally Sunni areas of northern Iraq. The Syrian government is focusing its energies on reclaiming land seized by its opponents during the five-year-old rebellion against it, while deeply divided Syrian rebels in turn are fighting a two-front war to hold their ground against both the government and the Islamic State.

In this fragmented landscape, the Islamic State is but one of a multitude of groups competing for territory and dominance over the collapsed nation states of Iraq and Syria — a symptom as much as a cause of the scramble for power unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the 2011 revolt in Syria.

The Islamic State may or may not be vanquished soon — and a string of defeats inflicted in recent months in northeastern Syria, northern Iraq and most recently Ramadi have raised hopes that its demise may be closer than had been thought.

But already it is becoming clear that victory over the militants won’t end the bloodshed in the region, said Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“There is little thought being given to the morning after, and the morning after is going to be as bloody, as chaotic and as destabilizing as the situation we are seeing now,” he said. “The heart of the Middle East has changed. The fragile state system is no longer there.”

Along some of the war’s front lines, the ways in which the battle against the Islamic State is redrawing the map of the Middle East — perhaps irrevocably — come sharply into focus...
Keep reading.

No. 1 Clemson Beats Oklahoma to Advance to National Championship Game

It wasn't even close.

At WSJ, "No. 1 Clemson Beats Oklahoma, 37-17, in Orange Bowl":

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.--So much for Clemsoning.

The Tigers are headed to the national championship game.

Deshaun Watson turned in another stellar two-way performance, running for one touchdown, passing for another and accounting for 332 yards to lead top-ranked Clemson to a 37-17 victory over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Thursday.

Clemson (14-0) dominated the second half and shut down Oklahoma’s high-scoring offense, which had averaged 52 points over its last seven contests. The Sooners (11-2) actually came into the game as favorites, but the Tigers showed their perfect record was no fluke.

Until this season, the Tigers were known for such inexplicable disappointments that a term was coined for it--Clemsoning.

With one more win, they’ll be known as something else.

National champions...

Ferguson Effect: Violent Crime Surged 20 Percent in Los Angeles in 2015 (VIDEO)

At the Los Angeles Times, "Crime in Los Angeles rose in all categories in 2015, LAPD says":

For the first time in more than a decade, all categories of crime rose across Los Angeles in 2015 as police struggled to get control of the problem, according to LAPD data.

Violent crime in L.A. climbed 19.9% and property crime increased 10.3% through Dec. 26 compared with the same period last year, according to the police data. It marked the second year in a row that violent crime rose, but the first time since 2003 that both violent and property crime rose.

The increases follow more than a decade of steep declines in crime, particularly in homicides. Police officials said the recent upswings should be viewed in that larger context.

“We ask people to keep this in perspective,” said Assistant Chief Michel Moore, who oversees the Los Angeles Police Department's crime-tracking unit. “The city is not on fire, the city is not falling into the ocean.”

Still, the increases have sparked concern in neighborhoods across the city, including Southside areas that have seen jumps in gang-related homicides as well as more affluent areas where residents have complained about thefts and car break-ins...

PREVIOUSLY: "Leftists and Their Media Lackeys Have Launched Campaign to Deny the 'Ferguson Effect'."

'People were shoving each other down the stairs and climbing over each other...'

Update on the Dubai high-rise fire, at London's Daily Mail, "Panic in Dubai as inferno rips though 63-storey hotel... but fails to halt New Year firework celebrations just 500 yards away."

Video at CNN, "People evacuate hotel fire."

PREVIOUSLY: "Massive Fire Engulfs Luxury Hotel in Downtown Dubai (VIDEO)."

Prison: A Sure Cure for 'Affluenza' (VIDEO)

From Debra Saunders, at RCP:

In 2013, Americans learned about a new epidemic -- affluenza. As psychologist G. Dick Miller explained the phenomenon, children of wealthy parents are taught not the golden rule but "we have the gold, we make the rules." The unsympathetic carrier of the affliction -- Ethan Couch, Miller's client, then 16 -- pleaded guilty in 2013 to manslaughter charges after he killed four innocent people in a drunken driving accident. Prosecutors recommended that Couch serve 20 years in prison. The sentencing judge said she was not moved by the "affluenza" defense, but nonetheless, she chose to sentence the son of privilege to 10 years of drug- and alcohol-free probation, as well as a stint in a rehabilitation center.

"You're basically saying that bad character is a defense or at least a mitigation to a criminal case," said Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

The lesson of the success of the "affluenza" defense is: If you think you have so much money that the law does not apply to you, you may be right.

Sometime after Couch emerged from a pricey Southern California rehab clinic known for offering equine therapy, yoga and martial arts instruction, Couch and his mother, Tonya, 48, headed to Mexico, whence young Couch missed a Dec. 10 appointment with his probation officer.

The pair took off after a video that showed young Couch playing beer pong went viral; drinking is a violation of his probation terms. Bristling at the young man's light sentence for an offense that left four dead, prosecutors have been trying to move Couch's case to the adult criminal justice system, where probation violations invite tougher consequences, when he turns 19 in April. So the Couches went for the border -- after they threw themselves a going-away party.

This week, Mexican authorities detained mother and son -- who had changed their appearance. Whereas Ethan Couch may have to do up to four months for violating juvenile probation when he is returned to Texas, Tonya Couch faces two to 10 years if convicted on a felony charge of hindering apprehension.

The Couch family's arrogance is so offensive that most readers, no doubt, are rooting for the harshest sentence possible for mother and son. Ethan's defense team flaunted its belief that the poor little rich kid shouldn't have to go to prison because he was a poor little rich kid. Few would call the outcome justice...

And at LAT, "Texas 'affluenza' teen is fighting deportation from Mexico; mother arrives in L.A.," and "'Affluenza' teen and his mom were tripped up in Mexico by ordering pizza, officials say."

Concealed Carry Permit Inquiries Surge After #SanBernardino Attacks (VIDEO)

Remember, from a couple of weeks ago, "Surge in Gun Sales in Southern California (VIDEO)."

Now, even as leftists push more and more restrictions on firearms, folks want to be able to carry.

Watch, at CBS News 2 Los Angeles, "Concealed Carry Permit Inquiries Jump In Wake of San Bernardino Terror Attack."

ICYMI, New Year, New You

At Amazon.

Have fun tonight everybody!

BONUS: Worth a read, now more than ever, from Samuel Huntington, Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity.

'American politics is outrunning the pundit class, which has lost a lot of ground tripped up on the delusion that this can't be serious...'

Nate Cohn, at the New York Times, tries desperately to smear Donald Trump's voting coalition as "racist." See, "Donald Trump’s Strongest Supporters: A Certain Kind of Democrat."

There's really no evidence for this, beyond correlating the geographic location of Trump's supporters with people who searched for "racial slurs and racist jokes" on Google. Seriously.

Althouse takes him to task:
Much of this article strains to find racial material, dragging in evidence of the Google searches in various areas. Maybe you can tell where the racists are by where people search for racial epithets, and then maybe Trump supporters in the same area are the same people who did the searches. Cohn concedes that this evidence is weak, but it's not so weak that he doesn't bother with it.

What stands out to me after reading the whole article, however, is that Trump obviously has a lot of support among a wide range of people, including many that you wouldn't expect if you've been relying on mainstream media for information: women, well-educated people, Hispanics. There needs to be much more serious analysis of what is going on. American politics is outrunning the pundit class, which has lost a lot of ground tripped up on the delusion that this can't be serious.
I think those "certain kind of Democrats" are the regular racist Democrats of the old-line Dixiecrat coalition. You know, the Dylann Roofs of the contemporary racist progressive voter base. Maybe those folks are really going to go for Trump. There's just little evidence here that regular non-Democrats are racist, despite Cohn's best efforts.

More, "Dylann Roof, Southern Democrat Throwback, is Drug-Addled 'Wannabe Emo Anarchist' with Androgynous Haircut."

Dow Jones Posts Annual Loss for First Time Since 2008

Well, my 457B no doubt took a hit, and I've been unable to contribute to my Roth IRA for a few years now, so I'm not going to sweat it.

At WSJ, "Dow Industrials Post First Annual Loss Since 2008":
U.S. stocks posted their worst annual performance since 2008, closing out a rocky year that tempered investors’ expectations for gains in 2016.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, a basket of 30 stocks, lost 2.2% in 2015, while the broader S&P 500 fell 0.7%.

The S&P’s loss ended three years of double-digit gains for the index, but was far from the nearly 40% dive it took in 2008.

The year wasn’t grim across the board. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index rose 5.7%. Netflix and, the top-performing stocks in the S&P 500 in percentage terms, rose 134% and 118%, respectively. The consumer discretionary sector, which includes stocks such as Starbucks and Expedia, led the S&P 500 with an 8.4% gain.

But broadly, the market struggled. While an extended slump in commodity prices helped drag the stock market into negative territory this year, six of the 10 sectors​in the S&P 500 ​posted losses.

“I see more headwinds than I do favorable factors” next year, said Keith Bliss, senior vice president at brokerage Cuttone & Co.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 179 points, or 1%, to 17425. The S&P 500 fell 0.9%. The index was up 0.2% for the year as of Wednesday’s close, but this session’s drop tipped it back into negative territory for 2015. The Nasdaq Composite fell 1.2%.

Despite the trouble in energy companies, shares in Europe mostly performed well in 2015, but many investors had expected sharper gains. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 6.8% this year. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index ended up 9.4% in a roller-coaster year in which the index plunged over 40% in late August...

Jose Sandoval Opazo, Carnival Cruise Line Electrician, Dies in Bloody Elevator Accident (VIDEO)

With that much blood, I have no doubt the dude was beheaded somehow while working on the elevator.


And at WFTX FOX 4 Fort Myers, "SWFL couple shows video of 'bloody mystery' on Carnival Cruise ship."

Also at the Orlando Sentinel, "Warning: Graphic Video - Report: Couple witness grisly death scene on Carnival Ecstasy."

It's definitely bloody, so watch with caution.

Massive Fire Engulfs Luxury Hotel in Downtown Dubai (VIDEO)

Lots of news about the fire on Twitter.

And watch, via AP:

Huge Ben Carson Campaign Shakeup as Top Staffers Quit (VIDEO)

At this point the campaign's a vanity project for Dr. Carson. I'm never liked him that much. He leaves me cold. He's boring as hell, and frankly he's not too bright.

In any case, actually three top staffers have resigned, per Jennifer Jacobs at the Des Moines Register.

See, "Campaign shake-up: Three top aides for Ben Carson resign."

And watch, at CNN, "Ben Carson campaign manager Barry Bennett and communications director Doug Watts have resigned, the campaign confirmed Thursday."

Lily Aldridge for Vogue España

Okay, here's this year's Woman of the Year runner-up, for Vogue Spain:

And on Instagram.

So, Kendall Jenner Kicked off the LOVE Advent 2015 Calendar (VIDEO)

I mentioned last night that I needed to go back to the beginning of the series.

So, here we go: "Day 1 - Kendall Jenner by Doug Inglish (LOVE Advent 2015)."

Nina Agdal: American Power's Woman of the Year for 2015

I almost forgot about AmPow's Woman of the Year — again!

Heh, I think I need to put more thought into it ahead of time.

Last year I picked Anais Zanotti at the spur of the moment. Emily Ratajkowski won the award for 2013, and Kate Upton was the inaugural Woman of the Year back in 2012.

Actually, it was Nina Agdal who reminded me of the award, so what the heck? I'm going with the Danish beauty as the Woman of the Year for 2015!

I was just noticing how freakin' shapely she is at that Sports Illustrated video. She's got more curves than Lily Aldridge, who's definitely a close runner-up for this year. But it's a spur of the moment thing, so better luck next year Lily!

In any case, here's Ms. Agdal at WWTDD Drunken Stepfather, "Nina Agdal Topless."


Also, at Sports Illustrated, "Nina Agdal still can't find her pants...and we're not complaining."

BONUS: "Interview with Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge, and Chrissy Teigen (VIDEO)."

Nina Agdal's One Super-Cool Danish Babe (VIDEO)

She's got curves!

Obama Administration's Espionage Against Israel Should Be Major Scandal

Following-up, "Obama Administration Spied on Israel — And Members of Congress, Pro-Israel Interest Groups as Well."

At the New York Post, "Why Team Obama’s Israel spying should be a major scandal":
No one should be in the least bit surprised that the United States and Israel continue to spy on each other, despite being longtime close allies.

Israel’s strategic position in the world’s most volatile region pretty much guarantees that. So does Jerusalem’s dependence on continued US support and goodwill.

But news that the Obama administration targeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for continued close electronic surveillance — even as it curbed it for other friendly leaders — still is pretty startling.

As is The Wall Street Journal’s disclosure that the sweep included conversations with US Jewish groups and members of Congress.

The last is especially critical: Careful rules govern how the National Security Agency can handle such intercepted conversations, and it’s not clear they were followed.

But it’s also significant that Team Obama apparently had no problem with spying on Americans engaged in legitimate political activity — in this case, trying to block the president’s dubious nuclear deal with Iran.

The White House took pains not to leave a paper trail. As one senior official told the Journal: “We didn’t say, ‘Do it.’ We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it’.”
Still more.

Plausible deniability.

This administration just reeks criminality.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Authorities Say Police Officers to Carry Bigger Guns at Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Festivities (VIDEO)

Well, we've got seemingly unprecedented anti-terror preparations taking place all over world, so why would Pasadena be any different.

At CBS News 2 Los Angeles:

Hannah Ferguson for LOVE Advent 2015 (VIDEO)

I need to go back and watch these videos from the beginning of the series, man!

Watch, "Hannah Ferguson (LOVE Advent 2015)."

PREVIOUSLY: "Route 66 Outtakes - Hannah Ferguson Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2015 (VIDEO)."

New Year’s Terror Threats Spur Responses Across Europe (VIDEO)

Well, it's not just Brussels and Ankara.

Imagine the security preparations in Paris this weekend.

At WSJ, "New Year’s Terror Threats Spur Responses in Turkey and Belgium":

Turkish authorities arrested two suspected Islamic State extremists allegedly planning to kill revelers during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Ankara, and Belgium canceled the main fireworks display in Brussels, amid a heightened state of alert over possible Islamic State attacks around the holidays.

Turkish officials said counterterrorism police found a suicide vest and a backpack filled with explosives and ball bearings when the two men were taken into custody in a low-income neighborhood in the capital, Ankara.

Turkish media outlets published photos of the explosives purportedly seized in the raid, and said the men were planning to target popular shopping and restaurant districts in the city.

The end-of-the-year fireworks in Belgium were canceled a day before two members of a Belgian motorcycle group charged with plotting an attack at Brussels’ Grand Place were due to appear in court.

Belgian police said they had found Islamic State propaganda in the one of the raids earlier this week that led to the arrest of the two men. According to a person familiar with the investigation, the two men are members of the motorcycle group Kamikaze Riders, which is known to include people of various religions.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, appearing on RTBF, the Belgian national broadcaster, said the celebration was canceled in light of “a possible and credible threat.”

“In this uncertain situation, when investigations are under way and information arrives practically every seems to me the decision was correct and well-founded and I am in full agreement with it,” he said.

The two men were charged Tuesday with plotting to attack police and military personnel during end-of-year holiday celebrations in Brussels’ Grand Place.

The fireworks display was scheduled to be held at another nearby center-city site, De Brouckère.

According to a person familiar with the investigation, the two men are members of the motorcycle group Kamikaze Riders, which is known to include people of various religions.

A Belgian judge on Thursday will rule on whether the two men will continue to be detained. Xavier Carrette, a lawyer for one of the accused, Mohamed Karay, said his client denied the charges. He said Mr. Karay had no criminal record and wasn’t radicalized.

The lawyer for the other man, accused of being the ringleader of the alleged plot, couldn’t be identified. That individual has been charged with both plotting a terror attack and recruiting people into a terrorist group.

Belgian police launched two fresh raids Wednesday in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, taking in one man in connection to the investigation into the Paris attacks.

Turkish authorities recently stepped up their own counterterrorism operations in advance of year-end celebrations by mounting a series of raids across the country and detaining scores of people trying to enter Turkey from Syria.

New Year’s celebrations in Turkey are frowned upon by some conservative Muslims who see it as a Christian tradition.

A few dozen protesters gathered on Wednesday to object to New Year festivities in Istanbul, where malls and shops feature animated Santa Claus figurines singing Christmas songs, illuminated Christmas trees and other holiday decorations that some Turks have embraced to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

The intensifying international fight against Islamic State, combined with the Turkish government’s deepening fight with Kurdish insurgents, has created more concern in the country about rising security risks.

Last week, Kurdish militants claimed responsibility for firing several mortars at Istanbul’s second-largest airport, an attack that killed one woman. The separatists threatened to carry out more attacks on civilian targets if the Turkish government doesn’t ease up on its continuing military operations against Kurdish insurgents in southeastern Turkey...
More at that top link.

And ICYMI, "Brussels Cancels New Year's Festivities: Reports."

Obama Administration Spied on Israel — And Members of Congress, Pro-Israel Interest Groups as Well

I mean if this kind of completely underhanded (and illegal) espionage of our purported allies were taking place during the Watergate era, it'd be right up there with the break-in at the DNC headquarters. It's not so much that we're spied on our only consolidated democratic ally in the Middle East, but that the Obama White House deployed bureaucratic legerdemain to establish plausible deniability. Obama set himself up to blame the NSA if anything went wrong, and this is two years after pledging to curtail spying on America's strategic partners.

And don't forget to add in the extra bonus of spying on Members of Congress and pro-Israel lobbying groups.

Man, this is really something else.

At the Wall Street Journal, "U.S. Spy Net on Israel Snares Congress" (via AoSHQ):

NSA’s targeting of Israeli leaders swept up the content of private conversations with U.S. lawmakers.

President Barack Obama announced two years ago he would curtail eavesdropping on friendly heads of state after the world learned the reach of long-secret U.S. surveillance programs.

But behind the scenes, the White House decided to keep certain allies under close watch, current and former U.S. officials said. Topping the list was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The U.S., pursuing a nuclear arms agreement with Iran at the time, captured communications between Mr. Netanyahu and his aides that inflamed mistrust between the two countries and planted a political minefield at home when Mr. Netanyahu later took his campaign against the deal to Capitol Hill.

The National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders and officials also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups. That raised fears—an “Oh-s— moment,” one senior U.S. official said—that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.

White House officials believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign. They also recognized that asking for it was politically risky. So, wary of a paper trail stemming from a request, the White House let the NSA decide what to share and what to withhold, officials said. “We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’ ” a senior U.S. official said. “We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’ ”

Stepped-up NSA eavesdropping revealed to the White House how Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the U.S.-Iran negotiations—learned through Israeli spying operations—to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts.

Before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed much of the agency’s spying operations in 2013, there was little worry in the administration about the monitoring of friendly heads of state because it was such a closely held secret. After the revelations and a White House review, Mr. Obama announced in a January 2014 speech he would curb such eavesdropping.

In closed-door debate, the Obama administration weighed which allied leaders belonged on a so-called protected list, shielding them from NSA snooping. French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders made the list, but the administration permitted the NSA to target the leaders’ top advisers, current and former U.S. officials said. Other allies were excluded from the protected list, including Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of NATO ally Turkey, which allowed the NSA to spy on their communications at the discretion of top officials.

Privately, Mr. Obama maintained the monitoring of Mr. Netanyahu on the grounds that it served a “compelling national security purpose,” according to current and former U.S. officials. Mr. Obama mentioned the exception in his speech but kept secret the leaders it would apply to.

Israeli, German and French government officials declined to comment on NSA activities. Turkish officials didn’t respond to requests Tuesday for comment. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the NSA declined to comment on communications provided to the White House.

This account, stretching over two terms of the Obama administration, is based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former U.S. intelligence and administration officials and reveals for the first time the extent of American spying on the Israeli prime minister...

And see Jonathan Tobin, at Commentary, "Obama Crosses a Line on Spying":

Let’s specify that it must be understood that in the real world all nations probably spy on each other. That includes friends. Moreover, the generally very close relations between the U.S. and Israeli security establishments does not preclude them from seeking to gain more information than might be shared in the course of normal diplomatic intercourse. In the past, there have been documented cases of the U.S. spying on Israel. On the other hand, the Pollard affair demonstrated an instance in which some Israeli spooks and their political masters had the bad judgment to not only spy on the U.S. but to employ an unstable American Jew. That mistake has wrongly allowed anti-Semites within the U.S. government to wrongly place loyal American Jews under suspicion.

But the endless, eternal struggle for more intelligence that all spies wage against each other has become something very different under the Obama administration. The report about its anti-Israel activity makes plain that surveillance of Israel has gone beyond the routine hunger for extra tidbits of information that had not been previously shared by the allies. What has been going on is more like a campaign that was driven primarily by political motives more than ones rooted in security.

The Obama administration wasn’t content to merely debate the Israelis and the majority of Americans that opposed the Iran nuclear deal. The president and his foreign policy team were actively spying on them in a way that reflected more than ordinary curiosity about an ally. The information it sought and gathered actually had nothing to do with Israeli or American security. Rather it was conducting political espionage aimed at monitoring normal diplomatic conduct and legitimate political activity being conducted by American citizens and members of Congress that opposed the president’s détente with Iran.

The irony here is of Olympic in proportions. Rather than using its resources on legitimate security risks or even on sources of vital information relating to the defense of the homeland or our allies, the NSA was basically acting as an arm of the White House’s political operations ferreting out information about lobbying efforts of those opposed to the Iran deal.

That netted the administration some juicy tidbits about conversations between former Speaker of the House John Boehner and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer that led to an invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress (so much for the administration’s expressions of shock and surprise about the alleged breach of protocol by the Israelis!). While the Israeli decision to accept that offer was politically debatable, it was not a matter of national security one way or the other. Nor were any of the sessions that were apparently bugged involving Israelis, American supporters of Israel and members of Congress.

Leaving aside ethics and the law, this spying activity was largely pointless. It’s not as if anyone in Washington was in any doubt about Israeli displeasure with the president’s betrayal of the security interests of both nations in his pursuit of appeasement of Tehran. Everything they learned about opposition to the Iran deal by spying was already being talked of openly by all concerned. Using the NSA in this manner wasn’t just morally dubious; it was a waste of precious intelligence resources.

Nor can we be reassured by what the Journal tells us the NSA did to keep limits on the spying it was doing use the measures. Removing “trash talk” by members of Congress directed at the president from the transcripts it provided the White House was nice, but it didn’t address the basic problem of the executive branch spying on the legislature’s normal conduct of business.

Complicating this affair were the administration’s worries about Israeli efforts to find out what was going on between the U.S. and Iran in the nuclear talks. Apparently the White House’s greatest fear was that the Israelis would tell Congress what the president and his foreign policy team were giving away in the course of those negotiations.

In the end, Obama got his nuclear deal with Iran via concessions and even was able to implement it despite the opposition of the majority of the House and Senate as well as the American people. The spying on Israel didn’t help, but it did further undermine the already fragile trust between the Jewish state and its one superpower ally.

What comes through loud and clear from all of this is that the Obama administration is more worried about letting either its allies or the representatives of the American people know about its conduct toward Iran than they were about the nuclear threat. That meant using the NSA in a manner for which it was not intended: to spy not just on foreign friends but on American citizens and members of Congress...
Still more.

Save Up to 70% Off on Clothing, Shoes, and More

At Amazon, Select Fashion Up to 70% Off.

Plus, from John Sedgwick, War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel That Stunned the Nation.

And from Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton.

BONUS: From Lynne Cheney, James Madison: A Life Reconsidered.

Donald Trump Hits Hillary Clinton Over Husband Bill's Sexual Predation (VIDEO)

From Glenn Reynolds, at USA Today, "Playing the 'Bill card' against Hillary":
It's what she gets for playing the 'war on women card' against Trump.

Hillary Clinton stepped in it big time. Trotting out the “war on women” card that she has played so effectively, she charged Donald Trump with sexism.

But Trump, unlike other Republican candidates in the past, wasn’t having any of it. He fired back, on Twitter, ”If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband, with his terrible record of women abuse, while playing the women's card on me, she's wrong!”

And boom! The issue switched to President Clinton’s record, turning him from a campaign asset to a campaign liability. As the only president to be impeached over sexual harassment (technically, for lying about sexual harassment), and as a political figure who has faced numerous accusations of rape and sexual abuse, Bill Clinton isn’t a good choice for feminist standard-bearer. Worse yet, bringing up Bill’s misbehavior also brings up Hillary’s role in covering for his abuses, and in attacking and humiliating his accusers.

Even The Washington Post’sRuth Marcus concluded that Trump was right, and that Bill’s awful record with women is "fair game.”

The former president, Marcus noted, has a real problem. “ 'Sexism' isn’t the precise word for his predatory behavior toward women or his inexcusable relationship with a 22-year-old intern. Yet in the larger scheme of things, Bill Clinton’s conduct toward women is far worse than any of the offensive things that Trump has said. Trump has smeared women because of their looks. Clinton has preyed on them, and in a workplace setting where he was by far the superior. That is uncomfortable for Clinton supporters but it is unavoidably true.”

Yes, and it’s a pretty ugly story. As The New York Times' Maureen Dowd wrote, feminism died when Hillary and other top Democratic women circled the wagons around Bill and attacked his accusers:

“Feminism died in 1998 when Hillary allowed henchlings and Democrats to demonize Monica (Lewinsky) as an unbalanced stalker, and when Gloria Steinem defended Mr. Clinton against Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones by saying he had merely made clumsy passes, then accepted rejection, so there was no sexual harassment involved. As to his dallying with an emotionally immature (22-year-old), Ms. Steinem noted, ‘Welcome sexual behavior is about as relevant to sexual harassment as borrowing a car is to stealing one.’ ”

Steinem must not have attended any human resources lectures lately...
God, this is the juiciest campaign ever, lol.

You gotta love Trump, which is why the left's gotta hate him, heh.

Still more.

Donald Trump Announces Big Advertising Blitz for Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina (VIDEO)

At the New York Times, "Donald Trump Announces Plan for TV Ads, With a Big Uncertainty":

Donald J. Trump scored another first in the 2016 presidential race on Tuesday evening — he held a news conference aboard his private jet just before a rally in Iowa, to announce he is about to spend heavily on the campaign.

How heavily? It’ll be huge, Mr. Trump assured reporters, saying he will spend $2 million a week in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina on television ads.

Whether that meant in each state, or $2 million over all in the three, was unclear. But the distinction is significant; $2 million a week per state would be saturation level, and virtually impossible in New Hampshire, where the airwaves are already cluttered.

But $2 million a week in the three is a moderate-level advertising buy for a candidate and is about what most of the other candidates are spending. Candidates pay substantially lower rates than “super PACs” do for their airtime.

Still, Mr. Trump has yet to reserve the television time, according to two independent media buyers. His media-buying firm, Strategic Media, placed time for the radio buy that Mr. Trump did in the three states earlier this year.

It’s not clear what Mr. Trump is waiting for in terms of his ad buy. But the suspense he has managed to generate over whether he will commit to a fairly basic campaign function has dominated the campaign for the last day...
More at that top link.

Olga Ogneva for Playboy Ukraine

At Playboy Plus, "Ukrainian beauty Olga Ogneva lets it snow in this wonderfully hot set from photographer Viktor Krasnov."


Mathilde Frachon Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Casting Call (VIDEO)

Boy, can't wait for the 2016 edition to come out. They've got some freakin' lookers this year!

Marcel Hirscher Nearly Hit by Drone During World Cup Alpine Skiing Event (VIDEO)

Watch, via the BBC, "Drone narrowly misses skier Marcel Hirscher during slalom race."

And ESPN reports on the predictable response, "Drone to be banned..."

Donald Trump Slams New Hampshire Union-Leader (VIDEO)

Hadas Gold had this at Politico a couple of days ago, "Trump: Union Leader publisher a 'lowlife'."

And the front-page editorial at the Union-Leader, "Joseph W. McQuaid: Trump campaign insults NH voters' intelligence."

Plus, here's Heather Nauert with Mary Katharine Ham:

WATCH: Striking Video of Flooding In North of England


Included is the guy getting rescued after refusing to leave his Land Rover. The water was already gurgling up over the windshield. Rescuers pop off the sun roof and pull the bloody bugger out!

PREVIOUSLY: "David Cameron Defends Flood Record as Northern England Is Drenched (VIDEO)."

Brussels Cancels New Year's Festivities: Reports

Jesus, the freakin' terrorists have won.

Man. *SMH*

At Sky News:

As I was saying earlier, they've got it bad over there. Really bad. See, "Two Suspects Arrested in Belgium in 'Paris-Style' Terror Plot for New Year's Eve (VIDEO)."

Baby Tastes Bacon for the First Time (VIDEO)


Watch, "Baby filmed by parents as he tastes bacon for the first time - his reaction is amazing."

Hat Tip: Robert Stacy McCain:

'Apocalypse Store' Offers Essential Survival Goods to Survive Doomsday (VIDEO)

This reminds me of the post I wrote right after Obama's inauguration, "Worst Case Scenario? Preparing for Anarchy in America."

There's probably more of a worst case scenario today than there was back in 2009, heh.

Via Russia Toay (who else?):

Donald Trump Spokeswoman Katrina Pierson Wears Bullet Necklace on CNN (VIDEO)


You gotta love this woman.

Watch: "Trump Spox Who Wore Bullet Necklace During Interview: ‘Maybe I’ll Wear a Fetus Next Time’."

Also at the Mirror UK, "Donald Trump spokesperson who wore bullet necklace says 'next time I'll wear a fetus'."

On cue, leftists freak out, at Gawker, for example, "Completely stable Donald Trump spokesperson wears necklace made from real bullets on CNN."

This lady's the best!

House Democrats Move to Criminalize Criticism of Islam

From Robert Spencer, at FrontPage Magazine:
December 17, 2015 ought henceforth to be a date which will live in infamy, as that was the day that some of the leading Democrats in the House of Representatives came out in favor of the destruction of the First Amendment. Sponsored by among others, Muslim Congressmen Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, as well as Eleanor Holmes Norton, Loretta Sanchez, Charles Rangel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Kennedy, Al Green, Judy Chu, Debbie Dingell, Niki Tsongas, John Conyers, José Serrano, Hank Johnson, and many others, House Resolution 569 condemns “violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States.” The Resolution has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

That’s right: “violence, bigotry and hateful rhetoric.” The implications of those five words will fly by most people who read them, and the mainstream media, of course, will do nothing to elucidate them. But what H. Res. 569 does is conflate violence -- attacks on innocent civilians, which have no justification under any circumstances – with “bigotry” and “hateful rhetoric,” which are identified on the basis of subjective judgments. The inclusion of condemnations of “bigotry” and “hateful rhetoric” in this Resolution, while appearing to be high-minded, take on an ominous character when one recalls the fact that for years, Ellison, Carson, and his allies (including groups such as the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR) have been smearing any and all honest examination of how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to incite hatred and violence as “bigotry” and “hateful rhetoric.” This Resolution is using the specter of violence against Muslims to try to quash legitimate research into the motives and goals of those who have vowed to destroy us, which will have the effect of allowing the jihad to advance unimpeded and unopposed...
More at that top link.

And this repulsive, un-American bill is here, "House Democrats Introduce Legislation Condemning Anti-Muslim Bigotry."

10 Factors That Will Probably Determine the White House Winner Next Year

Enough with all the political speculation, here's some real political science prognostication!

From Larry Sabato et al., at Sabato's Crystal Ball, "10 Factors That Will Determine the Next President":
Here’s a thought experiment: What if Republicans nominated the 2012 version of Mitt Romney — same fundraising, same baggage, same everything — at their 2016 convention? What sort of odds would that candidate have in 2016?

We suspect the candidate would be a small favorite at the start of the campaign. He would be running against a Democrat who lacked the power of incumbency, and he would be competing in an environment where the public was ready for a change: The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that about three-quarters of those surveyed wanted the next president to take a different approach to governing than President Obama, similar to how the public felt about how George W. Bush’s successor should act at a similar point in the 2008 campaign. It’s hard to precisely quantify, but there’s a generic desire for change that hampers a party the longer it stays in the White House. To satisfy that general feeling, a generic Republican might do the trick, which is why we cite Romney circa 2012 as an example of what could/should be enough to win the White House: A candidate who is largely average could flip a few percentage points of the national vote from the 2012 results, which is all it will take for the Republicans to win.

However, it’s quite unclear that the Republicans will produce a candidate of even the quality of Romney. After 2012, the party took a hard look at its inadequacies, producing a report that suggested the party needed to do more to reach out to nonwhite voters. Donald Trump, the GOP’s current polling leader, is not helping on that front. The Republican leadership is worried.

What follows is an exploration of 10 factors that will probably determine the White House winner next year. Some of these — many of them, in fact — suggest that the GOP should be seen as a narrow favorite. But a few factors, combined with the live possibility that the next Republican nominee will make Mitt Romney look like Ronald Reagan, indicate to us that, as we turn the page from 2015 to 2016, that the 2016 general election is still a coin flip...
Keep reading for the 10 factors.

I hope Trump's the nominee, mainly because he's so unlike Mitt Romney, particularly in that the latter might have won in 2012 if he'd have adopted some of the former's pugnacity. Conservatives need a fighter, and while Trump's not really conservative, he's definitely fighting on those issues really dear to the conservative base. I mean, Diana West is a movement conservative, as is Ann Coulter, and they see Trump as a savior. [And I forget to mention Phyllis Schlafly --- Phyllis freakin' Schlafly!] Even Michelle Malkin, who's gone a few rounds with Trump (rather nasty rounds, in fact), concedes that she'd vote for Trump if he became the nominee, primarily because he'd indeed fight to reverse the diabolical damage leftists have inflicted on this country.

See also, "Voters Seek Vengeance Against Obama's 'Fundamental Transformation of America' (VIDEO)."

Two Suspects Arrested in Belgium in 'Paris-Style' Terror Plot for New Year's Eve (VIDEO)

At the Telegraph UK, "Belgian bikers arrested over 'plot for Paris-style attacks at New Year'."

And at WSJ, "Belgian Police Arrest Two on Terrorism Charges":

BRUSSELS—Belgian authorities said Tuesday they arrested two people on terrorism charges and broke up a plan for attacks during the holiday period, underlining fears of further mayhem in a Europe still unsettled over Islamic State’s deadly attacks in Paris last month.

Police seized Islamic State propaganda and military-style clothing but no explosives or arms in a series of raids Sunday and Monday in Brussels, Liège and the Flanders region of Belgium, prosecutors said.

The arrests were made amid stepped-up antiterrorism operations by Belgian authorities in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, which were planned by a Belgian national and carried out by a team that included several others with ties to Belgium, including the fugitive Salah Abdeslam, a French citizen who was born and lived in Brussels.

Belgium has conducted dozens of raids, questioned scores of people, and arrested nine people in connection with those attacks.

Belgian federal prosecutors said they hadn’t identified links between those investigations and the two new arrests, but said their continuing investigation would be looking for any connections.

Among the intended targets were the Grand Place, the Belgian capital’s central square and site of its largest Christmas market, and a nearby police station, according to a person briefed on the investigations.

The Grand Place, a Unesco heritage site and Brussels’ most important tourist site, was constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries and then rebuilt after being largely flattened in a 1695 bombardment by the French army.

Parts of the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are also scheduled to take place in the area. Authorities said they didn’t have information about a specific date for the attacks.

Few details of the arrests or investigation were released, but prosecutors said there was a serious indication of planned terror attacks at several prominent locations in Brussels. Six people were initially detained in a series of raids in the capital and elsewhere in Belgium, but only two were arrested and charged...

Yeah, they've gotta keep the lid on in Belgium. They've got it bad. See, "Bad Brussels' Sprouts: Belgium Has Become Center of European Terror."

New California Gun Laws for 2016 (VIDEO)

California's basically a Marxist regime at this point --- and it's going to get worse before it gets better.

At CBS News 2 Los Angeles:

President Obama's Legacy of Racial Divisiveness

From VDH, at Pajamas, "Bitter Clingers 2.0":
Clingers 1.0: “You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Clingers 2.0: “Certain circumstances around being the first African-American president that might not have confronted a previous president, absolutel.  … If you are referring to specific strains in the Republican Party that suggest that somehow I'm different, I'm Muslim, I'm disloyal to the country, etc., which unfortunately is pretty far out there and gets some traction in certain pockets of the Republican Party, and that have been articulated by some of their elected officials, what I'd say there is that that's probably pretty specific to me and who I am and my background, and that in some ways I may represent change that worries them…. If you are living in a town that historically has relied on coal and you see coal jobs diminishing, you probably are going to be more susceptible to the argument that I've been wiping out the economy in your area .… I think if you are talking about the specific virulence of some of the opposition directed towards me, then, you know, that may be explained by the particulars of who I am.”

Barack Obama in the final stretch of his 2008 primary campaign explained away—off the record in an unguarded moment—his unpopularity in Pennsylvania. The problem then was a biased “them”—not so much the hard-left policies and principles of Barack Obama.

These narrow-minded clingers were supposedly not fond of Obama and similar others “who aren’t like them.” Thus, because of their parochialism, nativism, and fundamentalism, the unenlightened voters of Pennsylvania were unable to appreciate Obama’s message of “hope and change” and vero possumus—much less his landmark promises to return the Presidency to constitutional restraint, radically improve American health care, end the role of big money in politics, solve the “bad” Iraq war and win the “good” Afghan war, cool the planet and recede the seas, end government scandal, bridge the racial divide, balance the budget, reset relations with Russia, and win back the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.

For some reason, the under-educated voter seven years ago was skeptical that Obama would do any of that. Of course, Obama smeared the Clingers off the record, given that what he really thought of the white working class of Pennsylvania did not quite synch with his purported racial and class ecumenicalism.

Seven years later an unpopular (43% approval rate in the aggregate poll), lame-duck President Obama has come full circle in his angst and pouting. Now with no more elections looming, nothing apparently is off the record. He recently gave an interview with NPR, in which he offered a sort of Clingers 2.0 exegesis for his current poor approval ratings and absence of a legacy.

Once again the fault is with an ignorant “them” and their biases (e.g., “I may represent change that worries them”), not Obama’s own unimpressive record of governance.

A liberated Obama is more overt in his sense of victimization. Now he can be more explicit than his Clingers 1.0 indictment and quite openly allege that his family’s background and race best explain his plight...

The most divisive president in American history. *SMH*.

Infrared Footage Shows Methane Spewing from Porter Ranch Gas Leak (VIDEO)

I've hesitated reporting on this story, but this infrared video is a trip.

Watch, at CBS News 2 Los Angeles, "The description for the video says the methane plumes were made visible by a 'specialized infrared camera operated by an Earthworks ITC-certified thermographer'."

Also, at CBS Evening News, "Methane gas leak creates ghost town in California."

Cold Weather in Southern California Expected to Continue This Week

My young son had a lab appointment yesterday to have blood drawn, and he was NPO after midnight. So we schlepped over there before 8:00am. The Odyssey van was frosted over and it took a few minutes before the windshield wipers took effect.

Interesting, especially in that it's been just as cold on the West Coast as it's been elsewhere across the country.

At the Los Angeles Times:
It’s been cold in Los Angeles, which means it’s time to break out the scarves, hats, parkas and gloves and dress up like Han Solo trekking across Hoth in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Parts of Los Angeles will see overnight temperatures drop to around 40 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures in Santa Barbara County will plummet to the low 30s, which could result in damage to crops.

The cold snap is expected to last through the week, with freezing or near-freezing temperatures around dawn Wednesday and Thursday. Santa Ana winds in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and the Antelope Valley increase the fire risk Thursday and Friday, the weather service said.

Reaching for all those extra layers makes sense, even when temperatures hover in the low 60s, forecasters said.

"A lot of that has to do with the low humidity," said Emily Thornton, a meteorologist with the weather service in Oxnard. "Sea breezes come throughout the day and that can make it feel relatively cooler."

"I just moved here from Tennessee and I have noticed it can feel pretty cold here," she added...
Also, watch Kristen Keogh, at ABC News 10 San Diego.

David Cameron Defends Flood Record as Northern England Is Drenched (VIDEO)

At the New York Times:

LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron walked the flooded streets of York on Monday as Britain’s Environment Agency warned that the country needed “a complete rethink” of its flood defenses.

Thousands of people in the north of England spent another day dealing with what they called unprecedented flooding, with roads in York and in nearby Leeds still underwater and some electricity cut off. David Rooke, the deputy chief executive of the Environment Agency, said that “we are moving from known extremes to unknown extremes.”

Some scientists speculated that the effects of climate change could be evident in a year of record flooding. “We are having more severe floods in the U.K. than 10 years ago,” said Reza Ahmadian, a lecturer on water management at Cardiff University. “This is not something just happening in the U.K. — and we will see more and more of this.”

He added, “We need to be more creative about flood defenses.”

Mr. Ahmadian suggested that building temporary reservoirs for flood relief in less populated areas could be more effective than building ever-higher and more expensive flood walls, which “just create further problems downstream.”

Mr. Cameron defended the government’s record on flood defenses, saying that it had committed to spending 2.3 billion pounds, about $3.4 billion, over the next six years and that he would consider doing more.

“Let’s have a look and see whether more needs to be done and whether the flood defenses need to be made even higher than they are already,” he told Sky News. Over the weekend, he had deployed several hundred soldiers to help with flood defenses.

Officials in Leeds, about 25 miles southwest of York, criticized Mr. Cameron for not coming there and said his government blocked a more expensive flood-prevention plan in 2011. Judith Blake, the Labour Party leader of Leeds City Council, said the government had favored the south of England over the north, echoing the Yorkshire Evening Post, which wrote on its front page on Monday, “A northern powerhouse is nothing when it is under several feet of mucky water.”

Mr. Cameron rejected the claims of southern bias. “We spend more per head of the population on flood defenses in the north than we do in the south,” he said. “The key thing is to spend the money where it is needed.”
Also, at London's Daily Mail, "David Cameron faces the wrath of flood victims as he is heckled about government cuts during visit to flood hit-areas," and "Ancient Yorkshire bridge collapses in the floods as Storm Frank is set to bring MORE misery across Britain tonight with six inches of rain and 80mph winds on the way."

More, "Flood victims' homes are targeted by LOOTERS: Thieves steal from submerged properties as Storm Frank threatens six inches more rain and 80mph gales to pile more misery on embattled families."

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister 'Made Keith Richards Look Like a Choirboy...'

By far the best obituary of the Motörhead frontman, at London's Daily Mail, "The rock wild man who made Keith Richards look like a choir boy: As Lemmy dies two days after being told he had aggressive cancer, it is only surprising that the hard-drinking Motorhead frontman managed to make it to 70."

Flashback, almost five years ago, "Ace of Spades — Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister Still Touring at 65."

Is the West Disintegrating?

From Pat Buchanan, at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Is the West done?":
On Jan. 1, 2002, the day that euro coins and bank notes entered into circulation, my column “Say goodbye to the mother continent” contained this pessimistic prognosis: “This European superstate will not endure but break apart on the barrier reef of nationalism. For when the hard times come, patriots will recapture control of their national destinies from Brussels bureaucrats to whom no one will ever give loyalty or love.”

The column described what was already happening.

“Europe is dying. There is not a single nation in all of Europe with a birth rate sufficient to keep its population alive except Muslim Albania.”

What was predicted 14 years ago has come to pass.

Migrants into Germany from the Middle and Near East reached 1 million in 2015. EU bribes to the Turks to keep Muslim migrants from crossing over to the Greek islands, thence into the Balkans and Central Europe, are unlikely to stop the flood.

My prediction that European “patriots will recapture control of their national destinies” looks even more probable today.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who almost lost a referendum on Scottish secession, is demanding a return of British sovereignty from the EU sufficient to satisfy his countrymen, who have been promised a vote on whether to abandon the European Union altogether.

Marine Le Pen's anti-EU National Front ran first in the first round of the 2015 French elections. Many Europeans believe she will make it into the final round of the next presidential election in 2017.

Anti-immigrant right-wing parties are making strides all across Europe, as the EU is bedeviled by a host of crises.

Mass migration into the EU is causing member nations to put up checkpoints and close borders. The Schengen Agreement on the free movement of goods and people is being ignored or openly violated.

Then there is the surge of sub-nationalism, as in Scotland, Catalonia, Flanders and Veneto, where people seek to disconnect from distant capitals that no longer speak for them and reconnect with languages, traditions and cultures that give more meaning to their lives.

Moreover, the migrants entering Europe, predominantly Islamic and Third World, are not assimilating as did the European and largely Christian immigrants to America of a century ago. The enclaves of Asians in Britain, Africans and Arabs around Paris, and Turks in and around Berlin seem to be British, French and German in name only. And some of their children are now heeding the call to jihad against the crusaders invading Muslim lands.

If these trends continue, and they seem to have accelerated in 2015, the idea of a United States of Europe dies, and with it, the EU...
Still more.

German Jihadist Returns from Syria and Gives Testimony

At Der Spiegel, "Back from the 'Caliphate': Returnee Says IS Recruiting for Terror Attacks in Germany":
Islamist extremist Harry S. wasn't in Syria for long. But during his stay there, he claims, Islamic State leaders repeatedly tried to recruit him to commit terror attacks in Germany. Security officials believe he could be telling the truth.

It was an early summer morning in the Syrian desert, with not a cloud in the sky, when Mohamed Mahmoud asked those gathered around him: "Here are some prisoners. Which of you wants to waste them?"

Not long before, Islamic State (IS) had taken the city of Palmyra, and now jihadists from Germany and Austria were to participate in the executions of some of the prisoners taken in the operation. They drove to the site of the executions in Toyota pick-ups, bringing along an IS camera team in order to document the atrocity in the city of antique ruins. Even then, Mohamed Mahmoud was known to German security officials for his repeated propaganda-video calls to join the jihad. On that early summer day in Palmyra, though, he didn't just incite others. He grabbed a Kalashnikov himself and began firing. That day, Mahmoud and his group of executioners are thought to have killed six or seven prisoners.

The story comes from someone who was in Palmyra on that day: Harry S., a 27-year-old from Bremen. "I saw it all," he says.

Harry S. returned to Germany from Syria and is now in investigative custody. He has told security officials everything about the brief time he spent with Islamic State and has also demonstrated his readiness to deliver extensive testimony to German public prosecutors. He stands accused of membership in a terrorist group. His lawyer Udo Würtz declined to offer a detailed response when contacted, but said of his client: "He wants to come clean."

German investigators are extremely interested in the testimony of the apparently repentant returnee, even as they are likely unsettled by what he has to say.

A Vital Witness

Harry S., after all, is more than just a witness to firing squads and decapitations. He also says that on several occasions, IS members tried to recruit volunteers for terrorist attacks in Germany. In the spring, just after he first arrived in Syria, he says that he and another Islamist from Bremen were asked if they could imagine perpetrating attacks in Germany. Later, when he was staying not far from Raqqa, the self-proclaimed Islamic State capital city, masked men drove up in a jeep. They too asked him if he was interested in bringing the jihad to his homeland. Harry S. says he told them that he wasn't prepared to do so.

Harry S. was only in IS controlled territory for three months. Yet he might nevertheless become a vital witness for German security officials. Since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, fear of terrorism has risen across Europe, including in Germany, and security has been stepped up in train stations and airports. And the testimony from the Bremen returnee would seem to indicate that the fear is justified. Harry S. says that, during his time in the Syrian warzone, he frequently heard people talking about attacks in the West and says that pretty much every European jihadist was approached with the same questions he had been asked. "They want something that happens everywhere at the same time," Harry S. says.

Harry S.'s path from the Bremen quarter of Osterholz-Tenever to the jihadists of Islamic State was not particularly remarkable. His radicalization was similar to many other young, directionless men from European suburbs, from the Molenbeek district of Brussels to Lohberg in Dinslaken. In Tenever, some of the residential towers are up to 20 stories tall.

The son of parents from Ghana, Harry S. grew up in "difficult conditions," according to a court file. His father left the family just as he was entering puberty. Even though Harry S. initially only managed to graduate from a lower tier high school in Germany, he dreamed of returning to his parents' homeland and working as a construction engineer.

There was even a brief moment when it looked as though he was going to get control over his life. But then, in early 2010, he and some friends robbed a supermarket, getting away with €23,500, and flew to the island of Gran Canaria for a vacation. It wasn't long before the authorities were on to them and Harry S. was sentenced to two years behind bars for aggravated theft.

A Dangerous Radical

In prison, he met a Salafist named René Marc S., the "Emir of Gröpelingen" -- a man who Bremen officials consider to be a dangerous radical. It didn't take long before prison officials noticed a "change in character" in Harry S. According to prison records, he converted to Islam and expressed "radical sentiments" about world events. After his release, the new convert visited the Furqan Mosque (which has since been shut down) in the Gröpelingen neighborhood of Bremen. At the mosque, he became part of a Salafist clique which sent at least 16 adults and 11 children to Syria in 2014.

Harry S. tried to make the journey as well. From Istanbul, he flew in April 2014 to Gaziantep, a large Turkish city near the border with Syria, but his trip came to a premature end. Turkish authorities arrested him and sent him back to Bremen, where he told police that he had wanted to help out in Syrian refugee camps. The authorities didn't believe him and confiscated his passport in an effort to prevent him from making another attempt. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, he was required to report to the local police station.

But the authorities were still unable to prevent the Salafist from traveling to Syria to join the war. Harry S. simply grabbed an acquaintance's passport and, with another Islamist from Bremen, traveled overland via Vienna and Budapest. This time, there were no police waiting for him at the border to Syria. Instead, he was met by smugglers who brought him across the border to an IS safe house set up for new arrivals from around the world.

Harry S., a large man with broad shoulders, was trained as a fighter in Syria. He claims to have been drilled in training camps together with 50 other men: sit-ups, hours of standing in the sun and forced marches lasting the entire day. Those who gave up were locked up or beaten. His Kalashnikov, it was driven home to him, should become like his "third arm" and he was told to keep the weapon in bed with him while sleeping.

Once he finished training, he says he was to become a part of a special unit, a kind of suicide squad for house-to-house combat. Harry S. claims that, during his brief time in Syria, he was never sent into battle -- but he claims to know many young men, including Germans, who died in battle. "Luckily, I managed to get away," he says.
Still more.

Jeremy Corbyn's Hard Left Draws-Up 'Stalinist Plot' to Seize Control of Labour

It's almost like a parody, except it's not.

Corbyn's hard left even plan's "reeducation camps."

At London's Daily Mail, "Hard-Left's 'Stalinist plot' to seize control of Labour: Detailed blueprint by Corbyn's supporters show they will try to oust critics, take over policy making and hold Mao-style 'political education activity' programme."

More, "'Sack the mutineers!': Labour MP urges Jeremy Corbyn to start the new year with a shadow cabinet clear out."

And at the Independent UK, "Jeremy Corbyn to dismiss 'disloyal' shadow ministers in New Year reshuffle: Hilary Benn and Maria Eagle are among party heavyweights facing demotion in the first week of January."

New Poll Finds Americans Bitterly Divided Over Obama's Handling of the Country (VIDEO)

Sixty-nine percent of Americans are angry "about the way things are going in this country today."

And the public's bitterly divided over the president's legacy, with 37 percent saying Obama's had a positive impact on the country and 37 percent saying his impact's been negative.

Polarization, in a nutshell.

At CNN, "Full results: CNN/ORC poll on views of government."

Plus, watch CNN's Jim Acosta, "Americans divided over Obama legacy."

PREVIOUSLY: "Voters Seek Vengeance Against Obama's 'Fundamental Transformation of America' (VIDEO)."

New Year, New You — BUMPED

Start the new year off with fitness, health, nutrition, organization, wellness, money management, and more --- at Amazon.

Plus, from Donald Trump, Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again.

Voters Seek Vengeance Against Obama's 'Fundamental Transformation of America' (VIDEO)

From Dan Spencer, at Red State, "Revenge Replaces Hope and Change" (via Memeorandum)":
Frank Luntz tells us that Trump supporters are not just angry. They want revenge. They seek vengeance for Obama’s fundamental transformation of America. These Trumpeteers see the Donald as the antidote for all that Obama has made wrong with America. Trump’s bombastic attacks on the Republican establishment, the mainstream media and his critics are cathartic for the millions who feel “silenced, ignored and even scorned by the governing and media elite.”

According to Luntz, to understand why Trump is so popular, you have to listen to why his supporters hate Obama so much. One only has to look at the Frank Luntz focus-group conducted on December 9 to see how much Trump supporters dislike Obama...
More at the link, and watch the full segment, from Face the Nation (with Luntz speaking from Las Vegas, where the December 15 debate was about to take place).

Richest Americans, on Both Left and Right, Shape Private Tax System to Save Billions

Well, an update from the class war, from the New York Times (who else?), "For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions":
WASHINGTON — The hedge fund magnates Daniel S. Loeb, Louis Moore Bacon and Steven A. Cohen have much in common. They have managed billions of dollars in capital, earning vast fortunes. They have invested millions in art — and millions more in political candidates.

Moreover, each has exploited an esoteric tax loophole that saved them millions in taxes. The trick? Route the money to Bermuda and back.

With inequality at its highest levels in nearly a century and public debate rising over whether the government should respond to it through higher taxes on the wealthy, the very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes. Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means.

In recent years, this apparatus has become one of the most powerful avenues of influence for wealthy Americans of all political stripes, including Mr. Loeb and Mr. Cohen, who give heavily to Republicans, and the liberal billionaire George Soros, who has called for higher levies on the rich while at the same time using tax loopholes to bolster his own fortune.

All are among a small group providing much of the early cash for the 2016 presidential campaign.

Operating largely out of public view — in tax court, through arcane legislative provisions and in private negotiations with the Internal Revenue Service — the wealthy have used their influence to steadily whittle away at the government’s ability to tax them. The effect has been to create a kind of private tax system, catering to only several thousand Americans.

The impact on their own fortunes has been stark. Two decades ago, when Bill Clinton was elected president, the 400 highest-earning taxpayers in America paid nearly 27 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to I.R.S. data. By 2012, when President Obama was re-elected, that figure had fallen to less than 17 percent, which is just slightly more than the typical family making $100,000 annually, when payroll taxes are included for both groups.

The ultra-wealthy “literally pay millions of dollars for these services,” said Jeffrey A. Winters, a political scientist at Northwestern University who studies economic elites, “and save in the tens or hundreds of millions in taxes.”

Some of the biggest current tax battles are being waged by some of the most generous supporters of 2016 candidates. They include the families of the hedge fund investors Robert Mercer, who gives to Republicans, and James Simons, who gives to Democrats; as well as the options trader Jeffrey Yass, a libertarian-leaning donor to Republicans.

Mr. Yass’s firm is litigating what the agency deemed to be tens of millions of dollars in underpaid taxes. Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund Mr. Simons founded and which Mr. Mercer helps run, is currently under review by the I.R.S. over a loophole that saved their fund an estimated $6.8 billion in taxes over roughly a decade, according to a Senate investigation. Some of these same families have also contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to conservative groups that have attacked virtually any effort to raises taxes on the wealthy.

Some of the biggest current tax battles are being waged by some of the most generous supporters of 2016 candidates. They include the families of the hedge fund investors Robert Mercer, who gives to Republicans, and James Simons, who gives to Democrats; as well as the options trader Jeffrey Yass, a libertarian-leaning donor to Republicans.

Mr. Yass’s firm is litigating what the agency deemed to be tens of millions of dollars in underpaid taxes. Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund Mr. Simons founded and which Mr. Mercer helps run, is currently under review by the I.R.S. over a loophole that saved their fund an estimated $6.8 billion in taxes over roughly a decade, according to a Senate investigation. Some of these same families have also contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to conservative groups that have attacked virtually any effort to raises taxes on the wealthy...
Notice how this isn't just a conservative or Republican phenomenon. George Soros is perhaps the most important puppet-master of the Democrat Party/radical left establishment. All of these people are gaming the system for all it's worth. The difference, at least for me, is that Democrats don't care about the corruption of their wealthy elites --- just look at the epic hypocrisy of Hillary Clinton, the Democrat front-runner.

No, it's going to take a constitutional conservative revolution to shake loose the barnacles of the Beltway political class. It's coming, though. I really feel significant change is coming.

More at the link.

Rita Ora Swimsuit in Miami

At Egotastic!, "Rita Ora Skin Tight Wet Swimsuit Headlights On in Miami."

Plus, "Rita Ora Black Bikini Tug In Miami, When Bikini Bottoms Go Wrong (Or Right)."

Donald Trump Isn’t a Fascist

He's a media-savvy know-nothing?

It's that any better?

Ask John Cassidy, at the New Yorker, "Donald Trump Isn’t a Fascist; He’s a Media-Savvy Know-Nothing":
With Donald Trump ending 2015 well ahead in the Republican primary polls, the debate about what his candidacy represents is intensifying. Pointing to favorable remarks about Vladimir Putin that Trump made recently, Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, said Sunday, on “Meet the Press,” “This is a man now flirting with authoritarianism. . . . This is a serious, serious matter.”

Some people have gone so far as to suggest that Trump, in whipping up popular resentments and stigmatizing immigrants and Muslims, is exhibiting Fascist tendencies. During the last Democratic debate, Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, said that America must never surrender its values “to the Fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths.” Slate’s Jamelle Bouie has argued that “Fascist” is the label that best fits Trump, and the word has also cropped up in New Hampshire, where Trump is the front-runner. In a blog post, Jonathan P. Baird, an administrative law judge, noted that the candidate is popular with white supremacists and other hate groups, and wrote, “Trump is no conservative. He is not about conserving what is valuable in America’s laws and heritage. He has crossed enough lines to indicate he is something else altogether.”

That last statement is indisputable, but is “Fascism” the best way to describe the Trump phenomenon? I don’t think so...
Either do I, but a "know-nothing's' no better.

Trump's an American nationalist who's talking truth to power --- and taking it to the Beltway elite. All the prognostications that Trump was a flash-in-the-pan, that he'd be toast before the end of the year, proved false. The permanent political class has rotten eggs on its collective face. And I'd include John Cassidy as among the rotten elite toadies.

Still more, FWIW.