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Why Women Aren’t the Answer

The Stream - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 15:36

Hollywood. Business. Church. Congress. Where hasn’t sexual misconduct, including assault and harassment, left its ugly mark? As #MeToo has revealed, the experience is common to millions of women. Old and young, rich and poor, black and white. It’s heartbreaking.

When so many famous men have been dethroned, people are looking for solutions. A tweet by comedian Conan O’Brien last week sums up the country’s exasperation: “I’m ready for the all-female reboot of America.”

I'm ready for the all-female reboot of America.

— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) November 11, 2017

That’s meant to be a joke. Yet a joke’s not a joke unless its holds a grain of sincerity. In light of #MeToo, many have called for more women. In Congress, as CEOs, in other leadership roles.

As an idea, it’s one I support. So often women forge their careers in male-dominated fields. It’s harder to stand up for yourself when you’re in the minority, with few to understand your experience or perspective.

Maybe men are the problem. Maybe we wouldn’t have sexual assault, or violence, if we just got rid of these men. Right? Wrong.

A History of Abuse

Throughout history, women have been treated as sub-par humans, with fewer rights and less value. Even in the Land of the Free, women haven’t enjoyed the full-scale rights of citizenship as long as men have. For centuries, men have held most of the powerful public roles.

We need men and women to care for each other. To build each other up. To view each other as teammates rather than enemies.

Power tends to corrupt. So when you have more men in power, it’s no surprise you have more men abusing power. Throw in men’s generally stronger physique, social expectations influencing male and female behavior, and the controversial but science-backed fact that men tend to be more aggressive than women and Bam! When the gates hiding rampant sexual misconduct finally break open, no wonder it’s mostly men tumbling out.

But that doesn’t mean men are more sinful. Or that women are more holy. Or that the solution to our society’s brokenness is to eradicate one sex, let your guard down with the other, and assume everything will be okay.

Women Are Sinful, Too

Let’s get biblical, here. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Women, that includes us. Often, our sin will come in different stripes than the fellas’. After all, our brains are different. And so are our proclivities. Again, this is both common sense and solid science.

But don’t think that means women aren’t capable of vile behavior, including violence, aggression and even sexual assault. These stories from the past month didn’t get as many hits as others. They had the likes of Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey to contend with. But they happened:

Married science teacher, 22, arrested for sex romp with teen boy student (she was also in possession of child porn) Texas mom accused of killing 2 kids hours after deputies visit home (she also tried to shoot her husband) Mom charged with inciting son to rampage at school And others. Just search the internet for a while. You’ll be disgusted.

And if you want to talk about public figures, “feminist hero” Gloria Steinem brushed off Bill Clinton’s accusers for years. Nasty Women co-editor Kate Harding argued Thursday that “we should not force a Democrat to resign for sexually abusing women,” because it would make room for “more men who hate women deeply and openly.” (She’s talking about Republicans.)

Democracy 2017: I am sincerely arguing that we should not force a Democrat to resign for sexually abusing a woman, because I know Republicans never will, and that once the first Democrat goes, R's next move is finding shady Ds from states with R governors.

— Kate Harding (@KateHarding) November 16, 2017

Let’s not even get started on Hillary Clinton. Her career was built on a pile of expendable women and empty empowerment jargon.

It’s not just conservative women who will agree with this. Ask any liberal female whether they truly think all women deserve to be in power. They’ll quickly recite the faults of chicks (especially those pesky pro-lifers) deemed unworthy of their own sex.

Needed: All of Us

Don’t misconstrue my words to mean that I don’t think more women should run for Congress, lead businesses or speak up in general. Don’t think I’m ignoring the systemic problem of powerful men abusing women. Don’t think I’m bashing #MeToo.

Hear what I’m saying: our society is broken. Women and men are getting hurt because of it. Men and women are to blame.

We need good women to have courage to stand up for what’s right even when it’s difficult, to continue to pioneer new paths for posterity, to teach their children what it means to be loving, respectful, confident and determined.

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We need good men to have the courage to stand up for what’s right. To speak up for the vulnerable when their voice carries more weight. To teach their children, especially their sons, what it looks like to honor, encourage, and assist women as co-laborers on this earth.

We need men and women to care for each other. To build each other up. To view each other as teammates rather than enemies. Not as feminazis or toxic men, but as fellow image-bearers of God.

The all-female reboot of America sounds cute. Even a little refreshing in a time when the misdeeds of men are getting exposed. But it’s not the answer. Not even close.

ABC Ignores Sen. Gillibrand Admitting President Clinton Should’ve Resigned Over Lewinsky

NewsBusters - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 15:32
<p>What a surprise. The morning news broadcast headed by a former Bill Clinton White House staffer completely ignored the news that a prominent Democrat just admitted that Clinton should’ve resigned after his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky came to light.</p>

Alec Baldwin: People 'Can't Be Mean Enough' to President Trump

NewsBusters - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 15:24
<p>Speaking at his alma mater, George Washington University, actor and Trump-hater Alec Baldwin seemed to promote the bullying of President Trump by saying that people “can't be mean enough” to President Trump because, in his opinion, the president is squandering a “tremendous opportunity.” </p>

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NRA Blog - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 14:15
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Are Black Churches a Key to Saving America?

The Stream - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 14:09

I just got back from a conference of African-American pastors. I have arrived. I’m now an "ally." That’s a word from Woke-speak, the language of social justice warriors. It’s a weird dialect. Kind of constricting, really. Like Orwell’s Newspeak, it conveys only a narrow range of concepts. By design. In Woke-speak, you can only really say the following things:

I feel guilty. Even guiltier than you. Which means I’m a better person, because I feel like an even worse one. But you and I can agree, at least: THAT guy over there is even worse than we are. Want to have some sterile, depressing sex? I’ve printed out our consent forms. … The Coalition of African-American Pastors

In cold fact, there was probably no place on earth less SJW-friendly than that conference room in Henderson, NV, which hosted the Coalition of African-American Pastors (CAAP). Which on one level should be surprising.

Its founder, Rev. Bill Owens, grew up in Jim Crow-era Memphis, Tennessee. He saw his father called "Boy" and worse. He saw white insurance collectors stalk into his house, leave on their hats, and insultingly call his mother by her first name. As if she were their maid, and not their customer.

Owens risked his neck in the Civil Rights Movement. The real one, which faced down the Klan, brutal sheriffs, police dogs, and all-white juries. Its claims were just, its methods moderate, its goals based in the gospel and the American founding. Owens marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through hostile white Southern streets.

Civil Rights, Education, the Family

Years later, Owens lived out of his car while running a ministry he'd invented himself. Its task? Finding poor, disadvantaged African-American students, and putting them into college. Not just any college, though. Owens placed them at the devoutly Christian Oral Roberts University. A school which, it turns out, was never segregated. Oral Roberts, you see, was part-Indian. He had seen his mother suffer racist discrimination, and was determined not to allow such sinful practices at his school.

The left today uses movements like Black Lives Matter for a dark and cynical purpose.

But none of this would matter to sniffy white snowflakes today. Because Bill Owens is a Christian. A real one. This means that he didn’t just see the Bible as a stick with which to beat racists. (Though it’s perfectly right to use it that way, since the Word of God teaches that we are brothers first in Adam then in Christ.)

No, Owens also took seriously some other words of Genesis: "Man and woman he made them." Starting in 2004 or so, Owens began to be deeply worried by inroads of LGBT activists. Not just in the laws, but in the churches. Owens learned from reliable sources that Barack Obama secretly favored same-sex marriage -- though in public he said that he didn’t. Owens warned other black pastors about Obama’s view. Most of them told him to "zip it." They said, "This is our chance to get one of our own people into the White House."

Standing Up to Compromised Clergy

That didn’t sit well with Owens. As much as he has fought all his life for equal justice for Black Americans, he sees himself first as a Christian. So he came out in public against Obama’s candidacy, and reaped a public whirlwind.

Reclaim the "real Civil Rights movement," which focused on equal citizenship and brotherhood across the color line. Its methods were hijacked by movements with aims partly or wholly incompatible with the Bible.

Rev. Bill Owens

It got worse when Owens joined the campaign to defend natural marriage. But that fight did sift out the wheat from the chaff, he remembers. Which pastors were really committed to the Word of God as written? And which ones had simply, as he puts it, "sold their souls to the Democratic Party"?

Now almost 80 years old, Owens is still an activist. He’s connecting faithful black pastors with genuine, Christian allies of every background, and welding them together into a potent political force.

The Real Civil Rights Movement

He wants to reclaim the "real Civil Rights movement," which focused on equal citizenship and brotherhood across the color line. That was hijacked, as he points out, by movements with aims that were partly or wholly incompatible with the Bible. Anti-family, pro-choice "women’s liberation" activists? "Gay liberation" marchers who for years didn’t spurn pedophiles in their midst such as NAMBLA -- perhaps because their most prominent leader, Harvey Milk, liked to date underage boys. They were aping the Civil Rights movement, and that's how they succeeded.

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Owens also has seen in the half-century since Lyndon Johnson was president that what the Democrats gave with one hand, they took away with the other. Yes, the Democrats finally dropped their 100-year fight against black civil rights and suffrage. Most of them. But at the same time, they constructed a massive, secular welfare state. As Owens puts it, the Great Society "drove the father out of the black American home, and replaced him with the government." Those massive, expensive programs also bought the loyalty of millions of new voters, even as Democratic party machines selectively purchased their pastors.

Why else did Jesse Jackson go from calling abortion "Black genocide" in the early 70s, to supporting that evil practice? Why else do so many ministers stand up and defend Planned Parenthood -- a eugenics organization whose founder, Margaret Sanger, addressed the Ku Klux Klan?

Black Solidarity, Polish Style?

The suffering that American blacks endured in America was distinctive. The Civil Rights movement they launched was uniquely important, and deeply Christian. Yet the politics that captured too many black Americans right afterward was secular, statist, and deeply counterproductive. Now the left is becoming ever more openly anti-Christian. So Owens thinks his moment has arrived. It’s time for the black church and the white church to bury their old quarrels and unite in self-defense. The well-earned moral credibility of the black church, Owens argues, is critical to winning the culture wars.

It’s a worthy idea. As I noted during the conference, the left today uses movements like Black Lives Matter for a dark and cynical purpose. They hope to peel black Americans away from their long-suffering patriotism -- a virtue they practiced even under fire in a segregated military. The left sees American blacks the way that Marxists long saw the working class: a mass of potential shock troops for its ideological agenda.

Communism didn’t fall until it was clear that workers wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. It was a Polish labor union, Solidarity, that brought down the Berlin Wall. It might be that conservative Christians won’t prevail against the intolerant, secular left until their imagined shock troops, African Americans, peel away and join us. Bill Owens is doing his best to hasten that day. How can the rest of us help? By connecting with men like Bill Owens, and offering them organizational and financial support -- such as Ronald Reagan once funneled to Solidarity.

Frivolous ‘Ambition’ - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 14:07

Every state has now submitted to the Department of Education a plan spelling out its goals for school performance, in accord with the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act. Along the way, states have paid heed to the chorus of self-proclaimed reformers urging them to ensure that plans be “ambitious.” This has resulted in a curious quandary: The problem with the plans is not a lack of ambition but the feckless embrace of it. The irony is that the law was motivated in large part by the recognition that “ambitious” but fanciful targets have been bad for students, educators and educational accountability.

A little history is useful here. Back in 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act set a goal that 100 percent of America’s students would be “proficient” in reading and math by 2014 – and mandated interventions for schools that failed to meet that bar. That legislation was celebrated by supporters for its ambitious, healthy aspiration. It turned out, though, that grandiose goals didn’t deliver grand results. Rather, they taught educators to see accountability as unserious and political.

The full article will be available on on November 24, 2017. You can continue reading this piece here.

Johnny Morris' Browning Auto-5 Shotgun

NRA Blog - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 14:05
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How To Choose a Hunting Guide

NRA Blog - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 14:00
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Senators: Why is Air Force Punishing Colonel Over His Religious Views on Marriage?

The Stream - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 13:59

A group of prominent U.S. senators is coming to the defense of a highly-decorated Air Force colonel who could be booted out of the military over his religious views on same-sex marriage.

Col. Leland Bohannon, an experienced combat pilot, was suspended from command and orders were handed down recommending he not be promoted after he refused to publicly affirm the same-sex spouse of a retiring subordinate.

Bohannon, who was on the verge of being promoted to a one-star general, was punished after the subordinate filed a formal Equal Opportunity complaint which was later substantiated by investigators.

"His career is likely over and he will likely have to retire as a colonel instead of as a general," First Liberty Institute attorney Michael Berry said on the Todd Starnes Show.

First Liberty Institute, one of the nation's most prominent religious liberty law firms, is representing the distinguished military officer.

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"The military is no longer a place of diversity and inclusion if you are a person who holds to a traditional belief in marriage," Berry said.

At least eight Republican U.S. Senators -- including Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, John Kennedy of Louisiana, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Ted Cruz of Texas -- wrote a letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson urging her to intervene and save the colonel's career.

"Col. Bohannon has suffered severely on account of the EO investigator's mishandling of his religious liberty rights," the senators wrote. "The Air Force owes it to him to see that justice is restored, along with his good name."

Last May the colonel declined to sign a certificate of spouse appreciation for a retiring master sergeant's same-sex spouse. Instead, he asked a higher ranking military leader to sign the customary document.

"Col. Bohannon recognized the moral and legal dilemma this situation presented, and to his credit, sought to carve out a solution that would affirm the contribution made by the retiring officer's same-sex partner while at the same time allowing the colonel to abide by his religious convictions," the senators wrote.

“Which circumstances, if any, would move the U.S. Air Force to defend the free exercise rights of its soldiers?” -- GOP Senators

However, the retiring service member took offense and subsequently filed a discrimination complaint. The EO investigator determined the colonel had indeed discriminated and went on to say that "even had the accommodation been granted, Col. Bohannon would nonetheless be guilty of unlawful discrimination."

The senators said the EO's decision raises disturbing questions.

"The Air Force's refusal to accept this compromise and its refusal to grant an accommodation -- when doing so would cause no discernable harm -- raises the question as to which circumstances, if any, would move the U.S. Air Force to defend the free exercise rights of its soldiers," they wrote.

The senators are calling for the Air Force to reverse the EO's decision and remove any unfavorable notes from the colonel's service record.


Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary. His latest book is The Deplorables' Guide to Making America Great Again. Follow him on Twitter @ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.

Originally published on Reprinted with permission.

The great irony of reforming 529 college savings plans - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 13:56

The Republican-controlled House on Thursday passed a far-reaching tax reform bill that would, among other things, make several changes to 529 college savings plans. House Republicans seek to leverage 529 plans to both promote school choice and hand a symbolic victory to pro-life activists. Naturally, these proposals have incensed Democrats. However, both sides of the debate have misjudged how the reforms would play out in the real world.

529 plans are tax-preferred savings accounts that families can use to pay college tuition and related educational expenses. Unlike other tax-preferred vehicles such as health savings accounts, contributions to 529 plans are not deductible on one’s federal tax return. Rather, the earnings on contributions to 529 plans are not taxed when families withdraw the funds to pay educational expenses. The longer earnings accrue, the greater the tax benefit.

The House version of the tax bill would allow families to start saving in 529 accounts from the date of their child’s conception (currently, they can start saving from birth). In addition, they would allow families to use 529 funds to pay tuition at private K-12 schools. The Senate version of the bill strips out the K-12 provision, but still allows families to start saving on behalf of unborn children.

At first glance, this provision seems like a minor change. It allows pro-life activists to claim a moral victory and a statutory precedent for treating unborn children as people. Critics have attacked the provision for inserting abortion politics into a tax reform bill. But everyone seems to agree that the change is a symbolic one, which was undoubtedly Republican lawmakers’ intent. By contrast, allowing families to use 529 plans for K-12 education seems much more substantive: it appears to deliver on President Trump’s campaign promise of a major federal investment in school choice.

But this narrative has it exactly backwards. Allowing saving in 529 plans from conception is a substantive change to how these accounts operate, while expanding the accounts to cover K-12 educational expenses is largely a symbolic one.

Imagine that a generous grandma opens a 529 account on the day her grandchild is born. She deposits $200 into the account every month as the grandchild grows up. Through the miracle of compound interest, that $200 per month will become $76,200 by the time the grandchild is ready for college. The federal subsidy for that account is $6,100: the amount of tax avoided on the account’s earnings.

Now imagine that grandma can start saving from her grandchild’s conception. She can make an extra eight months of contributions, and the interest on those contributions has an extra eight months to compound. (N.B.: I’m assuming the pregnancy is not detected for a month after conception.) By college age, the account will have $80,400 in it—an extra $4,200 for college expenses. The federal subsidy for the account will rise to $6,700.

Source: author’s calculations. Note: all scenarios assume a 5% annual rate of return on investment.

It is true the extra federal subsidy from the conception provision is only meaningful if families have the means to contribute hundreds of dollars per month. That is one reason that only 6% of families with school-age children use 529 accounts. But the conception provision will deliver real benefits to some families, unlike the other major piece of House Republicans’ proposed reforms to 529 plans.

Ostensibly to expand school choice, Republicans would allow families to use 529 plans to pay private school tuition at the K-12 level. This may appear to introduce a new federal subsidy for school choice, but it is an empty gesture: families who withdraw their 529 funds early to pay for K-12 education will see a smaller federal tax benefit than those who let the funds accrue until college age. In other words, using 529 plans for K-12 tuition instead of college is a bad deal for families.

A family who makes $200 monthly contributions will see $6,100 in federal tax subsidies if they wait until college age to withdraw funds from the 529 account. But if they instead decide to withdraw funds starting in high school, their benefit will shrink to $4,500. Start withdrawing in elementary school, and the benefit shrinks to just $1,000. The conception provision does not come close to canceling out these losses.

Source: author’s calculations. Note: all scenarios include a $200 monthly contribution and assume a 5% annual rate of return on investment.

Remember the miracle of compound interest: families who wait longer to withdraw their funds will accrue more earnings on their contributions, and thus derive a greater benefit from the tax preferences for 529 plans. Withdraw the funds early, and the comparatively little earnings that have accrued will not generate a very large tax break. To make using 529 accounts for elementary worth it financially, the family in the above example would need to increase their monthly contributions from $200 to $525. That’s a tall order, even for wealthy households.

Most families will be better off paying for private K-12 school tuition out of pocket and saving their 529 funds for college, meaning that the 529 expansion will do basically nothing to expand school choice. While proponents of school choice have hailed the measure, it is almost purely symbolic.

House Republicans’ efforts to reform 529 plans have produced a policy enigma. A provision meant to be symbolic is in fact substantive, while a provision meant to be substantive is actually symbolic. Who would’ve thought that tax reform could produce such great situational irony?

A duopsony built around rent-seeking - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 13:45

A recent Senate Banking Committee hearing explored “The Status of the Housing Finance System After Nine Years of Conservatorship.” The title pretty much says it all — Congress has done nothing substantive on housing finance reform in almost a full decade.

Given the spectacular failure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that led to the 2008 financial crisis, the fact that these Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) remain in government conservatorship might seem surprising. After all, during the crisis, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac transformed from political untouchables in housing finance to pariahs.

The Fannie Mae headquarters is seen in Washington November 7, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Rather than seize that moment to shut down the GSEs to protect taxpayers and housing finance markets, Congress succumbed to an onslaught of special interests lobbying and fear-mongering aimed at protecting the GSEs’ duopsony — a market condition where there are only two large buyers for a specific product or service.

See also:

In virtually the blink of an eye, groups such as the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Home Builders convinced members of Congress that the housing finance market couldn’t function without some form of government backing. The worst propaganda was that only government guarantees could prevent interest rates from skyrocketing, home values from plummeting, and long-term fixed-rate mortgages from disappearing.

Now that the Trump administration has indicated it wants to reinvigorate the private housing finance system, it is facing the same resistance Congress did in 2008.

Americans have an enormous stake in the outcome. Federal taxpayers currently cover more than $6 trillion (60%) of single-family residential housing mortgage debt, and they’ve had to shell out billions over the years to keep these enterprises afloat.

The Housing Lobby argues for either a continuation of the status quo with the addition of an explicit government guarantee or some close hybrid. Supporters also incorporate an “affordable housing cookie jar” in an effort to get buy-in from progressive lawmakers and lobby groups. But these groups ignore the three major problems with our nationalized housing finance system.

  • Americans have more debt than ever
  • After 50+ years of “affordability” policies, homes are more expensive than ever, and
  • Notwithstanding trillions of dollars in subsidies, the current 63.9% homeownership rate is statistically no different than the average rate of 64.3% since 1964 (excludes bubble years).

Homeowners and taxpayers have little to show for the federal government’s largesse, except for mountains of mortgage debt and GSE bailout IOUs.

An even bigger problem with defending the status quo is that the GSEs are not currently helping Americans of modest means buy homes. Data from 2016 clearly show that the bulk of the GSE business focuses elsewhere.

The nearby chart shows that while the GSEs accounted for two-thirds of government agency business in 2016, only 7% of total agency activity (comprising 11% of total GSE activity) served buyers of more modest homes with moderate downpayments.

Note: POO: Primary Owner Occupied, SOO: Secondary Owner Occupied or second homes, and NOO: Non-Owner Occupied or investment properties.

The rest went to cash out and no cash out refinancings (56% of total GSE activity), second homes and investor properties (6% of total GSE activity), purchase loans with downpayments of 15% or more (20% of total GSE activity), and higher priced homes with downpayments of less than (7% of total GSE activity).

The housing lobby cannot hide from these figures. The bulk of GSE activity simply is not doing anything to help make moderately-priced homes more affordable.

Learn more:

Radio Anchor Accuses Sen. Al Franken of Forcibly Kissing, Groping Her

The Stream - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 13:38

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Minnesota Sen. Al Franken faced a storm of criticism and a likely ethics investigation after a Los Angeles radio anchor accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her during a 2006 USO tour. He was the first member of Congress caught up in the recent wave of allegations of sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior.

Franken apologized Thursday, but there were no signs the issue would go away any time soon. Fellow Democrats swiftly condemned his actions, mindful of the current climate as well as the prospect of political blowback.

Republicans, still forced to answer for the multiple allegations facing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, joined in pressing for an investigation. Franken said he would welcome it.

Leeann Tweeden posted her allegations, including a photo of Franken and her, on the website of KABC, where she works as a news anchor for a morning radio show. The photo shows Franken posing in a joking manner, smiling at the camera with his hands on her chest as she naps wearing a flak vest aboard a military plane. Both had been performing for military personnel in Afghanistan two years before the one-time Saturday Night Live comedian was elected to the Senate.

Tweeden said Thursday that before an earlier show Franken had persisted in rehearsing a kiss and “aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.” Now, she said, “every time I hear his voice or see his face, I am angry.” She’s angry with herself, too, she said, for not speaking out at the time “but I didn’t want to rock the boat.”

On Friday, Tweeden said she didn’t come forward with the hope that Franken would step down.

“That’s not my call,” Tweeden told ABC’s Good Morning America. She later added: “I think that’s for the people of Minnesota to decide.”

Franken, 66, was the latest public figure to be caught in the deluge of revelations of sexual harassment and misconduct that have crushed careers, ruined reputations and prompted criminal investigations in Hollywood, business and beyond. The swift rebukes from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers suggest that momentum from the online #Metoo movement has begun to spur a culture shift on Capitol Hill, where current and former staffers say misogynistic and predatory behavior has long been an open secret.

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In a statement Thursday, Franken apologized to Tweeden and his constituents while maintaining that he remembered the rehearsal differently. Tweeden said she accepted his apology.

“Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive,” Franken wrote.

“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t,” he added. “And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.”

Of the photo, Franken said: “I look at it now, and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture.”

President Donald Trump ridiculed Franken in tweets Thursday night: “The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps? ….. And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Lesley Stahl tape?”

Trump, who misspelled the name Frankenstein, referred to a New York Magazine story from 1995 in which Franken, while a writer for Saturday Night Live, suggested a skit in which 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney would muse about drugging correspondent Leslie Stahl and raping her or taking pictures of her.

Through a spokeswoman, Trump called the allegations of sexual misconduct against the Roy Moore “very troubling.” A White House statement also said that if the allegations are true, Moore should step aside. But Trump has stopped short of calling for Moore to drop out of the race. Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump believes the Alabama voters should decide “who their next senator should be.”

The accusations against Franken come just days after the Senate unanimously adopted mandatory sexual harassment training for members and staffs amid a flood of stories about harassment, sexual misconduct and gender hostility from staffers, aides and even female elected officials.

Franken’s fellow Minnesota Democrat, Amy Klobuchar, said, “This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior, and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who is facing a tough re-election next year, said she was “shocked and concerned.” She said, “Comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct, and I believe there should be an ethics investigation.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, called for an ethics inquiry.

Tweeden said Franken wrote a skit for the pair that was filled with “sexual innuendo,” and had brought a woman’s thong as a prop that he waved around during their performance. Part of the skit included a kiss, she said, and he insisted they practice during a rehearsal despite her protests.

“We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth,” she wrote.


Associated Press writers Kyle Potter and Amy Forliti in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cuban Exiles Recount ‘Sonic’ Torture By Castro Regime

The Stream - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 13:09

A group of Cuban exiles and former political prisoners gathered on Capitol Hill Wednesday to recount human rights abuses that they and their relatives suffered at the hands of the Fidel Castro regime.

In a hearing organized by Freedom House and the Justice Cuba International Commission, survivors told gripping stories about friends and family who were imprisoned, tortured and killed for resisting communist rule in Havana.

The tales of two former political prisoners stood out among the heart-wrenching accounts of abuses, if only for their parallels to the strange, unexplained sonic attacks inflicted upon U.S. diplomats in Havana last year. Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez and Luis Zuniga, anti-Castro dissidents who were sent to hideous regime prisons, said they were repeatedly subjected to "ultra-sonic" torture over more than 20 years in confinement.

"The methodology consisted of placing large loudspeakers around four feet high each ... at both ends of the hallway of cells," Zuniga recalled of his experience in 1979. "Then, they were connected to some sort of electronic device that produced high pitched sounds."

"The sounds oscillated from high-pitch to very high-pitch that almost pieced the eardrums," he added.

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Zuniga went on to describe symptoms from the torture sessions, saying that he began to feel "increasingly uneasy" and "unable to think." Other prisoners suffered debilitating headaches. The brutal punishment lasted for days, he recalled, leading to the suicide of a fellow inmate.

"This torture was kept [up] for days and nights without a respite," Zuniga said. "It ended when one of the prisoners ... hung himself. He died from the torture."

For the former prisoners and exiles gathered at Wednesday's hearing, the memories of audio torture were made fresh this summer, when it was revealed that American diplomatic personnel had been subjected to similar treatment over the previous year. What the State Department described as "sonic attacks" may have occurred in diplomatic residences and hotels in Havana -- not in the regime's dank prisons -- but many of the physical and mental effects were eerily similar to those described by Zuniga.

Victims of the mysterious attacks, which began in late 2016 and continued through this summer, experienced disturbing symptoms, including permanent hearing damage, memory loss and impaired cognitive function. In several cases, the affected officials reported hearing noises similar to loud crickets and then experiencing physical distress.

Last month, the Associated Press obtained and released an audio recording of the noise that U.S. intelligence officials believe was used in some of the incidents. Like the sound described by the Cuban political prisoners, the noise heard by American diplomatic personnel was a high-pitched whine that modulated in intensity and tone.

The U.S. has not directly accused the Castro regime of carrying out the attacks. Investigators are looking into the possibility that Cuban intelligence, perhaps a rogue element of spies, orchestrated the provocations in order to derail the normalization of diplomatic relations begun under the Obama administration, reports Politico.

Whoever is to blame, the episode has certainly soured relations between Washington and Havana. In a series of diplomatic reprisals, the State Department reduced the size of its Cuban mission, ordered Havana to withdraw several of its own diplomats, and issued a special warning advising Americans to avoid travel to Cuba until further notice.

Those moves were a prelude to new travel and trade restrictions President Donald Trump implemented earlier this month, halting and reversing the bilateral rapprochement initiated by his predecessor. Trump, who came into office highly critical of the Obama administration's opening to Cuba, has made good on his promise to take a tougher stance toward the Castro regime.

Trump's position was met with unanimous approval among the exiles, relatives and Cuban-American politicians assembled at the Justice Cuba event. Commission chairman Rene Bolio told attendees that human rights abuses in Cuba did not end with Fidel Castro's death and the succession of his brother, Raul.

"It's not a thing from the past," he said.

Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, one of the most ardent Cuba hawks in Congress, concluded the event with praise for the Trump administration's hard line on Castro -- and a swipe at Obama's approach.

"I am exceedingly grateful that the policy of the last number of years, of trying to legitimize the corrupt, murderous [Castro] regime, of the visual of the president of the United States doing the wave at a baseball game with a tyrant -- those days are over," the Florida Republican said.


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Iraqi Forces Retake the Country’s Last ISIS-held Town

The Stream - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:54

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition retook on Friday the last town in the country that was held by the Islamic State group, more than three years after the militants stormed nearly a third of Iraq’s territory, the Defense Ministry said.

At dawn, military units and local tribal fighters pushed into the western neighborhoods of Rawah in western Anbar province, and after just five hours of fighting they retook the town, according to Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, the ministry’s spokesman.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated his forces on retaking Rawah. In a statement released on Friday afternoon, Al-Abadi said Iraqi forces liberated Rawah in record time and were continuing operations to retake control of Iraq’s western desert and the border area with Syria.

Rawah, 175 miles (275 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, lies along the Euphrates River Valley near the border town of Qaim that Iraqi forces retook from ISIS earlier this month.

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U.S.-led coalition forces supported the operations to retake Rawah and Qaim with intelligence, airstrikes and advisers, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said.

ISIS blitzed across Iraq’s north and west in the summer of 2014, capturing Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and advancing to the edges of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Later that year the United States began a campaign of airstrikes against the militants that fueled Iraqi territorial gains, allowing the military to retake Mosul in July this year.

All that now remains of ISIS-held Iraq are patches of rural territory in the country’s vast western desert along the border with Syria.

ISIS has steadily been losing ground across the border in Syria as well where its so-called “caliphate” has basically crumbled with the loss of the city of Raqqa, the former Islamic State group’s capital, which fell to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in October.

Both the U.S. and Russia have embedded special forces with their respective partners and are supporting their advances with airstrikes. Russia backs Syrian government forces of President Bashar Assad.

The last urban areas controlled by the militants in Syria are parts of the border town of Boukamal and a patch of territory near the capital, Damascus, and in central Hama province.

Syrian government forces, backed by Russian troops and Iranian-backed militias, originally pushed ISIS out of Boukamal earlier this month, but the militants retook a large part of the town, mostly its northern neighborhoods days later. Since then, ISIS has repelled government forces trying to push back into the town.

Meanwhile, U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are also approaching Boukamal from the eastern side of the Euphrates.

Despite ISIS’ significant territorial losses, the group’s media arm remains intact, allowing it to still recruit supporters and inspire new attacks. Iraqi and American officials say ISIS militants are expected to continue carrying out insurgent-style attacks in Syria, Iraq and beyond.


Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sarah Silverman's Hulu Show: Saying 'Liberal Media' Is Code for 'Jew-Owned Media'

NewsBusters - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:30
<p>Hulu’s <em>I Love You America</em> with Sarah Silverman has been just one insult after another for conservative viewers. With the crass humor and not-so-subtle slams against President Trump, it’s hard to believe this was supposed to be a program about connecting people. In fact, this latest show might encourage more animosity between political sides.</p>

The First Amendment and net neutrality’s end game - The First Amendment and net neutrality’s end game

American Enterprise Institute - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 11:00

For most of the past decade, there has been very little interest in discussing the First Amendment issues raised by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) various proposed net neutrality rules, but things have recently taken a long-overdue turn. These issues have always been in the background, but attention has been focused on foreground issues like reclassification and common-carrier exemptions. Only a few brave souls, like Brent Skorup and Fred Campbell, have delved into the First Amendment issues implicated by the FCC’s rules in substantial depth.

Via Twenty20

These First Amendment issues are now getting long-overdue attention. They have been briefed in detail in one of the many petitions asking the Supreme Court to review the DC Circuit’s affirmance of the FCC’s rules. In the DC Circuit’s review of those rules, both the court and the FCC recognized that the rules face important First Amendment limitations. And First Amendment issues are likely to figure prominently on the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom proceeding.

Most of these discussions have come from critics of the Commission’s Open Internet Order. One of the most comprehensive discussions by net neutrality proponents can be seen in an ex parte notice recently filed by Public Knowledge. And what a discussion it is!

Net neutrality proponents embrace the fairness doctrine

The heart of Public Knowledge’s argument that net neutrality regulations are not problematic under the First Amendment is that Red Lion is still good law. Red Lion is the 1969 case in which the Supreme Court upheld the fairness doctrine. Under the fairness doctrine, the FCC could compel broadcasters to provide coverage of political topics that were, in the estimation of the FCC, politically balanced. This is a doctrine that many today view as anathema to First Amendment principles. It is a doctrine under which, for instance, the Republican or Democratic majority of the FCC’s commissioners could require broadcasters (say, for completely random example, NBC affiliates) to provide more positive coverage of a president.

Needless to say, it is troubling that the starting point of Public Knowledge’s argument in support of net neutrality rules is the proposition that the FCC can require broadcasters to engage in compelled political speech. It is perhaps a sign of the general weakness of its arguments that Public Knowledge relies upon Red Lion to support its view that net neutrality regulations are not problematic under the First Amendment.

Net neutrality proponents ignore the law?

Even more surprising, however, is that the Public Knowledge ex parte ignores far more recent, far more relevant cases like Turner I and Turner II. The Turner cases involved Congress’s must-carry rules, under which cable companies were required to carry local broadcast stations on their networks. The issue here is more similar to net neutrality than the issue in Red Lion, relating directly to carriers’ decisions about what third-party content to carry and on what terms.

So why does Public Knowledge ignore the Turner cases? Probably because these cases suggest an analysis based on Red Lion is wrong, and that net neutrality rules will face an uphill First Amendment battle.

To start, Turner tells us that “the mere assertion of dysfunction or failure in a speech market, without more, is not sufficient to shield a speech regulation from the First Amendment standards applicable to nonbroadcast media.” In other words, you can’t regulate speech if there aren’t clear problems in the market. This could be game, set, and match for most net neutrality rules — those rules, after all, being a solution in search of a problem. Neither the de minimis and hypothetical harms adduced in the 2015 Open Internet Order nor the triple bank shot theories about promoting broadband deployment amount to the sort of harms the Supreme Court is likely to find satisfactory to justify comprehensive speech regulations.

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What is more, the Turner cases unsurprisingly take Red Lion into consideration — and they strongly distinguish the cable industry from the broadcast industry. In the cable industry, there are relatively few entrants due to high capital costs but relatively ample opportunity for those firms who may seek to enter the market. The story in Red Lion, however, was different: There were many individuals and firms seeking licenses for broadcast spectrum from the FCC, but a scarcity of spectrum limited how many could enter the market. The market for internet access providers is far more akin to the cable industry (directly analogous, in fact, given that much internet access is provisioned over a cable architecture).

Most importantly, the Turner cases found that cable companies are First Amendment speakers, such that any regulation of their speech (including the content that they choose to transmit on their conduits) is subject to heightened scrutiny. This does not mean that the regulations are necessarily improper. The must-carry regulations that were at issue in the Turner cases, for instance, were ultimately affirmed by the court. It does, however, mean that the FCC will need to put forth something more than abstract theories about virtuous circles supported by tenuous readings of the Communications Act — it will need to demonstrate to the courts’ satisfaction that those rules are needed to mean an important or compelling government interest and do so in a narrowly-tailored way.

Net neutrality proponents drink prune juice

A final telling argument advanced by Public Knowledge is that the Supreme Court’s 1980 opinion in PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins supports the idea that the government can treat private property as public fora, requiring private owners to allow the public to use that property for their own speech. In PruneYard, the Court affirmed a California requirement that the owner of a shopping center allow the public at large to use the shopping center to engage in political speech. But PruneYard is a bête noire of First Amendment law, predating the development of contemporary analytic frameworks in ways that give proponents of speech regulation hope that they can escape the Court’s probing heightened scrutiny.

In practice, PruneYard does little to advance Public Knowledge’s arguments. Even in 1980, the Supreme Court read important limitations into its holding. For instance, and “[m]ost important, the shopping center, by choice of its owner, … is open to the public to come and go as they please [such that] views expressed by members of the public … will not likely be identified with those of the owner” (emphasis added). This limitation goes to the heart of the First Amendment concerns raised before the DC Circuit: whether an ISP can choose to offer a curated internet package under the Open Internet Order, and whether doing so removes that ISP from the ambit of the rules.

Additionally, PruneYard was predicated upon the idea that the owner of the shopping center could “expressly disavow any connection with the message [that state law required it allow to be communicated] by simply posting signs in the area.” In other words, the speech compelled in PruneYard was permissible so long as the owner of the shopping center could actively and visibly disavow and disparage it. There is no equivalent to this in the context of internet access. Almost any “equivalent” would require allowing ISPs to redirect web queries, for instance. Or, perhaps, allow ISPs to give preferential treatment (that is, prioritize) their own preferred content. Of course, either of these requirements runs directly counter to the basic principles of net neutrality.


Net neutrality has always been the thin end of the wedge. It contains in itself no limiting principle. Once we accept that we can require ISPs to treat data traversing their networks “neutrally,” we accept both that similar neutrality can be required of other platforms and that the government is a proper arbiter of “neutrality.” Proponents of net neutrality have always resisted this characterization, knowing that it is a political loser. But when push comes to shove — as it has in recent weeks — these proponents are forced to acknowledge net neutrality’s endgame. Tech neutrality, the fairness doctrine, and commandeering private property as public fora are all on the table to net neutrality’s proponents.

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Military Photo of the Day: A Family Reunited at Last

The Stream - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:00

An Army National Guard soldier reunites with his family after 318 days conducting combat operations in the Middle East on November 8, 2017, in Aurora, Colorado.

Welcome home, hero!





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'How to Get Away with Murder' Manages Rare Social Justice Hat Trick by Shooting Gay 'DACA Kid'

NewsBusters - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 05:14
<p>If there was a competition for how patronizingly a show could shoehorn the term "DACA kid" into one hour-long episode, I would have to think the November 16 episode of <em>How to Get Away With Murder</em>, titled "Live. Live. Live.," would take the gold medal by doing it twice in four minutes. That's not all, though. This episode actually managed to hit the rare social justice hat trick, by having one character hit three different hot-button issues: illegal immigration, homosexuality, and guns.</p>

Episode 8: Predators, real and imagined - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 05:00

Breaking away from the shackles of the guest-interview format, our host discourses on the sexual misconduct wave moving through Washington.

You can subscribe to The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, and TuneIn. You can also download this episode here.

This podcast published by National Review.

Vladimir Putin isn’t interested in helping America - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 05:00

Toward the end of his twelve-day trip to Asia, President Trump tweeted, “When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. There [sic] always playing politics — bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!”

Trump has a point. Russia can, in theory, “greatly help.” But it probably won’t, at least not “greatly.” It won’t help because Vladimir Putin and his regime don’t think helping America is in their national interest.

Putin, a former ghoul of the KGB, subscribes to a theory of statecraft with deep roots in both Russian and Soviet history.

During WWI, Vladimir Lenin advocated “revolutionary defeatism.” The idea was that winning the war was pointless since it was a battle between competing capitalist ruling classes. It would be better if everyone — including Russia — lost. The masses, he hoped, would then wage a civil war to overthrow their masters. The idea was derived in part from 19th-century revolutionary socialist Nikolay Chernyshevsky, who coined the phrase “the worse the better” — which Lenin often quoted.

This basic strategy worked well enough for the Bolsheviks. Lenin became the founding father of the Soviet Union, which brutalized and enslaved its own people and its neighbors for 70 years.

The Soviet Union, despite its military might, was always a weak country. Any nation that has to rule by fear is by definition weak. If the Soviets could have invaded and defeated Western Europe and America, just as they had Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, they would have. It’s what Marxist-Leninism demanded, after all.

But they couldn’t. So they adapted. Before they could export revolution, as Leon Trotsky wanted, they first had to export revolutionary defeatism. And so for a half-century, the Soviets did what they could to undermine the West by sowing discord and strife. The idea was, as Marxist theorists had long put it, to “heighten the contradictions” of capitalism to force it to collapse.

They developed a wide array of methods. Their propagandists fed conspiracy theories to gullible journalists and intellectuals in the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1960s, the Soviets tried to discredit Martin Luther King Jr. because his message of tolerance and nonviolence was inconvenient to their cause. The KGB wanted the violent radical Stokely Carmichael to become the leader of black America. It disseminated leaflets in black communities claiming that right-wing groups were “developing a plan for the physical elimination of leading figures in the Negro movement in the U.S.,” as Darien Cavanaugh of the website War is Boring recently recounted. In the 1980s, the Soviets spread lies about America inventing AIDS to kill blacks.

This is the world Putin grew up in. He was a KGB foreign-intelligence officer for 16 years. He’s called the demise of the Soviet Union one of the 20th century’s greatest tragedies. But he’s not a Marxist. In fact, it’s been speculated that he may be the world’s richest man.

But he is the man the KGB made him.

Forget about America for two seconds. Putin’s social-media army has been mucking around in Western Europe for years. He supports fringe radical groups — or creates fake representatives of them — on both the left and the right. They use WikiLeaks, and the useful idiots who love it, to undermine Western governments in the name of democracy and transparency.

The goal isn’t primarily to get a particular politician in power, but to sow chaos and doubt, to heighten the contradictions, and to weaken the strong countries and alliances that Putin thinks are holding down Russia. The Russians helped push for Brexit, not because Brexit was good for Britain (which I think it might be), but because it was bad for the European Union.

Some want to believe that Putin saw in Trump a useful ally, and that Trump volunteered for service. Again, that’s possible. But I think the answer is more straightforward and obvious. The Russians just wanted to cause trouble and wound the presumptive winner, Hillary Clinton. That’s why WikiLeaks encouraged Donald Trump Jr. to claim the election was stolen. But then the elder Trump won.

Trump believes that every country should follow its own narrow self-interest. That’s a defensible position. The only problem is that Russia’s — or at least Putin’s — definition of self-interest is at war with ours.


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