Thursday, June 30, 2016



 by John Schroeder
I have yet to read a news story on the Benghazi report.  I have read some, and seen countless, bits of spin wrapped in a newsy outlook, but no actual news.  Hewitt’s interview with Mike Pompeo yesterday was the best “just the facts” reporting I have seen to date.
And so, I have turned to the report itself.  Yes, that link takes you to the official congressional web site summarizing the report and linking to the whole thing.  Let me repeat that – you do not have to take my word for anything, GO HERE and read it for yourself.  Now, having said that, I have not had time to get through all of it – the thing is enormous.  Nonetheless, I’ve seen enough to draw at least one conclusion.
The best that can be said here is that the Obama administration, inclusive of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was utterly, totally, and completely inept when it came to dealing with the crisis the attack on the Benghazi station created.  Forget the who’s and the why’s for a moment and focus on the fact that things did not work.  Simply put, the organization that is the US government did not function.  In a sense this is no different than what we saw over the BP oil spill – a government that when confronted with something that had to be done, could not decide what to do, let alone get something done.
Certainly nefarious intent can be ascribed to the situation, politics before the realities of the situation, etc.  But in the face the such overwhelming and consequential ineptitude is it even necessary to ascribe motive of any sort?  Where I come from, you screw up that badly there are consequences regardless of motivation or intent.
I wrote a while back about faith being replaced by identity.  I think what we are seeing here is part of that.  When identity is your primary concern, motivation matters because it allows one to preserve some sense of self in the face of incredible failure.  Christianity on the other hands starts with the fact that we are failures from the get-go and concentrates on how we deal with failure and what we are going to do to avoid repeating failure.  But again, examining motivation, philosophizing or moralizing is a secondary concern in the face of failure this dramatic and consequential.  Something has to be done.
The failures described in this report are systemic.  They are never going to be pinned on any one or two people.  When an entire organization fails, you change the top of the organization and let the new head of the organization wade through the issues in the organization.  And you always bring in the new head from the outside because you don’t know who else inside the current organization is compromised by the failure.   Thank goodness, Obama is gone soon.  Thus Hillary Clinton cannot reasonably be the next president.
I do not currently have a great deal of confidence that Donald Trump will be any better at this than Obama and team have been.  Knowing who will be on Trump’s team and that they are committed to being on the team will go along way towards building that confidence.  But this I do know, Trump was not involved in this particular ineptitude and that makes him more suited for the job than Hillary who is deeply compromised by it.
Yesterday, Hillary responded to the Benghazi report by saying “It’s time to move on.”  You know what?  She’s right.  It is time to move on from Obama, Clinton and a Democrat administration generally.  We cannot afford to have this level of ineptitude running the nation.


Yesterday, I linked to the additional views that Reps. Jim Jordan and Mike Pompeo presented in connection with the report of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. I’m told that a major reason for submitting additional views was the unwillingness of Trey Gowdy, chairman of the committee, to present any conclusions in his report.
Gowdy and the chief investigator decided just to present the facts — no conclusions. If they thought this odd decision would win approval from the mainstream media, they were mistaken. Most outlets referred to the report as a Republican report, rather than the report of the committee. I don’t recall the MSM calling Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s controversial and sulky hit piece on the CIA (the so-called torture report) a Democratic report. It was cited as the report of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
If you haven’t read the additional views of Reps. Jordan and Pompeo, I again urge you to do so. I want to comment on a portion of their statement that I don’t think has received enough attention.
It is found in Section III, the part about whether we could have done more to rescue our people during the Benghazi attacks. At page 39, Jordan and Pompeo cite testimony by then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that at about 6:00 p.m. (Washington time) on September 11th after meeting with President Obama, he ordered three assets to deploy: one Marine Fleet AntiTerrorism Support Team (or “FAST” team), one Commanders In Extremis Force (or “CIF”), and one hostage rescue team based in the U.S. (Later in Section III, Panetta is said to have given these orders at around 7:00 p.m.)
Panetta stated to the committee: “My orders were to deploy those forces, period.”
Yet at page 41, Jordan and Pompeo point out that the transport planes carrying the FAST, CIF, and hostage rescue team did not leave until hours after the attack was over. From 6:00 p.m. when Panetta says he ordered these assets to deploy until approximately 10:00 a.m. the next day, no manned U.S. military plan flew on a mission towards Libya. When the first plane finally did take off with a Marine FAST platoon, it was already after the attack had ended. Moreover, it flew to an intermediate country.
Why the deadly delay? Jordan and Pompeo say (at page 2) that “those in Washington decided that once the initial attack at the State compound had ended and our men moved to the Annex, the enemy had retreated as well.”
As an explanation of the failure to deploy the forces Panetta ordered deployed, this seems implausible. According to Jordan and Pompeo, the Americans fighting in Benghazi didn’t think the danger had passed. And they would have been the ones providing information to Washington.
Moreover, according to the timeline set forth by Jordan and Pompeo (at page 42), the attack on the annex began at around 6:34 p.m. Washington time. Panetta ordered three types of forces to deploy at either 6:00 p.m. (page 39) or 7:00 p.m. (timeline at page 42). And a team of Americans arrived in Benghazi from Tripoli at around 7:30 p.m.
Thus, by the time Panetta ordered forces to deploy, the attack on the annex had already commenced or was about to commence. How, then, could it be that these forces weren’t deployed because Washington thought the conflict was over?
A more plausible explanation for the non-deployment of forces can be inferred from the statement by Jordan and Pompeo (at page 44) that the State Department ate up valuable time by insisting that certain elements of the U.S. military respond to the crisis in civilian clothes and that they not use vehicles with U.S. markings. It seems that diplomacy was holding the military back.
I’m told by a former senior government official who has participated in rescue discussions like the ones Team Obama had (or should have had) on Sept. 11, 2012 that it’s the Secretary of State’s job to secure permission from the country in question (here Libya) for our military to enter its territory. Alternatively, it is her job to decide not to obtain permission and simply act. Until the Secretary of State does one or the other, apparently the military can’t proceed.
If this is true, then the most likely explanation for why the military didn’t deploy, as Secretary of Defense Panetta had ordered, is that Hillary Clinton didn’t obtain timely permission and didn’t authorize the military to proceed without it — the obvious thing for her to have done, given that American lives were at stake. The fact that the State Department was fretting about whether our military personnel should wear civilian clothes and use vehicles without U.S. markings seems consistent with this explanation. The State Department appears to have been bargaining with the government of Libya over clothing while our people were under deadly attack.
Hillary Clinton hasn’t always been so fastidious about obtaining foreign government approval. The Qaddafi government obviously did not grant the U.S. permission to deploy aircraft to topple it.
When the object was to aid Islamists in overthrowing a friendly (at that time) Libyan regime, Clinton had no qualms about violating a sovereign government’s air space. When the object was (or should have been) to rescue Americans under attack deadly by Islamists, Clinton apparently felt compelled to negotiate.
Yesterday, I wrote: “Hillary Clinton. . .figures heavily in nearly all aspects the Benghazi scandal, especially the ‘before’ and ‘after’ phases.” Now that I have reread the view of Reps. Jordan and Pompeo and given the matter more thought, it looks like she also figures quite heavily in the “during” phase. Indeed, she may well be the reason why the U.S. military did not help our beleaguered Benghazi personnel.

Hostile Dems push Christians into Trump's arms

Donald Trump's meeting this week with conservative evangelicals received some hostile reviews, not least from evangelicals themselves.
"This meeting marks the end of the Christian right," wrote Michael Farris, a veteran of the original Moral Majority. The piece probably won Farris more favorable attention than he received during his whole campaign for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 1993.
"[T]here's an explicit commandment in 1 Corinthians — or one Corinthians, as Donald Trump would say — that when someone holds themselves out as a Christian and yet is filled with greed, licentiousness, adultery, you name it, and hasn't repented that you shouldn't even break bread with this person," Erick Erickson toldNPR.
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., son and namesake of the late Moral Majority founder, was targeted for ridicule for taking a picture with Trump with a framed cover of Playboy featuring the businessman appearing in the background.
Some of the split is generational. Some of it reflects the tensions between spreading the Gospel and pushing a particular political agenda. Richard Land, the longtime head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is on Trump's evangelical advisory board. His successor Russell Moore has been one of Trump's biggest evangelical critics.
That hasn't stopped the occasional commentator from blaming conservative Christians for Trump's rise. "Social conservatives aren't victims," complained the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin. "They're enablers."
But the truth is, it's complicated between Trump and evangelicals. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee did much better than expected with evangelical voters during the primaries, which fatally damaged Ted Cruz's chances. The more these evangelicals attended church, however, the worse Trump did.
Organized social conservatism almost uniformly backed Cruz over Trump. This includes old-school religious right leaders like James Dobson who have joined Trump's evangelical advisory board. There was more support from such pro-life and pro-family figures for Marco Rubio than Trump during the competitive phase of the primaries.
This writer appeared on a panel attended by a group of religious conservatives who were openly dismayed by Trump's rise. So were the co-panelists, with one practically revoking the evangelical cards of pro-Trump conservative Christians.
Also from the Washington Examiner
"[T]he definition of 'evangelical' is someone who is church-going," said Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. "So if you're a non-church-going evangelicals, you're not an evangelical."
Falwell and Robert Jeffries were prominent because as high-profile evangelical Trump supporters, they were the exception rather than the rule. Trump finished fourth in Liberty University's precinct, in single digits behind Ben Carson. Falwell never had his father's political influence, which itself peaked when Ronald Reagan was president.
So why the dance with Trump now despite his past social liberalism (which has given way to a social conservatism that is wobbly and inarticulate at best), adultery, divorces and vulgarity? Because social conservatives suffer a paucity of options — and their choices started getting worse before Trump took his fateful ride down the escalator.
Evangelicals have long given the Republican Party more in votes than they've gotten in action. But the Democratic Party increasingly pairs near-uniform social liberalism, including taxpayer funding of abortion, with a very crimped understanding of religious liberty.
Democrats have backed away from the framework of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act now that conservative evangelicals are seeking its protections. From Christian wedding vendors to Hobby Lobby, this has real-world implications for evangelicals in business.
Also from the Washington Examiner

Clinton fundraises off 'Hamilton'

06/25/16 5:42 PM
There's no guarantee that Trump will do the right thing on judges or social issues. But evangelicals stand a better chance on these fronts with him or any Republican than under Hillary Clinton.
Didn't socially liberal Republican columnists like Rubin offer similar reassurances to evangelicals when pro-choice Rudy Giuliani was a front-runner for the GOP nomination?
Whose administration is more likely to protect the tax-exempt status of a church opposed to same-sex marriage, Trump's or Clinton's?
The Donald is no sure thing for gun owners either. But looking at the spectacle in the House of Representatives right now, who among them would rather bet on the Democrats for even four years?
Socially conservative Christians are in the same boat.
Trump's strongest appeal is to evangelicals who mourn the loss of Christian cultural preeminence in America. But many conservative Christians are also afraid that they are becoming a hated minority.
To both groups, Trump promises, "We're going to protect Christianity." In this context, Trump's lack of biblical literacy or even his sins are beside the point.
Many of these voters are no longer looking for the strongest Christian. They are looking for a friendly Roman.
While character counts, the Christian Right has failed most spectacularly in trying to re-moralize the culture by electing devout politicians. Religious liberty and the right to life remain live issues in spite of those failures.
That doesn't sit easily, since the church is more diverse than conservative American whites (see its Global South growth) and has a greater commission than winning the White House for Republicans. Put not your trust in princes.
At the same time, abortion and religious liberty aren't trivial issues, especially to people of faith. A Clinton administration poses a threat on both fronts that only a Republican administration might avert.
Ridicule their dilemma if you want, but it is real.\

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

California Bill Would Ultimately Erase Religious Schools

California Bill Would Ultimately Erase Religious Schools

Proponents of Senate Bill 1146 say they need to give students
grounds to sue
religious schools for teaching their religion, because ‘discrimination.’
Whatever happened
to freedom of religion?
Holly Scheer

People used to expect that attending something sponsored by religious organization required abiding by mores and behavior that religious body professes. There was a simple option for avoiding the ideas or practices of a belief system you don’t agree with: don’t frequent their space. This courteous expectation naturally applied to all religions and expressions of faith.
California is now attempting to end this system of free association that allows people to define their local and religious cultures. California Senate Bill 1146 (SB 1146), which is slated for a vote Tuesday, seeks to limit the religious exemptions from federal Title IX regulations that colleges and universities use for hiring instructors, teaching classes, and conducting student services in line with their faith. Under SB 1146, a college would be eligible for an exemption only for training pastors or theology teachers.
This threatens religious institutions ability to require that students attend daily or weekly chapel services, keep bathrooms and dormitories distinct according to sex, require students to complete theology classes, teach religious ideas in regular coursework, hold corporate prayer at events such as graduation, and so on. In other words, it threatens every practice that makes religious institutions distinct from secular institutions.
“The most troubling provision of this bill limits the religious liberty to integrate faith and learning throughout the educational experience,” said Dr. Kurt Krueger, president of Concordia University Irvine, in a letter about this bill. “The bill effectively eliminates the religious exemption under current law that allows Christian colleges and universities to operate in accordance with their beliefs, including the freedom to hire only Christian faculty and staff. If passed without amendments, the new law would also very likely disqualify students attending California Christian colleges and universities from eligibility for Cal Grants, a key state-level student aid program.”
You can read the text of the bill in full here.

No One Forces People to Attend Religious Schools

The bill came directly after LGBT activists got the Obama administration to release a list of religious higher education institutions that receive exemptions from federal regulations requiring androgynous and secularizing policies, such as sex-eradicated group showers and the freedom to hire partially based on fidelity to strains of philosophy or theology a particular institution promises to uphold.
“Universities [currently] are able to submit an exemption request to the U.S. Department of Education, and are typically granted the exemption by the department. But SB 1146 makes these universities’ biases public, informing students, staff members and other academic institutions ahead of time so that certain individuals can protect themselves from being targets of discrimination…LGBT individuals [may otherwise] have no idea what type of educational institution they are attending or working at, and what sorts of consequences this exemption may have for their health, safety and well-being,” a California legal firm says in its supportive rundown of the bill. There’s no obvious reason a legal firm that specializes in suing over employment law would want expand the ways people can sue regarding employment, right?
Bill supporters say religious teachings constitute discrimination and therefore should be banned in higher education: “California should not be using taxpayer money to subsidize colleges that choose to discriminate against LGBT students,” Assemblyman Evan Low said, according to EdSource. “He called the schools that seek a religious exemption to anti-discrimination laws ‘the worst of the worst in terms of institutions that discriminate.’”
There really is no practical way to attend or work for a religious institution without realizing you will be exposed to a faith system. If you look at their website, promotional materials, and certainly the student or employee handbooks without being able to figure out where they stand on issues of faith, they’ve failed at being religious. If the school has been clear about its faith stances, at what point does the student have some responsibility to understand the doctrine and rules of the sponsoring religion?
When in doubt about the requirements of a school, ask questions. Don’t attend a college that doesn’t offer your major, and don’t attend one that teaches ideas you find intolerable.
It seems sensible that if you don’t want an education imbued with the values of a religion—any religion—attending classes at a religious school would be a poor choice for you. This is not a day or age of limited academic choices. California alone hashundreds of college and university options. Of its 281 accredited four-year options, only 42 are religious.
Let me simplify this. If a Jewish education isn’t your speed, don’t attend American Jewish University. If you aren’t interested in a Muslim university, don’t attend Zaytuna College. And if you don’t want to go to a Christian college, avoid them.

This Bill Would Essentially Outlaw Religious Schools

In case this wasn’t clear, choosing not to attend a religious college still leaves you the majority of options for higher education available in California. For many religious people, religion cannot be separated from vocational training or relegated to only theological classes. Religion is intrinsic to all of life.
People are making this about student loans and dollar signs. It’s bigger than that, though. This isn’t really about money and it’s not about a lack of options. Bills like this set precedents. They change how we think about what is acceptable, and this one in particular may open the door for civil suits that have the potential to ultimately eradicate religious activities from public life.
There is a simple question here. Do likeminded people have the right to peacefully assemble, or not? Perhaps the lawmakers of California should reread the First Amendment. But as the Bill of Rights seems to mostly be an inconvenience to their authoritarian goals, I’m not going to hold my breath.

Here Come A Lot Of Angry Teamsters: One Of America's Largest Pension Funds Demands A Taxpayer Bailout

Here Come A Lot Of Angry Teamsters: One Of America's Largest Pension Funds Demands A Taxpayer Bailout

Tyler Durden's picture
Over the past few months, we have covered the unfolding saga (here and here) of the Central States Pension Fund, which handles retirement benefits for current and former Teamster union truck drivers across various states including Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, New York, and Minnesota, and is one of the largest pension funds in the nation, all the way through Kenneth Feinberg's rejection of the proposal to cut benefits on behalf of the Treasury.
When the proposal was rejected, we said that the final resolution will be in the form of an inevitable taxpayer-funded bailout
If the Treasury won't allow any pension cuts, and the government created safety net won't be there to keep the benefits flowing, how will the cash continue to flow to members? With the precedent now set by the Treasury that no cuts will be allowed, the answer will likely come in the form of a massive bailout.
As it turns out, that is precisely what fund director Thomas Nyhan believes as well. Nyhan said the rejection means the CSPF likely won't be able to offer another proposed fix without getting funding from Congress, either directly or through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
However with the PBGC also on its way to insolvency, and unable to shoulder the additional burden in world of zero and negative rates, that leaves us with... drum roll please... the US taxpayers, aka Congress, footing the bill.
"There are only two solutions. Either the plan receives more money or has to have fewer benefits. I'm hopeful that come probably 2017, we can actually all get to work on something that can provide a solution. If there is no legislation at any time, we're going to end up going to insolvency." Nyhan said. 
The full-court press is now on, as now everyone involved is calling on congress to step in. Visitors to CSPF's website this morning were greeed with a banner directing to arescue plan website.
Before you could enter the rescue site a pop-up message is shown, simply saying that since congress effectively shut down the proposal, they can now stand up and pass legislation to bail the fund out.
"Central States strongly urges these members to act now to pass legislation that protects the pension benefits of the over 400,000 participants of Central States Pension Fund"

With the Treasury denying the possibility of pension cuts, the ball is now in Congress' court to initiate a bailout.
When it does, because it will, the flood gates will be open for the rest of the insolvent funds to come knocking with their hands out, and we can formally welcome the arrival of helicopter money - whether Yellen wants it or not - in the United States.

What follows is Tom Nyhan testifying before congress back in 2013, laying it out in very plain terms that without funding, or significant benefit cuts, the game is over.
"Unless the fund substantially reduces its liabilities, or receives a large influx of assets, it's projected become insolvent within ten or fifteen years, and at this point our options are very limited."

Nobody listened, and now - in this bold new age of pension fund crushing zero and negative interest rates - it is game over.