The National Debt in One Picture

“Congress is beginning its new year with a budget deal that busts right through “caps” it was supposed to have on spending. At Heritage, we want to hold Congress accountable for its tax-and-spend ways, even as Members claim there’s no room to cut,” writes Kelsey Harris from the Heritage Foundation.

A good place to start is understanding the mountain of debt Americans are already under. Check out and share our infographic below that puts it in perspective.

trillion.breakdown_600pxwide

Who are the Power Brokers behind the Common Core State Standards?

Many parents, teachers, educators and concerned citizens do not know who are the “power brokers” behind Common Core State Standards (CCSS). It is important to understand who is pushing this initiative that is a federal government backed top down approach to public school education. United Opt Out National has compiled a comprehensive list of the key power brokers, nonprofit institutions and corporations behind CCSS. It is provided here for your edification.

Through the U.S. Department of Education designated Race to the Top initiative, grants and other monies are given to states that adopt RTTT which requires them to adopt CCSS, use new high stakes testing such as PARCC or SBAC, and requires these tests to be attached to teacher and school evaluations which in turn foster the agenda of corporate-run education policies. (See ALEC at the bottom for more.)

Achieve was granted the contract from U.S. Department of Education to develop and manage the Common Core State Standards initiative including curricular development and assessment. NGA and CCSSO also lead the development and implementation of CCSS)

ACHIEVE

Who they are? According to their website, “Created in 1996 by the nation’s governors and corporate leaders, Achieve is an independent, bipartisan, non-profit education reform organization based in Washington, DC that helps states raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments and strengthen accountability so all students graduate ready for college, work and citizenship.”

Key players: Lou Gerstner, co-founder of Achieve (Former CEO of IBM) and Craig Barrett, Achieve Chair (former CEO of Intel Corp.)

Funders:

AT&T Foundation (ALEC)/The Battelle Foundation/Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation (ALEC)/The Boeing Company (ALEC)/Brookhill Foundation
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Chevron (ALEC)
The Cisco Foundation/DuPont (ALEC)
The GE Foundation (ALEC)
IBM Corporation (ALEC)/Intel Foundation (ALEC)
JP Morgan Chase Foundation
The Joyce Foundation
The Leona & Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
Lumina Foundation (ALEC)
MetLife Foundation
Microsoft
Nationwide (ALEC)
Noyce Foundation
The Prudential Foundation (ALEC)
Sandler Foundation
State Farm Insurance Companies (ALEC)
Travelers Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

ACHIEVE partners with Pearson for most of its testing and curricular materials for the PARCC.

NATIONAL GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION

Who they are? According to their website: “The National Governors Association (NGA) is the bipartisan organization of the nation’s governors which promotes visionary state leadership,shares best practices and speaks with a collective voice on national policy. Founded in 1908, the National Governors Association (NGA) is the collective voice of the nation’s governors and one of Washington, D.C.’s most respected public policy organizations.” Through their Corporate Fellows programs, corporations can donate money in exchange for greater influence over policies including those in education.

Key donors and players: In 2012-2103 Executive Director is Dan Crippen. Executive Committee members include: Governor Jack Markell, DE—Chair, Governor Mary Fallin, OK—Vice Chair.

The Education and Workforce Committee is led by Governor Dannel Malloy, CT – Chair and Governor Terry Branstad, IW — Vice Chair.

THE COUNCIL OF CHIEF STATE SCHOOL OFFICERS (CCSSO)

Who they are? According to their website, “The Council of Chief State School Officers is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions.

CCSSO provides leadership,advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.”

Key donors and players:

CCSSO Executive Director is Chris Minnich, President is Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts. The President-elect is Terry Holiday, Kentucky and Past-President Thomas R.Luna, Idaho.

NOTE: Chris Minnich is a former employee of PEARSON.

Corporate Partners include (but are not limited to):

AdvancED
American Institutes for Research(AIR)
Data Recognition Corporation
ETS (part of Pearson)
McGraw-Hill Education
Microsoft
Pearson Education/ACT (part of Pearson)
Apple
Intel Corporation
K12 Inc. (part of Pearson)
Measured Progress
Wireless Generation
Cisco
The College Board

See complete list of funders here.

A WORD ABOUT MCKINSEY AND COMPANY

This global management firm promotes the idea of “big data” as a means of global management and profit building. David Coleman, key architect of the Common Core, Sir Michael Barber,Chief Education Advisor to Pearson, and Lou Gertsner, co-founder of Achieve ALL have worked for McKinsey and Co.

CCSSO is proposing partnerships with McKinsey and Co. to take over management of Common Core and PARCC in several states after 2015.

WHAT IS ALEC AND WHY THIS MATTERS

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Their self-described mission is to “promote free market, limited government, and federalism.” Through ALEC, behind closed doors,corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. ALEC’s subcommittee for education policy promotes legislation that attempt to privatize public education, destroy unions, replace teachers with computers and Teach for America temporary teachers, and use education as a form of corporate control and profit.

Names on this handout that have (ALEC) next to them now, or formerly, have ties with ALEC.

Public Sector Co-Chair of the ALEC Education Task force is Rep. Greg Forristall (R-Iowa).

Other powerful funders/promoters of CCSS who are members of ALEC include the Walton Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation.

ABOUT UNITED OPT OUT NATIONAL

United Opt Out National, Inc. is registered as a nonprofit organization incorporated in the state of Florida.

Members of this site are parents, educators, students and social activists who are dedicated to the elimination of high stakes testing in public education. We use this site to collaborate, exchange ideas, support one another, share information and initiate collective local and national actions to end the reign of fear and terror promoted by the high stakes testing agenda. 

It only takes 33 minutes for a missile to hit the US from anywhere in the world (+ video)

The Heritage Foundation states, “It would take only 33 minutes for a missile to reach the U.S. from anywhere in the world. That’s a sobering thought when North Korea is taunting America with threatening video propaganda about its nuclear capabilities and Iran is advancing its nuclear program.”

In response to these threats, the Obama Administration announced Friday that it would increase the number of Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Interceptors protecting the U.S. from 30 to 44. These 30 interceptors allowed White House spokesman Jay Carney to state that the U.S. is “fully capable of defending itself” against a North Korean ballistic missile attack.

He didn’t mention that the Obama Administration has tried to undermine the long-range missile defense program since it came into office, including announcing the “restructure” of the advanced SM-3 IIB interceptor program designed to protect the U.S. and allies from a long-range ballistic missile threat. As Heritage’s Michaela Dodge explained:

When the Administration took office four years ago, it scaled down the number of interceptors protecting the U.S. from 54 to 30. This included cutting 10 interceptors in Poland and 14 in Alaska. The Administration justified its step by saying that the missile defense threat has not progressed as fast as the Bush Administration expected—this despite the fact that both North Korea and Iran have been very public about their efforts to develop long-range ballistic missile capabilities.

President Obama famously told Russia’s then-President Dmitry Medvedev that after the 2012 election, he would have more “flexibility” on missile defense. Just last Friday, his new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, announced a restructuring of U.S. missile defense priorities to focus more on Alaska-based and California-based missile interceptors. This shift away from commitments to deploy advanced interceptors to Poland and Romania is exactly what the Russians have been demanding.

Thirty years ago this week, President Ronald Reagan asked a question that is just as vital today: “[W]hich part of our defense measures do we believe we can do without and still have security against all contingencies?”

Watch Reagan’s 1983 speech about the Strategic Defense Initiative

To protect America, all contingencies must be covered. And as Heritage President-elect Jim DeMint has said recently, missile defense works. It works because the only sure way to deter an attack against the U.S. is to make certain it isn’t worth it for the attacker. As Reagan said:

“Deterrence” means simply this: making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States, or our allies, or our vital interests, concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won’t attack. We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.

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Today, The Heritage Foundation and the George C. Marshall Institute are co-hosting an event commemorating the 30th anniversary of Reagan’s landmark speech on missile defense and discussing the challenges of protecting our nation, then and now. Speakers include Ambassador Henry Cooper, Dr. Lee Edwards, Dr. Kim Holmes, Jeff Kueter, Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL), and Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The event runs from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET, and you can watch online throughout.

Read the Morning Bell and more every day en Español at Heritage Libertad.

Marijuana is a Dangerous Drug: Let Children Know the Truth

It is a misnomer and a moral transgression to say that marijuana is a harmless drug. It is absolutely not harmless. I hope the teens are reading this.

Yet, as burning cigarettes were once a regular prop in movie scenes, passing a joint around has become the new cinematic norm, as though it’s cool, it’s safe and fun. Shame on the movie industry for glamorizing the use of drugs. That’s like glamorizing poison.

Shame on adults and parents, young and old, who openly use marijuana, giving it tacit approval by example. More than once I’ve heard, “My mom and dad use it, there’s nothing wrong.”

That being said, I would agree that new attitudes about decriminalizing marijuana are needed in this country, because we are constantly stuffing courts and prisons with people who are not dangerous to society. This gives many young people prison stigmas for life, just for possessing a weed that gets people high.

Using small amounts of marijuana is still illegal in 48 states. It is an unenforceable law, although pot is used by nearly 20 million people. It is the best example of how much the so-called “war on drugs” is a colossal failure. The laws and the policies have not worked. We need a new game plan — without jails — with the same objective, to deter the use of drugs, particularly by young people.

In a nutshell, here are the main reasons marijuana is harmful.

  • It impairs judgment for driving that cannot be detected like alcohol.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites long term use deters IQ, especially when adolescents begin using in the teen years.
  • Regular use causes lethargy, lack of ambition and memory problems.
  • Long term use is linked to mental problems, such as paranoia and schizophrenia.
  • Marijuana is addictive to people who have a predisposition to addictions

Casual marijuana is still illegal in 48 states, which results in the arrests of nearly one million people a year, giving them criminal records that affect their lives.

Gateway drug? Some say yes, some no. Here’s the truth: If you’re prone to enjoying drugs, marijuana will likely be your first, but not your last.

Colorado and Washington have passed laws legalizing small amounts of pot. No doubt, more states will follow. Nobody should celebrate these new laws, unless the states agree to use the tax funds saved from burdening the courts, cops and prisons, into appropriations for meaningful programs that prevent, educate and treat. That is essential.

We’ve all see how effective anti-cigarette campaigns have reduced smoking. The same should be applied to the use of pot, so that Americans get the truth about the harmful effects, too many to name in one article.

Recent studies show that 44 percent of eighth-graders think pot is totally harmless. And while 16 percent of eighth-graders have smoked marijuana, that number jumps to 42 percent for high school seniors.

Children need to know the truth and it’s our job as adults to provide that truth.

RELATED COLUMN: Study: Fatal Car Crashes Involving Marijuana Have Tripled – Now 1-in-9

2014: The Resurgence of the TEA Party

It is not looking good for the TEA Party and our efforts to restore America in 2014. The Obama Administration, mainstream media, major liberal advocacy groups and the GOP establishment have launched an extremely well-funded war against us

So, how do we compete?

Answer: We do what we did in 2010. The Bible says one will put a thousand to flight, but two will put 10,000 to flight. (Deut. 32:30) In other words, when we are united our power and effectiveness increases exponentially. The 2010 Republican sweep of the elections driven by the Tea Party confirms this truth.

Without mainstream media support, We The People used the resources at our disposal (internet, talk radio, social networks and a single minded purpose) to spread the word which inspired 1.7 million patriots to show up for a rally in DC. Incredible. Absolutely amazing!

Well patriots, it is time for us to work together again. In a single-minded effort, We The People must unite as an army fighting side-by-side determined to repeal Obamacare.

Obama said repealing Obamacare ain’t happenin’ on his watch. The GOP and many political pundits agree.

Meanwhile, Obamacare is wreaking havoc on America. I refuse to believe that the American people will sheepishly allow this evil and destructive behemoth, pushed on us via Obama lies and dirty political tricks, to stand.

Patriots, 2014 has to be our all hands on deck effort; getting as many conservatives as possible elected to the House and Senate; exploiting every opportunity to push back against the full implementation of Obamacare via lawsuits and more.

Also crucially important, we must stand by our TEA Party warriors; Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Sarah Palin and others. Courageously enduring unimaginable pressures from the GOP and the left, this is not the time to nitpick our generals for being less than perfect. We are at war!

In the early years of the TEA Party, I was blown away by the brilliant minds I encountered at rallies across America while touring on TEA Party Express. Patriots wrote books, conceived strategies, organized, wrote songs and more; all intended to take back America. We need that same intense creativity and energy activated to repeal Obamacare; stopping Obama’s vowed insidious fundamental transformation of our great country.

Our unified desire to repeal the monstrous Obamacare must be the catalyst for rejuvenating the early passion, enthusiasm and determination of the TEA Party. This is it folks, 2014 is the year of the battle to end all battles for America as intended by our Founding Fathers.

As for the odds, the traitorous GOP, the left and big money being against us, such has always been the case. The only thing different about the 2014 election is that establishment Republicans are no longer hiding their disdain for the TEA Party. Therefore, if we do what we did in 2010, We The People will defeat them again in 2014.

One last point. From its beginning, I believe the TEA Party was divinely inspired. How else can you explain mega millions of Americans becoming mobilized to act because of one man, Rick Santelli ranting about the size, irresponsibility and tyranny of out-of-control big government. Thus, I believe we have righteousness (the moral high Ground) and God on our side. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) This truth gives me peace and my spirit to remain upbeat and confident.

Patriots, your lives have been prepared for such a time as this. The TEA Party is the miracle cure destine to eradicate this evil cancerous tumor known as Obamacare, aggressively eating away at the soul of what it means to be an American. 2014 is the year we heal our land.

RELATED COLUMN: Britain’s version of Tea Party rocks political system across the pond

Disneyland moves towards a Police State?

Jacob Sloan from DisInfo.com reports, “Who says the Panopticon has to be gloomy? Children will be thrilled to find that Mickey Mouse already knows everything about them.” ANIMAL New York writes:

In an effort to give its theme park patrons a more customized, interactive experience, Disney is adopting the tactics of law enforcement agencies everywhere: giving out wristbands embedded with tracking devices and information about the people wearing them.

Uses for the wristbands, dubbed “MyMagic+,” range from the pedestrian–like tracking purchases and attractions visited, presumably to serve up targeted advertisements–to the surreal. If a child wearing a MyMagic+ band approaches a Cinderella mascot, for example, Cinderella could be automatically informed of the child’s information, so she can greet him or her by name. Fortunately, the devices are strictly optional for now.

“We want to take experiences that are more passive and make them as interactive as possible,” said Bruce Vaughn, Disney Imagineering’s chief creative executive. “Moving from, ‘Cool, look at that talking bird,’ to ‘Wow, amazing, that bird is talking directly to me.”

The Disney World website states:

MyMagic+ will allow you to take control of your Walt Disney World vacation like never before.

You can personalize your experience … and even your MagicBand. Best yet, you’ll have the confidence of locking in incredible Disney experiences—while having the flexibility to make updates as your plans change.

There’s never been an easier way to experience a Walt Disney World vacation that’s all yours. Stay tuned for more Disney magic yet to be revealed!

There is no indication that visitors may opt out of wearing MyMagic+ wristbands.

 

Detroit Police Chief: Gun owners deter crime

Who would have guessed that James Craig, Detroit Chief-of-Police, would say, “If more citizens were armed, criminals would think twice about attacking them.”

George Hunter from The Detroit News reports:

If more citizens were armed, criminals would think twice about attacking them, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Thursday.

Urban police chiefs are typically in favor of gun control or reluctant to discuss the issue, but Craig on Thursday was candid about how he’s changed his mind.

“When we look at the good community members who have concealed weapons permits, the likelihood they’ll shoot is based on a lack of confidence in this Police Department,” Craig said at a press conference at police headquarters, adding that he thinks more Detroit citizens feel safer, thanks in part to a 7 percent drop in violent crime in 2013.

Craig said he started believing that legal gun owners can deter crime when he became police chief in Portland, Maine, in 2009.

“Coming from California (Craig was on the Los Angeles police force for 28 years), where it takes an act of Congress to get a concealed weapon permit, I got to Maine, where they give out lots of CCWs (carrying concealed weapon permits), and I had a stack of CCW permits I was denying; that was my orientation.

“I changed my orientation real quick. Maine is one of the safest places in America. Clearly, suspects knew that good Americans were armed.”

Craig’s statements Thursday echoed those he made Dec. 19 on “The Paul W. Smith Show” on WJR (760 AM), when he said: “There’s a number of CPL (concealed pistol license) holders running around the city of Detroit. I think it acts as a deterrent. Good Americans with CPLs translates into crime reduction. I learned that real quick in the state of Maine.”

Read Hunter’s full column here.

RELATED COLUMN: Gun Control, the Jews, and the Third Reich

How Dodd-Frank is Destroying our Economy

Peter J. Wallison from the American Enterprise Institute knows that Dodd-Frank was “an illegitimate response” to the 2008 US financial crisis. Wallison makes his points in “The Case for Repealing Dodd-Frank.” He states housing bubbles are “procyclical” and notes while Obamacare has received all of the attention, “Dodd-Frank deserves a look.”

Wallison begins with, “The 2008 financial crisis was a major event, equivalent in its initial scope—if not its duration—to the Great Depression of the 1930s. At the time, many commentators said that we were witnessing a crisis of capitalism, proof that the free market system was inherently unstable … These views culminated in the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act that is founded on the notion that the financial system is inherently unstable and must be controlled by government regulation.”

Wallison then goes about examining the causes of the 2008 financial crisis, which he classifies as “the largest housing bubble in [US] history.”

Wallison notes, “Congress planted the seeds of the crisis in 1992, with the enactment of what were called ‘affordable housing’ goals for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac … Between 1991 and 2003, Fannie and Freddie’s market share increased from 28 to 46 percent. From this dominant position, they were able to set the underwriting standards for the market as a whole; few mortgage lenders would make middle-class mortgages that could not be sold to Fannie or Freddie … In a sense, government backing of the GSEs [government-sponsored enterprises] and their market domination was their undoing. Community activists had kept the two firms in their sights for many years, arguing that Fannie and Freddie’s underwriting standards were so tight that they were keeping many low- and moderate income families from buying homes.”

“Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was given authority to increase the goals, and Congress cleared the way for far more ambitious requirements by suggesting in the legislation that down payments could be reduced below five percent without seriously impairing mortgage quality,” states Wallison. This was a false premise and led to the 2008 financial meltdown.

Wallison concludes, “If the American people come to recognize that the financial crisis was caused by the housing policies of their own government—rather than insufficient regulation or the inherent instability of the U.S. financial system—Dodd-Frank will be seen as an illegitimate response to the crisis. Only then will it be possible to repeal or substantially modify this repressive law.”

Terresa Monroe-Hamilton in her article “An American Depression: Extreme Haircut Edition” warns, “Americans know deep inside that things are very dire indeed and getting worse by the second. Overwhelmingly, they no longer believe the economic numbers from the government. Lies – all lies and propaganda. Instead of the breadlines of the last Great Depression, we have EBT Cards, providing the hungry with food. For those who have now been unemployed for years in The Greatest Depression, it doesn’t cut it.”

Monroe-Hamilton notes, “Much of the Western world will require defaults, a savings tax and higher inflation to clear the way for recovery as debt levels reach a 200-year high, according to a new report by the International Monetary Fund.”

Will we see another financial meltdown in 2014?

ABOUT  PETER J. WALLISON

Peter J. Wallison holds the Arthur F. Burns Chair in Financial Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Previously he practiced banking, corporate, and financial law at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington, D.C., and in New York. He also served as White House Counsel in the Reagan Administration. A graduate of Harvard College, Mr. Wallison received his law degree from Harvard Law School and is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, among many other publications. He is the editor, co-editor, author, or co-author of numerous books, including Ronald Reagan: The Power of Conviction and the Success of His Presidency and Bad History, Worse Policy: How a False Narrative about the Financial Crisis Led to the Dodd-Frank Act.

Top Twelve Things that Didn’t Happen in 2013

Here are our Top Twelve Things that Didn’t Happen in 2013:

  1. November designated Ignorance Awareness Month; apathetic public doesn’t care
  2. Space-time expansion accelerates; clock faces change to 13 hours
  3. Y2K finally kicks in, is blamed for healthcare.gov glitches
  4. Rhetoric reaches tipping point, grows exponentially, hits wall, goes over cliff, crashes and burns
  5. Newer Testament released, Commandments replaced with Executive Orders
  6. Government worker discovers untapped debt hidden in Capitol’s debt ceiling
  7. Post-modern era ends, neo-post-retro-revival era begins
  8. Hell’s Angels sue Wall Street to get 1% label back, Wall Street retaliates by selling Harley-Davidson to China
  9. More climate data lost due to a growing number and intensity of memory holes
  10. To raise revenue government begins charging for formerly free speech
  11. Tired old clichés replaced with fresh new clichés
  12. Earth’s magnetic field reverses, the South rises again

Things not likely to happen in 2014:

  • A headline that reads “Government program ends as its intended goal has been achieved.”

What is likely to happen in 2014:

  • All numbers will be in binary and ahl speling wil bee dun funnetiklee.

Hahpee 11101101010, komradz!

A New Year and Turkey is Still in Turmoil

I had a conversation this morning with a confidential European source and keen observer of the Turkish scene.  Some of his astute observations were covered in the January NER, article, “Could the Crisis in Turkey Impact US Policy in the Middle East?”  It was prompted by a Gatestone Institute article, published today, “Where is Turkey Going?” by Veli Sirin, who is German director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism. Sirin is another worthy observer and author of analyses on what is occurring in Turkey. He was discussing further developments with regard to the public wrangling between two former Islamist allies, Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan and expatriate Turkish Sheikh Mohammad Fethulleh Gulen, which we have covered in our NER article.

Sirin discussed Turkish press coverage of the recent pleas by imprisoned military leaders requesting new trials. This in the wake of the release by the judiciary of secularist,  pro-American and pro- Israeli Gen. Cevik Bir that we noted in our NER article. The irony is that these Turkish alleged plotters were tried and convicted for conspiracy following second term sweep by Erdogan and the AKP in the 2007 parliamentary elections. My source observed that the purge of presumably secular Turkish military has left it in control of senior officers on the general staff beholden to Erdogan.

Sirin observed in his Gatestone article:

Erdogan was confronted on January 1, 2014 with a petition by the former army general staff chief, Gen. lker Babug, that Babug be released from a life sentence handed down against him on August 5, 2013, in the “Ergenekon” conspiracy trials, in which the Islamist government accused members of the secular military of supposedly trying to bring the government down. As described in the leading national media platform, the Hurriyet Daily News, Ba?bug was one of 275 suspects charged in the “Ergenekon” affair; other high military officials, journalists and academics were subjected to “aggravated life sentences,” which replaced death sentences, in the “Ergenekon” proceedings.

As noted in the same Hurriyet article, Babug based his demand for exoneration on Erdogan’s claim that “gangs within the state” and “members of the parallel state” had penetrated the judiciary, police, and other official structures. Erdogan’s chief advisor, Yalçin Akdogan, implied that members of the judiciary had “framed” military officers in the “Ergenekon” case.

Senior AKP legislator Mustafa Elita? told Hurriyet Daily News that Turkey could change laws to allow a retrial of the military officers convicted of plotting to overthrow Erdogan. According to that Hurriyet Daily News account, Elita? said of the army defendants, “We will, if necessary, make new legal arrangements to stop people’s unjust treatment.”

At the same time, and as reflected in the same Hurriyet Daily News post of December 31, former army General Çetin Dogan, accused and convicted of a similar plot in the “Sledgehammer” trial of military leaders, which ended in 2012, is preparing a complaint against a 20-year prison term imposed on him.

Erdogan’s chief advisor, Akdogan, then reversed course. In a press statement quoted by Today’s Zaman, Akdogan declared, “It is wrong to the utmost degree to use my previous writings to say that I have called some trials ‘false,’ ‘baseless,’ ’empty’ and ‘fabricated.’ Just as prosecutors need evidence to issue criminal charges, the defense, believing the evidence presented is false, needs to provide its own evidence to support its argument.”

Ironies abound in the current Turkish turmoil. Erdogan and AKP were widely reported to have mounted the “Sledgehammer” and “Ergenekon” proceedings in a long-term Islamist bid to cut down the influence of the secularist military. London Guardian correspondent Simon Tisdall, noted on September 25, 2012 that Turkish military commanders had carried out three coups, between 1960 and 1980 (including a full-fledged takeover in 1971), and had forced AKP out of power in 1997.

The  source observed that there is an emerging internal revolt within the AKP that could result in a splinter party being formed for future parliamentary elections.  That political division of the AKP would throw into considerable question Erdogan’s nominations for the March 2014 municipal elections.  Moreover, that might raise doubt about a projected June national referendum on changes to the Turkish Presidency authorities abetting creation of a virtual Islamist Caliphate in Ankara coveted by Erdogan.  A number of those dissident AKP members in Parliament may be Gulenists.   He raised questions about where President Abdullah Gull, himself a Gulenist, stood relative to the current crisis in Turkey.  Gul apparently has the authority to authorize a comprehensive investigation of the graft charges. Gul, according to a Today’s Zaman article ,warned against intervention in the  judiciary investigations and deliberations.  Moreover, despite the Presidency being largely a ceremonial post under Turkey’s constitution, apparently Gul has the power to call for new parliamentary elections.  Turkey’s parliament elects the Premier.

I brought up the prospect of a Gulenist/Secularist effort to topple Erdogan raised by Harold Rhode in our NER article.   The source pointed to a comment in a Hurriyet Daily News report  by Kemal Kilicdaroglu,  head of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP),  about the sudden disappearance of Erdogan’s son, Bilal and why he didn”t testify in the graft investigations.. As we wrote in our NER article, Bilal   was alleged to be part of an Istanbul prosecutor’s investigation of money laundering to Al Qaida militias in Syria via charities and funds controlled by shadowy Saudi billionaire Yasin al-Qadi.  The source indicated  that Bilal Erdogan may have taken a powder to one of the Central Asian ‘stans until the current brouhaha blows over.  He noted that the opposition Republican Party follows in the Ataturkist secular traditions.  Sirin, author of the Gatestone article, may  apparently be an Alevi and  likely an Ataturkist follower as well.

Another related matter affecting  this imbroglio is the sudden breakout of what appears to be  possible virtual autonomy in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of Turkey. That is evidenced in flouting of Kurdish national flags and  tolerance of the Kurdish language. The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) has called on followers in Turkey to remain neutral in the current dispute between Erdogan and the Gulen.  That may be a reflection of an opportunistic strategy by Erdogan to placate the restive Kurdish irredentism to achieve access to oil from both halves of Kurdistan. This would include the Syrian western half  or  Rojava, in the northeastern area of the country, and the adjacent Iraqi eastern half, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).  Ironically both Kurdish areas have staved off the intrusion of Al Qaida militias now ravaging major towns in the largely Sunni Anbar province of Iraq and adjacent areas of Eastern Syria. The Erdogan deal would involve transmission of Kurdish regional oil via Turkish pipelines to terminals on the Mediterranean coast, which may afford some diversion for profit taking. Then there are the billions of construction project tenders in the KRG dominated by Turkish construction firms. We would not be surprised to see a pardon granted by Erdogan for former PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, now imprisoned on an Island in the Sea of Mamara. He had given his assent to a cease fire deal with Erdogan. Moreover, Today’s Zaman has reported rumors of a general amnesty for the PKK.

Lastly,  we mused on the silence from the Obama White House about accusations of American involvement in fostering the Turkish public prosecutors’ graft investigations  with implied  threats to expel the US Ambassador.  Those accusations were vigorously denied by the US Ambassador Francis T. Ricciardone.  Could it be the alleged graft investigation directed by public prosecutors against the core of AKP in the regime of Turkish Premier Erdogan is an embarrassment to the Administration that touted him as a partner for peace in the Middle East?  Just look at the exchange  regarding the turmoil in Turkey with State Department  Deputy Spokesperson  Ms. Marie Harf in today’s State Department Press Briefing.  In May 2013 when Premier Erdogan visited the White Rose, President Obama said in a rainy Rose Garden setting, “I value so much the partnership that I’ve been able to develop with Prime Minister Erdogan”.  Stay tuned for developments.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Sarasota, FL: Top Ten Most Exciting Small Cities In America

A list of the top ten most exciting small cities in America was released by Business Insider. Sarasota, FL was listed as number ten. According to Randy Nelson from MOVOTO:

Last–but in no way least–we have Sarasota, which was the exact opposite of last in a couple of key categories, namely live music and nightlife where it placed first overall. The latter category is bolstered by more than a hundred bars, including Cock & Bull and Shakespeare’s, and nightclubs the likes of Ivory Lounge.

Active life options was another standout at seventh overall, helped in no small way by numerous beaches, while its ninth place finish in non-fast food eateries was thanks to places like Amish (yes, Amish) restaurant Yoder’s and the Cuban fare at Columbia. Just don’t to see as many 20-34-year-olds in these places; the city placed 88th overall for that criterion.

To see the entire list of the top ten most exciting cities in America go here.

Having the most number of bars and non-fast food eateries is not something to brag about. As Nelson points out Sarasota is a “retirement community” and struggles to keep and attract young entrepreneurs.

However, the one shining light is the HuB, where young entrepreneurs find a place for their creativity, support for their ideas and a unique place to gather and collaborate. The HuB has been recognized for its efforts to diversify the local economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism and real estate. The HuB brings high tech industry to Sarasota, FL. That is worthy of a special mention.

It is too bad that Business Insider did not look a little deeper, they would have found diamonds at the HuB.

Speaker John Boehner wins “Biggest Pile of Horse Pucky” Award

John Boehner gets the Wild Bill “Biggest Pile of Horse Pucky” award for his two faced politics.

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11 Attorneys General challenge Legality of Obamacare Fix – is Nullification possible?

Maybe this year is getting off to a good start. Eleven GOP attorneys general are willing to take on the legality of the executive directives in changing status – the so-called fixes to Obamacare. As reported by the Fiscal Times, the Attorneys General say the president is breaking the law because he is making changes without first going through Congress. The group sent a letter yesterday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding the constitutionality of Obama’s most recent executive action decreeing that insurance companies may continue to offer plans that he previously considered “junk plans” and were cancelled. The letter called the rule change “flatly illegal under federal constitutional and statutory law” and said “the illegal actions by this administration must stop.” Gee, ya think?

According to the Fiscal Times:

The Republican attorneys general argue that President Obama’s rule change violates both the separation of powers between the branches of government and his responsibility to execute laws faithfully. “We are deeply concerned that this Administration is constantly rewriting new rules and effectively inventing statutory provisions to operationalize a flawed law,” the letter said. “And the irony, of course, is that the changes being put forth to fix the disastrous exchanges will ultimately destroy the market and increase health insurance premiums for customers who played by the rules.”

So does this mean the States might have a chance at nullification? The concept of nullification is based on the theory that because the States are essentially the creators of the federal government, they have the final authority to determine the limits of its power. Under this theory, the States would therefore have the authority to strike down or nullify any federal laws they believed were beyond constitutional limits.

Sounds good in theory, but it has rarely been upheld, and rejected by the Federal courts on more than one occasion – including the Supreme Court. Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, federal law is superior to state law. And under Article III of the Constitution, the federal judiciary has the final power to interpret the Constitution — as Chief Justice John Roberts did in making the decision on the constitutionality of Obamacare.

However, in so doing, he greatly expanded federal taxing authority, basically granting the power of behavior modification by way of taxation when he ruled individual mandate was actually a tax and constitutional.

In any event, the power to make final decisions about the constitutionality of federal laws lies with the federal courts, not the states, and the states don’t have the power to nullify federal laws.

Do I believe the States will exert their rights as these attorneys general have done? Absolutely. Are they right in challenging the countless iterations of changing law, granting waivers, exemptions, and delays through executive fiat and mandate, not by legislative action? Certainly.

What do you, “We the People” believe? Is this a huge overreach by the Executive Branch and inconsistent with the separation of powers of our Constitution? And how will it end up?

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com. 

Making Children Poor

Sarasota County, Florida released a series of demographic reports based upon the 2010 Census.  Sarasota is the 14th most populous of 67 counties in Florida and is growing. The census data shows that Sarasota County, like the nation is aging and getting poorer.  One of the reports states that 1 in 5 children in Sarasota County are “poor”.

It is government that defines poor, not the poor defining themselves. There are those who have more and those who have less. However, it has only been recently that those with less have been defined as the “class of poor”.

Charles Murray in his book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010” notes, “Michael Harrington’s The Other America created a stir when it was published in 1962 partly because Harrington said America’s poor constituted a class separate from the working class – a daring proposition. At the time, the poor were not seen as a class, either by other Americans or in their own eyes. The poor were working-class people who didn’t make much money.” Harrington’s book was in part responsible for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”

Work (a job) and a traditional family are the two keys to reducing poverty, particularly child poverty.

Those working are less poor than those who do not, those who have been working longer (experienced workers) are less poor than those recently entering the workforce (the young). Children in single parent families are poorer than those living in traditional families.

According to the income level report, “A comparison of poverty as it relates to age reveals that between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of population under 65 years of age in poverty increased significantly for both those under the age of 18 and those between the ages of 18 and 64. The population under 18 experienced the greatest increase in poverty. The percentage of the population in poverty over the age of 65 remained constant during the decade.” Retirees living in Sarasota County depend on stock and bond market investments. The value of these investments have declined during the period of this report.

Under “Families in Poverty” the report notes, “As of 2010, Sarasota County had 8,681 families identified as living below the poverty level. Of those families, 5,450, or 63%, have at least one child below the age of 18. Additionally, 67% of children in poverty are in a single parent household, while almost half of the children in poverty are in families headed by a single female.”

The proximate cause of a child being poor is living in a single parent household according to the report.

The report notes a significant increase of those living below the poverty level since 2000. “Population in Poverty in Sarasota County There are a significant number of individuals classified as living below poverty level in Sarasota County. In 2010, 48,649 persons were living below the poverty level, almost doubling from 24,817 in 2000. However, in terms of both percentage of overall population and percent age of families below the poverty level, Sarasota County has a lower rate than both the state and the nation. Sarasota County also has a lower percentage of population and families in poverty when compared to Manatee and Charlotte counties.”

Sarasota County is a destination city and has a large number of workers in the hospitality and service industries. These industries pay less than jobs in manufacturing or high technology companies.

RELATED: U.S. Census Guide: How to get the most out of Census.gov

The Essence of Senator Rand Paul in Ten Minutes

This video provides a glimpse of the essence of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY): Filibuster, NSA Surveillance, IRS Scandal, Benghazi and Syria Hearings, Foreign Affairs, Balanced Budget Amendment, Economic Freedom Zones, Defund Obamacare and Individual Liberties.

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