Mitt Romney recently appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to “Slow Jam the News.”  It’s pretty good, with a few good zings and tons of innuendo.  Check it out:

H/T: The Blaze

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Ghastly math:  Roe v. Wade + 41 years = 55 million deaths.

On this dark anniversary, tens of thousands braved Arctic cold and snow for the fortieth “March For Life” in Washington DC.  I was actually at one of these back in 1998.  It was inspiring to see so many others from all parts of the country, from all walks of life, who came out in opposition to one of the worst Supreme Court rulings of the 20th Century.  Overturning Roe would go a long way to finally moving this issue to where it should lie — with the people.

Here’s my thought on that:  Roe v. Wade (1973) overturned 49 state laws on abortion.  Those who supported Roe had court precedent backing them, a compliant press, and radical feminists pushing to make this decision permanent.  That is a powerful confluence of forces.  The problem was that the people had no real say.  Forty-nine states (all but Washington) had varying degrees of restrictions on abortions which were significantly altered by the Roe decision.  Those opposed to this had no outlets, nowhere to go, smacked by the gavel of a judicial dictate.

So, on one side you have the pro-choice folks who will defend to the death the legal gains they procured, while on the other side you have the pro-life folks who are powerless to change anything, even though they believe life is being taken away in a horrible fashion.  This status quo creates extremists, the problem is never really solved for either side, and politicians get to show up every cycle to remind us about how much we hate each other on this issue for their own personal gain.

Overturn Roe and both sides win a little and lose a little:  the pro-choice crowd will have to allow the will of the people to run its course, which will mean in some areas abortion will be severely restricted or even banned; the pro-life crowd will have to accept the will of the people that will likely keep abortion legal in most places.  The game-changer will be that activism will start to mean something on this issue, policies will change to reflect the will of the people, and hopefully we may see the ire, politicking, and (hopefully) abortion rates start to ebb.

UPDATE:  Brit Hume chimes in.

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Today marks America’s observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a way to acknowledge and celebrate the life of the 20th Century’s most important civil rights leader.  While it may be unfair to compare today’s civil rights leaders to King and his contemporaries (given that era, his message, their tactics, etc.), a figure as high-profile as the first black President certainly has an important voice.

King gave us “I Have a Dream” and his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” timeless reminders that we must speak truth to power when clear injustice reigns.

While there’s no real expectation that President Obama would emulate those great works (who could?), a President given Obama’s unique position should at the very least try to unite people rather than stoke divisions where they exist.

That being said, President Obama just this past weekend basically said that some Americans still have a problem with a (re-elected, by the way) black President.  Into his sixth year, should this even matter and who gains from this message being emphasized?  He also said that while pot is a vice, it’s not so bad considering he used to smoke it as a child.  Not such a great message, especially to those inner city youths (many of whom are minorities) struggling to stay above the influence of the drug culture in their neighborhoods.  Who can forget last year’s Trayvon debacle?  Stoking frustration and anger in the black community against whites doesn’t seem to be consistent with King’s dream to me.

Obviously, Obama is no MLK, but he certainly doesn’t seem to be a force for racial healing and unity of late either.  The problem with leftist ideologues is that politics is infused into every single thing all the time.  Obama’s second term statements on race continue to seem politically driven.  Who knows what’s in his heart, but perhaps Obama should listen a little more closely to the message behind King’s words.

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I initially wanted to post on the horrible economic news from what should have been a gang-busters robust good news jobs report that we didn’t get on Friday, but this Common Core issue keeps reappearing, impacting local politics throughout the nation as well as my own classroom.

To the uninitiated, Common Core is an attempt to both simplify and enhance educational standards around the country.  Dangling money in front of state legislatures through the Obama Administration’s “Race to the Top” program, the Common Core State Standards were adopted by 45 states and DC, including my state of New Jersey (thanks Chris Christie).

What always struck me was how quickly everyone seemed to get on board with this.  Having had to implement Common Core since September, I can tell you that it’s not well thought through.  Also, with Common Core comes the PARCC exam, which puts huge expenses onto individual school districts while not even being clear to teachers or administrators what is actually going to happen when this thing goes live — there was a clear admission of just that at my last faculty meeting!

The best analogy I can think of is this: Common Core is to education as Obamacare is to the health industry.  Common Core seeks to nationalize educational standards, taking local choice and parent’s voices out of the process without even having tested its workability or value.  Ripping apart localism in education for government-approved dictates into which no one had input.  Kind of like what Obamacare is doing to our health care industry.

So, let’s get real.  Who seeks to gain something by this?  Tech companies, textbook companies, ETS, Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush, the progressive agenda, etc.  In short, “Big Education.”  Michelle Malkin is all over this on just about every angle.

Take a look at this:

The goal is not to simply add the Common Core standards, but to replace the hidebound learn facts-n’-stuff approach which was developed by experts, administrators and other people in their own states.  Skills over knowledge is the new priority — whatever gets lost in the meantime, oh well, there’s always Google… but what do the kids know to Google?  Whatever.  The whole thing is kind of scary.

So, parents are kind of pissed about this, especially home schoolers trying to leave the broken pubic education system.  Conservative groups (not Jeb Bush Republicans) are fighting back against this latest big government scheme.  Anti-Common Core advocacy groups have popped up, including Truth in American Education, as well as the Home School Legal Defense Association, who is putting out a documentary on Common Core.  Here’s the trailer:

This is an issue impacting every parent who has any child in public school, private school, or who home schools.  This is clearly an issue many people care about, which is critically important for our children’s future, which is being rammed down our throats by political and industry elites trying to line their pockets at the expense of our already flailing education system.  Yet, no one in the MSM is talking about it.  The right needs to be more vocal about this to help select more conservative candidates in the primaries and draw attention to this issue in the general elections.

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It is clear that after his recent reelection, Establishment New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to be President.  He won’t win, but the GOP seems on their way to nominate him, especially since his recent pandering to illegals.  But there may be a roadblock to an easy GOP nomination — a literal roadblock.

Here is what is alleged from some recently subpoenaed emails:

Since Fort Lee Democrat Mayor Mark Sokolich refused to endorse Christie like so many other Democrat mayors last Fall, Christie’s deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly emailed the Port Authority’s Director of Interstate Capital Projects (and long-time Christie friend) David Wildstein writing, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”  Wildstein replied, “Got it.”  A  month later (last September) local access lane closures appeared on the Fort Lee side of the George Washington Bridge in what was initially called a “mishandled traffic study.”

Indeed.

Today, Christie responded in what was called a “boilerplate” fashion, that he was simply “misled” about the purpose of the lane closures.  Regardless, when your old friend and deputy chief of staff are involved in what looks like an act of political retribution, you’re going to get dirtied.  This potential scandal is young, but if the MSM sniffs any opportunity to shoot down the likely 2016 GOP nominee, they will certainly try.

UPDATEChristie responds like his old buddy Obama — he was misled, wasn’t clear about what happened, just saw the emails when we did, etc.  Just like the IRS or AP scandal for Obama, Christie tried to pull the bystander card.  It was a good move to hold a 107-minute press conference to deflect, blow smoke, and try to engender some sympathy, but with an ongoing investigation and Wildstein pleading the 5th, things could get interesting.

BTW:  Love it.

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If you live in the central or northeast United States, <newsflash!> it’s cold!

But in today’s America, everything must be a crisis.

So, that makes this particular very cold snap a “polar vortex.”  Ominous, isn’t it?  We even name winter storms now.  In some places we even have local (ahem) superintendents robo-calling entire towns to inform them that 1) it’s cold, and 2) make sure the kids are dressed appropriately.

Really?

Granted, it is cold, but c’mon people!  Sometimes I feel like we’re doomed as a people if “cold” in the “winter” continues to evoke this kind of media-driven mania and nannyist response.  Just bundle up.

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Just to review, the First Amendment to the Constitution states in its first clause:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …

That second part makes some very uncomfortable, and often is ignored in the courts.

That being said, the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t approve of contraception and is vehemently opposed to abortion.  So, when Obamacare’s contraception mandate (forcing every employer, including those in charge of religious organizations, to provide mandatory contraception coverage to their employees) was “clarified” by HHS in 2012, it wasn’t to exempt religious institutions like the RCC but to merely give them a year to suck it up before being coerced to break their religious principles or face heavy fines.

The latest high-profile example of this comes on the back of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious organization formed in 1839 to provide charitable care to the elderly in great need.  The Little Sisters refused to go along with the contraception mandate for their employees because it violates their religious conviction about the sanctity of all human life.  According to one of their representatives:

The government demands that the Little Sisters of the Poor sign a permission slip for abortion drugs and contraceptives, or pay of millions in fines. The Sisters believe that doing that violates their faith, and that they shouldn’t be forced to divert funds from the poor elderly and dying people they’ve devoted their lives to serve.

So here’s what happened:  Obama appointee Justice Sotomayor granted an emergency injunction in favor of the Little Sisters on New Years Eve and asked the Justice Department to react.

They did.  The Justice Department is choosing to fight the injunction, stating that no religious exemption should exist for the contraception mandate.

In my opinion, the contraception mandate does violate the First Amendment rights of groups like the Little Sisters.  This is a significant issue with huge implications for religious liberty, so pretty soon we’re probably going to see this in front of the Supreme Court.

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Happy 2014!

by Ryan on January 1, 2014

in Anything Else,Culture,Pop Culture

May your 2014 be a great one!

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If there was a story that the MSM would want out of the headlines, it’s Benghazi:  the murder of a US ambassador by an al Qaeda-linked militia; the repeated lies about the video by administration officials in the weeks following the attack; the way it makes the President look aloof, Hillary look cold, and the State Department look incompetent–perhaps even negligent.

Yet, the New York Times went ahead and recycled the now defunct line that a video sparked a spontaneous protest which led to the attack.  People who were on the ground that night completely disagree, as the NYT piece is clearly designed to whitewash what may have really happened.

Why would the NYT wade into this pool again, especially while a Congressional investigation is still ongoing?

Here’s why:

Imagine that video’s pull quote (0:24) in political ads running 24/7 by both Democrats and Republicans from early 2015 through the 2016 Election campaign.  That’s probably the main reason why the NYT decided to run this story — change the impression in people’s minds about what happened, keep this story in the news making it an “old story” by the campaign, and provide incentive for the Clinton campaign to come up with some kind of response sooner rather than later.

With the left, everything is politics — even if that means destroying one’s credibility in the process of advancing a political point.  I don’t think it works this time.  People died in Benghazi under Clinton’s watch at State and we still don’t have answers.

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2013 is nearing its end — let’s take a look back.

According the AP, here were the top 10 news stories of 2013:

  1. The awful Obamacare rollout
  2. Boston Marathon Bombing
  3. Pope Francis takes charge
  4. Congress’ low approval ratings
  5. NSA spying
  6. Gay marriage
  7. Nelson Mandela
  8. Typhoon Haiyan
  9. The Syria debacle
  10. Three missing women found

At the movies, people went to see:

  1. Iron Man 3
  2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  3. Despicable Me 2
  4. Man of Steel
  5. Monsters University
  6. Gravity
  7. Fast and Furious 6
  8. Oz, the Great and Powerful
  9. Frozen
  10. Star Trek Into Darkness

In music, people downloaded:

  1. “Timber,” Pitbull
  2. “Say Something,” Christina Aguilera
  3. “The Monster,” Eminem
  4. “Counting Stars,” One Republic
  5. “Let Her Go,” Passenger
  6. “Dark Horse,” Katy Perry
  7. “Story of My Life,” One Direction
  8. “Royals,” Lorde
  9. “Demons,” Imagine Dragons
  10. “Burn,” Elie Goulding

From the lists above, I definitely knew what was going on the news and at the movies in 2013, but I honestly only heard three of the top 10 most downloaded songs of the year!  Getting old, I guess.

Finally, this last list is comprised of Time’s Worst Words of 2013:

  1. twerk
  2. hashtag
  3. selfie
  4. swag
  5. presh
  6. lolz
  7. epic fail
  8. awesome sauce
  9. because ________ (add a noun)
  10. FOMO (“fear of missing out”)

Other notables:  bromance, foodie, twitterverse, etc.  Yup, I’m both guilty of using some of these (mostly as a joke) and will nonetheless be happy when many of them go away.

My 2013 was a mixed bag — I went to London and Edinburgh (which was fun), but also had to implement the Common Core at work (which is soul-crushing for a history teacher).  However, overall the year ended up on the plus side for me and I’m looking forward to what 2014 has in store!

Hope you had a great 2013 with lots of fun this New Years Eve!

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Merry Christmas!

by Ryan on December 25, 2013

in Anything Else,Culture

From all of us here at AOR, may you and you family have a very Merry Christmas!

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Chris Christie’s gearing up for 2016.  Since the Establishment GOP is likely planning to vote with Democrats next year on amnesty, New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie is getting with the program, signing a version of the DREAM Act (which is a misnomer, since there has been no “Act” passed by Congress, only some targeted regulations imposed by executive fiat) for New Jersey.

Here’s the gist:  if you’re a law-abiding native-born American citizen and live in Yardley, Pennsylvania, and want to attend TCNJ (a 15-minute drive), you must still pay out-of-state tuition to attend that college.

However, if your parent(s) came into the US illegally, had you or brought you to Hightstown, NJ (a notorious sanctuary city) before by the end of your 9th grade year, you get to pay in-state tuition rates.

Awesome.

So, as a taxpayer, I now must to pay the difference in tuition for kids who 1) shouldn’t even be in this country let alone my state, and 2) are getting a reward for their respective interest groups putting pressure on a fat nightmare poll-cat.  Great.

Christie is obviously pandering to two groups here:  Latinos who he believes helped re-elect him, and Establishment bundlers who are looking to back an Establishment GOP candidate in 2016 who polls well with Latinos.  There is no proof that the latter will manifest, considering that even average New Jerseyans would still vote for Hillary over Christie.  Regardless, here’s another reason why I did not vote to re-elect Christie last month and why I will be voting against him in the primaries come 2016.

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By now, you’ve probably heard about A&E’s suspension of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson because of a few remarks he made about gay men.  During an interview with GQ, the hokey backwoods Robertson said the following controversial statement after a long segment on God, religion, and the ’60s:

It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus.  That’s just me.  I’m just thinking: There’s more there!  She’s got more to offer.  I mean, come on, dudes!  You know what I’m saying?  But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man.  It’s just not logical.

Understand that this fellow is a straight-talking, old school personality on a cable show set in West Monroe, Louisiana, called “Duck Dynasty.”  Millions of Americans who’ve read Corinthians 6: 9-11 believe exactly the same thing, perhaps articulated in a more refined way.  Let’s be honest, blunt fellows who don’t depend on the media class for their identities are not going to hide their opinions.  A&E should have anticipated this.

However, such controversy should (if anything) start conversations, not demand their silence.

I don’t watch “Duck Dynasty,” so this is the first time I’ve even heard of Phil Robertson, but like the Chick-Fil-A reaction last year a surge of support for Robertson has emerged: calls to boycott A&E have received 750,000 likes; Camille Paglia (of all people) called MSM attacks on Robertson symptoms of an “utterly fascist and utterly Stalinist” PC culture; Glenn Beck has offered to pick up their show for the Blaze TV; plus A&E is getting crushed on social media and flooded with phone calls.

Personally, I agree with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s sentiments:

The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.

Philosophically, the most important speech to protect is the speech we disagree with.  Jindal’s comment on the left’s intolerance (their “totalitarian mindset” to echo Mark Levin), and Paglia’s comment on politically correct fascism really hit the nerve and explain both sides of the reaction to Robertson.

We’ll see where A&E goes from here.

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We know that House Speaker John Boehner has drawn a line in the sand, not against Obama and the ideological left, but on the Tea Party and the ideological right.  For a start, Establishment Congressman Peter “Let’s Attack Everyone Everywhere” King just started an anti-Tea Party PAC to oppose insurgents in the primaries.

Well, Boehner and crew continued their attacks over the weekend, but not without getting noticed by Rush Limbaugh.  Rush seems to think that the Establishment war on the Tea Party means possibly accepting a series of election losses to prove to everyone how awful the Tea Party is.  I wouldn’t put it passed the Establishment, since their dwindling pool of resources makes them quite insecure.

Later, Rush made another argument for the futility of this War on Tea stating:

The Tea Party is not a political party. It is a way of life, it’s a body of thought. It is large, and it is real.  And you can have all of the donors muscling the Republican Party to oppose the Tea Party all you want, you can attack the Tea Party the way left attacks Christmas, but you are not going to get rid of the body of thought that’s represented by the Tea Party.

On the Establishment’s latest attempts to embarrass the Tea Party:

In fact, such actions are going to end up building it.  Keep in mind the Tea Party is a body of thought. The Tea Party is the ideals of the American founding. It is a large and sizable group of people, and they are not gonna be erased. They’re not gonna be whittled away.

I also agree with Rush’s assertion that traditional donor groups are moving these attacks.  One faction putting pressure and dangling tons of cash in front of the Establishment are the forces for amnesty — some believe that this fight is merely to position the ideological right as too extreme to be listened to when amnesty comes back up for a vote next year.  If true, sadly, Boehner’s behavior makes a whole lot of sense.

Supporting tax increases, no stomach on confronting Obamacare, attacking the Tea Party with more ferocity than the Democrats, then using that animus against one’s own party to position voting with those Democrats on amnesty next year?

I don’t feel it hyperbole to acknowledge that when the Whigs sold out their party’s principles in 1850, by 1854 there was no national Whig Party.  [Read: don't push us.]

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The second part of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug (TDOS), hit theaters this weekend with most wondering how it would compare to last year’s first installment.  Here’s the trailer:

No significant plot spoilers, but some won’t make sense if you didn’t read the book

While a number of critics had a field-day knocking the first film for taking too long to get into the action, the same cannot be said about TDOS!  We’re right into the thick of things after an important pre-credit flashback.  In fact, the 2:40 run-time wasn’t a problem at all — when the film ended, I wanted more!

Jackson took a few liberties with the storyline, but got the important things right — I was hoping Jackson didn’t mess with the spiders scene (he didn’t), and I was hoping the CGI people would be able to pull off Smaug (which they did).  So, adding a kick-ass female elf, some spookiness at Dol Guldur, and more orc decapitations didn’t seem to detract from the main gist of the film.  In fact, the orcs really enhanced the classic barrel-riding scene, which actually seemed more fun in the movie than the in book’s depiction — you won’t read that in one of these reviews very often!

My opinion still holds that The Hobbit could have been made into two, solid three-hour films, but BIG dollar signs will not be ignored.  However, as a film TDOS was definitely better than the first film — more action, more plot, and (for the most part) more development and complexity.  I’d give it an A, a caveat being that one must see the first film to know what’s going on in this one.

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By “they,” Speaker Boehner is referring to conservative groups upset at the latest Establishment capitulation over the budget.

Unnamed conservative groups, by the way.  Real brave.

Boehner’s maneuver was insidious — everyone knew the basic outline of the budget deal and conservatives thought that that outline sucked.  It does.  But to then to attack conservative criticism as if they didn’t know anything is dishonest at best.  The right hasn’t undermined their credibility, the Establishment loses that every day, especially on days when Boehner acts like this.

This was a power play, a formal declaration of an internecine war which has sadly been well underway. For Boehner and the Establishment the Tea Party is his enemy, not Obama and the Democrats.  No one wins in a GOP civil war, but if Boehner wants it, let’s have it out.

On the Ryan-Murray budget proposal itself, I understand the Brit Hume’s of the world who think that by betraying their base once again on these issues, the GOP gets to keep the government shutdown bugaboo off the table going into next year’s elections.  I get that.  If that was the GOP’s official line on all this, I’d be OK with that.  Would I like a token fight?  Yes, but I’ll take simple capitulation from this crowd — we’re used to it anyway.

What I’m not OK with is Boehner’s insidious and unnecessary attack on the very people who gave him power, or his outright disrespect for their position on this budget.  Conservatives could say right back to Boehner, “We don’t care what you do either,” because at the end of the day it’s Boehner, Ryan, and crew who are part of the problem, not the solution to it.

UPDATE:  Mark Levin and Glenn Beck have a few things to say about Boehner’s faction.

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It was all about Obama Nelson Mandela today in Johannesburg at a funeral service which saw dozens of world leaders come to pay their respects to the former President of South Africa.  It was also a great chance for President Obama to jangle the keys to turn our attention away from Obamacare and his sinking poll numbers.

During this solemn occasion, the President managed to take a selfie with both the Danish and British Prime Ministers.  Um, not so appropriate — Michelle was NOT amused.

In between selfies and congratulating himself on being present, Obama managed to shake the hand of Raul Castro.  No American President had shaken the hand of a Castro since Bill Clinton (hmm).  At a hearing on the Hill today, Secretary of State Kerry experienced why the handshake wasn’t such a good move politically, being told by Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen of Florida:

Mr. Secretary, sometimes a handshake is just a handshake, but when the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raul Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant. Castro uses that hand to sign the orders to repress and jail democracy advocates. … Tell the Cuban people living under that repressive regime that, a handshake notwithstanding, the U.S. policy toward the cruel and sadistic Cuban dictatorship has not weakened.

Ouch.  This whole debacle is what it looks like when amateur-hour approaches its sixth year.

On another note, I have a few thoughts on Mandela.  Notwithstanding any of the positive good he did, Mandela was no saint and didn’t like America too much.  Comparing him to Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Pope John Paul II seems like hyperbole.  It makes me wonder why we lauded him so much — at times there seemed to be more world leader photo ops than citizens in or around the stadium!  That says something.  Could it be that we laud him because Africa needs some positive role models, and given the list, Mandela will do?  Do we laud him because in today’s world we don’t have too many people to look up to anymore?  Either way, that’s a poignant line of thinking.

Regardless, at a funeral ceremony, I expect my world leaders to be more respectful; more Thatcher, less Wellstone.

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It’s been nearly a decade since Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution,” the massive uprising against a fraudulent election in 2004 which put the ruling elite on notice that pro-Western, pro-democratic waves were still reverberating in Eastern Europe after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Well, the ruling elite are apparently at it again.  The Ukrainian people have wanted to drift westward to the EU and closer ties with nations other than Russia.  However, after their latest election was showing a highly dubious swing in the direction to the pro-Russian president, the people got into the streets to protest — and haven’t left.

Here’s the moment when we noticed the story:

Ahh… it’s been years since I’ve seen a Lenin statue fall amidst an angry crowd!  I forgot how good it feels to watch.

However, I can see the bind that Ukraine’s government is in.  Moscow can threaten to shut off the oil and natural gas whenever Russia wants, and the EU itself is becoming more and more dependent on Russian energy as well.  Quite a problem, especially when the people want to move in a different direction!

The best outcome would be a bit more grandstanding by the President, then re-forming the government to appease the crowd — the people get off the streets and the government can tell Moscow they tried.  The problem with that scenario is 1) Putin won’t buy it, and 2) non-Putin friendly ex-presidents of Ukraine tend to get poisoned.  That’s when real leaders supposed to either lead or get out of the way.  Let’s hope “leading” doesn’t mean gunning down protesters in this case.

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The latest Harvard youth poll showed that the most hopey-changey age demographic in America is having a change of heart.  The 18-29 year-old demographic observed in the survey showed only 41% approve of the President’s job performance at present — an 11-point drop since April.

This could be important.  The President’s demonstrable actions will not change, but he’ll definitely get into campaign-mode overdrive.  It may work, it may not.  He’s already backed himself into a corner.

If Obamacare alienates Millennials from Obama, so what — a temporary blip which could change quickly.

However, if Obamacare alienates Millennials from liberal politics, the Democrats will suffer for years.  Accusing Republicans of a “war on women” or blaming them for a “government shutdown” are concepts with little tangible effects on people’s immediate lives.  Getting thrown off your health insurance and being fined if you can’t sign up on a broken and insecure website by January 1 is a real thing that matters to people.  Millennials are starting to figure this stuff out — too bad they’re 13 months too late!

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A judge ruled today that Detroit can file for bankruptcy to deal with its enormous fiscal woes.  A Chapter 9 bankruptcy gives some protection from a city’s creditors by renegotiating the plan to pay back that debt… debt which currently hovers around $18 billion owed to over 100,000 creditors!

Part of the city’s obligations are the pension it promised to its public workers in the past.  Should Detroit follow through and become the largest US city to ever file for bankruptcy, the public pensions will be put on the table for renegotiation as well. There is a $3.5 billion pension shortfall for the 23,000 retirees and 9,000 current employees.

This issue, the “human dimension,” will loom large.  At the end of the day a city’s economic survival ultimately means more than one silver-lined interest group.  Math is cold and tough to ignore forever.

So, this could turn out ugly — the former and current employees worked and made financial decisions based on the idea that they would have a certain pension on which to retire.  Both the unions and the politicians saw mutual benefit in promising more than the city could ultimately afford and ended up screwing the very people they were trying to hook up.

Liberalism eats its children once again.

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Just when you thought it was safe to get together with family for Thanksgiving dinner and some football, your smarmy left-wing cousin (probably the one who refuses to eat the “charred flesh” of the “murdered bird” on the “corporate” Thanksgiving table) may try to ruin the concord with an out-of-place defense of Obamacare.

How do I know?  Obama’s own website sent an email link signed by Michelle Obama to the nation’s Obamabots (those who haven’t already sent those emails straight to their Junk bin) instructing them on how to ruin dinner for the rest of us.

Leave our holidays alone!  No normal person is that engaged in politics during the holidays!  I’m sure Castro and Chavez used to do this kind of thing — attempting to make the party and civil society the same.

At least I can take solace that the table I will be sitting at will spend most of our political talk finding new ways to make fun of Obamacare.  But my family is cool.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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So the Obama Administration waited until 11pm EST on a Saturday night to announce a major breakthrough in talks with a belligerent foreign power.  Almost seems like he was trying to push the Sunday talk shows away from more bad Obamacare news, but I digress.

So what’s this all about?  Iran has made a deal with six other world powers, including the US, to slow down Iran’s nuclear enrichment process in exchange for allowing Iran to access its some of its foreign accounts and endure less sanctions for six months.  In essence, we gave Iran more time and more money to eventually develop their nuclear bombs and delivery systems.

Israel is apoplectic, and the talking heads on both sides are likely to join the criticism.

First of all, we’re five years past when we should have made a deal with Iran by supporting the regime’s opponents when they rebelled in 2009!  I still haven’t forgotten some of those images.

Secondly, Iran is the main destabilizing force in the Mideast:  they support Hezbollah; they fund the violent Palestinian faction Hamas; they continually threaten Israel’s existence; they provided aid and comfort to al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Iraq for years; they support the alleged chemical-weapon using Assad regime in Syria; and they’ve shot down our drones.

None of these real, actionable issues were on the table apparently.  Just a six-month international breather so Iran can regroup and resupply, and Obama can change the headlines for a weekend news cycle.  Sorry if that sounds cynical, but I’m sure Valerie Jarrett, who actually runs the White House, has thought all this through.

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Last year’s controversial breakout hit, The Hunger Games, left audiences enthralled and wanting more.  The story takes place in a future North America where 12 districts support an opulent and oppressive Capitol, which keeps those districts poor and dependent on them like feudalistic vassal states.  The Hunger Games is not simply a story about kids-killing-kids in the arena for a chance at a Ruling Class life, but also the trials and tribulations of those living in a totalitarian state.  The second part of the trilogy, Catching Fire, takes the story to a new level.  Here’s the trailer:

Catching Fire fits in very well to the typical trilogy morphology.  The story is more psychological than the first one, delving into Katniss’s changing personal relationships, all while heightening the stakes and pushing our heroes in every possible way.  I don’t want to give too much away, but if you liked the first one this will not disappoint on any level.

The critics really liked the film.  Some even believe it bests the original, while others imply that Catching Fire might be this generation’s Empire Strikes Back (listen for the collective Gen X harrumph)!  I do agree that it is smarter and more engaging than part one (plus one does get an Empire feel throughout the first few acts).  Also, when it ends you want more — tons more!  Like the book, one needs to find out what happens next.  Luckily I had book three, Mockingjay, handy.

So, I highly recommend Catching Fire to everyone.  It’s well-acted, emotional, exciting, with a few huge (and really entertaining) twists.  I give it a solid A-.  Check it out!  I can think of few movies worth seeing to start your holiday movie season.

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There is an apocryphal story from a conversation once had between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in which GW referred to the Senate as a body whose purpose was to cool House legislation as a saucer is used to cool tea.  The Senate was a slow, deliberative body to counteract the tempestuous House.  From 1789 to 1917 the 2/3 filibuster rule to end debate was in effect.  Over the years the threshold was lowered to 60 votes.

However, during the recent Bush years the idea of a “nuclear option” was given significant traction since Senate Democrats filibustered significant numbers of Bush judicial nominees.  Then-Senator Obama was quite clear how he felt about the “nuclear option” and how it would further poison our politics.  In the end, though, the Republican-controlled Senate backed away from edge.

Earlier today Harry Reid’s Democrat-controlled Senate, facing a similar issue, decided to push the red button:  Reid called for a vote to change the rule on filibustering judicial and executive nominees. After a brief parliamentary hiccup, a brave new world in the Senate was set into motion — Obama and Reid got their 52-48 simple majority vote to end a 224-year parliamentary tradition.  Three Democrats voted against the measure, standing firm with 2005 Obama.

The GOP should be outraged beyond some obligatory and obvious boilerplate responses.  Rather than tsk-tsk, they should threaten similar action once the GOP gets the Senate, which could happen in 11 months.  The Democrats want to destroy the GOP all while the GOP believes it’s the same old game.  The Stupid Party indeed.

However, the Dems aren’t thinking about the next election — they’re thinking about the party, throwing radical judges on every bench they can, and leaving a legacy which will far outlast the next Congress.  Hence, Obama’s elation.  His administration may be fatally damaged politically, but the regulatory state, the slow institutionalization of Obamacare, and all of these new judges will make Congress more and more obsolete.  Either way Obama-Reid wins while the people and the Senate as an institution lose.

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On November 19, 1863, the battlefield around the apocalyptic battle of Gettysburg fought over four months earlier was finally sanitary enough to have a dedication ceremony for a soldier’s cemetery.  It took roughly three minutes for President Lincoln to give the most famous speech in all of American history:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.  We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Today marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of this famous address.  Thousands showed up to commemorate the day.  Missing was President Obama, which is unfortunate — it would be fitting and proper that the first black President would say a few words commemorating a man, a war, and an address which ultimately led to the end of slavery in America.

Apparently, the President had scheduling problems, not being able to make the arduous 65-mile trip to Gettysburg from DC.  It turns out that Obama once omitted the phrase “under God” from a recitation of the address, consciously agreeing to read a version of the address without the phrase in it.  I’m not surprised by the event snub or the godlessness.  It’s kind of sad though.

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The Common Core is an attempt to nationalize the US education system in a way never before attempted.  It is skill-based, not content-based, and is not being phased in but thrust upon everyone all at once before enough long-term studies can be done on its actual worth.  It’s not adding to existing standards, it seeks to replace them.

Like my climate skepticism, I get concerned when we’re dumping billions towards amorphously undefined goals promoted by crony capitalist/corporatist interests using standards not fully vetted.  Call me crazy!  States accepted it without much thought and with the promise of more federal funds.  Without thinking beyond dollars and cents, they just embraced it — everybody else was doing it.

Anyway, last week a high school student dismantled the Common Core, articulating many of the concerns those of us (like me) have in implementing it.  Michelle Malkin has been all over this issue as well.  In response to this recent onslaught of CC negativity across the country, Education Secretary Arne Duncan responded this way [my emphasis]:

It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary.  You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, ‘My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut.

“White suburban moms” upset that their children are not so “brilliant?”  Did he really go there?  When did Common Core become a race or gender thing?  Where is the evidence that Common Core is actually going to prepare our kids properly?  What an ass.

Like Obamacare, this issue impacts everyone everywhere and as Malkin has suggested, this should be an important sleeper issue in subsequent elections.

UPDATE:  Arne Duncan finally got around to apologize (kind of) for the above remarks.  If these were the ol’ Bush days 1) he never would have said it and 2) he’d be unemployed at the moment.

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After a month of taking hits across the political universe, President Obama finally offered a possible way to fix the immediate Obamacare disaster looming at year’s end:  insurance companies won’t be able drop people with coverage for a year.  This is to avoid the massive penalties uninsured or formerly insured people will have to endure after January 1, as well as to move the issue off until after the midterm elections next year, when we can experience this crisis all over again without the stress of an impending election.

I don’t think the latter play will work.

There’s mixed reaction on the Hill.  Some Dems love it, others don’t.  Speaker Boehner seems to think this administrative fix may not legal.  It’s probably not, but when has that stopped Obama’s regulatory apparatus!  What this means is that Obama is aware of the political problems facing his party over Obamacare and he feels like he needs to give them cover.

The GOP may be politically in the driver’s seat — they should (though probably won’t) use this opportunity to push repeal-and-replace rather than support any bipartisan temporary fix.  They could perhaps listen to one of the sentiments of Justice Roberts last year that just because a law sucks, doesn’t mean it’s unconstitutional (although I vehemently disagree with Roberts’ application of that principle regarding Obamacare, but I digress).

So, by that standard, let the folks embrace what they voted for and live in a liberal utopia for a little while.  All the GOP needs to do is offer simple and sensible alternatives, vote on them, and never change the subject.

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James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas is at it again!  This group exposed the corruption with ACORN, the holes in our voter ID laws, trouble with the NJEA teacher’s union, and much more.  They are truly necessary watchdogs helping to expose political corruption, speaking truth to power (as well as to the rest of us).

Now, Project Veritas is exposing the waste, fraud, and abuse behind these new Obamacare “navigators.”  The whole concept of these “navigators” seemed ripe for just this kind of abuse.  Check out the link, an article written by John Fund for National Review Online, which catalogs the latest piece of evidence condemning yet another aspect of this Obamacare disaster.

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Today we celebrate Veterans Day, where we as a nation have acknowledged the triumph and sacrifice of our many veterans since 1919 (it was made an official federal holiday in 1938).

So from all of us here at AOR, we wish all of America’s nearly 22 million veterans a Happy Veterans Day!

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The UK Daily Mail ran a commentary on the UK’s health system being on the verge of real crisis.  The culprit?  Bureaucratic ineptitude:  bad doctors get promotions; too many sick, not enough beds; massive waste, fraud, and abuse within the system; and more people are dying because of it.  While any system has its problems, how many of these problems (or even deaths) could have been avoided with a little more accountability and transparency within the NHS?  Probably a lot.

While the British health care system morphed out of wartime rationing with a relatively smooth transition, our endeavor through Obamacare is not at all going so seamlessly.  I loathe to ponder that looking over to Europe is a picture of America’s future, but that does seem to be our current trajectory.

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