Interesting Bits

10/12/2017 7:18

The Democrats' IT scandal just got even more bizarre

Imran Awan was back in court last week. When pushed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Mirando revealed some telling things about this case.

 First, I should note that it was standing room only in the packed courtroom at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Friday morning ... okay, just kidding, actually, only a few reporters sat in the mostly empty wooden benches in the back of the courtroom. Anyone who didn’t know this was the latest scene in a slowly exploding political scandal would have thought this was only a forgettable bank fraud case.

But before the show started, Imran’s wife, Hina Alvi Awan, entered the courtroom. She had flown away to Pakistan with their children soon after the investigation became known.

Was she back as part of a plea deal?

While Hina Alvi was gone, on August 17, 2017, a federal grand jury indicted her and Awan on four counts, including conspiracy and conspiring to obtain home equity loans for $165,000 and $120,000 from the Wright Patman Congressional Federal Credit Union and then transferring the money to Pakistan. (Read the FBI’s criminal affidavit on the bank fraud here and you’ll see why the government thinks it has a strong case.)

Imran Awan is considered such a flight risk that his passport was taken, he was given a curfew and was fitted with a tracking device.

Meanwhile, Hina Alvi’s passport was also publicly taken during the court hearing, but she was officially listed as a “walk in,” a tracking device wasn’t attached to her ankle and the government had asked the court to quash an outstanding warrant for her arrest.

Now came the revelations. Gowen, Imran’s attorney, asked that Imran’s travel restrictions be removed.

This prompted Assistant U.S. Attorney Mirando to say that when Imran was arrested at Dulles International Airport a cellphone found on him “had been wiped clean just a few hours before.”

Gowen tried to counter this by saying, “Awan had recently bought the phone, so of course it didn’t have any data on it.”

But Mirando was ready. He said the FBI found that the phone had been wiped as clean as Hillary’s server. A time stamp on the iPhone indicated it had been wiped at 6:30 p.m. that evening. Also, Imran did have a laptop on him, but one of the few things on it was a resume. Mirando used this and other details—such as the Awans quickly selling many of their Virginia properties—to explain that Imran had no intention of returning.

In another twist, Gowen brought up a computer that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants back so badly she actually threatened the chief of the Capitol Police in a public hearing with “consequences” if she didn’t get it back.

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10/12/2017 7:11

Hollywood is brave so long as the targets are easy

What isn't shocking, however, is that the entertainment industry, whose members pride themselves on their supposed courage, is full of cowards.

As details of Weinstein's behavior continue to emerge — and they are getting worse by the day — one question continues to overshadow the rest: How was this allowed to go on for so long when so many people apparently knew about it?

By some accounts, Weinstein's reported abuse dates back to at least the late 1980s. These same accounts also say the producer's vile behavior was well-known within the industry. So well-known, in fact, that it was reportedly considered Hollywood's biggest "open secret." His behavior was even the subject of a sly punchline in 2013 during the Academy Award nominee announcements:

It's one thing for the victims to remain silent, usually because they feel intimidated. That is common for the abused, and you won't find any criticism of Weinstein's targets here. But what about the many celebrities and Hollywood operatives who were in on the joke, who have come forward since the damn burst to allege that most of the industry knew about Weinstein? Actors knew. Actresses knew. Other producers knew. People in the press knew.

Yet, Weinstein went on abusing women, unabated, for several years.

The obvious takeaway from this is that the entertainment industry is full of cowards. Dozens and dozens of people who were not victims themselves but knew, and were nonetheless too scared to do or say anything about Weinstein. And some are probably still too scared to speak up.

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10/11/2017 7:52

Push The Judicial Nominees Through

The Republican drive to confirm federal judges has gained momentum from a series of actions by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They seem modest but are likely to speed up the confirmation of both appeals and district court judges—conservatives, for the most part.

 No longer will “blue slips” be allowed to deny a nominee a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and vote on confirmation. In the past, senators have sometimes barred a nominee from their state by refusing to return their slip to the committee, thus preventing a hearing and confirmation.

“The majority”—that is, Republicans—will treat a blue slip “as simply notification of how you’re going to vote, not as an opportunity to blackball,” McConnell told me. The use of blue slips, he noted, is not a Senate rule and has “been honored in the breach over the years.” Now it won’t be honored at all.

* The so-called “30 hours rule”—which provides for 30 hours of debate on a nominee—won’t be overturned. But McConnell vowed to set aside time for these debates. And he can make this happen because he sets the Senate schedule.

The majority leader has been under pressure recently from conservative groups to get more court nominees approved by the Judiciary Committee—and more rapidly—and sent to the Senate floor. McConnell had long prodded the committee to increase the number of hearings, then report the nominees out as quickly as possible for Senate floor votes.

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10/11/2017 10:25

Proof that Many College Students are Morons

In the most comprehensive survey on students’ attitudes about free speech to date, FIRE measured student responses to questions about self expression, reactions to expression of other students, guest speakers, and hate speech. Some key findings include:

  • 46 percent of students recognize that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, and 48 percent of students think the First Amendment should not protect hate speech.

     

  • Most students (56 percent) support disinviting some guest speakers. Democratic students are 19 percentage points more likely than their Republican peers to agree that there are times a speaker should be disinvited.

     

  • 58 percent of college students think it’s important to be part of a campus community where they are not exposed to intolerant or offensive ideas.

     

  • Very few students report that they would participate in actions that would prevent a guest speaker event from taking place (2 percent). Even fewer said they would use violence to disrupt an event (1 percent).

     

  • In open-ended questions, almost half of students (45 percent) identify speech with a racist component as hate speech, and 13 percent of students associate hate speech with violence.

     

  • In class, 30 percent of students have self-censored because they thought their words would be offensive to others. A majority of students (54 percent) report self-censoring in the classroom at some point since the beginning of college.

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10/11/2017 9:17

‘Karl Marx’ Arrested For Stabbing Free Speech Beach Ball

Last Friday a group called Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) was asking students to sign a petition against campus speech codes. To promote their petition in an eye-cathing way, the group brought along a 6-foot beach ball on which passing students could write any message they wanted about any topic. The beach ball was there as a colorful symbol of freedom of speech

After Karl Marx left, the ball began to deflate. YAL members realized that it had been stabbed right next to where the student had written his message. They called campus police to file a report. Looking over the petition, they noticed that while Karl Marx hadn’t used his real name, he did use an email address that belonged to the communist bookstore on campus. Pryor and other YAL members walked over and immediately recognized Karl Marx. He ran while one of his “comrades,” a much older man, tried to shove Pryor out the door. Moments later, Marx came out a back door where he was stopped and handcuffed by police

(Come to think it, Karl Marx, Marxists and socialists are on one side of the political spectrum and beach balls, golf clubs and baseballs are on the other)

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10/11/2017 8:05

Academic Decline

Seattle University's law school has pulled its sponsorship of a slated debate over illegal immigration in fear exposing students to “painful” conservative viewpoints.

(Can anybody imagine a story like this 25 years ago?)

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10/11/2017 7:20

A Win for the Constitution

The Supreme Court dismissed a major challenge to President Trump's travel ban on majority-Muslim countries Tuesday because it has been replaced by a new version, sending the controversy back to the starting block. 

The ruling is a victory for the Trump administration, which had asked the court to drop the case after Trump signed a proclamation Sept. 24 that replaced the temporary travel ban on six nations with a new, indefinite ban affecting eight countries. That action made the court challenge moot, the justices ruled.

"We express no view on the merits," the justices said in a one-page order.

The decision effectively wipes the record clean in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, one of two federal appeals courts that had struck down major portions of Trump's travel ban. That case began in Maryland.

A separate case from the 9th Circuit, based in California, remains pending because it includes a ban on refugees worldwide that won't expire until later this month. But the Supreme Court is likely to ditch that case, which began in Hawaii, as well.

The challengers in both cases already have renewed their lawsuits in the lower courts, starting the legal process anew. In Maryland, a federal district court has scheduled a new hearing for next week.

But the new travel ban and the Supreme Court's order vacating the 4th Circuit appeals court judgment puts the administration in a somewhat stronger position, at least for now.

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10/11/2017 6:50

Repeal the Hollywood Tax Deductions

For the past few years, there has been a drumbeat in favor of increased taxes from Democrats of all stripes. Make the rich pay their "fair share." Get rid of "loopholes." Make the fat cats "chip in a little more." Then Democrats hold up budgets and bills in an effort to extract some tax increases from Republicans.

It's no coincidence that much of the Democrats' base doesn't have to worry about taxes much, either because they work for nonprofits and public entities that don't pay taxes, or because they live off government benefits, or because they work in industries -- like the motion picture and recording industries -- with a long history of shady accounting and favorable tax treatment. Republicans, if they're smart, can nonetheless teach them that tax increases do, in fact, hurt.

They should head into the next budget battle with a list of proposals for tax increases that will sting Democratic constituency groups, but which will seem eminently fair to voters.

The first such proposal would be to restore the 20 percent excise tax on motion picture theater gross revenues that existed between the end of World War II and its repeal in the mid-1950s. The campaign to end the excise tax had studio executives and movie stars talking like Art Laffer, as they noted that high taxes reduced business income, hurt investment and cost jobs.

The movie excise tax was imposed in response to the high deficits after World War Two. Deficits are high again, and there's already historical precedent. Of course, to keep up with technology, the tax should now apply to DVDs, downloadable movies, pay-per-view and the like. But in these financially perilous times, why should movie stars and studio moguls, with their yachts, swimming pools and private jets, not at least shoulder the burden they carried back in Harry Truman's day -- when, to be honest, movies were better anyway.

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10/10/2017 9:05

Blue State Fiscal Policies

Illinois is chasing a moving target as it tries to dig out of the nation's worst budget crisis, and a review obtained by The Associated Press shows $7.5 billion worth of unpaid bills – as much as half the total – hadn't been sent to the official who writes the checks by the end of June.

Although many of those IOUs have since been paid, a similar amount in unprocessed bills has replaced them in the last three months, Comptroller Susana Mendoza's office said Monday. That's in addition to $9 billion worth of checks that are at the office but being delayed because the state lacks the money to pay them.




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10/10/2017 10:02

That's What We Want

Trump’s Enforcement Plan Would Virtually Eliminate Incentives For Illegal Immigration. (I would hope so. We don't need to give incentives for illegal immigration. Duh)

 

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10/10/2017 7:36

California Sheriffs Are Openly Protesting Their New “Sanctuary State”

Back when California Governor Jerry Brown was still pondering the new sanctuary state legislation which was heading for his desk, we talked about the fact that the police unions had backed a version of the bill, but the state’s sheriffs were not onboard. Now that the measure has been signed into law, those same sheriffs are basically in open revolt, publicly protesting the changes and asking the United States Congress to step in. They justify this decision by declaring that the state’s citizens will be less safe because of these changes.

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10/10/2017 7:24

Many Pluses In the Trump Administration

His positions on most of the iconic social crises that reappeared throughout 2017 have been largely conservative and reflect majority support: do not in mob-fashion tear down statues at night, especially without democratic and lawful sanction; NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem are violating their own league rules, mock the voluntary patriotic protocols of their country, and are at odds with the fans who pay their high salaries; radically pruning back the Second Amendment will not stop gun violence, which is decreasing as gun ownership is on the rise.

No previous president has been the target of such public venom. Assassination chic is now endemic. Anti-Trump obscenity is a staple of late-night television. Words like “racist” and “Nazi” and “fascist” are now so commonplace that they have lost all currency. Celebrities vie to virtue signal their disgust for Trump. His wife, his daughter, and his sons are all the stuff of public invective that, had it been directed toward the previous president, careers of the vituperative would have ended long ago.

Yet it is likely that there is a 50/50 chance that the unpredictable and irascible Trump and policies will achieve in the not so distant future a sustainable 3 percent annual rate of GDP growth, a reform of the tax code, a systematic dismantling of onerous government regulations through executive orders, a restoration of U.S. deterrence abroad, another conservative Supreme Court justice, and a return to legal, measured, and meritocratic immigration—and thus even more hysteria and hatred of Trump, the person, from policy supporters and opponents alike.

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10/10/2017 7:16

Why the Media Covered for Weinstein

The myth is that Harvey has been outed and exposed because progressive politics is making us better people. Tell that to the attendees sipping “Toxic Masculinity” cocktails while Harvey sat with Hillary: a predator with the wife of another predator whose specialty including covering up his sexual abuses.

Harvey fell because his influence had slipped.

The New York Times had the story in ’04 and buried it. But back then Harvey came packing Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 and Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Good luck finding anything Harvey’s got in theaters now that you can name. His slate tells the story. Sequels to Shakespeare in Love, Sin City, Kill Bill and even Fahrenheit 11/9, a desperate Moore hit piece against President Trump.

Harvey never needed sequels when he was at the top of his game. The New York Times brought down the hammer when it was safe and when it didn’t need him anymore. That’s what it’s about.

It’s why Meryl Streep waited until Harvey had been fired from his own company to put out a statementdenouncing him. The "disgraceful news" had "appalled" her and "those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported."

But they didn’t appall that nameless “us” until he was no longer in a position to support us.

That’s quite a comedown from the Golden Globes and her infamous line, “I’d like to thank my agent and God, Harvey Weinstein.”

"Not everybody knew," Streep insists. And you can practically hear her trademark stilted enunciation in the lines.  "If everybody knew, I don’t believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it."

Not everyone knew. If everybody knew, they would have written about it. Wouldn’t they?

Meryl Streep is innocent because the media is innocent. It’s a neat mutual alibi. And it must be innocent because the alternative is unthinkable. Either Streep or her pals are innocent. Or when Hillary and Meryl were guzzling “Toxic Masculinity” cocktails with Harvey to celebrate Planned Parenthood, they knew.

And there was a conspiracy of silence.

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10/10/2017 6:28

A 1040 Tax Postcard Would Be Nice

President Donald J. Trump last week promised Americans “a giant, beautiful, massive — the biggest ever in our country — tax cut.” As delicious as that sounds, Trump’s tax overhaul may be tastiest for what it makes tiny, appealing, and compact: the 1040 tax return. If Washington Republicans manage not to botch tax reform — as they wrecked Obamacare repeal — simplification should be among the new system’s most attractive elements, along with its consolidation of seven tax rates to three: 12, 25, and 35 percent. Letting Americans keep more of their money should energize an economy finally awakening from the slumber of the Bush-Obama years.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) proposes a simple postcard for filing typical tax returns. Rather than the current 1040 form’s 79 lines, Ryan’s postcard contains 14. With nearly every deduction and exemption discarded — beside the home-mortgage and charitable write-offs — there simply would be fewer lines to fill. postcard-tax-form.

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10/09/2017 10:40

Heinlein's Crazy Years

A 41-year-old probationary firefighter has been fired after his first day on the job because he brought a watermelon to work.

Robert Pattison went to introduce himself to his fellow firefighters and, as was the tradition at the firehouse, brought some food to share. But while most rookie firefighters brought donuts, Pattison brought a watermelon. Some of the black firefighters, who make up about 90% of the station, said they were offended by the act and the Detroit Fire Department decided to fire the probie.

"When you get your first detail at a firehouse you pretty much know what you are getting yourself into," Patrick Trout told Fox 2,  "So you would have to say it was probably a bad call."

FOX 2 asked, "Is it racially insensitive to bring a watermelon into a fire house?"

"To some people," McCarty said.

Pattison told Fox 2 by phone that it was not a joke; he hadn't meant to offend his fellow firefighters.

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10/09/2017 7:11

In Lefties Never Learned This

We usually forget that people in the Middle Ages were deeply religious, much more than we are. This was certainly true of Columbus. Faith was his primary motivation

Those who now question Columbus conveniently ignore the fact that slavery, cannibalism, warfare and even human sacrifice all existed in the Americas before he even sailed. 

Even so, some today blame Columbus for everything they dislike in U.S. history, despite the ample evidence that he was a moderating force on his men, and the fact that he sought to keep good manners and friendly relations with Native Americans. 

These same people blame him for the deaths of Native Americans when the overwhelming majority of those deaths were due to disease, caused by their different degree of immunity compared with the Europeans.

 Blaming Columbus does his legacy a terrible injustice, but it does something else, too. It focuses anger on one man and on the wrong man.

The tactic of those who hate Columbus are resurrecting Anglo-supremacist propaganda that paints all who sailed under the Spanish flag — or were Hispanic — as violent and untrustworthy. They hated not just Catholics in general but Columbus in particular because he was the Catholic hero in U.S. history. In English-speaking countries, British explorers tend to be treated far better than Spanish ones.

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10/09/2017 7:02

Three Cheers for Columbus

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10/09/2017 6:20

Radio Silence In Hollywood about Weinstein

Welcome to Hollywood, where people love to wag self-righteous fingers — over the past year, awards shows have become a platform for industry bigwigs to rail against the Trump administration — but run for cover whenever the topic casts show business in an unflattering light.

From Thursday to Saturday, I called more than 40 entertainment industry players, and almost all refused to speak for the record. Some said it was because their companies (or publicists) needed to approve anything they would say, while others gave reasons that painted a picture of a community hobbled by fear, self-interest and hypocrisy. “Ladies of Hollywood,” Rose McGowan, one of the actresses who settled with Mr. Weinstein, wrote on Twitter on Friday, “your silence is deafening.”

(Kudos to the New York Times for running this story.)

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10/08/2017 9:27

US Needed A Tough Immigration Plan

Determined to finally solve illegal immigration, the White House submitted a 70-point enforcement plan to Congress Sunday proposing the stiffest reforms ever offered by an administration — including a massive rewrite of the law in order to eliminate loopholes illegal immigrants have exploited to gain a foothold in the U.S.

The plans, seen by The Washington Times, include President Trump’s calls for a border wall, more deportation agents, a crackdown on sanctuary cities and stricter limits to chain migration — all issues the White House says need to be part of any bill Congress passes to legalize illegal immigrant “Dreamers” currently protected by the Obama-era deportation amnesty known as DACA.

But the plans break serious new ground on the legal front, giving federal agents more leeway to deny illegal immigrants at the border, to arrest and hold them when they’re spotted in the interior, and to deport them more speedily. The goal, the White House said, is to ensure major changes to border security, interior enforcement and the legal immigration system.

“Anything that is done addressing the status of DACA recipients needs to include these three reforms and solve these three problems,” a senior White House official told The Times. “If you don’t solve these problems then you’re not going to have a secure border, you’re not going to have a lawful immigration system and you’re not going to be able to protect American workers.”

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10/08/2017 4:45

Some Real Good News

The number of people working for the federal government has declined by 13,000 in 2017, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time, overall government employment in the United States increased by 7,000 as the number of people working at the state government level and the local government level both increased.

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