Teachers Pay Price for Leaving Union

Mary Tillotson /

A California teacher has filed a lawsuit against her union that claims she was cut off from benefits and from having a vote on the contract because she did not want her dues spent on political causes she did not support.

“There’s this undercurrent of fear and intimidation,” said Rebecca Friedrichs, whose suit seeks an exemption from union financial obligations since she is receiving no benefits from the union–political or non-political. “If you’re not in step with what the union’s doing, if you stand against it, you’re not a part of the club. You’re bullied. It’s very intimidating.”

California law requires union membership of almost all teachers. According to the union, about 30 percent of dues fund political causes, such as lobbying.

Some teachers, like Friedrichs, become agency fee payers — they leave the union but are required to pay for services such as collective bargaining. They pay the full dues amount then receive a rebate for the roughly 30 percent.

But they lose most member benefits, and, as Friedrichs said, collective bargaining is still political.

“What troubles me is the union is so involved in politics that they use our money to put a lot of those government officials into their jobs. Now the union is bargaining with officials who have been put in their spot by union money, and they’re union-friendly,” she said. “You have union-friendly officials on the other side, and taxpayers aren’t represented, and they’re bargaining with taxpayer money. I think that’s political.”

Plaintiffs are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the case and overturns a 1977 Supreme Court decision allowing states to make union membership and union dues compulsory for public employees, said attorney Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, which is representing plaintiffs. The 1977 case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, set up the agency fee system.

Read More on Watchdog.org.

We Must Act: A Standing Terrorist State in Iraq Hurts U.S. - Daily Signal

We Must Act: A Standing Terrorist State in Iraq Hurts U.S.

Mary Tillotson / James Carafano /

The best way to start winning a war is to stop losing. That axiom certainly applies to what’s going on in Iraq. But, that said, there is no place for American brigades in this battle.

Yes, Americans have a huge stake in preventing al-Qaida’s cousin from setting up a brutal caliphate in Iraq. The Middle East is a crossroads of the world. If unchecked, the malevolent influence of the Islamic State could spiral into a sectarian conflict engulfing the entire region.

By some estimates, there are now more than 10,000 foreign fighters in Iraq, including more than 3,000 from the U.S. and other Western nations. These fighters may, in future, be reassigned to return home and wage terrorist campaigns. No matter how you slice it, the longer a terrorist state stands in Iraq, the bigger the problem it poses to the world and to us.

America has every reason to act. The question is: How? How best to help restore peace, stability, and the prospect of a better future to the people of Iraq? The answer to that question does not require massive American ground forces on Iraqi soil.

That’s not because Americans are “sick and tired of war.” Americans don’t like wars – and never have. Yet we fight when we have to. Americans are resilient and practical people. If there is a war to be won and our leaders lay out sensible reasons to fight and a practical, suitable and feasible way to win, Americans will march to the sound of the trumpets.

But not every crisis needs to be handled by sending in the Marines. In this case, the U.S. has practical options that fit well with our vital national interests and can help relieve the growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

Washington should focus on marginalizing the destructive influence of Iran, choking off the pipeline that feeds foreign fighters to the Islamic State and setting the conditions that will allow the Iraqis to take back their country.

The Iranian regime is already overstretched. With a nuclear “deal” nowhere in sight, the U.S. has every reason to reinvigorate the sanctions regime against Tehran. This will force them to end their expensive forays into Iraq.

To halt the flow of foreign fighters, the U.S. should focus on disrupting pipeline operations in Turkey and other “countries of transit” where fighters stage to move in and out of the Syria-Iraq theatre.

The rest of the solution lies in helping native assets on the ground do their jobs better. Kurdish security forces and volunteers are more than willing and capable of defending themselves.

What they need is rapid, effective support from the U.S. and other friends and allies. In the south, the Iraq military is still a force to be reckoned with.

What’s needed in both areas are air support, skilled advisors, intelligence gathering, ammo and other supplies.

The U.S. can help with all of that. And it should also keep working diplomatically to help Tehran’s sectarian, malfunctioning government get its act together.

The U.S. also needs to help nearby Jordan, which has borne the brunt of housing more than 600,000 registered refugees from Syria. Strained by that immense burden, Amman now finds itself in the crosshairs of the Islamic State. Driving those fighters from the field requires American support, but not an American invasion.

Once the dual dangers of the Islamic State and Iran are rolled back, there might well be a role for an international force in Iraq to help stabilize things while the nation rebuilds.

This is a role that U.S. forces would have played, had they not been precipitously withdrawn in 2011. The scope and composition of that international force is something a farsighted leader might want to start thinking about. But for now, Washington must focus primarily on how to stop losing.

What I Saw at Guantanamo Bay - Daily Signal

What I Saw at Guantanamo Bay

Mary Tillotson / James Carafano / John G. Malcolm /

Last week, I traveled to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to observe pre-trial proceedings in the military commission’s case against five men accused of committing the atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001 that resulted in the deaths of 2,976 men, women, and children.

As a former federal prosecutor, deputy assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice and, for a brief time, defense attorney, I wanted to observe in person what I had only read about in news accounts.

This has been a long and complex case — arguably the most complex case to be presented in any forum (be it a military commission or a state or federal court) in our nation’s history —so one can’t draw definitive conclusions from observing it for only a week. But Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor who is seeking the death penalty, said the case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged mastermind of the plot, and four others is making “continued modest progress.”

According to Martins, the government has provided the defense with more than 295,000 pages of unclassified information as part of the discovery process and offered to turn over another 7,000 pages of classified information. But a legal dispute over terms of a protective order and a proposed “memorandum of understanding” which the government has insisted the defense attorneys sign has resulted in only one of the five attorneys receiving a portion of this discovery material to date. As with all other issues, this is being heavily litigated. Indeed, the parties have already filed more than 100 motions, many of which have been argued (and argued and argued) before the military commission’s judge, Army Colonel Judge James L. Pohl.

These pretrial proceedings do not take place very often. This is because there is only one courtroom, which also is being used for the case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged bomber of the USS Cole, and the recently filed case against Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi, who is alleged to have served as a senior liaison between the Taliban and various al Qaida-affiliated groups and to have commanded al Qaida’s insurgency efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

Until recently, Judge Pohl also was overseeing the al-Nashiri case, but that case has been reassigned to another judge. Logistics also are a problem … so much so that week-long pretrial proceedings in the 9/11 case take place only once every couple of months.

So what happened last week? Not much, and that’s a problem.

Although there were a slew of outstanding motions listed at the beginning of the week for the court’s consideration, the court met only three times, for six to seven hours total.

The judge resolved just one of the motions—agreeing with a government request to reconsider his previous decision to sever the trial of one of the co-defendants: Ramzi bin al-Shibh.

bin al-Shibh had not sought a severance, although in a pleading filed last week bin al-Shibh expressed his acquiescence with proceeding via a separate trial.

The judge, however, had become concerned that things had bogged down considerably since December because of issues related to bin al-Shibh, which is true.

The government, rather than bin al Shibh’s attorney, has raised the issue of bin al-Shibh’s competency based on several courtroom outbursts and his claim that he has been subjected to loud noises and vibrations in his cell, which the government denies.

There also have been issues related to possible conflicts of interest—also raised by three other defendants—emanating from an ill-advised and heavy-handed FBI investigation into a possible leak of classified information by an investigator on bin al-Shibh’s defense team that led to inquiries about members of the other defense teams as well.

Regarding the severance issue, the government argued the law generally favors trying defendants together if they have been “properly joined” through the allegation of jointly undertaken actions. To do otherwise, the prosecutors argued, would be time-consuming, inefficient and could result in undue hardship to the victims’ families.

The government also argued the delays related to bin al-Shibh have been reasonable and have not resulted in prejudice to any of the defendants—and that any remaining issues should not take much longer to resolve. For now anyway, the judge has decided to proceed with all five co-defendants together. A couple of other issues were argued, but nothing else was decided.

Judge Pohl is an experienced and intelligent military judge, who handled the court martial proceedings in the Abu Ghraib scandal and some of the preliminary proceedings in Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan’s case. But he is quite slow to rule on issues. He lets attorneys argue, orally and in writing, until they appear to run out of things to say. The judge then takes matters under advisement and it is quite a while before he issues rulings, which invariably incites a slew of new motions and arguments seeking reconsideration. The defense attorneys talk about how unfair they think the whole process is and use the word “torture” as many times as they can both in and out of court, and the prosecutors stick to discussing other matters.

Yes, some of the legal issues before the court are complex and involve classified information, but none raised before and during the week I spent at Guantanamo Bay warranted such delays. It also was obvious that the failure to resolve issues quickly affects and infects issues that arise later on, which only compounds the problem. Too many repetitive arguments. Too much downtime. It was frustrating and unnecessary, in my view.

A trial date has not been set for the 9/11 defendants (the al-Nashiri trial is scheduled to go first), but it is unlikely to occur until at least late 2015, and, based on what I have observed last week, probably later than that.

During the press conference at the end of the week, General Martins said that “Justice has no timeline.” He is right about that. Nonetheless, a little less hesitancy by Judge Pohl in addressing outstanding legal issues would help a lot in moving these proceedings along.

Everybody—the defendants, the government, and the victims’ families—wants the trial process to be fair. That will be difficult but achievable. It is also, however, in everybody’s interests that the trial not be unduly delayed.

 

Four Legs and a Life of Service: The Fight to Allow Military Working Dogs to ‘Retire’ on U.S. Soil - Daily Signal

Four Legs and a Life of Service: The Fight to Allow Military Working Dogs to ‘Retire’ on U.S. Soil

Mary Tillotson / James Carafano / John G. Malcolm / Melissa Quinn /

For Army Staff Sgt. James Harrington,  it was a day he thought would never arrive.

It had been two and a half years since he last saw his golden-haired, brown-eyed girl, and Harrington had made a point to keep track of the 7-year-old’s travels, even after their lives went separate ways.

But standing at Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans on June 26, it was finally time for Harrington, 37, to reunite with Army Sgt. 1st Class Ryky.

Ryky is a Belgian Malinois, a type of Belgian sheep-herding dog, and she was headed to the Big Easy on a Southwest Airlines flight from Houston.

“Even though we were [apart] for two and a half years, it’s that you don’t forget the dog — and the dogs don’t forget,” Harrington says.

Harrington and Ryky, trained as an explosive-detection dog, met in 2008. They went on to do two tours together in the war zones of the 21st century. From September 2008 to October 2009, the pair deployed to Iraq, and from September 2010 to October 2011, they were in Afghanistan.

Harrington was Ryky’s handler, she his military working dog. A rank typically is assigned to each military working dog — one higher than the dog’s handler.

Harrington’s active duty service ended in January 2012, but Ryky had a few more years in her. So the pair parted ways.

He went back to Iraq to work as a K-9 handler with the Department of State and then on to the National Guard. She got a new handler and training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, and redeployment to Afghanistan for another four months.

Under current law, the military classifies its working dogs as equipment, and those “retired” while overseas aren’t granted transport back to the United States.

Organizations are lobbying Congress to change the language of the law defining military working dogs. As it reads today, Harrington might never have been  reunited with Ryky.

Ryky’s new handler happened to suffer a non-combat injury. He and Ryky were sent back to Fort Carson, Colo., where the soldier decided to stop working with dogs.

That’s when Harrington got the call.

Now, two months since his airport reunion with Ryky, he figures, “She’s always going to look out for me.”

A Dogged Role in U.S. Military 

Military working dogs caught the public’s attention in 2011, when it was reported that one of the members of SEAL Team 6 had four legs and a fur coat. Cairo, also a Belgian Malinois, served alongside the elite special operations forces during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Canines, though, have long been integrated with troops serving overseas.

The United States began employing military dogs in 1942. In 1971, they were brought in to combat marijuana use among military personnel stationed in Southeast Asia and to detect explosives.

Decades later, in 2005, the Pentagon introduced a new kind of “detector dog” to stem the rising number of  attacks on U.S. troops using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan and Iraq. These canines, or specialized search dogs, can detect IEDs, arms, ammunition and explosives.

Then, in 2010, the Air Force’s 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, which trains military working dogs and handlers, teamed up with the Marine Corps to train Combat Tracker Dog Teams. These dogs, the first of their kind since the conclusion of the Vietnam War, are trained to recognize and follow human targets.

Since the beginning of the Afghanistan War in 2001, the Department of Defense has spent more than $941,000 on acquiring military working dogs, according to an analysis of government contracts.

There are more than 2,500 military working dogs currently serving, and roughly 500 deploy at a time.

>>> Commentary: A Dog’s Life for Veterans

In an interview with The Daily Signal, Dr. Robin Ganzert, president of the American Humane Association, says of the working dogs:

Because of their great ability to seek enemy positions, sniff out IEDs and weapons caches, they’re saving so many lives. It’s allowing mothers and fathers to come home from war and see their kiddos, and sons and daughters to come home from war. These dogs are doing a great, heroic service.

Military Working Dog Ryky (Photo: James Harrington)

Sgt. 1st Class Ryky, reporting for duty. (Photo: Courtesy James Harrington)

Saving Lives

A military working dog may save the lives of 150 to 200 soldiers, Ganzert says.

Harrington, though, says its hard to come up with a solid number. The Army veteran cites the Kevin Costner film “The Guardian,” in which a Coast Guard rescue swimmer says he remembers not the countless lives saved, but the lives lost, throughout  his career.

And Harrington has chosen to do the same, counting the number of friends — both humans and canines — lost in battle.

That number, he tells The Daily Signal, is one: Sgt. Zainah Creamer, a fellow handler; she trained and accompanied Harrington on missions.

It’s difficult not to focus on the lives saved, though. Ryky has been honored for heroic actions on the battlefield.

On July 6, 2011, during their deployment to Afghanistan, Harrington and Ryky were riding in the last vehicle in a convoy of three.

The vehicle leading the convoy rolled over a particular spot in the road without incident. The second in line hit an IED, and the explosion rocked through Harrington and Ryky’s vehicle as it followed.

Two personnel were wounded; one, an Air Force special operations soldier, shattered a leg from big toe to pelvis. Harrington and Ryky sprang into action.

>>> Five Factors from the New CBO Report on Veterans’ Health Care

Dog and handler cleared a path to the lead vehicle, giving medical personnel access to the wounded. The pair then made a path out of the ambush site and created space for a medivac to land and take out the wounded.

For her actions, Ryky was awarded the K9 Medal for Exceptional Service. The medal comes from K9s of the War on Terror Inc., an organization that recognizes the work of K9 teams across the military, the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement.

Left Behind at Retirement 

For military personnel, retirement means returning home to U.S. soil and a grateful nation. But for military working dogs, the end of a career doesn’t lead to a ride home on a military transport, Ganzert explains.

The dogs are considered equipment by the Pentagon, and upon “retirement,” they are labeled civilians. Just like a tank or armored vehicle, not all military equipment makes it back to the States, and some dogs are left in shelters in the countries where they end their service.

Such is the case with Maxi, a shepherd mix retired in Japan. The American Humane Association is working to bring Maxi home and reunite her with the handler she served alongside, but doing so costs roughly $6,000.

As the public learned more about Cairo, the dog from the SEALS’ bin Laden raid, animal advocates called on the Air Force to classify the dogs as something other than equipment — thus allowing them to retire on U.S. soil.

The Air Force agreed to do so, but Ganzert says there is little evidence that actions have followed the words.

Last year, Congress included language in the annual National Defense Authorization Act addressing the retirement of military working dogs for the first time:

If the secretary of the military department concerned determines a military working dog should be retired, and no suitable adoption is available at the military facility where the dog is located, the secretary may transfer the dog 1.) to the 341st Training Squadron; or 2.) to another location for adoption under this section.

The secretary of defense also is  given the authority to “establish and maintain a system to provide for the veterinary care of retired military working dogs.”

However, there is an odd caveat: No federal funds are allowed to be appropriated to provide for such veterinary care.

Ganzert praises Congress and the military for taking steps to address retirement of the dogs, but says the issue is the NDAA’s use of the word “may” before the word “transfer,” which, she says, provides a loophole for the military.

“It’s absolutely best to reunite these dogs where the bond is the strongest,” she says. “And the bond forged on the battlefield is the strongest bond we can imagine. We need to give the dogs a chance.”

“The bond forged on the battlefield is the strongest bond we can imagine. We need to give the dogs a chance,” says @RobinGanzert

Military Working Dog Ryky (Photo: James Harrington)

Ryky takes a load off. (Photo: Courtesy James Harrington)

Coming Home

Just three months after the pair’s heroic mission in Afghanistan, Harrington and Ryky were separated. He left active duty after nine years in the Army;  she was assigned a new handler.

For two and a half years, Harrington, now a staff sergeant in the National Guard, followed Ryky’s military career. He  checked in with the dog’s new handler at least twice a month.

If Ryky’s old handler had a piece of gear that might be useful, he would ship it to the new one.

In the summer of 2012, Ryky was deployed back to Afghanistan. After four months, her handler received a non-combat injury. The soldier went home to Fort Carson, Colo., and so did Ryky.

A dog’s handler is offered the first opportunity at adoption; when Ryky was retired, though, her new handler passed.

In May, Harrington got a phone call saying Ryky was his if he wanted her. The day had finally come.

>>> These Veterans Served in Iraq. They Sound Off About What’s Going on There Today.

As  Harrington says, “you don’t forget the dog — and the dogs don’t forget.”

On June 26, Harrington headed to the airport to pick up Ryky from the care of Mission K9 Rescue, a Houston-based nonprofit that provides transportation, adoption and professional assistance for military working dogs. He says of the reunion:

I don’t have any kids, and I’m not married, but from everybody I talk to that does have kids, it’s pretty much like having your first born.

Contract Working Dog Carlos sits at a briefing from the American Humane Society on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Facebook/American Humane Association

Carlos, a contract working dog, takes in a briefing by the American Humane Association on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Facebook/American Humane Association)

Calling on Capitol Hill

In an effort to call more attention to military and contract working dogs (those provided through private companies), the American Humane Association’s Ganzert and representatives of Mission K9 Rescue headed to Capitol Hill late last month.

They brought three military working dogs: Ryky, Cila and Thor. They also brought the veterans the dogs served alongside in Afghanistan and Iraq: Harrington, Army Sgt. Jason Bos and Marine Corps. Sgt. Deano Miller, respectively.

The veteran-canine teams met with Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Dina Titus, D-Nev., and Don Young, R-Alaska.

The Humane Association and Mission K9 have called on Congress to change the language of the National Defense Authorization Act so that military working dogs are retired only once they are returned to the United States.

After the August recess, Bilirakis plans to explore changing the NDAA’s language to require the Pentagon to do that. First, though, the Florida Republican hopes to determine the related cost, since he would prefer not to spend any federal dollars.

In an interview with The Daily Signal, Billrakis says:

We want to be fiscally responsible. …The bottom line is we have to help the veterans because they’re the true American heroes. I’d love to see them reunited with these wonderful hero dogs.

Ideally, Bilirakis says, Congress would work with nonprofits such as the American Humane Association to cover the cost of bringing the dogs home.

“The bottom line is we have to help the veterans because they’re the true American heroes,” says @RepGusBilirakis

In February 2012, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., introduced the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act, which would direct the Pentagon to classify military working dogs as canine members of the armed forces rather than as equipment.

Under the legislation, retired military working dogs would be transferred to the 341st Training Squadron if “no suitable adoption” is available.

Neither the House nor the Senate passed the measure in its complete form, but the language — complete with the “may” loophole — was included in the 2013 NDAA signed by President Obama.

Ganzert acknowledges that transporting the canines back to the U.S. presents a logistical challenge. It’s easier for the Pentagon to leave a dog where it is, she says, instead of dealing with the red tape of transporting a dog home. That includes coordinating how the animal is going to get back to the States, and who will pick up the dog once it arrives.

It should be worth the effort, Ganzert argues: “Just because they have four legs and a lot of fur doesn’t mean they’re not a veteran.”

“Just because they have four legs and a lot of fur doesn’t mean they’re not a veteran,” says @RobinGanzert

Army Sgt. James Harrington and Ryky (Photo: James Harrington)

Inseparable: Army Sgt. James Harrington and partner Ryky. (Photo: Courtesy James Harrington)

Putting the Pieces Back Together

Harrington and Ryky had no shortage of missions together. During their deployment to Iraq, the pair conducted more than 250; in Afghanistan, 200.

Now they live about an hour outside New Orleans, in Mandeville, La. Memories from the battlefield still haunt Harrington, though.

The Pentagon reports that more than 155,000 troops experience post-traumatic stress disorder, and  each week about 1,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are diagnosed with PTSD. About 5 percent of military dogs used by combat forces present symptoms.

>>> Commentary: America’s Veterans Deserve Better: Five Priorities to Fix VA

The Humane Association and Mission K9 argue that reuniting veterans with their working dogs helps spur healing of the wounds of war.

“I don’t care who you are. Seeing what [our troops] see over there, what no one should see, they come back broken,” Kristen Maurer, president of Mission K9, says.

A handler’s military dog “was with them day in and day out,” Maurer says:

They protected the dog, the dog protected them in turn. And when they are reuniting with that dog, I see a piece being put back together. And I see a piece of their soul being healed. And you can see it, and you can hear it in their voice, and you can see it in their face. It’s just, to me, the beginning of their healing process.

Harrington, who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, says having Ryky by his side is a better remedy than anything the Department of Veteran Affairs could offer.

“She is my prescription,” he says. “She helps me that way.”

“She is my prescription. She helps me that way,” says Iraq War vet James Harrington of his military working dog, Ryky

Crowded spaces and remaining in one area for too long can make Harrington anxious. Ryky helps him combat that.

Now in training to be a service dog, Ryky has Harrington’s back. Literally.

She will stand behind him to ensure no one gets too close. She will rub against him if someone comes within a certain distance. If Harrington remains in one place for “too long,” she’ll press against him and the two will move to an open area.

“She’s always going to keep an eye out for me,” Harrington says. “Dogs don’t have to physically see you;  they know where you are at all times. It’s a sixth sense-type thing.”

James Carafano, a national security expert at The Heritage Foundation, is also president of Espirit de Corps, a non-profit that educates the public about veteran affairs. Carafano says that returning military working dogs to their handlers is invaluable:

At the very least, reuniting them with their partner seems a small step for a large sacrifice. And make no mistake, such an act of generosity and caring will mean as much to the soldier as it does to their companion. We always say we want to give back. This seems to me an honorable and compassionate way to do that.

Mission K9 and the Humane Association are raising money to pay to send retired military working dogs back to the United States. The two groups organize transportation to bring the dogs to an airport where a former handler or adopting family waits.

If Congress changes the language of the NDAA to require that the dogs not be retired until after they are returned to the U.S., the organizations intend to arrange for domestic transport and the reunions with handlers.

“We just want to make sure they go to good homes,” Harrington says, “because that’s what they deserve.”

 

FCC Chief: Federal Law and Policy Preempts State Law In ‘Appropriate Circumstances’ - Daily Signal

FCC Chief: Federal Law and Policy Preempts State Law In ‘Appropriate Circumstances’

Mary Tillotson / James Carafano / John G. Malcolm / Melissa Quinn / Josh Peterson /

WASHINGTON — Despite critics wary of municipal broadband’s disastrous track record across the country, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler continues to forge ahead with his desire to use the FCC to preempt state laws banning the services.

Wheeler’s interest in using federal power to ignore state laws noticeably increased after a federal court affirmed the commission’s authority to promote broadband competition. The FCC’s libertarian and conservative critics warned the court’s decision provided the rationale  the commission was seeking to regulate the Internet.

Responding to a letter sent by a number of Democratic senators and congressmen in June, Wheeler wrote he believed state laws banning municipal broadband “limit” competition in the broadband space.

“I respect the important role of state governments in our federal system, but I know that state laws that directly conflict with critical federal laws and policy may be subject to preemption in appropriate circumstances,” said Wheeler.

Municipal broadband is an Internet-service owned by local governments, and progressive tech policy analysts see it as a way to bring high-quality Internet service to areas not viable for private Internet service providers. The model is banned in 21 states.

Read More on Watchdog.org.

Little League Star Mo’ne Davis is Much More Than 70-MPH Fastballs - Daily Signal

Little League Star Mo’ne Davis is Much More Than 70-MPH Fastballs

Mary Tillotson / James Carafano / John G. Malcolm / Melissa Quinn / Josh Peterson / Philip Wegmann / Kelsey Harris /

With a blazing fastball that clocks at 70 miles per hour and a curveball that spins heads, Mo’ne Davis struck terror into even the bravest hitters at this summer’s Little League World Series.

Standing just 5’4” and weighing only 111 pounds, Davis relies more on precision pitching fundamentals than sheer brawn. Many compare Davis’ technique to Major League pitcher Clayton Kershaw. The young ace agrees but with an important caveat.

Photo: Levo League via Twitter

Photo: Levo League via Twitter

But more importantly there’s something intrinsic that makes Mo’ne Davis special—she’s redefining what it means to throw like a girl. She’s good, really good.

Photo: pryanwilson via Flickr

Photo: pryanwilson via Flickr

She’s just the eighteenth girl to compete in the series, and she’s the only girl in the league’s history to throw a shutout game. A week ago, the gunslinger threw eight strikeouts and allowed just two walks as her Philadelphia Dragons vanquished South Nashville, four to nothing.

Photo: John Green via Flickr

Photo: John Green via Flickr

After Mo'ne's Taney Youth Little League team beat Delaware 8-0 in the 2014 Mid Atlantic Championship game Aug. 10. (Photo: Newscom)

After Mo’ne’s Taney Youth Little League team beat Delaware 8-0 in the 2014 Mid Atlantic Championship game Aug. 10. (Photo: Newscom)

Davis captured the imagination of the nation as she retired batter after batter. Celebrities from First Lady Michelle Obama to NBA superstar Kevin Durant have showered the young ace with praise, setting off media frenzy.

Steeeerike! Mo’ne Davis is the first girl to pitch a Little League World Series shutout. Talk about groundbreaking.

— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) August 16, 2014

This youngster is striking everybody out and she is a girl. I love it. #itsanewday

— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) August 15, 2014

On and off the field, Davis enjoys the support of a loving mother and stepfather. Her mom, a registered nurse’s assistant and her stepdad, a construction worker by day, sacrifice to give Mo’ne the best opportunities.

Davis' mother after Sports Illustrated featured her daughter on the cover. (Photo: Pat Ciarrocchi via Twitter)

Davis’ mother after Sports Illustrated featured her daughter on the cover. (Photo: Pat Ciarrocchi via Twitter)

Mo’ne pursues excellence on the mound and in the classroom. A native of south Philadelphia, she makes an hour and a half commute to a private school across town each day where she regularly makes honor roll.

Photo: Pour Me Coffee via Twitter

Photo: Pour Me Coffee via Twitter

Just thirteen years old, Mo’ne demonstrates a majority rare among kids her age and even rarer among professional athletes. She’s taken her newfound fame with a healthy dose of responsibility, telling ESPN News “I never thought that I would be a role model at this age … so I just have to be myself.”

Photo: Pryan Wilson via Flickr

Photo: Pryan Wilson via Flickr

While Davis’ Philadelphia Dragons fell to a Las Vegas team last Wednesday, the young ace has inspired the country. She’s reminding Americans what a little hard work, raw talent and dedication can achieve.

How All of These Homeless People Got Free Haircuts - Daily Signal

How All of These Homeless People Got Free Haircuts

Mary Tillotson / James Carafano / John G. Malcolm / Melissa Quinn / Josh Peterson / Philip Wegmann / Kelsey Harris / Kelsey Harris /

This is Mark Bustos. He likes to give homeless people haircuts.

He spends most of his week styling people like her at the high-end salon, Three Squares Studio, in New York City…

… but during his personal time, he’s cutting the hair of people like them:

According to NBC News, Bustos’ practice of giving out free haircuts to the homeless began in May 2012 during a trip to the Philippines, his family’s native country. He temporarily rented a barber’s chair and offered free haircuts to to offer his services to poor children in the area.

“#tbt to that time a few years ago I had the opportunity to work in a 100+ degree barbershop in my hometown province in the Philippines giving free haircuts to less fortunate children. This day started the movement. #BeAwesomeToSomebody”

Bustos shared one of his most “vivid” memories of his experience in the Philippines:

“He was 12 years old, and so shy, and rarely made eye contact with anybody. He had no shoes on his feet and looked extremely rough and callused. During his haircut, he looked upset the entire time and didn’t look up once, until the cut was complete. One man in the shop said, ‘Now you look like you’re from NYC!’ He looked up and cracked the most unforgettable smile.”

Now Bustos saves the tradition for Sundays and the homeless residents of the streets of New York.

“I walk around into random neighborhoods and often ask clients at Three Squares Studio if they notice homeless people in their neighborhoods or near their offices,” he told NBC News. “(Asking clients) helps save me time. Sometimes I can walk around for hours looking for a haircut recipient on the streets.”

Bustos uses his Instagram feed to post photos of his work, and the people he meets on Sundays. He’s even created his own hashtag to track the haircuts: “#BeAwesomeToSomebody.”

“My parents will be so proud of me when they find out why I’ve been missing Sunday dinners,” one caption reads.

They don’t always know when their next haircut will be. Most times they ask me to buzz it all off… Til we meet again…. #BeAwesomeToSomebody#NYC

Bustos has also given free haircuts to homeless people in Jamaica, Costa Rica and Los Angeles.

The first thing this guy said after his free haircut was, “Do you know anyone that’s hiring?”

This woman celebrated Mother’s Day with her gift from Bustos.

How do you choose to “be awesome to somebody?”

Why Is It So Hard for Employers to Fill These Jobs? - Daily Signal

Why Is It So Hard for Employers to Fill These Jobs?

Mary Tillotson / James Carafano / John G. Malcolm / Melissa Quinn / Josh Peterson / Philip Wegmann / Kelsey Harris / Kelsey Harris / Stephen Moore /

America has a deficit of workers. Willing workers. Capable workers. Skilled, or at least semi-skilled workers, who can do a job and do it well. There are at least one million jobs that go begging day after day if only employers could find workers to fill them.

This probably seems hard-to-believe. After all, how can America have a worker shortage when we have about 18 million Americans who are unemployed or underemployed? When the real unemployment rate is 12 percent?

Well certainly the economy isn’t creating nearly as many jobs as it should – in large part because of regulatory and tax restraints on hiring workers. Obamacare’s anti-employment impact, including the rule that caps employment at 50 workers or less at many firms to avoid the law’s higher costs, is just one example of a law that adds to unemployment lines.

But there are also millions of unemployed Americans who don’t have the skill sets to match what employers are in need of. To make matters worse, a lot of these frustrated job searchers have college degrees that are about as marketable as the paper diploma they are written on.

So what kind of jobs are going unfilled?

* Manufacturing – We always hear we are losing good manufacturing jobs in America and those bedrock middle class jobs aren’t coming back. Gregory Baise, the president of the Illinois Manufacturing Association, tells me that there are “some 500,000 jobs we can’t fill. It’s the biggest problem our industry faces.”. The industry needs welders, pipefitters, electricians, engineers. It needs people skilled in robotics and basic engineering.

* Trucking – At any time over the last several years there have been about 30,000 too few truckers to run long haul routes. The American Trucking Association tells me the number could be closer to 50,000. This is admittedly a tough and high-stress job with lots of time away from friends and family. But they are jobs that pay $50,000 and up, and a lot more than that with overtime.

* Energy – Bloomberg reports that “Gulf Coast oil, gas and chemical companies will have to find 36,000 new qualified workers” by 2016. Many energy towns have unemployment rates of less tha 3 percent – in other words, there’s a worker shortage.

These aren’t menial or “dead end” jobs. They typically pay between $50,000 and $90,000 a year and with benefits the compensation can climb to $100,000. That’s rich in most nations.

Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals, one of the nation’s largest temporary employment agencies located in Oklahoma City, places more Americans into jobs than just about anyone. With nearly half-a million hires a year he tells me, he can find a job for “any American with a strong work ethic and can pass a drug test.” He also estimates that the worker shortage – those with skills to fill available jobs – “is at least one million and probably higher than that.”

Why is it so hard to fill these jobs?

One reason is the curse of the so-called “skills mismatch.” American workers with high school or even college degrees just aren’t technically qualified to do the jobs that are open. This is a stunning indictment of our school system at all levels considering that all in parents and taxpayers often invest as much as $200,000 or more in a child’s education. We’re not turning our kids into competent workers.

Some governors like Mike Pence of Indiana have moved to make vocational education more standard in the Hoosier State. It’s a great idea and it’s a start.

But this won’t solve the whole problem because many companies are already willing to offer 3 to 6 months on the job training for trucking and manufacturing jobs. They will teach them men and women how to operate the machinery, the computers, and the scientific equipment. These aren’t sweatshop jobs.

Mr. Funk cites figures that more than half of the applicants for these kinds of jobs in the temporary job market can’t pass a drug test. “They are unemployable in that case,” he says regretfully.

Then there is the issue that these jobs don’t get filled because the work lacks glitz and glamour.

Too many Americans have come to view blue collar jobs or skilled artisan jobs as beneath them.

Contributing to this attitude is the wide availability of unemployment insurance, food stamps, mortgage bailout funds and other welfare. Taking these taxpayer handouts is somehow seen as normal and a first, not a last resort. One owner of a major trucking company told me last year, “drivers who get laid off don’t come back until their unemployment benefits run out.” This is documented by research from my colleagues at the Heritage Foundation who have found that “4 million Americans laid off in the recession faced effective marginal tax rates near or above 100 percent [because of welfare benefits], significantly reducing their attachment to the labor market.”

There’s no doubt America needs millions of more jobs. But we could put one million more people in jobs tomorrow if we get schools to train our kids with core competencies and if we could instill in Americans an old-fashioned work ethic. The only dead-end job is no job at all.

Originally published on FoxNews.

Meet These Three Intolerant Liberals - Daily Signal

Meet These Three Intolerant Liberals

Mary Tillotson / James Carafano / John G. Malcolm / Melissa Quinn / Josh Peterson / Philip Wegmann / Kelsey Harris / Kelsey Harris / Stephen Moore / Ed Feulner /

We often hear those on the right branded as “intolerant.” We’re all a bunch of extremists who just want to shut down the other side, right? We’re unlike those on the left, who welcome debate and want to give all viewpoints a respectful hearing.

Or so we’re told. We might even start to believe it — until we encounter the oh-so-tolerant voices of our loyal opposition. Voices such as:

Josh Barro: This New York Times reporter has said of viewpoints that he calls “anti-LGBT” (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender): “We need to stamp them out, ruthlessly.” So he has little patience with Heritage Foundation expert Ryan Anderson, an expert on marriage issues well-known as an informed and courteous debater.

In a recent Twitter exchange with Mr. Barro, Mr. Anderson told him: “We may disagree, but [there is] no need to be uncivil,” adding, “Even in the midst of disagreement, we should treat all people with respect.” Mr. Barro disagreed: “Some policy views render people unworthy of respect.”

Lois Lerner: According to emails written by the former Internal Revenue Service official, conservatives are “crazies” and another word too obscene to quote. Conservatives who dare to criticize the government, in her view, want to “take us down.” Small wonder that the agency targeted conservative groups during Ms. Lerner’s tenure.

Lawrence Torcello: Earlier this year, the assistant professor of philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology recommended jail for those who disagree with his beliefs on climate change. Because “climate denial remains a serious deterrent against meaningful political action,” the government should make the “the funding of climate denial” a crime.

In a nod to free speech, Mr. Torcello distinguishes between those who deny climate change and those who fund campaigns advancing this point of view. So it seems you can disagree with him and avoid prison. Just don’t spend one thin dime promoting your point of view.

I don’t mean to suggest that the left has a monopoly on intolerance. You don’t have to flip past many TV or radio stations, or surf the Web for long before you run into the same attitude coming from some on the right. It’s just particularly rich to hear it from those on the left, who rarely stop telling us how intolerant the rest of us are.

No matter who this attitude comes from, it’s a serious problem.

There’s nothing wrong with a spirited debate, of course. Our country was founded in the wake of one of the most profound disagreements in the history of mankind. Americans tend to feel very passionately about certain subjects, and they don’t hesitate to throw a few elbows while making their views known.

There’s a world of difference, though, between thinking your opponent is wrong and thinking he’s a moron, a fool, a traitor, a racist or a crook. Or, to hear the way some people describe those on the other side, all of the above.

Why are we seeing such a rise in incivility? It’s partly rooted in human nature. We “know” certain things to be true, so those who disagree with us aren’t merely wrong; they’re stupid or evil. The idea that they’re just as intelligent and patriotic as we are, but simply see things differently, doesn’t occur to us.

It’s also the result of laziness. It takes effort to see things from someone else’s point of view. It’s far easier to assume the worst and question their motives. Besides, how else are we going to break through the din of the 24-hour news cycle and the never-ending barrage of social media without a few verbal Molotov cocktails?

We’re better than this. We need to remind ourselves that to remain a free, self-governing people, we need to temper our outbursts and restore civility to our public discourse.

It’s not a job that starts with the other guy. It starts with each one of us. The marketplace of ideas can’t flourish without respect and civility. That means more than just talking. It means listening.

 

 

Obama Administration’s Eighth Try on HHS Mandate and Religious Liberty Still Fails - Daily Signal

Obama Administration’s Eighth Try on HHS Mandate and Religious Liberty Still Fails

Mary Tillotson / James Carafano / John G. Malcolm / Melissa Quinn / Josh Peterson / Philip Wegmann / Kelsey Harris / Kelsey Harris / Stephen Moore / Ed Feulner / Sarah Torre /

The eighth time still doesn’t seem to be the charm for government bureaucrats. On Friday, the Obama administration released yet another revision to the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that requires employers to provide coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization.

Many are wondering if the government has actually protected the religious freedom of the more than 300 plaintiffs suing over the coercive rule. The answer is no. I explain why by answering some common questions here:

Who would the revised rule apply to?

The interim final rule will only apply to certain religious non-profit organizations (like schools, charities and hospitals) who have a religious objection to facilitating insurance coverage of one or more abortion-inducing drugs and devices, contraception or sterilization services. Today, there are almost 200 religious non-profits suing over the coercive rule that comes with devastating fines for noncompliance —including Little Sisters of the Poor, Wheaton College, more than a dozen Catholic archdioceses, and health ministries.

What does the revised rule say?

If a religious non-profit organization has a religious objection to providing or facilitating coverage of abortion-inducing drugs and devices or contraception, the employer can write a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) informing the government of such objection. The government will then direct the employer’s insurance company or third-party administrator to cover the objectionable drugs, devices, or services.

>>> Check out how just how many times the Obama administration has revised this Obamacare mandate.

Does today’s revision adequately protect religious liberty?

No. The Obama administration’s latest bureaucratic tweak to the mandate would only replace one bad regulation with another.

Under current regulations, a religious non-profit can sign what amounts to a “permission slip”directing their insurance company or administrator to cover the objectionable drugs and devices – a scheme most organizations believe still makes them complicit in a gravely immoral act. Under today’s revision, objecting religious non-profits would instead send a letter to HHS. HHS would then direct the organizations’ health plans to include the objectionable drugs and services.

Numerous federal courts — including the Supreme Court – have seen through the current gimmick and granted temporary protection from the coercive mandate for religious non-profits in 31 cases. Just adding another step to an already broken and unacceptable process doesn’t protect religious freedom. As the Supreme Court has noted, there are plenty of other ways for the government to provide abortion-inducing drugs and contraception to those who want them without hijacking employers health plans.

What does the revision mean for religious non-profitslawsuits?

Individual non-profit organizations will have to determine whether today’s update – which can still be amended – adequately respects their right to work without violating their deeply held beliefs.

But even if the revision does satisfy some religious non-profits, it doesn’t even apply to all organizations with objections to the mandate. Non-profits like March for Life, which objects to covering abortion-inducing drugs and devices on moral – not religious – grounds, have been given no protection from the mandate by the Obama administration. Those organizations’ lawsuits against the coercive rule are expected to continue.

Even with the new revision, federal bureaucrats are still taking it upon themselves to award different organizations different degrees of protection for religious freedom. This multi-tiered system of doling out protection for a fundamental right is not consistent with the Constitution or federal law. Every American should be free to live and work according to their deeply held beliefs without fear of government penalty unless government can show that it is acting for a compelling reason in the least restrictive way possible.

Will women still have access to birth control under this proposed rule?

All women remain free to make their own decisions about the drugs and devices at issue in this mandate and to purchase or find insurance coverage for them. The handful of family businesses, charities, schools, and others fighting for freedom from this coercive Obamacare rule simply seek not to participate in those decisions that violate their deeply held beliefs.

Didn’t the Supreme Court already strike down the HHS mandate?

No. Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not force certain family businesses to provide coverage of abortion-inducing drugs and devices in violation of their religious beliefs. All non-grandfathered health plans must still include coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and devices and sterilization.

That means the coercive mandate – and the onerous fines for not complying with the rule – are also still in place for non-profit organizations like schools, hospitals, charities and other employers.

Is today’s update final?

The document released today is an interim final rule and as such will go into effect once it’s published in the Federal Register next week. However, the public can submit comments on these revisions to the mandate to HHS over the next few weeks.