Harvard Activists Call Israeli-Made Soda Machines a ‘Microaggression’

Natalie Johnson /

Harvard University’s dining services backtracked on a plan to boycott Israeli-based SodaStream following a rebuke from the university president. Palestinian students had complained that the mere logo offended them.

Before the controversy sparked worldwide attention, the university’s dining services division decided to remove SodaStream labels while it awaited new machines from American companies EverPure and Crysalli.

“These machines can be seen as a microaggression to Palestinian students and their families and like the university doesn’t care about Palestinian human rights,” Rachel Sandalow-Ash, a senior member of the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance, told the school’s newspaper.

Campus activists across the United States have cited “microaggressions,” unintended or minor slurs that offend or discriminate against minority groups, as the root of various protests or movements. Harvard’s is the most recent case.

Members of the Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Harvard Islamic Society cited “discomfort” with the SodaStream machines in meetings with university officials to have them removed, according to the “Harvard Crimson.”

The groups said the machines might offend those affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the company’s main factory is based in the long disputed West Bank. SodaStream announced in October it would be moving the factory from the contested area to southern Israel.

While the boycott appeased activists, Harvard President Drew Faust is requiring an investigation into dining services’ decision, saying it violated university policy.

“Harvard University’s procurement decisions should not and will not be driven by individuals’ views of highly contested matters of political controversy,” Provost Alan Garber wrote in an email Wednesday. “If this policy is not currently known or understood in some parts of the university, that will be rectified now.”

Dining services responded yesterday, writing in a statement that it had “mistakenly factored political concerns” into the decision.

The fate of the campus’ ties to SodaStream has not yet been determined.

Obama’s Theme for the New Year: ‘We Can’t Be Stopped’ - Daily Signal

Obama’s Theme for the New Year: ‘We Can’t Be Stopped’

Natalie Johnson / Josh Siegel /

A relaxed President Obama held a year-end press conference this afternoon, where he reflected on his first six years in office and looked ahead to the last quarter of his presidency.

In a brief prepared statement and then a lengthy question-and-answer session, Obama weighed in on issues such as the U.S. economy, relations with Congress, Ferguson, his recent deal with Cuba and Sony’s decision to cancel the release of a movie due to a cyber attack from North Korea.

He also revealed his theme for the new year.

“My theme for the end of the year is that we have gone through difficult times, but through persistence and effort and faith in the American people, things get better,” Obama said.

“Part of what I hope as I reflect on the new year is that this should generate some confidence. America knows how to solve problems. When we work together, we can’t be stopped.”

Below, The Daily Signal highlights some of Obama’s comments on the issues of today — and tomorrow.

Obama, on Sony’s decision to cancel the release of “The Interview” (the FBI confirmed that North Korea did, in fact, carry out a cyber attack on Sony):

“I am sympathetic to the concerns they faced, but having said that, yes, I think they made a mistake. I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them don’t get into a pattern where you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.

“I think they made a mistake,” President Obama said of Sony’s decision to pull “The Interview” from theaters.

“We can’t have a society where some dicator some place can impose censorship in the U.S. It says something interesting about North Korea that it decided to have the state mount an all-out assault of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco (he meant James Franco).

“I hope Congress will work with us on creating strong cyber security laws that allow for information sharing in the private and public sector, so we can incorporate best practices and prevent these attacks.”

On relations with the new Republican-controlled Congress in 2014:

“I am sincere when I say I want to work with the new Congress to get things done to make sure government is better and smarter. We saw during the lame duck that perhaps a spirit of compromise may be coming to the fore. I take Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell at their word.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner listens to a question as he holds a news conference   omnibus spending bill. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker of the House John Boehner listens to a question as he holds a news conference on the omnibus spending bill. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

On his use of executive actions:

“I am energized and excited and I won’t be stopping for a minute in an effort to make life better for ordinary Americans. Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.

“I am not persuaded by the argument that if I didn’t take executive action they [Congress] would be more productive. There is no evidence of that. Where I see a big problem and opportunity to help the American people, and I am within lawful authority to do it, I will do it.”

On his deal to normalize relations with Cuba:

“I don’t anticipate overnight changes. I think this will happen in fits and starts. But what I know deep in my bones, is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing’s changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.

“The more Cuban people can see what is possible, the more interested they will be in change. The whole point of normalizing relations is that it gives us a greater opportunity to have influence with that government than not.”

On the Keystone pipeline (incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said this will be Congress’ first order of business):

“It won’t be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers. It will not be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers. When you consider what we could be doing if we rebuild roads and bridges, there are lot more direct ways to create well paying construction jobs.

“There has been a tendency to hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the economy. It’s hard to see where they get that info from.”

On the state of black America:

“Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off than when I came into office. How we’re thinking about race relations has been colored by Ferguson and the [Eric] Garner case.

“There are some really concrete and practical things that police departments and agencies can implement now to rebuild trust between communities of color and police department. There is an opportunity for all of us to come together and take a practical approach to these problems.”

 

Tea Party Is a Movement Now, Not Just a Mood - Daily Signal

Tea Party Is a Movement Now, Not Just a Mood

Natalie Johnson / Josh Siegel / Heath Hansen /

Is the tea party a movement or just a mood?

That was the question posed by Weekly Standard columnist and Fox News contributor Steven Hayes as he kicked off a panel at the Heritage Foundation celebrating the 5th anniversary of the tea party.

Hayes and his co-panelists, Heritage Action for America CEO Michael Needham and University of Virginia professor of politics James Ceaser, all agreed that the tea party is in fact a movement. Moods, as Hayes noted, don’t last for five years.

Recent polls regarding national tea party support show the panel’s assessment is correct. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in November found one-fifth of American adults consider themselves supporters of the tea party. As panel moderator David Azerrad of the Heritage Foundation noted, that’s quite an improvement from the original tea party, which numbered between 30 and 130 members.

But the panelists didn’t just rely on poll numbers to support their conclusion. They also highlighted some of the tea party’s major accomplishments since its inception in 2009.

Particularly noteworthy, according to the panelists, is the influence of 2010 tea party candidates such as Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The media prefers to focus on failed tea party candidates such as Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, but it has been Lee, Cruz, Rubio and Paul who have injected new life into the GOP and are producing its most innovative policy solutions.

Needham pointed specifically to Lee’s Higher Education Reform and Opportunity, or HERO, Act, Senator Cruz’s proposed energy legislation and Senator Paul’s focus on overcriminalization as prime examples of tea party ideas in action.

Another sign of tea party success has been its ability to set the terms of political debates. In particular, Ceaser credited the tea party with “bringing the national debt onto the front burner,” and reminding Americans that “if you spend today, someone will have to pay [for] it tomorrow.”

Tea partiers such as Cruz frequently have caused a ruckus on Capitol Hill fighting spending bills and opposing debt-ceiling increases. The result has often been legislative gridlock. Many on the left and in the mainstream media regard this as a failure of the tea party, but Hayes observed that “that was, in some ways, the entire point of the tea party.”

The tea party-fueled debt debate has had an even greater impact at the state level. In what Ceaser called the tea party’s “greatest actual achievement,” state governments have taken bold steps to rein in public-sector unions and control pensions. And it’s happening in both Republican and Democratic states, Ceaser noted, as both parties are realizing the problems of excessive debt.

That the tea party has made popular a topic as unexciting as government debt indicates how truly influential it is.

The panel also credited the tea party with bringing the Constitution back into public discourse. Ceaser praised the tea party for restoring the idea of the Constitution as “a guide for the thinking of a political party and program,” which he noted was the role it played in the 19th century. In that era, legislators often engaged in debates about what the Constitution allowed and what it meant.

Unfortunately, our current Democratic and Republican parties largely have ignored the Constitution and, prior to the tea party, rarely debated its meaning. The result was a mistaken perception of the Constitution as nothing more than “a matter of individual rights protected by courts” that political parties and movements simply should not bother with.

The tea party’s return to the Constitution has revitalized public interest in its meaning and forced politicians to engage once more in constitutional debates.

Despite frequent mischaracterizations in the mainstream media, targeting by the IRS, and verbal attacks from President Obama, the tea party remains highly influential in American politics. The left and the media don’t want to admit it, but the tea party is not a passing mood; it’s a movement. And, as Steve Hayes concluded, “It’s not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Florida Congresswoman: Other Nations’ Engagement Hasn’t Resulted in Free Cuba - Daily Signal

Florida Congresswoman: Other Nations’ Engagement Hasn’t Resulted in Free Cuba

Natalie Johnson / Josh Siegel / Heath Hansen / Kate Scanlon /

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., was interviewed on Wednesday by Greta van Susteren about President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba.

Ros-Lehtinen said that the president “has broken the law.”

When asked if our previous policy towards Cuba had been working, Ros-Lehtinen said:

Has our foreign policy been working? Well, the policy of 190 other countries who have been wheeling and dealing and going to tourist trips and doing everything with Castro, they have not brought Cuba any closer to freedom or democracy. So it’s not that the United States policy has not worked, the other policy of engagement has not worked.

Ros-Lehtinen said that Obama’s desire to normalize relations with Cuba “will not bring the Cuban people any closer to democracy.”

According to Ros-Lehtinen, the policy shift will only result in a change on our side.

“The one that will not change is the Cuban, communist, dictatorial, authoritarian regime,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “These guys are not going to change.”

Jimmy Fallon Talks The Interview - Daily Signal

Jimmy Fallon Talks The Interview

Natalie Johnson / Josh Siegel / Heath Hansen / Kate Scanlon / Video Team /

On Thursday’s episode of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon discussed Sony Pictures’ decision to cancel the release of “The Interview.”

“Which means the hackers have accomplished their goal of making everyone in the world want to see ‘The Interview,’” said Fallon. “I mean, I wasn’t planning [to], now I can’t wait to see it.”

The IRS May Be Underfunded But It Still Deserved to Have Its Budget Cut - Daily Signal

The IRS May Be Underfunded But It Still Deserved to Have Its Budget Cut

Natalie Johnson / Josh Siegel / Heath Hansen / Kate Scanlon / Video Team / Curtis Dubay / David Burton /

IRS Commissioner Josh Koskinen complained recently about Congress cutting the agency’s budget by $350 million in the recent budget deal.

Koskinen warns that taxpayer service will be hurt because the IRS will have to furlough employees and make other adjustments because of the reduction of funding.

The IRS has an impossible job. It is tasked with enforcing a convoluted mess of a tax code that Congress created. Given that task, and the additional tasks Congress has foisted upon it with Obamacare and other laws like FATCA, and its funding levels, it is probably fair to say that cutting the IRS budget is not a priority until Congress simplifies the tax code.

Nevertheless, it is also fair to say the IRS completely deserved to have its budget cut. In fact, the IRS should probably be grateful it didn’t receive an even deeper cut.

The IRS acted illegally when it targeted certain conservative nonprofit groups for extra scrutiny before granting them their rightful non-taxable status. Those responsible for that crime have still not been held to account. Nor has Koskinen made noticeable progress in cleaning up the agency. Instead, it appears as if the IRS is still stonewalling Congress in its efforts to get to the bottom of the situation.

Most IRS employees are dedicated, hardworking, and professional. They don’t deserve to be tainted because of the actions of a few bad apples that used the agency’s power to hurt the cause of groups they ideologically disagree with. Nor do they deserve to have their jobs made more difficult because of the consequences of the actions of the IRS leadership that abused their power.

But those are the consequences when an agency as vital as the IRS behaves in such an underhanded fashion.

This should serve as a lesson to the IRS and other government agencies. If you don’t want your budgets cut in a way that will make achieving your mission even more difficult, don’t break the law and abuse your power.

It should serve as a further wake-up call to Koskinen and the other powers-that-be at the IRS. If you want your agency to receive adequate funding, prove to Congress and the American people that you are fixing the problems you inherited and are restoring trust in an agency that absolutely must be beyond reproach if it is to succeed in its mission.

It is certainly a more becoming way to behave than whining about losing money when you’ve just betrayed the public’s trust and done little to show contrition for doing it.

Tax reform will make the IRS’s job easier, but only cleaning up its internal mess will restore the people’s confidence in the agency.

Marco Rubio, Rand Paul Duke It Out Over Cuba Policy - Daily Signal

Marco Rubio, Rand Paul Duke It Out Over Cuba Policy

Natalie Johnson / Josh Siegel / Heath Hansen / Kate Scanlon / Video Team / Curtis Dubay / David Burton / Natalie Johnson /

President Obama’s new Cuba policy is sparking heated debate among potential 2016 contenders, escalating today following Sen. Marco Rubio’s attack on Sen. Rand Paul’s opposing position.

The Florida senator, whose parents came to America from Cuba, told Megyn Kelly last night that Paul “has no idea what he’s talking about” regarding Cuba.

Rubio was referring to Paul’s interview with News Talk 800 where he criticized the 50-year embargo, saying it “just hasn’t worked.”

“If the goal was regime change, it sure doesn’t seem to be working,” Paul said. “Probably, it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship.”

Rubio told Kelly he “would expect that people would understand that if they just took a moment to analyze that, they would realize that the embargo is not what’s hurting the Cuban people, it’s the lack of freedom and the lack of competent leaders.”

The Kentucky senator swung back today, taking to social media to lambaste his Republican colleague.

Hey @marcorubio if the embargo doesn't hurt Cuba, why do you want to keep it?

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

Senator @marcorubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism.

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. So @marcorubio why not Cuba?

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

.@marcorubio what about the majority of Cuban-Americans who now support normalizing relations between our countries? http://t.co/0qhSOeD9Va

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

Is North Korea Capable of Organizing a 9/11-Style Attack? - Daily Signal

Is North Korea Capable of Organizing a 9/11-Style Attack?

Natalie Johnson / Josh Siegel / Heath Hansen / Kate Scanlon / Video Team / Curtis Dubay / David Burton / Natalie Johnson / Video Team /

On “Morning Joe” today,  Willie Geist asked if the North Koreans were capable of organizing a 9/11-style attack.

“North Korea never carries out its threats—except when it does,” said Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation who focuses on North Korea.

Klingner detailed attacks orchestrated by the North Koreans, mostly on South Korea, such as jamming the signals of planes flying in and out of Seoul, blowing up an airliner, and assassination attempts on the South Korean president and defectors from the North Korean regime. They also have hacked into U.S. government agencies.

According to Klingner, an attack on U.S. soil is “far, far less likely,” but not impossible.

Check out his full response starting at the 3:29 mark.

Steve Bucci, director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation, also appeared on the program to discuss cybersecurity.

“All Americans should be concerned about this,” said Bucci. “Everybody in the West should be concerned about their personal cyber security status and the status of their organizations. They have to take the right steps. If you don’t make the investment, somebody like North Korea could come in and get all of your information.”

Two Pa. Legislators Indicted for Voter ID Bribes in a Case the State AG Refused to Prosecute - Daily Signal

Two Pa. Legislators Indicted for Voter ID Bribes in a Case the State AG Refused to Prosecute

Natalie Johnson / Josh Siegel / Heath Hansen / Kate Scanlon / Video Team / Curtis Dubay / David Burton / Natalie Johnson / Video Team / Hans von Spakovsky /

A grand jury convened by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has indicted two Democratic state legislators for accepting bribes in exchange for voting against a voter ID bill, among other legislative actions.

The grand jury findings also represent a withering rejection of the unjustifiable behavior of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who shut down the three-year investigation that caught state Democratic legislators on video and audio tapes taking bribes. Williams stepped in and successfully prosecuted the case.

As the grand jury reported, it had 26 recordings featuring Rep. Ronald G. Waters, who accepted nine cash payments from a confidential informant  totaling $8,750. The grand jury had 24 recordings of Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown accepting five cash payments totaling $4,000. Waters agreed to vote against Pennsylvania House Bill 934, a voter ID bill, in exchange for $2,000. Brown also agreed to vote against House Bill 934 for the same amount.

Brown was so eager to vote the way she had been paid by the informant that she offered to “get up and speak” on the floor of the Pennsylvania House in opposition to the bill. Both “representatives testified before this Grand Jury and admitted their criminal conduct.”

Waters, who currently serves as the Secretary for the House Democratic Caucus, was “ecstatic” about receiving the cash bribes and told the CI “I’m going to tell you the f*****g truth. You have money, then you can get something done.” Brown told the grand jury she took the money because of financial pressures, including being told that if she didn’t raise $100,000 for her next election, “the Democratic Party would run someone against her in a primary.”

Because Waters, Brown and other legislators involved in the bribery scheme are black, Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane shut down the investigation in March. She claimed that the investigation was “poorly conceived, badly managed and tainted by racism…[and] had targeted African-Americans.” Williams, who also is black, was particularly incensed by this claim, saying that he was “disgusted that the attorney general would bring racism into this case. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire for no reason, no reason at all.”

The Philadelphia grand jury, which was made up of a cross-section of Philadelphia citizens, actually reviewed those allegations, saying its members were “particularly sensitive to the explosive charge that the defendants were racially targeted.” But the grand jury found “the claims of racism in this instance were simply false.” An extensive review of the evidence showed “that there had never been any factual basis for the charge of racism.” In fact, it was the guilty bribe-takers who were responsible for the targeting because they were the ones telling the CI “who they thought would play ball with him and by introducing him to them. The informant, in effect, was passed from one public official to another.”

The grand jury also reviewed a “comprehensive” report prepared by Kane’s office that supposedly confirmed her racism claims. The grand jury complained that the comprehensive report had never been shared with the public. Also, “on repeated occasions, the Grand Jury was assured that it had received all relevant materials [of this report], only to receive significant additional materials upon judicial intervention. Each new document dump, of course, indicated that the prior representations [by the AG’s office] had been false.”

In a scathing indictment of Kane’s claims, the grand jury found that it was her “review, rather than the underlying investigation, that appeared flawed.” In fact, Kane:

[F]ailed to examine a wealth of internal documents – documents created by and in the possession of the OAG – that contradicted the report’s assumption. The review also failed to include interviews of agents assigned to the investigation or others whose knowledge would have refuted the report’s preferred conclusion.

In other words, Kane’s justification for ending the investigation was false, and her office then crafted a severely flawed report designed to support her claims that ignored the actual evidence in the case.

As the grand jury concluded, the evidence of bribery was “unusually damning, consisting as it does not only of eyewitness accounts, but of hours of tape recordings, and of detailed admissions by the subjects of the investigation themselves.”

In light of those findings, it is difficult to come up with any reason for Kane’s actions other than a political one. Thankfully, Williams was not deterred from seeking indictments for crimes that strike at the very heart of the legislative process. Kane may not be interested in trying to clean up state politics, but Williams certainly is.

 

What Mark Levin Thinks About the Bush Dynasty - Daily Signal

What Mark Levin Thinks About the Bush Dynasty

Natalie Johnson / Josh Siegel / Heath Hansen / Kate Scanlon / Video Team / Curtis Dubay / David Burton / Natalie Johnson / Video Team / Hans von Spakovsky / Kate Scanlon /

Mark Levin was less than thrilled to hear that Jeb Bush is running for president.

On his radio show, Levin called “the ambition of a single family” a “serious matter.”

“Attempting to hold that office with three different members [of the same family] is worthy of discussion,” said Levin.

He added that this ambition “should concern people who live in a republic.”

Here are five reasons why he thinks so:

1. There Are Others Who Could Serve

“There’s a score of governors, senators and others who are highly qualified on many levels and in many ways to serve as president,” said Levin. “We need a rotation of individuals.”

2. The “Establishment” of the Republican Party Lacks the “Courage and Confidence” to Seek Out Other Candidates

“Why would the Republican Party turn to the same family over and over again? Were their presidencies so outstanding? They weren’t. They were good or fair,” said Levin. “Is the Republican Party this vapid, this weak?”

3. Only “Financiers and Corporatists” Have a “Vested Interest” in Jeb Bush

“There’s no great calling for Jeb Bush to run for president among the grassroots…. We’re not looking for managers of the welfare state, managers of the decline of America… We’re looking for patriots,” said Levin.

4. There’s No Historical Precedent

“It’s never been contemplated to have three members of the same family serve,” said Levin.

He added that there’s only been one previous father-son duo serve as president, John Adams and John Quincy Adams, who each served only one term.

5. Nepotism

“If his name was Jeb Smith, the former fairly successful governor of Florida, he’d be back in the pack,” said Levin.

Levin concluded the segment by asking listeners, “Do you think this is healthy?”