Vox: On Second Thought, The American Revolution Was A Mistake

This is just trolling, right? I mean, do you feel that that leaving the British Empire was a mistake? Well, Dylan Matthews of Vox appears to be lamenting our independence since we would have abolished slavery sooner, the Native Americans would have experienced a slightly less horrific genocide, and we would have adopted the UK’s system of government, which is totally better than America’s (coding to liberals) because it allows the governing party to bulldoze over its opponents to push through their agenda (unless it’s a question about the EU):

American independence in 1776 was a monumental mistake. We should be mourning the fact that we left the United Kingdom, not cheering it.

Of course, evaluating the wisdom of the American Revolution means dealing with counterfactuals. As any historian would tell you, this is messy business. We obviously can't be entirely sure how America would have fared if it had stayed in the British Empire longer, perhaps gaining independence a century or so later, along with Canada.

But I'm reasonably confident a world where the revolution never happened would be better than the one we live in now, for three main reasons: slavery would've been abolished earlier, American Indians would've faced rampant persecution but not the outright ethnic cleansing Andrew Jackson and other American leaders perpetrated, and America would have a parliamentary system of government that makes policymaking easier and lessens the risk of democratic collapse.

The main reason the revolution was a mistake is that the British Empire, in all likelihood, would have abolished slavery earlier than the US did, and with less bloodshed.

This alone is enough to make the case against the revolution. Decades less slavery is a massive humanitarian gain that almost certainly dominates whatever gains came to the colonists from independence.

The main benefit of the revolution to colonists was that it gave more political power to America's white male minority.

American Indians would have still, in all likelihood, faced violence and oppression absent American independence, just as First Nations people in Canada did. But American-scale ethnic cleansing wouldn't have occurred.

…parliamentary democracies are a lot, lot better than presidential ones. They're significantly less likely to collapse into dictatorship because they don't lead to irresolvable conflicts between, say, the president and the legislature. They lead to much less gridlock.

In the US, activists wanting to put a price on carbon emissions spent years trying to put together a coalition to make it happen, mobilizing sympathetic businesses and philanthropists and attempting to make bipartisan coalition — and they still failed to pass cap and trade, after millions of dollars and man hours. In the UK, the Conservative government decided it wanted a carbon tax. So there was a carbon tax. Just like that. Passing big, necessary legislation — in this case, legislation that's literally necessary to save the planet — is a whole lot easier with parliaments than presidential systems.

So, there you have it; it’s a gross amalgamation of revisionist history and pipe dreams. No one denies American history had its messy moments, but that goes with almost any nation. The point is for future generations to learn from those mistakes, hence why racism is anathema in American society, why we’ll probably never lock up an entire ethnic minority during times of war, and why we’ll never reimpose an awful system of racial segregation. Slavery was ended after 600,000 American lives were lost during the Civil War, but doing the right thing sometimes has a hefty price tag. At the same time, the post-Civil War era marked the point where Americans began see one another as citizens of a united country, instead of the regionalist attitudes exhibited in the antebellum era. 

Over at Hot Air, Ed aptly points out that the Weimer Republic in Germany was a parliamentary system that collapsed into a dictatorship … led by Adolf Hitler, the British and the French consistently pitted the native tribes against one another in the frontier lands of America, and that strategy of playing tribes off each other would have been probably entered another vicious cycle in the Napoleonic Wars. Oh, and Pontiac’s Rebellion–a three-year war against the British by a confederation of tribes along the Great Lakes–began due to British mistreatment.

Lastly, on the issue of government, I like gridlock. Gridlock is our safety blanket in American society, and to not understand that is to avoid the essence of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The overarching theme was safety, not efficiency. As George Will says pervasively when this issue is brought up, that’s why we have three branches of government, two branches of the legislature, veto, veto override, supermajorities, judicial review, and the filibuster. All of these mechanisms are meant to slow the speed of government.

Also, forget the carbon tax scenario, what about the War on Terror? The majority of Americans think the interrogation measures that were used on terrorism suspects after 9/11 was justified, with a majority also saying that such techniques amounted to torture. In the system we have today, with a written Constitution, our political leaders and legal scholars would have to see if such techniques are legal. In the UK system, the legality of such techniques–theoretically–would've ended once a bill was passed. The UK doesn’t have a written Constitution; it’s whatever parliament passes. Hence, why liberals probably like the UK model so much since it permits them to effectively have a true living constitution. It’s a horrifying aspect. 

At the same time, our Constitution does not prohibit legislatures from passing laws permitting abortion on demand or banning the death penalty, so, in a sense; liberals have been fighting their battles in the wrong arenas. Yet, they will probably have a problem building a consensus for the former initiative. Nevertheless, it shows you that consensus is key in advancing our society in a democratic manner.

So, I’m not unhappy–or sad–that our Founding Father announced our complete break from Great Britain 239 years ago today. I’m not proud of our treatment of Native Americans or the institution of slavery, but those issues were dealt with, sometimes with a heavy body count and other times with results that were less than stellar. We’re not perfect, but neither is the UK. And that certainly applies to their system of government. The best we can do is learn from our history and try to get it right whenever such past events present themselves to future generations.  

The Declaration of Independence

Editor's note: For more founding documents please visit usconstitution.com.

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted The Declaration of Independence. This document would prove one of the most important charters for freedom in the world, as it laid out the reasons why the United States was justified in throwing off the oppression of their English king.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levey war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3 Column 4 Column 5 Column 6
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

John Hancock

Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll
of Carrollton

George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross

Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple

Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery

Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

British Government's Desperate Clampdown On Taxpayer Funded Health Timewasters

The British government has signaled it intends to launch a crackdown on people who cost taxpayers billions of dollars by abusing free healthcare. Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, told the BBC's Question Time programme, patients who book appointments with doctors but fail to turn up will be told how much their actions cost the taxpayer.

Politicians are desperately grappling with out of control costs in the state funded National Health Service. When it was established in the 1940s the government assumed universal healthcare would eradicate disease and costs would fall.

As a result they put little thought into long-term funding, and deliberately overpaid doctors to get them to agree to work for the NHS. The Labour politician who founded the NHS, Aneurin Bevan, famous said of doctors “we stuffed their mouths with gold”.

Today anyone can book an appointment with a taxpayer funded General Practitioner (GP) doctor without giving any reason. The GPs themselves earn an average of $150,000 a year, and ten percent earn more than the Prime Minister's $222,000 salary.

They are required to diagnose simple problems, write prescriptions for basic drugs and refer all complex cases to specialists. The patient is not penalized if they fail to turn up to either the GP or the specialist. Under this new proposal that would not change.
Mr Hunt's plan is to effectively shame time wasters into stopping, although he did say he was “open” to plans for charging. Something the Prime Minister's office later stamped on, saying they would never charge.

Hunt's ideas may sound meek but the problem is very serious with the cost of failure to attend appointments put at $1.56bn (£1bn) a year.

On the BBC he said: “We are very stretched for resources, doctors and nurses work incredibly hard and we're going to have a million more over-70s by the end of this Parliament. If we're going to square the circle and have a fantastic NHS, despite all those pressures, we have to take personal responsibility about how we use NHS resources.

"I don't have a problem in principle with charging people for missed appointments, in practical terms it is difficult to do. But I have taken a step towards that this week by announcing that when people do miss an appointment they will be told how much that will cost the NHS as a first step."

The Heath Secretary is also grappling with the bizarre problem of bored and lonely people turning up for unnecessary treatments to get 'out of the house'. Those responsible are mainly over the age of 65 and may account for as many as 30 million visits to GPs every year, with appointments costing the taxpayer up to $150 a time.

As many as one in ten pensioners are believed to have attended appointments due to boredom or loneliness.

The move to reduce wasted appointments comes in the same week Hunt announced plans to print the cost of drugs on the packaging when it is distributed through the prescription scheme.

Under the scheme everyone gets a huge discount on the medicine, courtesy of the taxpayer, as they are charged only $13 no matter what the cost of the drugs. Many groups such as children get the drugs entirely free of charge.

The figure and the words "funded by the UK taxpayer" will be added to all packs costing more than $31 in England. The move is hoped to reduce the estimated $467m annual cost of people simply throwing drugs away rather than using them because they attach no value to them.

The total cost of the National Health Service is around $150bn a year, around $3000 a year for every man, woman and child in the country. It has some of the worst survival rates for diseases like cancer in Europe.

NY Lawmakers Propose Prison Reform Legislation After Shocking Escape

By all accounts, escaping from Clinton Correctional Facility was seemingly “impossible.” Yet, inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat managed to do so – twice. The two criminals’ brazen getaway, which preceded a 3-week long police search through upstate New York, ultimately ended in the authorities’ favor. Yet, the ordeal has shone an uncomfortable spotlight on the state’s prisons. A group of bipartisan lawmakers are determined to find answers as to why the current culture allowed for such an escape.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) has been criticized for his management of the state’s correctional facilities. Since taking office, 13 New York prisons have closed, with the correctional officers’ union calling for more staff. The governor has pushed back against the reproach, citing favorable statistics that show the correctional officer to prisoner ratio has remained the same.

However, reports like this undermine his defensive comments:

Still, the state's prison system had a 29 percent increase in assaults on officers by inmates between 2010 and 2014. Most were at maximum-security facilities, including Clinton, Attica, Elmira and Bedford Hills in Westchester County, according to state records reviewed by Gannett's Albany Bureau.

Cuomo pledged that his administration will investigate the ‘honor block’ system that allowed Matt and Sweat to receive special treatment for good behavior while serving time in the facility. So far, two employees have been charged for conspiring with the prisoners, including providing them with power tools, while dozens more have been placed on leave.

"But we have a lot of work to do, investigating both the cooperators and making the point that that cannot happen, and if that happens, that will be fully prosecuted," Cuomo said.

State legislators are similarly determined to find out what happened.

Assembly Corrections Committee Chairman Daniel O'Donnell, D-Manhattan, has introduced a bill to require any prison investigation to be performed independently by the Inspector General’s Office. Republicans went a step further in suggesting the investigation needs to be conducted outside of the Cuomo administration.

"There needs to be an independent top to bottom investigation as to what happened and then let the chips fall where they may," Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, said in a statement. "But this modest, common-sense legislation is a no brainer."

It’s frightening how much freedom and goods Matt and Sweat were awarded inside Clinton Correctional Facility. If we can’t trust our correctional officers to resist corruption in the form of bribes and flattery, those metal bars may as well be paper mache.

Oh My: George Takei Called Justice Thomas 'A Clown In Blackface'

There is a serious argument against the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which said there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. That being said, there is still a legitimate debate as to whether this was the proper avenue to grant this right for gay Americans, instead of the legislative process. Nevertheless, it’s hard to have such discussions when you have people, like George Takei (aka Hikaru Sulu*), dole out what could be construed as patently racist attacks. Takei recently called Justice Clarence Thomas “a clown in blackface” and a “disgrace” to the nation.

Even die-hard liberals, like Bill Clinton’s chief strategist Paul Begala, thought the remarks were utterly reprehensible. Folks, even Marc Lamont Hill thought Sulu crashed the ship on this one.

To make matter worse, Takei doubled down on his remarks.

Takei has finally apologized for his remarks, posting on his Facebook page that his comments were “uncivil” and “ad hominem.” That’s putting it mildly [emphasis mine]:

I owe an apology. On the eve of this Independence Day, I have a renewed sense of what this country stands for, and how I personally could help achieve it. The promise of equality and freedom is one that all of us have to work for, at all times. I know this as a survivor of the Japanese American internment, which each day drives me only to strive harder to help fulfill that promise for future generations.

I recently was asked by a reporter about Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent in the marriage equality cases, in which he wrote words that really got under my skin, by suggesting that the government cannot take away human dignity through slavery, or though internment. In my mind that suggested that this meant he felt the government therefore shouldn’t be held accountable, or should do nothing in the face of gross violations of dignity.

When asked by a reporter about the opinion, I was still seething, and I referred to him as a “clown in blackface” to suggest that he had abdicated and abandoned his heritage. This was not intended to be racist, but rather to evoke a history of racism in the theatrical arts. While I continue to vehemently disagree with Justice Thomas, the words I chose, said in the heat of anger, were not carefully considered. I am reminded, especially on this July 4th holiday, that though we have the freedom to speak our minds, we must use that freedom judiciously. Each of us, as humans, have hot-button topics that can set us off, and Justice Thomas had hit mine, that is clear. But my choice of words was regrettable, not because I do not believe Justice Thomas is deeply wrong, but because they were ad hominem and uncivil, and for that I am sorry.

I often ask fans to keep the level of discourse on this page and in comments high, and to remember that we all love this country and for what it stands for, even if we often disagree passionately about how to achieve those goals. I did not live up to my own high standards in this instance.

I hope all of you have a wonderful, safe and joyously free July 4th, the first where all married couples in the U.S. can enjoy the full liberties of matrimony equally. It is truly a blessing to be an American today.

Okay. Sulu apologized, but it comes to show you that we cannot have serious conservation anymore with the left, especially when they dish out racially charged cheap shots a la Takei. Not to mention, he only apologized when the backlash proved to be significant.

I don’t agree with New York Times Magazine’s Emily Bazelon, formerly of Slate, but she had a fair article about the Obergefell ruling, where she noted both sides–and the concerns of those who represent the conservative wing of the Court. Of course, she supports the ruling, but there’s no mentioning of black face, there’s no questioning of the legitimacy of the justices, nor is there any ad hominem attacks akin to those who make it their business to troll on the Internet:

The dissenters are clear and thorough about the downsides of this. Chief Justice John Roberts asks sarcastically of his colleagues, “Just who do we think we are?” He also makes this sensible pitch for judicial restraint: “When decisions are reached through democratic means, some people will inevitably be disappointed with the results. But those whose views do not prevail at least know that they have had their say, and accordingly are — in the tradition of our political culture — reconciled to the result of a fair and honest debate.”

Roberts warns that “stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.” Justice Samuel Alito goes further, predicting that today’s ruling “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy” and “exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.” He ends on a note of doom: “Recalling the harsh treatment of gays and lesbians in the past, some may think that turnabout is fair play. But if that sentiment prevails, the Nation will experience bitter and lasting wounds.”

Among gay rights supporters, these doubts will be drowned out in celebration — as Roberts, for one, acknowledges. Perhaps some activists would quietly agree that state-by-state lawmaking would be better. But the evidence to date suggests that Alito’s dire warning is overblown; the backlash to same-sex marriage has so far been contained to minor skirmishes. There are no victims when gay couples marry. The gain, in love, commitment and stability, is easy to see. These are among the reasons public opinion has moved swiftly in favor of marriage equality.

Yet, the backlash towards those who support the non-controversial traditional marriage position will probably find themselves under siege by the media and lefty activists. This is where we’re at risk of entering a phase where no discussions on these issues can be developed.

Obergefell isn’t final. Neither is Roe v. Wade, or Gonzalez v. Carhart (the Court’s upholding of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act). The Court does change its opinions on certain laws. Plessy v. Ferguson is a prime example; with the Court erroneously ruling the racial segregation laws are constitutional under the “separate but equal” doctrine in 1896. That was reversed in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. As a result, conservatives should prepare for a long wait concerning re-litigating the gay marriage ruling post-Obergefell. But, for now, the Takei meltdown is over, but we should expect more to come, especially as conservatives rethink their legal options.

Last Note: Bill Shatner tweets that Takei isn't a racist.

*I hate Star Trek.

Woman Dies of Measles in Washington State

A woman in Washington State has died from the measles, marking the first death from the illness in the United States since 2003.

The woman, whose age and other identifying factors were not disclosed, likely contracted measles while in a health care facility in Clallam County. The woman was immuno-suppressed due to medications she was taking for a different illness, and did not develop the typical rash associated with measles.

From the Washington Post:

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 178 people from 24 states and the District were reported to have measles from Jan. 1 through June 26 of this year. Two-thirds of the cases, the CDC noted, were "part of a large multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California."

This newly confirmed case marks Washington's 11th reported instance of measles this year, and state health officials urged people to vaccinate against the virus.

"This tragic situation illustrates the importance of immunizing as many people as possible to provide a high level of community protection against measles," the state health department's statement read. "People with compromised immune systems often cannot be vaccinated against measles."

This. Is. Why. Vaccination. Is. Important. Herd immunity protects everyone, not just the person who is vaccinated. When a person is not vaccinated, they weaken the herd immunity until it ceases to exist. Herd immunity protects people with weakened immune systems and people whose vaccines did not take. Measles, which once was eradicated from the United States, is on the upswing as people delay or skip vaccinations. This isn't progress.

Four Facts About the Fourth of July

Editor’s note: This post was published (and re-uploaded from) last year. The headline, however, has been changed.

Happy Fourth of July! Today we celebrate 239 years of American independence. To that end, here are four interesting facts about this uniquely American holiday that you might not be aware of.

(1) Did you know that the Second Continental Congress approved a resolution to dissolve all political ties with Great Britain on July 2, 1776? It wasn’t until two days later, on July 4th, that the Founding Fathers formally adopted the document we now universally refer to as the “Declaration of Independence.”

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” John Adams wrote his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. As it turned out, he was off by a few days.

(2) John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both passed away on July 4, 1826 -- 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted. The fifth president of the United States, James Monroe, also died on July 4th shortly thereafter -- in 1831.

(3) Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence. Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Franklin (70) was the oldest to sign his name, and South Carolina’s Edward Rutledge (26) was the youngest.

(4) John Hancock was the first delegate to sign the Declaration; and he was only one of two delegates to do so on July 4, 1776. According to legend, he decided to sign his name in big, ostentatious letters so that, as he put it, the “fat old King could read it without his spectacles.”

So there you have it. Have a great day, everyone. I’ll leave you with this: an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence -- one of the most important political documents ever written (or ever will be written):

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Read it all here, and explore Townhall's U.S. Constitution page here.

America The Beautiful on Independence Day

Happy Independence Day everyone. Hillsdale College, which is partially dedicated to preserving the principles of the U.S. Constitution through education, put together a wonderful tribute to the classic song "America the Beautiful." Enjoy.

US Blocking Heavy Weapons to Kurdish Fighters

The United States has been blocking Arab nations from giving heavy weapons to the Kurdish army in its effort to fight ISIS, according to a new report. Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been fighting ISIS for months and have recently made key gains, but they have repeatedly voiced their need for heavier armaments. They are currently relying on outdated Soviet-era weaponry, while their ISIS opponents are wielding modern American arms, which they seized from Iraqi troops last year.

The US-led air coalition has providing bombing assistance to Kurdish troops, which proved key to the Kurdish advance into Syria two weeks ago. But calls to give heavy armaments, even from within the US Congress, have gone unanswered. A measure to directly arm the Kurds failed failed in the Senate two weeks ago. 

Some Arab countries have expressed unwillingness to wait on US support.

“If the Americans and the West are not prepared to do anything serious about defeating Isil, then we will have to find new ways of dealing with the threat,” said a senior Arab government official. “With Isil making ground all the time we simply cannot afford to wait for Washington to wake up to the enormity of the threat we face.”

European countries have even purchased weapons for the Kurds — millions of dollars' worth — yet those weapons haven't yet reached Kurdish hands. The US military oversees the war against ISIS, and it directs all military arms support through Baghdad. This has enabled the US to block all arms transfers to the Kurds from other countries.

Regional allies — such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states — have been frustrated at the lack of direction and resolve in the US-led air campaign. These countries' militaries have frequently identified ISIS targets on the ground, only to have them vetoed by US officials. One senior Gulf state officical said:

“There is simply no strategic approach. “There is a lack of coordination in selecting targets, and there is no overall plan for defeating Isil.”

US pilots have also complained of targets being called off, even as they have them in the crosshairs.

Why would the president and administration officials want to keep Kurdish fighters from obtaining heavy arms? Do they not want to see ISIS destroyed?

One likely reason for the administration's blocking of arms is that a well-armed Kurdish army poses a threat to Turkey — a NATO ally that affords the US key strategic privileges. Turkey holds numerous military bases that the US uses. They not only allow the US to hold a key presence in the region; they also give the US a strategic foothold at Russia's doorstep.

The Kurdish people — who have no official nation, yet desire independence — have long posed a threat to Turkey's national stability. Ethnic Kurds comprise about 18 percent of Turkey's population and are mostly concentrated in the country's southeastern provinces, which border Syria and Iraq. If the Kurdish Peshmerga were to attain heavy arms, it may well defeat ISIS, but it would also embolden the Kurds to consolidate their ethnic communities in Turkey and forcefully push for national independence. If that happened, Turkey would lose 18 percent of its population and large swaths of land. Because Turkey is such an asset for the US, the administration is likely aiming to keep Turkey happy by keeping the Kurds relatively weak.

Since the Kurds have made real progress against ISIS, the administration is likely playing a game of wait-and-see in hopes that the progress continues. It is a rather forward move, though, for the administration to block other countries from arming the Kurds. It is reasonable to assume the US could keep good relations with Turkey without going so far as to block other countries' aid to the Kurds.

Even so, one can argue that the Kurds deserve their own nation anyway, and a strong Kurdistan would serve American interests and create a new regional buffer against Iran — a buffer that Turkey is not providing. At the very least, US officials should stop preventing other countries from giving arms to the Kurds. The biggest threat to the region is not an unhappy Turkey, but ISIS and the havoc it is wreaking in Syria and Iraq. A well-armed Kurdish army can only help the overall situation.

Seattle Schools to 6th Graders: No Soda For You, But Here's An IUD

From mandates about what food children can eat to draconian attendance policies, it’s becoming increasingly clear that parental rights do not exist when you send your child to public school, as The Blaze’s Matt Walsh has argued before.

But in Seattle, it’s even worse. In at least 13 public schools in the area, where kids are banned from even having soda or candy, middle and high school-aged girls can get a taxpayer-funded IUD without their parents’ consent.

CNS News reports:

[Long-acting reversible contraceptives] are associated with serious side effects, such as uterine perforation and infection. IUDs, specifically, can also act as abortifacients by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.

The state and federally funded contraceptive services are made possible by Take Charge, a Washington State Medicaid program which provides free birth control to adults who are uninsured, lack contraceptive coverage, have an income at or below 260 percent of the Federal Poverty Level -- or, in this case, to teens who don’t want their parents to know they’re on birth control.

In an email exchange with the Washington State Health Care Authority and CNSNews.com, a Take Charge spokesperson acknowledged that underage students are eligible for a “full array of covered family planning services” at school-based clinics if their parents meet the program’s requirements.

Take Charge added that “a student who does not want their parents to know they are seeking reproductive health services is allowed to apply forTake Charge using their own income, and if they are insured under their parents’ plan, the insurance would not be billed.”

When asked if a sixth grader could get an IUD implanted without parental consent,Take Charge told CNSNews.com: “We encourage allTake Charge providers to offer long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) in their clinics. A young person does not need parental consent to obtain a LARC or any other contraceptive method...If the young person is not choosing abstinence, she would be able to select a LARC and have it inserted without parental consent.”

Just so we’re clear: Chocolate and sugar? Way too unhealthy. Sex and contraceptives? Totally fine. And since Washington’s law states that “every individual has the fundamental right of privacy with respect to personal reproductive decisions,” there’s nothing parents can do about it.

Homeschooling is looking better and better, isn’t it? 

How Patriotic is Your Home State?

According to the website WalletHub, Virginia is the most patriotic state in the union.

States were ranked by "military engagement" (number of veterans per capita, number of active-duty military per capita, and number of people who enlisted in the military) as well as "civic engagement" (percentage of people who voted, percentage of people who volunteer, percentage of people who join the Peace Corps, as well as civics requirements and Google searches for the American flag).

The state with the highest military engagement was Alaska, while the state with the highest civic engagement ranking was Wisconsin.

Source: WalletHub

Personally, I was pretty pleased to see my home state of Maine come out at number 6, while slightly dismayed to see Rhode Island (where I lived for four years while in college) near the bottom at number 48.

How'd your home state do?

In Colorado, VA Officials Retire ‘Unscathed’ From Role in Growing Scandal

Veterans Affairs employees in Aurora, Colorado, who played a role in the agency’s expanding scandal, have found a way to escape punishment – they’re retiring.

In May, the building of the Aurora Veterans Affairs department was $1 billion over budget and more than a year behind schedule, ABC News reported. Taxpayers were forced to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to bring it back on track. Contributing factors to the project's slow progress included "changes to veterans' health care needs, site-acquisition issues, and a decision in Denver to change plans from a medical center shared with a local medical university to a standalone VA medical center." Thanks to the expensive mess, Aurora was named the “biggest construction failure” in the agency’s history. 

Two particular VA employees played a role in Aurora’s earning that title, but they’re quietly exiting stage left.

But now that attorney Phillipa Anderson and construction chief Glenn Haggstrom have left the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is unlikely they will face any punishment for their part in developing the over-budget medical complex. It's now estimated to cost $1.73 billion.

In a hearing last week, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson explained that the administration is powerless to punish employees once they’ve left their positions.

"Once a person is resigned or retired, they are no longer an employee and we have no basis for taking any disciplinary action," Gibson said in an interview.

But that’s not all. Not only are Anderson and Haggstrom leaving Scot free - they are doing so with full pensions in tow.

"Years-late, bureaucratic knuckle-rapping will not suffice for accountability, especially when the two officials retired unscathed with their full pensions and bonuses," U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said in a statement.

Ironically, Gibson recently announced that accountability efforts are working.

VA employees who were complicit in the agency's disaster deserve to be reprimanded – and our vets deserve better.

2016 DEBATE WATCH: Donald Trump Slides To Seventh Place

Editor’s note: "2016 Debate Watch" is a running, bi-weekly series.

This week we’ve seen Jeb Bush and Donald Trump gain some momentum. Carly Fiorina, meanwhile, recently turned some heads as well, cracking the top ten for the first time ever.

If the August 6 Fox News debate were held tonight, however, only the following candidates would make the (prime-time) cut. (See the debate rules here):

(1) Jeb Bush: 15.0

(2) Scott Walker: 10.6

(3) Marco Rubio: 9.4

(4) Ben Carson: 9.4

(5) Mike Huckabee: 8.0

(6) Rand Paul: 8.0

(7) Donald Trump: 6.0

(8) Ted Cruz: 4.8

(9) Chris Christie: 3.8

(10) Rick Perry: 3.4

Editor’s note: The five polls used to calculate these averages can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

July 13: Scott Walker Finally Sets Presidential Launch Date

At long last, the governor of Wisconsin will toss his cap into the 2016 ring:

The Hill explains why his announcement is so significant:

Walker is the highest-profile potential Republican candidate who has yet to officially announce a bid. He’s currently in second place in the polls, behind former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.), according to a RealClearPolitics average of recent poll numbers.

Scott Walker is the real deal; he's won three statewide elections in four years. Interestingly, too, his most recent victory all but guaranteed that he would run for president in 2016. Hailing from a blue state, however, poses problems. Chief among them, of course, is convincing the base that he's sufficiently conservative.

Recently, he did this by categorically denouncing the High Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges — which, as The New York Times soberly points out, is wildly out of step with past statements he’s made about the case:

His response to the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage most emphatically demonstrated his sharp shift to the right: Mr. Walker called the court’s ruling “a grave mistake” and reiterated his call for a constitutional amendment that would allow states to ban same-sex marriage. It sent a clear message to social conservatives, and one that was noticeably not echoed by two of his leading rivals, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush — who warned last year that Republicans would need to campaign as if they were willing to lose the nomination if they hoped to win the general election. …

At a gathering of Republican donors in New York in the spring, Mr. Walker indicated that his response to an eventual Supreme Court ruling, if it deemed same-sex marriage constitutional, would be in keeping with the spirit of his earlier remark about the question being a settled one in Wisconsin, people who attended the meeting said.

In other words, Walker is sounding more and more like Ted Cruz, and less and less like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. Perhaps that's true. In fairness, though, Walker has not flip-flopped on the issue. He’s a Christian and therefore regularly defends the biblical definition of marriage. Clearly, however, he doesn’t give the same stump speech everywhere he goes (via the Times):

On the party’s right, Mr. Walker’s statement in favor of a constitutional amendment on marriage was greeted favorably on Friday but was called into question when, at a conservative conference in Colorado on Saturday, Mr. Walker made no mention in his speech of marriage or the court’s historic ruling the previous day.

My response: So what? That’s politics. Walker, a social conservative with an impressive legislative record, is campaigning as he sees fit to win the nomination. He is therefore going to stress his conservative beliefs in Iowa, and not do so in swing states like Colorado. He should be cautious, however, and never change his positions on issues simply because of his audience. Doing so, of course, would be politically disastrous.

Meanwhile, another question that has dogged Walker in recent months is if he’s ready for primetime. Earlier this year, for instance, he refused to answer a question about evolution (much to the disbelief of progressives) and later came under attack for questioning the president's religious convictions. He also, somewhat inarticulately, compared his detractors to ISIS, although reading his comments in context it’s clear what he meant. Still, the media will not give him the benefit of the doubt, and while all candidates misspeak from time to time (some more than others), it seems Walker is a prime target for derision.

Officially launching his candidacy, however, offers both opportunity and redemption. Thus, I fully expect him to introduce himself to voters, discuss his record of reform, reference his electoral victories (all three of them), and appeal to social conservatives. Walker, by the way, is deeply committed to winning the Hawkeye State. So don't be surprised if he tailors his message to Iowans specifically or conservatives generally. He needs their votes to stay competitive.

By the Way: More Than 42 Million Muslims 'Support ISIS'

“Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders -- holy warriors in defense of Islam. That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the “Islamic State.” And they propagate the notion that America -- and the West, generally -- is at war with Islam, President Obama said in February at the summit on countering violent extremism. “Of course, the terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology. They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God represents Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism. No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”

President Obama is right—the jihadists in ISIS do not represent the world’s Muslim population. But then again, despite its army numbering in the tens of thousands and sympathizers worldwide, it turns out they’re not quite the fringe group many thought—or hoped—they were.

According to a new report based on four recent polls, 8.5 million people view the brutal terror organization positively, while another 42 million view them somewhat positively.

"ISIS is only a fraction of what it could potentially become,” said Ryan Mauro of the Clarion Project, which conducted the research, reports the Daily Express.

"If we don't act quickly, this is still going to grow – and what we're looking at today is going to look like the good old days compared to the future,” he added.

This, my friends, is absolutely terrifying.

Jim Webb Launches Presidential Bid

Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb (D) has thrown his hat in to the 2016 presidential race, becoming the fifth Democrat to declare candidacy. He announced his candidacy on his website.

Webb served one term in the Senate, from 2007 until 2013. He also previously served as Secretary of the Navy.

Maine Governor Endorses Chris Christie For President

Yesterday, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has endorsed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) for president in 2016, becoming the first Republican governor to endorse a candidate for president in 2016. Christie announced his campaign on June 30.

This move was not exactly a surprise, as Christie campaigned extensively for LePage's reelection in 2014.

From the Bangor Daily News:

“I think he’s the real deal,” LePage later added. “He’s been a governor. He knows what hard decisions are. He’s going to make them. He’s not going to be a politician and talk out of both sides of his mouth. He’s going to tell you things you may not want to hear, but you need to. Then he’s going to go to work trying to fix them.”


Christie said he was honored to have LePage’s endorsement because he and LePage are cut from the same cloth — no-nonsense conservatives elected to run largely Democratic states.

“In the first full day of my presidential campaign, to be able to come up here and receive an endorsement from somebody who knows what it’s like to run a blue state, knows what it’s like to make tough decisions, knows what it’s like to engage in hand-to-hand combat to try to get things done for the people that elect you — to get an endorsement from Paul LePage today is an incredible honor for me,” Christie said.

Christie's tour of New England continued with an appearance in New Hampshire.

Good News: Promoting Hard Work, Saying "Melting Pot" Now Considered a "Microagression" on College Campuses

File this under "the insane left thinks the idea of America is one big offensive notion." 

According to a story over at Fox News, promoting merit, hard work, and American values, or saying things like "melting pot," is now considered offensive.

Simply asking someone “Where are you from?” or calling America "the land of opportunity” is now considered offensive at some colleges and universities, where such "micro-aggressions" are detailed in training programs and seminars for new faculty and staff.

Other examples of “offensive” statements include, “I believe the most qualified person should get the job,” “Affirmative action is racist,” Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough,” When I look at you, I don’t see color,” and “I don’t believe in race.”

More from the absurd list of "microagressions": 

For background, the University of California system, where this list originated, is now run by former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The concept of promoting hard work and American values is so insane even uber liberal Cass Sunstein is objecting.

“In well-functioning democracies and universities, feelings will sometimes be hurt," said Harvard Law School Professor Cass Sunstein in a Bloomberg View article. “It does students no service to treat them like children — or to threaten to punish people for starting perfectly legitimate political convictions.”

Happy Independence Day everyone.

NYT: There Are More 'Intact Families' Living In Red Counties

To circle back on my previous post about the blue and red state models regarding families, there are positives and negatives to each model. Blue state families–for lack of a better term–are usually better educated, which leads to greater financial stability that often translates into a more stable marriage, according to new research. Families in blue states also marry later in life, whereas families in red states are very religious and community-based, with a population that marries young. However, they aren’t as educated and therefore the divorce rates are usually higher. At the same time, abortion rates are typically lower in red states than that of blue states for obvious reasons. Yet, Ross Douthat of the New York Times highlighted that an ugly aspect of the blue state model is that it may require abortion to be successful. That’s abhorrent, but there's new data that sheds more positive light of the red state model.

Now, the Time’s Upshot blog has something to add to this debate, by analyzing the 470 biggest counties in the country we find–to no one’s surprise–that red counties have more intact families:

W. Bradford Wilcox, of the University of Virginia — decided to go one level deeper and analyze counties as well. (Because of census data limitations, the new analysis covers only the 470 largest counties, which together account for about two-thirds of the population.)

With the county data, the overall blue-state advantage disappears: Teenagers are more likely to live with both of their parents in red counties than in blue. In the counties where Mitt Romney won at least 50 percent of the vote in 2012, 57.7 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds live with both parents. In counties where Mr. Romney won less, 54.5 percent do.

Some critics of the earlier state-level analysis argued that it did not sufficiently take account of race — and that race, not politics, was driving the differences. And it’s true that black and Latino families are more likely to have only one parent and also more likely to vote Democratic, which explains some of the red-blue gap at the county level. But the higher share of intact families in red counties doesn’t appear to stem only from race.

The new data shows that among counties with similar racial makeups, the red counties still had a higher share of intact families.

(In statistical terms: A linear regression on three factors — the percentage of a county that was white, the percentage that was black and the county’s 2012 vote — still found that the vote variable was a statistically significant predictor of the share of intact families. Every additional percentage point in Mr. Romney’s vote share, after controlling for race, correlated with an increase of 0.11 percentage points in the share of intact families.)

“The data suggest that marriage is more likely to ground and guide adult lives, including the entry into parenthood, in red America,” Mr. Wilcox writes in the new paper, published by the Institute for Family Studies. “The red advantage in marriage, in all likelihood, flows in part from higher levels of religious participation and normative support for marriage found in more politically conservative counties.”

He emphasizes that the red-county advantage is modest. The difference between 57.7 and 54.5 is obviously small, indicating that red and blue counties have far more in common than not. Blue counties also have their own advantages — above all, higher levels of education, which tend to lead to more family stability.

At the same time, the article added that Naomi Cahn of George Washington University and June Carbone from the University of Minnesota, who wrote Red Families vs. Blue Families in 2010, argued that “women’s equality, later marriage, birth control and strong educations made families more stable,” though both women agreed that a strong, vibrant economy benefits family stability for all.

Five Lies About Hillary's Secret Emails

Let's review a handful of false statements and claims offered by Hillary Clinton, her lawyers, and her supporters, pertaining to the secret email scandal that continues to unfold:

(1) CLAIM: After the existence of the "home brew" email server was revealed, Hillary turned over all work-related emails to the State Department from her private server, deleting only personal emails -- including missives about "yoga routines," "family vacations," and "planning Chelsea's wedding."

REALITY: Records prove that among the 30,000-plus emails deleted by Hillary's team were notes regarding Benghazi and other Libya-related policies. Congressional investigators have no idea what else may have been unilaterally erased without independent supervision.  What we know for certain is that some number of official emails were permanently deleted, not handed over to State, as claimed. (Bonus lie: Team Hillary initially claimed that emails were automatically flagged for deletion using a keyword search mechanism. They later changed their story, averring that they'd reviewed every individual email -- which means they necessarily eliminated emails they actively knew were not personal in nature).

(2) CLAIM:  Hillary set up a secret email server in her home as a means to simplify her life; she needed this arrangement to streamline all of her emails onto one mobile device.

REALITY: Records prove that Hillary used multiple mobile devices to send and receive emails.  This revelation caused her entire explanation to "crumble at her feet."  Her initial excuse-making made little sense from the get-go.  How is paying someone to set up an entire private email system a simplification?  (Bonus lie: Clinton initially claimed that all of her work-related emails were intact because the aides with whom she corresponded uniformly used .gov accounts, the contents of which were archived.  In fact, several top aides were revealed to have also used private email accounts to conduct official business, and the State Department was shown to have extremely shoddy archiving practices anyway.  And that was all before the Sidney Blumenthal emails came to light, blowing up claim #1 above).

(3) CLAIM: Clinton's lawyers stated that with the exception of a few days at the very beginning of the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton exclusively used one email address through her private server.

REALITY: Records prove that Mrs. Clinton used multiple email addresses, including one that her team had explicitly told Congressional investigators did not exist while she was at State.  The evidence contradicts this assertion.  Also, the latest batch of released emails (which, again, intentionally excludes tens of thousands emails hand-selected for destruction by Clinton's attorneys) reveals a third account:

(4) CLAIM: Top White House officials say they had no idea that Mrs. Clinton was operating a private email server and using it for officials tasks.

REALITY: David Axelrod has some explaining to do, as may others:

Emails released Tuesday by the State Department show that former W.H. advisor David Axelrod knew Hillary Clinton had a private account despite recent claims. According to the latest batch, two email chains show Axelrod did indeed correspond with the then-secretary of state — once in June, 2009 and again in July, 2009. The emails contradict recent comments by Axelrod to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, in which he said he would have “asked a few questions” and shared his “concerns” had he known about Clinton’s private email account and server. Axelrod made the statements in a June 17 appearance after former White House chief of staff Bill Daley told “Meet The Press” that he didn’t know anything about Clinton’s private email during his time in the White House.

He might be able to insist that he wasn't paying attention to the address from which her emails were sent, but one correspondence shows Axelrod actively seeking her email address:

(5) CLAIM: Hillary Clinton "fully complied" with " every rule" regarding official email correspondence and archiving.

REALITYNo, she didn't.  Not even close.  (Bonus point: In light of the unprecedented and potentially disastrous OPM hack at the hands of the Chinese, it is clearer than ever that foreign intelligence services accessed Mrs. Clinton's emails with relative ease; her server was woefully under-secured, especially given the sensitivity of its contents.  Hillary's response to credible allegations that she recklessly endangered national security for selfish political reasons is mind-blowingly silly.  Either she's lying again, or she has no idea how the Internet works.  Or both).

Latest: Navy Yard Cleared, No Shooter Found

UPDATE: It appears this was a false alarm:

UPDATE: Navy Yard officials now say a shooter has not been spotted and there are no casualties.

The Navy Yard in Washington D.C. has been locked down after shots were fired inside a building. Authorities are reporting there is an active shooter in the area. At this time there are no reports of casualties or injuries. 

Earlier this week the FBI and Homeland Security issued a joint memo heightening security awareness and warning against lone wolf terror attacks over the July 4 weekend.

In 2013, the Navy Yard was attacked by a mentally ill man who killed twelve people.

More to come...

This post has been updated with additional information.

Unspeakable: ISIS Has Executed Over 3,000, Including 74 Children

New details are emerging about the nature and extent of the Islamic State's executions, and they are grisly. According to a new report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIS has executed 3,027 people since it established its caliphate one year ago. That number includes 74 children and 86 women.

The charges that ISIS brings against those condemned to death are usually offenses against Islam. These include blasphemy, sorcery, sodomy, spying, and practicing as a Shia Muslim. The bodies of the executed are often brutally put on public display, with their purported offenses listed for everyone to read.

One expert put forth her view of why these executions are so ubiquitous and brutal:

“Underlying all these executions is the apocalypse ideology of the final battle between the believers and the unbelievers,” said Jasmine Opperman, the director of Southern Africa Operations at the Terrorism, Research & Analysis Consortium. “ISIS is using executions to show its followers -- and would-be followers -- that the group is the only true representative of believers, not only in word, but action, which is why executions are featured so prominently.”

This past week, ISIS has stepped up its executions to set an example for conduct during the month of Ramadan. It dealt out three straight days of executions and public chastisements.

On June 30, 11 workers from al-Miadin endured live crucifixion and were forced to wear signs saying "70 lashes and to be crucified for 1 day for breaking the fast in Ramadan."

The most recent killing spree was publicized via a highly produced video, which showed 15 men being executed in three horrific ways.

ISIS has been active in recruiting children to its cause, sending them to "Jihad School" at young ages and holding commencement ceremonies in terrorist fashion. ISIS not only co-opts and brainwashes children, it even brutalizes them through cage-fighting. The report reads:

“The violent Islamist group appears to demonstrate a particular interest in children, releasing videos of children fighting in cages and undertaking military training,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said. “The report also details moves undertaken by the group to entice children to join, which include setting up offices called "cubs of the caliphate" that recruit children to fight for ISIS.”

The report also confirms that ISIS has killed 143 of its own fighters. Many of them were fighters who attempted to flee back to their home countries, some of which were in Europe. Most prospective jihadis who leave their home countries understand that it's a one-way trip, as they are expected to give their lives to the caliphate.

LifeSiteNews Hosts Press Conference Denouncing Obergefell Decision

LifeSiteNews held a press conference Wednesday morning in front of the Supreme Court denouncing the Obergefell v. Hodges that made gay marriage legal throughout the country.

The master of ceremonies was LifeSiteNews editor-in-chief John-Henry Westen. Representatives from the American Life League, Lepanto Institute, Cardinal Newman Society, 2nd Vote and International Human Rights Group all provided statements at the conference.

Westen began the press conference by saying that the results of gay marriage being legal around the world provides evidence of threats to religious liberty.

"In Ireland, churches face fines for not letting same-sex couples have ceremonies on church property," Westen said. "In France, negative speech against homosexuality is banned, and in the Canadian province of Quebec, parents are forced to teach their homeschooled children the government's sexual ideology."  

Scott Schittl from CitizenGo continued on the religious freedom theme.

"It goes to the very core of who we are as people, being made in the image and likeness of God," Schittl said.

He said that religious freedom is under attack in the West, pointing out that bakeries, florists, and teachers have been sued for not accepting in gay marriage; some have even faced fines, prison time or possible termination from their place of employment.

"This phenomenon is now rampant," Schittl said. "Conservatives and people of faith must engage with organizations like CitizenGo and LifeSiteNews.

"Let's go forward with our convictions. If there's one thing the other side hates, it's courage."

Right Wing News founder and Townhall.com columnist John Hawkins was unable to attend the conference, so Westen read his statement aloud.

"As Antonin Scalia noted in his dissent, the Supreme Court's decision had nothing to do with the Constitution," Hawkins wrote. "Instead, five Supreme Court Justices substituted their own opinion for that of more than 300 million people. No American who cares about the Constitution, justice, or the rule of law could support this ruling."

Hawkins noted that the ruling will be used to discriminate against Christians, saying that the tax status of churches will be under attack and Christians will be fired from their jobs.

"This is a country founded on religious freedom and those rights don't cease the moment someone walks out of doors of their church," Hawkins wrote. "The time to start fighting back is right here and now."

Westen also read a statement by Robert Oscar Lopez, an English California State University Northridge who is bisexual and was raised by same-sex parents. Lopez's statement spoke for himself and five other members at the International Children's Rights Institute, who were also raised by same-sex parents. The statement expressed concern for children with same-sex parents.

"The right to a relationship with one’s own mother and father is more universal, lifelong, and fundamental than the right to marry, yet the Court has given an adult class the latter at the expense of the former for a group that truly needed equal protection and due process," Lopez said. "The complete disregard for the research and testimony from children of gays in both the majority opinion and the dissenting opinions is as chilling as it is ominous."

Hugh Brown from the American Life League said that the truth of marriage does not change and that we currently live in a culture that seeks "the destruction of virtue and character" as well as "feminize men." He ripped into Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"Anthony Kennedy betrayed Christ with a vote," Brown said.

Brown later told Townhall.com that he thinks that Kennedy should be excommunicated.

"Anthony Kennedy professes to be a Catholic," Brown said. "If he professed not to be a Catholic, then he can't betray anyone. A hypocrite is someone who goes against the teachings and their beliefs of their faith. He has betrayed his Catholic faith time after time after time. And if you redefine marriage and impose that on 360 million people and you can't be excommunicated for that, then excommunication shouldn't exist."

Gualberto Garcia Jones, the International Human Rights Group executive director and Latin American Bureau Chief of LifeSiteNews’ Spanish and Portuguese website NotiFam.com, also said that Kennedy should be excommunicated. Garcia-Jones said that judges have given up the role as arbiters and are now representatives. He compared Kennedy to Justice Harry Blackmun.

"In 1973, Justice Blackmun ruled through a legal slight of hand that the unborn in the womb are not persons," Garcia Jones said. "Kennedy is the new Blackmun and Obergefell v. Hodges is the new Roe v. Wade."

Westen concluded the conference with a call to arms.

"Let us stand for the right of the family, for truth, for freedom of speech, all of which are under attack with this Supreme Court decision," Westen said. "Will you stand with us America?"

Recreational Weed Now Legal in Oregon

Today marks the first day that recreational weed is legally available (kind of) in Oregon. Oregon residents voted to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes back in November 2014. Oregonians will now be allowed to possess eight ounces of marijuana for recreational use, but they cannot legally buy or sell it just yet. A person may grow their own weed or receive it as a gift, and are only allowed to carry around one ounce at a time. Smoking in public remains illegal.

From Huffington Post:

"We’re turning a page," Blumenauer said Tuesday. "We are suffering, and have for years, with unequal application of justice ... [We’re now] able to focus on our attention of enforcement on people who would put it in the hands of our children, and away from criminalizing behavior that most people think should be legal for adults."

Lawmakers are still working on making it easier for people to clear convictions from their record. A House bill overwhelmingly approved last week still needs Senate approval.

For now, it's not legal to buy or sell marijuana -- though local organizations are circumventing that by giving weed away. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has said it won't be ready to dole out licenses to sell until late next year.

Legislation that still needs House and Senate approval would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell weed to the public as early as Oct. 1, The Oregonian reports. That bill will make pot easy to obtain for adults, considering there are 269 medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon -- more than there are McDonald's or Starbucks locations in the state, Vocativ reports.

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Gov. Kasich Signs Pro-Life Budget That Helps Pregnancy Centers, Could Close Abortion Facilities

Ohio Governor John Kasich reaffirmed Ohio’s pro-life stance this week when he signed into law a state budget that helps pregnancy centers and holds abortion clinics accountable by closing those that fail to meet basic health and safety standards.

LifeNews.com reports:

Kasich signed the State of Ohio’s 2016-2017 Budget, which provides funding for Ohio’s over 140 pregnancy centers. These life-affirming centers provide material assistance to pregnant women in need, as well as parenting classes for mothers and fathers alike, a service that many centers consider a core element in empowering families.

Across the country, there are over 3,000 pregnancy help centers, outnumbering abortion facilities by a ratio of 6:1. In Ohio, they outnumber abortion providers by a ratio of 18:1, according toOhio Right to Life.


According to [Ohio Right to Life], the budget also includes pro-life measures that could restrict abortion facilities. The first is an amendment that defines “local” following an abortion facility’s attempt to enter into a contract with an out-of-state hospital in order to stay open.

The second is a requirement that the Ohio Department of Health respond to a facility’s license application in reasonable time. Failure to approve the application within that time will result in the facility’s closure.

“With Ohio facing an infant mortality crisis, it’s absolutely essential that our state enlists and promotes as many community partners as possible to help pregnant women and their children survive birth and their first birthday,” said Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, reports LifeNews. “We know that abortion increases the risk of premature birth, and that premature birth increases the risk of infant mortality. It’s clear that our state needs a consistent ethic that affirms life at all of its stages, and pregnancy centers are the perfect partners for promoting that.”

Krider also noted the importance of showing compassion to women facing crisis pregnancies.

“As a pro-life state, we have to be working to hold abortion facilities accountable, while also promoting positive alternatives to the heartbreaking practice of abortion,” she said, reports LifeNews. “Showing compassion for women and opposing abortion are not mutually exclusive. We have to stop the abortion industry’s disingenuous attempts to turn women against their babies. We have to truly love them both.”

The pro-life group thanked Kasich, a presumptive presidential candidate, who’s been instrumental in promoting the dignity of every human life in The Buckeye State.