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March 2015

The Virginia State Bar's cancellation of its mid-year legal seminar in Israel gets stranger and stranger. For background, see my posts: I have learned new information today. Key among the new information is that I obtained from a VSB Council Member a copy of the email which appears to have started the controversy. The email was sent to all council members at approximately 9:14 a.m., on March 27, 2015, repeating the allegations contained in a Change.org Petition, and signed by 36 VSB members. Here is a partial image: Virginia State Bar Email from 36 Members March 27 2015

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has officially conceded defeat in this week's elections. Initial counts suggest he lost by more than 2 million votes. Those of you familiar with Nigeria's political evolution understand what a huge step this concession is toward getting through the election season; operatives on the ground in Nigeria anticipated violence, and for good reason. Fighting following 2011's highly-contested elections led to the deaths of over 800 people after allegations surfaced that efforts were made to disenfranchise voters unlikely to support the incumbent regime. So, a public concession is a huge deal---but it's not been effective at diffusing all tension:
As the scale of this weekend's electoral landslide became clear, President Goodluck Jonathan called Buhari on Tuesday to concede defeat to the opposition leader, Buhari's camp said, an unprecedented step that should help to defuse anger among Jonathan's supporters. In the religiously mixed northern city of Kaduna, where 800 people were killed in violence after the last elections in 2011, Buhari supporters streamed onto the streets, waving flags, dancing and singing in celebration.

On March 26th, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The uproar would lead one to think such a law was brand new and have never been codified in law before. That would be wrong of course, 19 other states and the federal government have their own versions of the RFRA. The federal version was in fact, signed by President Clinton in 1993 after it passed the Senate on a vote of 97-3. The moment it became law, activists, talking heads and journalists, without discussing the actual text of the law, began pontificating how gays could now be "discriminated against" in the state of Indiana. The histrionics hit a fever pitch, when Justin Nelson of the National Gay And Lesbian Chamber of Congress said businesses in Indiana would be allowed to put "Straights Only" signs up in their windows. Gabriel Malor wrote an in depth analysis for the law and had this to say:

Is NBC up to its old—and I do mean old—tricks? Way back in the early 1990s the network’s “Dateline NBC” program ran a "news" story claiming that certain General Motors pickup trucks would explode in flames when involved in an accident. They demonstrated this propensity to their viewers by filming a controlled crash involving one of the GM trucks in question. Sure enough: kaboom! and fire! The only problem? The kabooming and fire were helped along by NBC’s surreptitious placement of incendiary devices hidden inside the vehicle. In February of 1993 the show’s hosts, Jane Pauly and Stone Phillips, would be forced to deliver a humiliating three and a half minute on-air apology to GM, as the network agreed to pay GM to settle a suit brought against NBC over the story. (LA Times: “NBC Admits It Rigged Crash, Settles GM Suit). Now claims are being made that NBC is using a similar dirty trick once again to falsely dramatize another explosive "news" story, this time on a different “news” show, the Today Show, and by a different “news" reporter, Jeff Rossen.

You may recall Hillary claiming she only used one device during her tenure as Secretary of State for "convenience." You may also recall how her once device claim was instantly proven questionable when a video surfaced of her stating otherwise. The day following Hillary's press conference, the Associated Press filed suit against the State Department over the embattled former Secretary's emails after repeated attempts to access records were fruitless. Fast forward several weeks into EmailGate. Today, the AP reports Clinton was using an iPad while serving as Secretary of State, placing Clinton's initial one device claim squarely in the Big Fat Lie category. But it gets better. Evidently, Clinton managed to serve as the Secretary of State and only send four emails containing the word 'drone.' Ever. Or at least that's what the State Department is saying:
The State Department says it can find only four emails sent between former Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and her staff concerning drone strikes and certain U.S. surveillance programs, and those notes have little to do with either subject. She asks for a phone call in one, a phone number in another. She seeks advice on how best to condemn information leaks, and accidentally replies to one work email with questions apparently about decorations.

The arbitrary deadline to come to an agreement with Iran is today. But according to the Associated Press, that deadline might be extended to tomorrow, making this the third deadline extension.
They had set a deadline of Tuesday for a framework agreement, and later softened that wording to a framework understanding, between Iran and the so-called P5+1 nations — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. After intense negotiations, obstacles remained on uranium enrichment, where stockpiles of enriched uranium should be stored, limits on Iran's nuclear research and development and the timing and scope of sanctions relief among other issues. The aim has been a joint statement is to be accompanied by additional documents that outline more detailed understandings, allowing the sides to claim enough progress has been made to merit a new round, officials said. Iran has not yet signed off on the documents, one official said, meaning any understanding remains unclear. ...The softening of the language from a framework "agreement" to a framework "understanding" appeared due in part to opposition to a two-stage agreement from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Earlier this year, he demanded only one deal that nails down specifics and does not permit the other side to "make things difficult" by giving it wiggle room on interpretations.
Any deal reached would only amount to a soft framework, and likely not be particularized in writing as we reported Friday.

Senator Rubio is scheduled to announce his presidential bid April 13th, making him the third Senator to join the Republican primary fray. The second? Sen. Rand Paul. Waiting until the day after the NCAA basketball championship, Sen. Paul will formally announce his presidential run April 7 at a rally that morning. Paul will announce at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville in what is being described as an historic event by event organizers. Rand paul president announcement

ISIS doesn't just want to recruit new soldiers into the fold---they want to show those soldiers that joining the cause is more than just a one-off decision. It's a future. Over the last few days, the Islamic State in Syria has posted several pictures of "graduation ceremonies," celebrating the end of training for green recruits and the beginning of their service in what ISIS fighters hope to portray as a legitimate caliphate. Why the trappings of statehood? Because that's the goal, here:
“There are two messages being sent by ISIS besides the obvious shock factor: First, their caliphate is an actual functioning and legitimate state. Second, this is long-term struggle,” said Ryan Mauro, national security analyst and adjunct professor of Homeland Security for the Clarion Project. “This is a way of saying that ISIS has succeeded (in creating a state) where Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists have failed.” By promoting their special force in a series of propaganda photos, experts said ISIS is sending a message to potential recruits that it has created a professional, deadly and well-equipped force ready to protect its expanding Caliphate.

At this point, it should be obvious to most people that Obama doesn't have Israel's best interests in mind. Even Democratic members of the Senate are coming around. The Times of Israel:
Senators warn Obama against rescinding UN veto As reports proliferate that US leadership is considering stripping Israel of the protective diplomatic umbrella with which it has historically provided the Jewish state in the international arena — including its previously guaranteed vetoing of UN resolutions damaging to Jerusalem — a bipartisan group of US senators urged President Barack Obama in a letter Monday to avoid threatening Israel with such punitive measures and to reassert Washington’s support for the state. The letter obtained by the Times of Israel was signed by two Democrats and two Republicans who did not directly criticize the president’s policies, but did warn that “using the United Nations to push Israel and the Palestinians to accept terms defined by others will only ensure that the parties themselves are not committed to observing these provisions.”...

The Virginia State Bar, the official licensing agency governing attorneys in the Commonwealth, caused a firestorm of controversy with a mass email from President Kevin E. Martingayle to the membership on Friday night, March 27, 2015, cancelling a scheduled mid-year seminar in Jerusalem. Just two days earlier, however, Martingayle had emailed the membership encouraging sign up for the Israel trip. That March 25 email reads, in part (emphasis and links in original):
In the spirit of March Madness, I am calling “time out.” This time out is for you to consider some education, fun, and adventure. Please take a few minutes and take a look at the VSB website for information on: · The Midyear Legal Seminar in Jerusalem November 8-15; and · The Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach June 18-21. These VSB events provide terrific opportunities for lawyers and judges to learn, socialize, and network in beautiful, relaxing surroundings. To ensure that the Midyear Legal Seminar will be a “go,” please confirm your reservation and deposit by April 1. The Midyear Legal Seminars are paid for by the participants and not by bar dues.
Here is an image of the full March 25 email provided to me by a VSB member who received it:

Last time we checked in, the White House was wallowing in a state of denial over the devolving situation in Yemen. The UN held a meeting to discuss the fall of the Western-backed Hadi government, and while the diplomats were talking, Iran executed a blatant arms dump on behalf of the Houthi rebels, who have been contributing to chaos in Yemen since late last year. America postured while the Saudis went to war, launching air strikes against Iranian-made missile launchers and destroying Houthi-controlled military barracks and air bases. Now, as coalition air strikes rage on, the Saudis have constructed a blockade as a way of preventing Iran---or anyone else---from rearming the Houthi. Via the AP:
As night fell, intense explosions could be heard throughout the rebel-held capital Sanaa, where warplanes had carried out strikes since the early morning. Military officials from both sides of the conflict said that airstrikes were targeting areas east and south of the third largest city of Taiz, as well as its airport, while naval artillery and airstrikes hit coastal areas east of Aden. "It's like an earthquake," Sanaa resident Ammar Ahmed said by telephone. "Never in my life have I heard such explosions or heard such raids."

"Blogger Burnout" is a frequent joke around here. But it's true. Andrew Sullivan quit blogging in late January 2015, as we reported at the time Breaking – Big Blogger Burns Out. Sullivan's announcement focused mostly on a desire to change paths:
Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). …. The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again…. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book…. When I write again, it will be for you, I hope – just in a different form. I need to decompress and get healthy for a while; but I won’t disappear as a writer. But this much I know: nothing will ever be like this again, which is why it has been so precious; and why it will always be a part of me, wherever I go; and why it is so hard to finish this sentence and publish this post.
Sullivan now is the focus of a report at CNN, Andrew Sullivan: Blogging nearly killed me:

Hillary's email delete-o-rama and foreign funding issues aren't going away as quickly as the Clinton's had hoped. Left without anyone on the bench, the Democratic party is scrambling at the eleventh hour to cobble together a contingency plan. Then, out of (relative) obscurity emerged the most generic, milquetoast, cisgendered candidate conceivable -- former Maryland governor, Martin O'Malley. Yesterday, O'Malley sat down with George Stephanopolous. Platitude upon platitude, common sense this and common sense that, a quick jab at Hillary and an excruciating answer to an incredibly elementary foreign policy question, and that's what you get with O'Malley. Prior to his Perry-esque oops moment, O'Malley not so subtly upped his game by saying it's time for "new leadership and new perspective" when Stephanopolous mentioned the Governor's previous support of Mrs. Clinton. "Let's be honest here. The presidency of the United States is not a crown to be passed between two families." Zing! O'Malley struggled to name the single greatest national security threat to the United States. "The number one responsibility for the president is to protect the people of the United States of America. Would that there were only one threat. There are always threats," said O'Malley, obviously trying to buy himself some time. Stephanopolous persisted, and cringeworthiness reminiscent of Miss South Carolina's answer in the Miss Teen U.S.A. pageant, ensued. "The greatest danger that we face right now on a continuing basis in terms of man made threats is um... nuclear Iran and related to that, extremist violence. I don't think you can separate the two."

Former Hewlett Packard CEO told Chris Wallace yesterday there's more than a ninety-percent chance she'll run for president. She would announce late April - early May in the event she decides to jump into the 2016 Republican horse race, making her the only woman currently considering such a role. Working for Senator McCain during his 2008 presidential bid, fundraising for the RNC, and running for Senate in 2010, Fiorina isn't completely green to the political world. Touting her deep rooted economic understanding as she starting working as secretary and worked her way up to be the CEO of the world's largest tech company, Fiorina brings a fresh perspective to the political debate. A believer in unlocking the potential of each individual, Fiorina described two structural problem with the economy. "One is that we have tangled people up in a web of dependence from which they can't escape and so we're leaving lots of talent on the field. Secondly, we're crushing small businesses now... for the first time in history we are destroying more businesses than we are creating." Not one to offer prosaic, beltway platitudes, Fiorina has a plan to fix D.C. -- zero base budgeting and a meritocracy based civil service. "How many Inspector General reports do we have to read that say you can watch porn all day long and get paid exactly the same as somebody who's trying to do their job," Fiorina explained. Questioned about her record at HP which included mass layoffs and devalued stock, Fiorina indicated she was proud of her accomplishments, saying she managed through the worst tech recession in history.

Boko Haram killed over 10,000 people last year, perpetuating a reign of terror that still hasn't managed to break through the tough outer crust of the American media's attention. (Don't talk to me about #BringBackOurGirls...that was a trend that was abandoned at the very moment it became obvious that terrorists don't give a damn about your hashtagged agenda.) BH may be a motley rebel force (an Uber driver from Nigeria once told me that a few decently-trained American platoons could wipe them out in an afternoon) but that doesn't mean they haven't managed to put the fear of God into the people of Nigeria---especially those in the northeastern sector. Back in February the group managed to force a six week delay in the upcoming presidential elections as officials from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin began formulating a plan to eliminate BH, and only recently has that coalition force begun to gain ground in preventing BH from targeting both strategically important as well as "soft targets." Nigeria has a big "top down" problem when it comes to governance, and the tension created by the disparity between the "haves" and the "have nots" is reflected in what we know so far about the contest between current President Goodluck Jonathan, and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari. Boko Haram managed to sabotage Sunday's elections, demonstrating just how adept they still are at terrorizing those "soft targets." WSJ explains what happened:

As a California Democrat, I really have only one wish for November 2016: That I am not forced to choose between the "lesser of two evils" and the ""evilest of two lessers." While most of my good friends at Legal Insurrection are keeping track of the Republican contenders for the presidency, I have vowed to stay on top of the Democratic race. Let me assure you that Hillary Clinton is as far from inevitable as we are from the Philae Lander. In fact, 54% of the Democrats asked in a Rasmussen poll said they want a "fresh face." Marlyland's former governor, Martin O'Malley, has been receiving standing ovations and drawn comparisons to John F. Kennedy simply by being a credible candidate. Several of the Democrats I correspond with about politics concur with his most recent statement about the 2016 race:
“The presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families,” Mr. O’Malley said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Another potential who seems to be passing the "fresh face" test and is inspiring actual enthusiasm among those I talk to is Jim Webb, former Senator from Virginia, who has been a combat Marine, a counsel in the Congress, and an assistant secretary of defense and Secretary of the Navy. The following video was prepared in response to inquiries if he was going to run.
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