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    Real Americans

    Real Americans


    When I walked into the "Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing" exhibit at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, I entered a pristinely curated history book. The black-and-white photographs hanging neatly on the walls provide the museum's visitors with an...

    When I walked into the "Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing" exhibit at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, I entered a pristinely curated history book. The black-and-white photographs hanging neatly on the walls provide the museum's visitors with an account of history by the people who lived it. There are ex-slaves and their children still working in fields under direction of white plantation owners, with dusty faces gnarled from sun; migrant workers in the Dust Bowl whose hands are sun-burnt and calloused from field work, standing by their underfed children; somnolent stares from across a segregated taproom; and wet eyes of Americans entering internment camps at the dawn of the Second World War.

    Dorothea Lange proved an artist can create an image so potent, that her work is known better than her own name. Lange may have not wanted it any other way: She saw herself as a social activist first, with her camera as a tool for change.

    Until May 27 at the Frist, you can see Lange's most iconic photograph Migrant Mother (1936). The photo—one of the most reproduced in the world—was made while Lange worked to document Dust Bowl refugees for the Farm Security Administration. Although she worked for government agencies, many found her work exposed government faults.

    Before she became a leading artistic activist, Lange was comfortably making money in California as a photographer for wealthy clients. "I had the cream of the trade," she said. "I was the person to whom you went if you could afford it." She was born in Hoboken, N.J., in 1895. At seven years old, she suffered through polio and was left with a permanent limp. Lange moved to San Francisco in 1918 and married Maynard Dixon, her first husband and the father of her two sons. After the Great Depression struck in the early 1930s, she noticed a homeless man wandering along the sidewalk outside her studio. His itinerant life inspired Lange. She grabbed her camera and took to the streets and embarked on a journey of realism in photography.

    In 1935, Lange divorced Dixon and married Paul S. Taylor, a social activist and sociologist from University of California, Berkeley, who was enamored with her politically charged photographs. At the Frist, the most eye-catching photos are those of ex-slaves and their children working in Southern fields. Ex-Slave With a Long Memory (1937) is perhaps the most striking and heartrending, by virtue of both the title and image. An elderly African-American woman stands in a dry field; her raggy clothes drift in the breeze. She looks angry; her face is twisted in a scowl—all her wretched memories are rising up as boiling water through the photograph.

    This ex-slave's anger is followed up in more photographs of ex-slaves and descendants of slaves who were still stuck as sharecroppers on plantations. Plantation Overseer and His Field Hands, near Clarksdale, Mississippi (1936) and Restaurant Segregation (1938) constitute a vigorous condemnation of the treatment of African Americans in the South.

    Dorothea Lange. Ex-Slave with a Long Memory, Alabama, 1938. Gelatin silver print. © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, gift of Paul S. Taylor

    But Lange was not only concerned with race: In 1936 the Farm Security Administration hired her to photograph Dust Bowl refugees. These photographs amply display the plight and poverty migrant workers suffered during the Depression. They show families walking along dusty roads in run-down shoes, or in caravans furnished with lumpy mattresses that couch children who look like they rolled in dirt. Damaged Child, Shacktown, Elm Grove, Oklahoma (1936) is a haunting photograph of a young girl whose life was displaced in the Dust Bowl. Her greasy shirt hangs loosely from bony shoulders, and her hollow, smudged face is marked by black eyes, shadowed by darker brows that seem to be permanently crossed in worry.

    The Frist accompanies the photographs with Lange's copious notes, which include quotes from her subjects. In Displaced Tenant Farmers, Goodlet, Hardeman (1937), you meet the gaze of six farmers. Lange's notes quote them: "‘Where are we gonna go?' ‘How are we gonna get there?' ‘What we gonna do?' ‘Who we gonna fight?' ‘If we fight, what we gotta whip?'" Their arms are crossed or their hands are in their pockets. Their look is almost challenging, as if confronting the viewer: "We know you feel sorry for us. But what is there to do?"

    Lange was, and continues to be, criticized for cropping some of her photos for the FSA. In some cases her decisions to crop can be justified on artistic grounds. Ditched, Stalled, and Stranded, San Joaquin Valley, California (1936) was cropped to focus on the man in the photograph, whose light-colored eyes are wide open but strained. Wrinkled skin clings to a sunken, tanned face. You can almost smell the dust and feel the heat from his steamy metal car. Did Lange crop the photo because his partner, sitting next to him, carried a less distressed expression, undermining the theme of despair? The answer, unfortunately for contrarians, is no. The woman sitting next to him appears just as distraught. But Lange made a more striking image by choosing to single out the man. It appears to show the singularity and isolation of his thoughts, even while they were shared by so many others.

    In Migrant Mother, Lange ended up removing a small detail: In the original image the woman's thumb in the bottom right corner is grasping a tent pole. In doing so, she showed her artistic inclinations as a photographer, but enraged those at the Farm Security Administration. Roy Stryker of the FSA thought it would make people believe that photographs were staged. Today, very few prints survive of Migrant Mother that show the thumb.

    Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936. Gelatin silver print. The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, gift of Paul S. Taylor

    People who compare her cropped photos and uncropped photos may believe Dorothea Lange was manipulating how history was recorded, but the exhibit shows both sides of the coin. Lange appears to crop a photo to manipulate her audience in one of the most famous series on Japanese-American internment.

    Lange was hired in 1942 by the U.S. War Department to document the relocation and imprisonment of 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent. She was forbidden to photograph barbed wire fences, armed soldiers, or guard towers at the camps. But when she saw the crowds forced out of their homes, whose businesses were shut down, she suffered a nervous breakdown.

    Yet Lange continued her work.


    Dorothea Lange. One Nation Indivisible, San Francisco, 1942. Gelatin silver print. © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, gift of Paul S. Taylor

    The series she produced is the most moving in the exhibit. Children with vacant eyes, clutching their parents, parents holding onto their pride and hope—some even smile. Oakland, California (1942) shows a small family unit waiting to be shuttled from their home; individual portraits such as Young Man at Manzanar Relocation Center (1942) shed light on how separate people, not just children, were affected.

    Photographs of the relocation centers—or internment camps—reveal sparse sheds in rows where the Japanese Americans were re-homed. Other photos show the prisoners toiling in fields. Luckily for Lange, bureaucrats did not know she wanted to use the images to expose the disturbing reality of the evacuation, so there are a wide-ranging array of photographs. Once the photographs were signed over to the agency, however, they were impounded and censored by the Army for 30 years. "They had wanted a record," Lange said, "but not a public record."

    When Lange cropped a photograph of a young girl of Japanese descent singing the Pledge of Allegiance with tears in her eyes, she was again accused of manipulation. "San Francisco, Calif., April 1942—Children of the Weill public school, from the so-called international settlement, shown in a flag pledge ceremony," Lange wrote in her notes. "Some of them are evacuees of Japanese ancestry who will be housed in War relocation authority centers for the duration." In the uncropped photograph, a smiling child is next to the girl. But Lange wanted to reveal what she saw most at the camps: The pain of leaving home by force and fear of the future.

    Whichever photograph you look at—cropped or uncropped—you will see individual Americans, vividly real, each living through stories that have faded into generalized paragraphs in history books. Lange helps us see past the politics and into the eyes of those who were affected by poverty, racism, and war. Lange's work is well worth a visit to the Frist, to walk through an unfortunate but well-documented past.


    Dorothea Lange. Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California, 1942. Gelatin silver print. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, gift of Paul S. Taylor

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    Leaked Doc: Politics Is Top AFL-CIO Priority

    Leaked Doc: Politics Is Top AFL-CIO Priority


    America's largest union plans on spending more on politics than any other budget item. AFL-CIO is expected to dedicate 35 percent of its spending on political causes and donations, according to a budget document leaked to Splinter News. The budget,...

    America's largest union plans on spending more on politics than any other budget item.

    AFL-CIO is expected to dedicate 35 percent of its spending on political causes and donations, according to a budget document leaked to Splinter News. The budget, which was unanimously approved by the union's executive council, sets aside $40 million for political purposes—a $15 million increase from the amount it spent on politics and lobbying according to its most recent federal filings. Political expenditures will eight times higher than the $5 million it plans to spend on "economic power and growth."

    The leaked document sparked criticism from Republican lawmakers and labor watchdogs. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.), the top Republican on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said that the emphasis on politics demonstrates the disconnect between workers and labor officials. Union households helped elect Donald Trump, particularly in Rust Belt states, but AFL-CIO's endorsements and spending continue to overwhelmingly favor Democrats. Foxx expects that behavior to continue in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election.

    "With more Democrats in Congress, Big Labor is only going to sink more money—the dues of their remaining hardworking members—into politics," Foxx said. "The more Labor bosses use union dues for partisan purposes and to build and protect their own power, the more workers are going to walk away, as well they should."

    The AFL-CIO did not respond to request for comment.

    Labor unions spent more than $1 billion on political and lobbying activities during the 2018 midterm elections, topping the amount spent in 2016. Almost all of union donations benefitted Democrats, who were able to recapture controlled of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2011. The AFL-CIO spent about $24.4 million during the 2017-18 fiscal year, about 18 percent of its total expenditures. Labor watchdogs said the latest budget demonstrates that unions will continue to focus on politics, rather than trying to win over new members or advocate for current ones.

    Patrick Semmens, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation, said labor officials have detected the benefits of having political allies in positions of power. The new Democratic majority has already introduced legislation to ban right to work laws that forbid mandatory union payments as a condition of employment.

    "Once again Big Labor is doubling down on politics with the goal of getting friendly legislators to grant them more coercive power over America's workforce," Semmens said. "This is a bet that more money funneled into politics can expand their forced dues ranks without having to actually go out and convince workers to join unions voluntarily, and of course their number one goal is wiping out the 27 state Right to Work laws."

    F. Vincent Vernuccio, a labor relations consultant, said the union has chosen a cost-effective approach to growth. Organizing campaigns to convince workers to vote in a union can be costly, but forcing union objectors to pay mandatory dues only requires the support of a handful of lawmakers. Vernuccio said this approach could alienate current members who expect their dues money to be spent on collective bargaining and their own representation, rather than filling the coffers of lobbyists and politicians.

    "The AFL-CIO's budget shows that politics is their top priority," he said. "The question for their members is do they want to support a union that puts politics above representation."

    The Trump administration has already taken steps to prevent the improper use of dues money. The National Labor Relations Board, the nation's top federal labor arbiter, issued an advisory that unions could no longer charge objectors for lobbying expenses. That regulatory interpretation could be overturned by future administrations.

    Foxx said that the AFL-CIO budget points to the need for labor reform to ensure that dissenters are not forced to subsidize political activities. She wants to see Congress take action rather than relying on regulators.

    "This is yet more proof that labor laws need reform that puts workers first," she said.

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    Warren Zevon: A Genius and Disaster

    Warren Zevon: A Genius and Disaster


    There aren't actually all that many lines in pop music that tell you, simply by their construction, who their writer was. And a man named Warren Zevon had a surprising number of them. You hear something like, I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his...

    There aren't actually all that many lines in pop music that tell you, simply by their construction, who their writer was. And a man named Warren Zevon had a surprising number of them. You hear something like, I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand / Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain, as he sang in his 1978 "Werewolves of London." And you know it has to be him. Only him. The genius and the disaster that was Warren Zevon.

    This was someone who could write that his lover was a credit to her gender. / She put me through some changes, Lord, / sorta like a Waring blender, in the 1976 "Poor Poor Pitiful Me." Or They killed to earn their livings and to help out the Congolese, in the 1978 "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner." Or I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse, in his 2003 song about dying, "Keep Me in Your Heart." They're great lines, clever rhymes, and they could only have come from one songwriter. The sadness, the ruin, of Warren Zevon is that there aren't enough of them.

    This spring, 16 years after Zevon's death, we finally have the long-promised biography, Nothing's Bad Luck: The Lives of Warren Zevon, by C.M. Kushins. It's worth reading if you're a fan. But then, Zevon didn't exactly have fans, in the traditional sense. What he had were a set of admirers among professional pop artists (basically including everyone who ever tried to write lyrics), and another set of cult followers who bought his records and talked him up as an underrated genius at every occasion.

    He did have a brief period of fame in the late 1970s, following the release of Warren Zevon, the album with "Werewolves of London," "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," and, in a song called "Desperados Under the Eaves," lines as good as If California slides into the ocean / Like the mystics and statistics say it will / I predict this motel will be standing until I pay my bill. But he dissipated much of that fame through the 1980s in bouts of alcoholism and self-destructive behavior. (You know a man's living too large when even Hunter S. Thompson describes him as "a dangerous drinker.") Only in the days of his impending death from cancer in 2003, when all his lost friends remembered how much they had loved his work and rushed to honor him, did he return to mainstream popularity.

    All this creates a problem for C.M. Kushins in Nothing's Bad Luck, since he can't quite decide for whom he is trying to write. The cult fans demand only new information, the mainstream audience need reminding of who Zevon was, and the music critics require analysis of Zevon's techniques. The songwriter's final album, The Wind, was recorded with the help of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and others, after Zevon was diagnosed in 2002 with inoperable lung cancer. Released only two weeks before his death, it received nothing but praise, including a pair of Grammy Awards. If Kushins had finished the book on that last tide of good will, the varying registers of the book might have passed unremarked. Now, however, a decade and a half later, Nothing's Bad Luck feels a disappointment.

    Still, the book gives a reasonable survey of the artist's life and work. His father—William Zevon, or "Stumpy," as they called him—was a bookie and minor gangster in Chicago. His mother was a Mormon, much younger than her Jewish husband, who would eventually get a divorce and have only an occasional presence in the boy's life. Born in 1947, Warren Zevon proved a shy child, suffering from the many relocations to which his family situation put him. Some training in classical piano led him to decide to be a musician, and at age 16 he dropped out of high school, moved to New York, and tried to build a career as a folk singer.

    Not much came of it. He put out a failed and now forgotten album in 1969, traveled with the Everly Brothers, and worked as the tavern entertainment at a bar in Spain. In 1975, he returned to Los Angeles, gathering friends Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and Jackson Browne to produce his first real album, Warren Zevon, in 1976. He followed it up in 1978 with his most commercially successful album, Excitable Boy, with such semi-hits and cult classics as "Lawyers, Guns and Money" and the title track, "Excitable Boy."

    Craziness followed, as Kushins documents. Drunkenness seemed to him a necessary condition for writing about drinking. Partying for singing party songs. Self-destruction for understanding his dance along the edge. Rolling Stone ran a long essay about him in 1981, a cover story called "The Crackup and Resurrection of Warren Zevon," about his recovery from addiction—and by the time it appeared, Zevon had already recovered from sobriety, with cigarettes, drink, and drugs again dominating his life.

    It showed in his music, as he slipped from his stint of popularity. His 1980 album, Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School, was released to reduced success—a decline basically matched by the nine albums he released through 2002. In Nothing's Bad Luck, Kushins uses interviews with some of Zevon's family and many of his musical friends to trace the effects of his addictive ups and downs. Zevon believed it all contributed to some of his deepest work, as it may have. But the stimulant-fueled madness also contributed to long bouts of writer's block and failures to identify his best work. It also inflamed the insecurities he carried from childhood, making him jealous, angry, depressed, and ill-mannered around his family and the friends who began to fall away from him.

    His friends didn't forget him, of course, and when his lung cancer surfaced in 2002, they rallied round. The late-night host David Letterman devoted an entire episode to him, the only guest on that evening’s show. Determined to help provide for his family—money had been a constant worry throughout his career—Zevon managed to write some of his best songs in years and use the highest talents of his musical friends to finish his final death-is-coming album.

    In the end, what are we to make of the life and work of Warren Zevon? Perhaps there is some critical benefit to the fact that Kushins's biography arrives decades after its subject's best-known albums and 16 years after his death. From this distance maybe we can judge the man a little more accurately than cult adoration or funereal sentimentality allows.

    Perhaps judgment comes to this: Warren Zevon was a minor genius, ridden too hard by his demons to make the move to major genius of the pop-music genres in which he worked. His greatest achievement may be that he was himself and only himself, an artist who had only the smallest of gaps between the on-stage persona he constructed and the off-stage person he lived. In lyric after lyric, he produced songs that could only be by one writer. In performance after performance, he delivered work that could only be by one singer. In episode after episode, he lived a life that could only be by one person—the genius and the disaster that was Warren Zevon.

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    After Making Bernie Sign Loyalty Pledge, DNC Hires Anti-Bernie Finance Chair

    After Making Bernie Sign Loyalty Pledge, DNC Hires Anti-Bernie Finance Chair


    The decision by the Democratic National Committee to bring in a man who has questioned whether presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is "dangerous to the future of the Democratic Party" has some questioning whether the party will be able to maintain...

    The decision by the Democratic National Committee to bring in a man who has questioned whether presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is "dangerous to the future of the Democratic Party" has some questioning whether the party will be able to maintain neutrality in 2020.

    The DNC's new finance chair Chris Korge, a longtime Florida lobbyist, was a major supporter of failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016, and he has already given $2,700 this cycle to Kamala Harris's presidential campaign. On Twitter, he has made clear that he hasn't gotten over the party's struggle with Sanders in 2016, even retweeting a user urging him to stay out of the 2020 race, according to a Huffington Post report.

    The DNC has vowed to keep its finger off the scales during the primary cycle, and Korge insists he'll be able to despite his stated personal views.

    "I have worked tirelessly to help the Democratic Party, and have been proud to support a wide array of Democratic candidates," Korge said. "I’m fully committed to the DNC’s neutrality policy and I look forward to raising the funds necessary to help whoever our Democratic nominee is."

    Not all are buying it. Larry Cohen, a union leader and Sanders supporter who is also a DNC member, told the Huffington Post, "The nomination of Chris to be finance chair is concerning. Before the election, I’m sure that we will profess total neutrality in terms of the nominating process and in some ways walk back the comments he’s made about Bernie Sanders."

    Among Korge's anti-Sanders social media posts identified by the Huffington Post was one saying Sanders would have to raise taxes to pay for his policies.

    "The only Bern the middle class will feel from Bernie is the pain from all the tax increases," Korge wrote while attending one of the 2016 Clinton-Sanders primary debates.

    Korge also criticized Sanders for being "weak on guns for political purpose."

    The DNC went to great lengths to convince Sanders to sign a loyalty pledge earlier this year, making him vow not to run as a third-party candidate if he were to lose the primary. In return it made changes urged by Sanders, such as minimizing the role of superdelegates in the nomination process.

    Even though Sanders nearly won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, he elected to remain an independent for his 2018 reelection to the Senate.

    Cohen also spoke out against giving the important fundraising post to a former lobbyist. Many Democratic presidential candidates have rejected lobbyist contributions to their campaigns.

    "I don’t believe the purpose of the party is to promote people who do well by doing well for themselves," Cohen said. "And for many of us at the DNC and in the party across the country, that will continue to be a cause of concern."

    The DNC shook up its leadership after the disastrous 2016 cycle, during which it was caught aiding Clinton against Sanders.

    The national committee has struggled to raise money in the years since. It was outspent by nearly $150 million by its Republican counterpart during the 2018 cycle, yet still entered this year with significantly less money in the bank.

    The DNC has banned its staff from criticizing or praising any of the 2020 presidential candidates, even in private correspondence.

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    Liberal Author Jokes Trump Should Be Killed by the Saudis Like Jamal Khashoggi

    Liberal Author Jokes Trump Should Be Killed by the Saudis Like Jamal Khashoggi


    Liberal author Fran Lebowitz quipped that President Donald Trump should suffer the same gruesome fate as journalist Jamal Khashoggi during an appearance Friday on HBO. "We should turn him over to the Saudis, you know, his buddies," Lebowitz said on Real...

    Liberal author Fran Lebowitz quipped that President Donald Trump should suffer the same gruesome fate as journalist Jamal Khashoggi during an appearance Friday on HBO.

    "We should turn him over to the Saudis, you know, his buddies," Lebowitz said on Real Time with Bill Maher. "The same Saudis who got rid of that reporter. Maybe they could do the same for him."

    Some in the left-leaning crowd applauded and cheered in the clip flagged by Newsbusters editor Brent Baker.

    Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and journalist with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, was strangled by Saudi agents at their consulate in Istanbul and then dismembered with a bone saw last year, according to Turkish intelligence. The Trump administration has been fiercely criticized for not holding Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to account for his reported role in the murder, which drew outrage around the world.

    On HBO’s @RealTimers on Friday night, guest #FranLebowitz suggested murdering @realDonaldTrump: "We should turn him over to the Saudis, his buddies. The same Saudis who got rid of that reporter. Maybe they could do the same for him." #RealTime pic.twitter.com/X5IDzZGxM8

    — Brent Baker (@BrentHBaker) May 18, 2019

    Lebowitz has been a longtime critic of Trump, calling him "stupid" and a "poor person's idea of a rich person." She added Democrats should impeach Trump. Maher is one of the leading anti-Trump voices in late night, calling him a "traitor" for his campaign's Russian contacts in spite of the Robert Mueller report's conclusions.

    Maher addressed the controversy later on in the program. He noted her comments had drawn a response online and she said she regretted saying it. Maher added that despite his dislike of Trump, he didn't want to see any physical harm done to him.

    "I regret saying it," Lebowitz said. "I regret that everyone misinterpreted it, because they misinterpret everything."

    Now Lebowitz claims she did not know that she said what she said

    She says she regrets that everyone "misinterpreted" her commentspic.twitter.com/SBtoTPFfEb

    — Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) May 18, 2019

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    Ocasio-Cortez Laments ‘GOP’s Attempts to Turn the United States Into a Far-Right Christian Theocracy’

    Ocasio-Cortez Laments ‘GOP’s Attempts to Turn the United States Into a Far-Right Christian Theocracy’


    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) on Friday argued Republicans were motivated to enact pro-life legislation by their racism and Christian bigotry. The Democratic socialist asserted Republicans must not be sincere in their desire to protect...

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) on Friday argued Republicans were motivated to enact pro-life legislation by their racism and Christian bigotry.

    The Democratic socialist asserted Republicans must not be sincere in their desire to protect children because they do not support her Green New Deal and therefore want to create "hell on Earth." She questioned the motives of legislators who support abortion bans, such as the one just passed in Alabama.

    "To the GOP extremists trying to invoke ‘the unborn’ to jail people for abortion: Where are you on climate change? OH right, you want to burn fossil fuels til there’s hell on Earth," she tweeted. "If they were truthful about their motives, they’d be consistent in their principles. They’re not."

    To the GOP extremists trying to invoke "the unborn" to jail people for abortion:

    Where are you on climate change? OH right, you want to burn fossil fuels til there’s hell on Earth.

    If they were truthful about their motives, they’d be consistent in their principles. They’re not.

    — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 17, 2019

    She added that she wouldn’t be angry about the GOP’s desire to destroy the world if they were just honest about it.

    "What angers me about the GOP’s attempts to turn the United States into a far-right Christian theocracy is how dishonest they are about it," she said. "At least be forthright about your desire to subvert and dismantle our democracy into a creepy theological order led by a mad king."

    Ultimately her point was that Republicans cannot claim to care about nonwhite children unless they supported a suite of progressive policies championed by Ocasio-Cortez herself.

    The GOP doesn’t care about babies at all – especially brown, black, or poor ones. If they did, they’d:
    – cosponsor the Green New Deal or at LEAST have a real climate plan
    – guarantee healthcare so ALL can get prenatal care
    – not stand for the death+caging of babies on our border

    — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 17, 2019

    Abortion bills in states such as Alabama, Missouri, and Georgia have dominated media coverage in recent days. Most of those bills have restricted abortion from the point where a heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around six to eight weeks. Some pro-life politicians and activists have said they want to test Roe v. Wade, which found a constitutional right to abortion, at the Supreme Court.

    Many liberals have expressed fear about the same thing, especially in recent months since Brett Kavanaugh replaced Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. States such as a New York have passed sweeping legislation legally protecting almost all abortion procedures in an attempt to codify Roe at the state level in case it’s overturned.

    Before these bills challenged the supremacy of Roe, the debate around abortion was focused on late-term procedures and infanticide, which entered the news after a controversial bill went down in Virginia. Gov. Ralph Northam (D.) endorsed the bill, proposed by Del. Kathy Tran (D.) in the state house, and made comments seeming to endorse infanticide in the case of a botched abortion. Tran backtracked on the bill but Northam did not, leading Republicans in the U.S. Congress to push for protecting babies born alive in the kinds of cases Northam addressed. Democrats blocked the GOP’s bill.

    The post Ocasio-Cortez Laments ‘GOP’s Attempts to Turn the United States Into a Far-Right Christian Theocracy’ appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

    Gun-Carry Group Expects Pittsburgh Convention to Be Their Biggest Ever Despite Opposition

    Gun-Carry Group Expects Pittsburgh Convention to Be Their Biggest Ever Despite Opposition


    The United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) is holding its fifth annual Concealed Carry Expo in Pittsburgh this weekend. The group said it expects to draw between 10,000 and 20,000 people despite backlash from some city council members. Tim...

    The United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) is holding its fifth annual Concealed Carry Expo in Pittsburgh this weekend. The group said it expects to draw between 10,000 and 20,000 people despite backlash from some city council members.

    Tim Schmidt, USCCA president, told the Washington Free Beacon he expected the event would set a new attendance record for the group.

    "This is our 5th annual convention and we’re expecting our biggest attendance," he said. "We have over 200 exhibitors so pretty much every cool gun, holster, and accessory company will be there. We also have a mobile firing range where folks can try out different handguns. There are 34 classes on day one and even more on day two and three. There's tons of opportunity for folks to learn how to be a responsibly armed citizen."

    He said the expo will also feature some of the top firearms trainers in the world as well as a live taping of the group's show Proving Grounds and won't be focused on firearms sales like an average gun show would be.

    "Unlike what the mainstream media think; this isn't like a gun show, it's more of an expo," Schmidt said. "So, it's really focused on education, training, and consumer awareness."

    That opportunistic forecast for attendance at the event comes even after a city council member attempted to have the event canceled because he said it "makes a mockery of" the murder of 11 people in an anti-Semitic attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue last October. Council member Rev. Ricky Burgess sent a letter to the committee on finance and law demanding the expo be canceled as well as one to Tim Schmidt telling him the event "has no place in Pittsburgh."

    "I am asking them not to come to Pittsburgh and not have this event given the recent tragedy at Tree of Life as well as ongoing violence in our communities," Burgess told the Incline. "The last thing we need is something to advocate guns. We have 300 million guns in the U.S. and an untold number of homicides and serious shootings. We need less guns, not more."

    The event will proceed despite Burgess’s objections.

    Schmidt told the Free Beacon he expects the event to go smoothly despite the hostility from the city council. He also said he's invited Burgess and the other city council members to attend the expo to see it for themselves.

    "I personally think the safest place to be in Pittsburgh this weekend is going to be at our expo," he said.

    Still, he didn't shy away from criticizing the city council's recent decision to pass new gun-control ordinances in possible violation of Pennsylvania's state preemption law. Schmidt called them "ridiculous, onerous gun laws that are not only against the federal Constitution but against Pennsylvania’s own state constitution."

    He said USCCA, a non-stock not-for-profit entity owned by its members whose main benefit is a legal protection program for those involved in a self-defense shooting (the author is a member for this reason), has been advocating for laws that benefit its members. He said the group plans to continue focusing on its core mission of education and training but remains committed to fighting against laws like those passed by the Pittsburgh city council.

    "Primarily, I see us continuing to focus on the education and training," Schmidt told the Free Beacon. "In terms of political advocacy, we're primarily concerned in making sure that people can join the USCCA in every state in this country. So many gun laws, or what I call ‘anti-freedom laws,' occur at the state level. We are going to be there to ensure those laws are good for USCCA members."

    He said their ultimate goal was to grow the organization well beyond its current membership level.

    "I see us essentially focusing on the same things we focus on now but instead of having 300,000 members, having a million members," Schmidt said.

    The expo will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center from May 17 to May 19.

    The post Gun-Carry Group Expects Pittsburgh Convention to Be Their Biggest Ever Despite Opposition appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

    Mayor Pete Rolls Out Hard-Left Platform

    Mayor Pete Rolls Out Hard-Left Platform


    Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg announced his first slate of policy ideas Thursday, a series of leftwing proposals that show how far the Democratic field has shifted in just a few years. Buttigieg was for a time seen as a potential front-runner for the...

    Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg announced his first slate of policy ideas Thursday, a series of leftwing proposals that show how far the Democratic field has shifted in just a few years.

    Buttigieg was for a time seen as a potential front-runner for the Democratic nomination. But his poll numbers flagged following the entry of former Vice President Joe Biden, meaning that he may be following fellow candidates Beto O'Rourke and Kamala Harris in "rebooting" his campaign with a flashy new set of policy proposals.

    In a new "Issues" section of his website, Buttigieg has outlined three broad categories of policy stances: "Freedom," "Security," and "Democracy."

    By "freedom," Buttigieg appears to primarily mean more government spending. Stopping short of backing a universal single-payer system, Buttigieg instead supports "Medicare for All Who Want It," to convert Medicare into a public option. He also supports free or heavily subsidized college, like his competitor Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

    At the same time, freedom entails expanding federal entitlements to protected minority groups. Front and center is a proposal to "create a commission to propose reparations policies for Black Americans." This idea puts Buttigieg to the left of even Sen. Bernie Sanders, who refused to back reparations in 2016 and has only recently come to support a bill to "study" the issue. Buttigieg's "freedom" proposals also include other far left plans like repealing the Hyde Amendment and passing the Equal Rights Amendment.

    Buttigieg is a former Navy officer, but the first item on his security list is not enhancing America's military preparedness. Rather, it is passing a Green New Deal, a proposal expected to cost nine trillion dollars a year and have essentially no impact on global temperature. In addition, Buttigieg would also create a "nationwide gun licensing system," one of three candidates to propose federal tracking of gun owners.

    Other proposals in the "security" section include legalizing marijuana, abolishing the death penalty, and raising the minimum wage to $15.

    Lastly comes Buttigieg's suite of overhauls to American democracy. Front and center is abolishing the Electoral College, which handed President Donald Trump the White House in 2016. However, recognizing that the EC will not be abolished "overnight," Buttigieg also supports the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact to convert it into a de facto national vote. Additionally, Buttigieg is refloating his Supreme Court packing plan, which even left-leaning Slate acknowledged is unconstitutional.

    It is unlikely that Buttigieg—currently in fifth place with less than six percent of the primary vote—will garner his party’s nomination. However, as a young, rising star, the South Bend mayor's proposals mark the direction of Democratic politics in the coming years. Many of these proposals would have been well outside the bounds for a serious presidential contender just four years ago; today, they are increasingly mainstream.

    The post Mayor Pete Rolls Out Hard-Left Platform appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

    Gillibrand Makes Campaign Changes as Fundraising Woes Raise Concern

    Gillibrand Makes Campaign Changes as Fundraising Woes Raise Concern


    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) has made changes to her campaign in light of fundraising woes that are causing consternation within her ranks, according to a New York Times report. Despite the high profile of a presidential candidacy, Gillibrand...

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) has made changes to her campaign in light of fundraising woes that are causing consternation within her ranks, according to a New York Times report.

    Despite the high profile of a presidential candidacy, Gillibrand raised less money from small contributors in the first quarter of 2019 than in six of the eight previous quarters, according to federal campaign records reviewed by the Times.

    She's still short of the 65,000-donor threshold, one of two different Democratic National Committee requirements candidates can pass to make the first debates on June 26 and 27 (she has achieved the other, reaching at least 1 percent support in three different early-state or national primary polls). However, the only way to virtually ensure a spot would be to pass both thresholds, and Gillibrand has been beaten to the donor number by such novices as entrepreneur Andrew Yang and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson.

    She raised a paltry $3 million in the first quarter of 2019, in spite of hailing from a Democratic stronghold that's also the nation's fourth-largest state. For comparison, former representative Beto O'Rourke (D., Texas) raised $6 million—twice Gillibrand's first-quarter haul—in the first 24 hours after he announced his bid.

    While she's tried to show the public she's "probably having more fun than the other candidates," as she recently told CNN, the fundraising issues are causing what the Times called "particular consternation inside the campaign."

    That's led her to shake things up, including her digital ad operations:

    Ms. Gillibrand is now reorganizing her online operations and trying to turn around her political and financial fortunes with her high-profile criticism of the new laws in Georgia, Alabama and other states that drastically restrict abortions. As she sounds the alarm, and raises money off her fight, she is trying to attract new supporters to a campaign in great need of them.

    […]

    Now, Ms. Gillibrand is making some changes. Her campaign is winding down the role for one of her longest-serving political and digital firms, Anne Lewis Strategies, where she spent $5.6 million in 2017 and 2018. That was nearly 60 cents of every dollar she spent, much of it to buy Facebook ads. Ms. Lewis's firm received another $826,000 in Ms. Gillibrand's first two-plus months as a presidential candidate — by far her single largest expenditure.

    This month, Ms. Gillibrand began to bring that digital work and ad buying "in-house," said Ms. Kelly, leaning on two respected Democratic digital strategists, Gavrie Kullman and Emmy Bengtson, already on staff. They immediately saw dividends.

    Gillibrand, one of the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate, has centered her campaign around women's issues.

    She trekked to Atlanta on Thursday to rail against the newly signed pro-life law there, as well as similar legislation being passed in states like Alabama and Missouri. She's also boasted about her ability to win in red and purple areas across the country, pointing to her victories in a GOP-leaning district as a Democratic congresswoman in the 2000s.

    However, she held views on guns and immigration at the time that she says now make her feel "embarrassed" and "ashamed."

    The Times report's opening sentence was also revealing: "In the two years leading up to her 2020 run, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spent millions of dollars building up a network of online and grass-roots donors who could power her coming presidential campaign."

    Gillibrand told New York voters she would not run for president and would serve a full six-year term if re-elected in 2018. She almost immediately went back on that promise after her landslide victory, leading to scathing editorials from multiple New York newspapers for lying to voters.

    The post Gillibrand Makes Campaign Changes as Fundraising Woes Raise Concern appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

    Arson Suspected in Three Fires At Jewish Centers

    Arson Suspected in Three Fires At Jewish Centers


    Fires at Jewish centers in Massachusetts were deliberately set, authorities now believe. Two were an hour apart, and two struck one house the same week. Police responded to reports of fires two Massachusetts cities Thursday night. One, at a Chabad...

    Fires at Jewish centers in Massachusetts were deliberately set, authorities now believe. Two were an hour apart, and two struck one house the same week.

    Police responded to reports of fires two Massachusetts cities Thursday night. One, at a Chabad rabbi's home in Arlington, burned for less than a minute before police responded to put out the flames.

    On Thursday night, police responded to a second fire in a Massachusetts Chabad house. Arriving at the Needham Chabad house, police found another exterior fire. Rabbi Mendy Krinsky, who runs that center with his wife Chanie, had already put out the fire. Needham is just over ten miles, less than an hour's drive, from Arlington.

    Chabad is an Orthodox Jewish organization dedicated to outreach work around the world. Last month, a white supremacist opened fire in a Chabad house in California, killing one and wounding several.

    Police responded to a third suspicious fire, at the same Arlington Chabad, last Saturday. In a post Wednesday, police described that first fire as "suspicious."

    None of the fires reached the interior of either building.

    Police are investigating to see if a hate crime occurred. The vast majority of religion-motivated hate crimes in the United States are committed against Jews.

    In a statement to Vice News, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey’s office confirmed the arson attempts on Jewish houses of worship. "Arson fire causes fear and anxiety in the community, but one in a house of worship especially so," it said.

    State fire marshal in Massachusetts says that three fires at Jewish centers in the last week were "intentionally set"
    https://t.co/NqqzRcdMqf

    — Tess Owen (@misstessowen) May 17, 2019

    Chabad Rabbi Avi Bukiet, whose home was twice on fire this week, told reporters he would be taking measures to protect against attacks.

    "We are taking this seriously," Bukiet said. "We are putting safety precautions in place, we are gathering a security committee to make sure to enhance the safety of our location and make sure that people come in and out without having any fear."

    Bukiet and his wife Luna, who jointly run the Arlington center, promised that sabbath programming would be happening as usual that weekend.

    Chanie Krinsky, of the Needham Chabad, called on others to take constructive actions of their own.

    "Hate can't be reasoned with. Hate just needs to be eradicated," she said. "A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness. Please take this opportunity to help us end this darkness. Do a mitzvah [religious deed] today to bring more light into this world! Tonight we will usher in the Shabbos [sabbath] with our candles, our opportunity to add more light. Please join me and make your home a home with more light."

    The post Arson Suspected in Three Fires At Jewish Centers appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.