Anti-Assad rebels from the Jabhat al-Nusra Front are reported to have carried out a raid on the Syrian town of Tal Abyad near the Turkish border this past week. Rebel troops are said to have gone door-to-door killing everyone they encountered—including an estimated 450 women, children, and elderly men.
The Jabhat al-Nusra Front is one of the groups receiving military assistance from the Obama Administration and was visited earlier this year by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) for a photo op. McCain hastened to mention that “the reports of the massacre have yet to be confirmed by the Administration. Even if they are this doesn't necessarily imply that we are backing the wrong side in this civil war.”
“I mean, it's not as if United States Armed Forces have never killed women and children,” McCain pointed out. “Our bombing of Hiroshima in World War II indiscriminately killed many non-combatants. Why, I myself conducted bombing raids on villages in Vietnam that must have resulted in similar non-combatant casualties. So, I don't think we should be too quick to judge these people too harshly.”
The Arizona Senator vowed he would “stand behind our Commander-in-Chief. He's the one we must trust. To do otherwise would be insubordinate, possibly treasonous. If he orders us to come to the aid of Jabhat al-Nusra, then that's what we all must do.”
In related news, President Obama has issued an Executive Order granting “refugee status” to Syrians at risk of reprisals from the Assad regime. In the event that the Assad Government is successful in repulsing rebel efforts to overthrow it, escaping members of Jabhat al-Nusra will be awarded permanent residency in America.
Administration to Step Up Neighborhood Diversity Initiative
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a new fair housing regulation aimed at increasing the diversity of America's neighborhoods.
“Too many of our minorities are trapped in blighted, high-crime neighborhoods solely because they can't afford to live where conditions are better,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan declared. “We are launching a two-pronged approach to remedy this social injustice.”
“Prong number one,” Donovan says, “will be an intensive data collection and analysis of the racial composition of every neighborhood in the country. Prong number two will be aiding the integration of an appropriate racial and ethnic mix of inhabitants.”
Aids to integration are reported to entail “government subsidies for persons who otherwise couldn't afford to live in better neighborhoods” and “a relocation permit process to interdict movements that would tend to undermine the intent of the program.”
“Ideally, we'll erase the distinctions between so-called good and bad neighborhoods,” Donovan promised. “Not only would we achieve a more equitable distribution of the population, we'd also eliminate the significant cost of people needlessly moving around in search of a better neighborhood. Every place would be the same.”
Governor Defends Tax Breaks for Political Donors
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo rejected allegations that his support for legislation granting tax breaks to a firm that made substantial donations to his political campaign is corrupt.
“The fact that the Extell Development Company donated to my campaign is, by itself, evidence of their support of good government,” Cuomo insisted. “Don't we want supporters of good government to prosper? Shouldn't good corporate citizens reap the rewards of their civic virtue?”
Ironically, the potentially illegal link between the campaign donation and the tax break came to light after the Governor established a commission to look into legislative corruption. “It appears that the commission has wandered off the track we'd hoped they'd pursue,” Cuomo complained.
A further irony is the contention by Richard Brodsky, a former legislator and current Senior Fellow at the NYU Wagner School for Public Service, that the Governor's intended “track” for the commission is, itself, illegal. “The Mooreland Act authorizes the Governor to establish a commission to investigate management and affairs of any department, board, bureau or commission of the state. The Legislature is not included.”
NSA Spying on “Only a Small Percentage,” White House Says
White House press secretary Jay Carney defended the National Security Agency's spying activities saying that “only a small percentage of Internet traffic is being monitored.”
“Is there any question that the vast majority of what people do on the Internet is mindless drivel?” Carney asked. “I mean, the number one topic is porn. Only a tiny fraction of the activity represents matters of interest. That's the activity we've got every right and obligation to monitor.”
One of the “tiny fractions” Carney maintained merits scrutiny “is the communications of persons hostile to the Government—including so-called Tea Partiers. Let me remind you that these people adamantly oppose our efforts to enact sensible gun controls. Is that not evidence they may be a danger to the Government?”
Carney argued that “we can't remain idle and ignorant about these potential threats lest we wake up to find reactionary elements controlling the government. We cannot supinely permit them to exploit freedom of speech in order to mislead voters. We cannot allow an assertion of a right to privacy to block us from observing their schemes to assail the policies and the very existence of the current Administration.”
In related news, the Department of Homeland Security has asserted an unrestricted right to search persons and structures within 100 miles of US borders. Acting Secretary Rand Beers rebuffed American Civil Liberties Union objections alleging this violates the 4th Amendment. “If you carefully read the 4th Amendment you'll see that it prohibits 'unreasonable searches and seizures,'” Beers recalled. “Given the magnitude of our Agency's responsibilities it is our opinion that these searches are reasonable.”
President Lambastes “Cold War Mentality”
In an appearance on the Tonight Show, President Barack Obama criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for what he labeled a “cold war mentality.” At issue was Putin's grant of asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden and his refusal to allow the US to extradite him.
“The whole idea of the 'reset button' was that our two governments would cooperate with each other,” Obama lamented. “Now, instead of doing what we ask the Russians have suddenly developed scruples against spying on citizens. They invented spying on citizens. They're such hypocrites.”
The fact that the US has granted asylum to many defectors from Russia didn't seem to faze the President. “It wasn't me who granted asylum to those turncoats,” Obama said. “If returning some of them is a condition for our getting Snowden back let Mr. Putin give me a list of who he wants and we'll see if we can make a deal.”
For now, Obama has decided to retaliate by canceling a planned meeting with Putin next month. “Sit-down time with me is a rare and highly-prized opportunity,” the President bragged. “Well, Putin's off the list until he changes his behavior.”
While praising the President for this “courageous stand” Senators John McCain (R-Ariz) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged him to go further. In a statement signed by both Senators, Russia's refusal to return Snowden was called “a violation of human rights. The United States is the land of the free. Russia's failure to return Mr. Snowden to this land of the free demonstrates that it chooses Soviet-style confrontation over cooperation. This confrontation must have serious consequences for the aggressor.”
Though the joint statement declined to name a specific consequence, a source familiar with the Senators' off-the-record remarks suggested that “drone strikes or armed intervention in Russia's dispute with Georgia are possibilities.”
State Cracks Down on Farmer
For the second time in less than a year, Minnesota authorities are prosecuting Alvin Schlangen for unauthorized delivery of farm produce. Schlangen offers members of the private buying club, Freedom Farms Co-op, the benefit of his volunteer delivery service. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) demands that the Stearns County District Attorney stop the deliveries by bringing charges against Schlagen.
Schlagen's customers, many of whom have no other convenient means of getting food to their homes, are irate at the MDA. “A lot of those on Schlagen's route are house-bound or handicapped,” said Elisabeth Berry. “More to the point, though, all of us are free individuals who have the God-given right to buy from whoever we please.”
Dave Frederickson, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, maintains that “the issue isn't anyone's freedom, God-given or otherwise. The issue is public safety. When it comes to food, we are the agency entrusted to protect people from potentially hazardous food.”
“The notion that individuals are competent to determine which foods are safe is flawed,” Frederickson asserted. “We have the expertise. They don't. If we allow individuals to make their own choices out of some misguided ideal of personal freedom we'd be neglecting our duty. The voters elected the people who made the regulations and the Governor who appointed me. If they'd wanted the kind of individual freedom being asserted by Mr. Schlagen they'd have made different decisions in the voting booth.”