Cuomo Loses NYT Primary Endorsement

When you’re the liberal governor in the progressive capital of the country and lose the endorsement of the New York Times, you know you screwed up. But Governor Cuomo is lucky; New York is so blue that he’ll probably win the September 9 primary and a second term come November. Nevertheless, his ethics commission to root out corruption in state politics devolved into a fiasco, which even has the U.S. Attorney’s office looking into why the Moreland Commission was shut down so abruptly (via NYT):

Mr. Cuomo became governor on that platform and recorded several impressive achievements, but he failed to perform Job 1. The state government remains as subservient to big money as ever, and Mr. Cuomo resisted and even shut down opportunities to fix it. Because he broke his most important promise, we have decided not to make an endorsement for the Democratic primary on Sept. 9.

The worst moment of all came when Mr. Cuomo blocked the progress of the independent commission he set up to investigate corruption after the panel began to look into issues that may have reflected badly on him and his political supporters. As The Times reported in July, Mr. Cuomo’s closest aides pushed back every time the commission began looking at the governor’s own questionable practices, including a committee set up to support his agenda, which became Albany’s biggest lobbying spender and did not disclose its donors. Now a United States attorney is pursuing the questions the commission raised, including the ones the governor wanted dropped.

Mr. Cuomo says the purpose of the commission was the leverage it gave him to push an ethics law through the Legislature and that he disbanded the panel when the law, agreed to in March, achieved roughly nine of 10 goals. But the missing goal — a strong public finance system that cut off unlimited donations — was always, by far, the most important method of reducing corruption, a much bigger reform than the strengthened bribery laws he settled for.

While the Times credited Cuomo with legalizing gay marriage, trampling on the Second Amendment, and raising the minimum wage, they suggested that voters who are disappointed with him might want to vote for his opponent in the Democratic primary, Fordham Law School Professor Zephyr Teachout.  She's the only person running who isn’t under investigation. Cuomo’s Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, is also under the microscope regarding ethics violations during his re-election bid as Westchester County Executive.

Team Pryor: Tom Cotton is Pro-Ebola, or Something

As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.

And since Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) is trailing his Republican opponent in every single poll conducted this past summer, time is of the essence. You’ll recall that Pryor was roundly criticized earlier this election season when he suggested Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), his opponent, was suffering from a “sense of entitlement” because of his military laurels. But his most recent ad is arguably worse. In it, he suggests that Tom Cotton’s entire congressional declaration dutifully and effectively declared war on the virulent Ebola virus -- everyone, that is, except him:

Naturally, Team Cotton was quick to respond:

"Senator Pryor's desperation is comical," David Ray said in a statement. "In Senator Pryor's world, he doesn't have to take responsibility for rubber-stamping the Obama agenda over 90% of the time, but wants Arkansans to believe Tom Cotton is responsible for everything from Ebola to crabgrass and male-pattern baldness."

What’s more, this recent dust-up comes mere days after Team Pryor released an ad singing the praises of Obamacare. For obvious reasons, most Senate Democrats have carefully tiptoed around this issue. Pryor, however, is doing the opposite:

Apparently, Team Pryor believes alarmist and pro-Obamacare ads are exactly what Arkansans want to hear for the next two and half months. Hmm.

That, my friends, is news to me.

Surprise! D.C. Lawyers Want To Reinstate Carrying Ban

For a brief time, concealed carry permit holders could exercise their Second Amendment rights by bringing their firearms into Washington D.C.; a right that was previously denied until the Palmer decision. Granted, if you were a D.C. resident, you had to have the gun registered. For outsiders, you couldn’t open carry your rifles or shotguns, and your handgun couldn’t have a magazine with more than ten-rounds.

Until recently, the District of Columbia was the last place where citizens were banned from carrying their firearms outside of their homes. A stay, which was agreed upon by both parties in the Palmer case, was issued to allow the city council to draft legislation in response to the ruling. But D.C. lawyers are trying to get the carrying ban reinstated (via Washington Free Beacon):

D.C. lawyers cited the District’s “unique character” as justification for the handgun ban.

“The District, in addition to being the seat of the federal government and home to the President, is host to thousands of foreign dignitaries each year and the site of many mass demonstrations,” the city argues. “The potential for armed mischief is thus perhaps greater in the District of Columbia than in any other American city.”

The city also argues the ban does not impede the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

“The Court should find that the District’s prohibition on the public carrying of firearms is constitutional, in that ‘it does not seriously impact a person’s ability to defend himself in the home, the Second Amendment’s core protection,” the city argues. “It does not ban the quintessential weapon—the handgun—used for self-defense in the home. Nor does it prevent an individual from keeping a suitable weapon for protection in the home.”

[U.S. District Judge Frederick] Scullin declared D.C.’s blanket ban on carrying guns in public to be unconstitutional in July and gave city officials until Oct. 22 to craft new regulations in line with his ruling. D.C. has also appealed that deadline and asked for more time.

Bring it on, D.C.  

Bye-Bye Burger King: High Taxes to Blame

Burger King is yet another major corporation that has bought a one-way ticket to less taxes and more profit. Why? Well, because the United States is expensive to do business in.  

The Fortune 100 company is merging with Canada-based donut shop Tim Hortons, and will move its headquarters up north with their new partner--who has a much lower tax bill.

The United States has the highest corporate income tax rate in the world at a whopping 40 percent. Canada, on the other hand, is around 26.3 percent. When you are running a soon-to-be $23 billion company, that 13.7 percent isn't exactly an item on the dollar menu. 

Large American companies such as Pfizer, Walgreens, and AbbVie are all seeking out lower taxes in foreign countries in what is called "corporate inversions." Even though the companies claim the potential moves are to advance their growth strategy, it is really because taking over a foreign company and moving to their headquarters betters the bottom line.

Stephen Moore, chief economist at The Heritage Foundation, said:

Expect a blizzard more of these tax moves if the U.S. corporate tax isn’t reduced quickly to at most the average in the industrialized world of 25 percent. Better yet would be to abolish the corporate tax altogether and tax the shareholders on these profits. This would cause a flood of companies to come to the U.S. rather than leave.

Since 2003, Burger King is the 48th company to leave the United States. When asked what the government is doing to stop corporate inversions, President Obama said the Treasury Department is working "as quickly as possible" to slow the bleeding. He also said, "We don't want to see this trend grow." Unfortunately, avoiding devastating loss after devastating loss to the American business community isn't on the liberal agenda--as that would mean lowering taxes for the job creating, investing class...and that would be a travesty. 

ISIS Earning $2 Million a Day from Oil Fields

The terrorist organization ISIS runs a flourishing black market economy and is believed to be raising more than $2 million every day from oil production. The organization, described by president Obama as a “cancer,” currently occupies a region of Iraq and Syria that is larger than the United Kingdom.

Over the past few months, ISIS has seized oil fields, border crossings, military bases, and Iraq’s largest electric-generated dam. As Luay Al-Khatteeb of the Brookings Institution wrote, this form of self-financed terrorism poses a major long-term threat to global security:

ISIL is no longer desperate for donors' funding to continue and expand their operations given they now possess a loosely integrated and thriving black economy consisting of approximately 60 percent of Syria's oil assets and seven oil producing assets in Iraq. It has successfully achieved a thriving black market economy by developing an extensive network of middlemen in neighboring territories and countries to trade crude oil for cash and in kind.

ISIL's estimated total revenues from its oil production are around $2 million a day! Put simply, ISIL is in a position to smuggle over 30,000 barrels of crude oil a day to neighboring territories and countries at a price of between $25 to $60 per barrel depending on the number of middle men involved.

This is hardly the only way the group raises revenue. In addition to oil, ISIS is gathering funds through kidnapping, robbery, smuggling, taxes, and extortion. According to former intelligence official at the U.S. Department of the Treasury Matthew Levitt:

“The Islamic State is probably the wealthiest terrorist group we’ve ever known.”

So what is the solution to the burgeoning threat of ISIS? Take action immediately before the “cancer” grows.

Pavlich: “Hillary Clinton is America’s Most Famous Enabler of Abusive and Powerful Men”

Townhall News Editor Katie Pavlich gave the keynote speech at this year’s Network of enlightened Women (NeW) conference in Washington, DC. In her remarks, she lambasted radical feminists for their hypocritical heroism of figures such as former US Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Hillary Clinton, who are anything but “women’s rights” champions.

First, Pavlich recalled her experience at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. In between speakers, she was frustrated that organizers aired a flattering, 5-minute video dedicated to Ted Kennedy, which plastered the words “women’s rights champion” across the screen:

“For some reason, during this beautiful portrayal of his life, they skipped over one of the most iconic moments of his life – the time when he drove drunk off a bridge, wandered away, and left 28-year-old, loyal campaign staffer Mary Jo to die in his car. Nobody dared to utter the word, ‘Chappaquiddick that night.’”

These details, however, didn't interest the DNC. Kennedy wasn’t Pavlich’s only target. For defending a child rapist in the 1970s, Hillary Clinton also made Pavlich’s list of poorly characterized "women’s rights advocates." 

The Washington Free Beacon exposed the shocking story in June that Clinton once defended a man who raped a 12-year-old girl. The audio tapes reveal her laughing while discussing the case. Egregiously, Clinton went on to accuse the young girl of being “unstable” and desiring relationships with older men. Pavlich attacked Clinton for such callous comments:

“She went out of her way to attack a 12-year-old child in the case. Sure seems like a champion for young women, right?”

But, as Pavlich points out, that wasn’t the end of Clinton choosing to brush sexual assault under the rug for personal or political gain:

“For decades, Hillary willingly helped destroy the women who her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was accused of sexually assaulting or raping. Time and time again, instead of holding her husband accountable, she defamed his female accusers as mentally unstable loons looking for money. Clinton repeatedly allowed women to be lied about, smeared and manipulated so that her philandering husband could hold on to power, which eventually led to her own power as a senator from New York, a presidential candidate and President Obama’s Secretary of State.”

Leaving out facts that don’t fit their agenda is par for the course for radical feminists.

Pavlich concluded her speech by outlining feminism’s true goals and explaining that Marxism is the centerpiece of the modern feminist agenda:

“Progressive women’s rights movements have hardly been about women’s rights, but instead a transformation of America and its society and the transfer of wealth through government force.”

Pavlich encouraged students to bring this material and knowledge to their college campuses and help to defeat the liberal ideology that often depends on ignorance.

Watch her entire passionate speech here:

Video: DOJ Says Retrieving Lerner Emails From Back-Up System 'Too Hard'

Quick history lesson: As various investigators dug into the IRS targeting scandal, they discovered that a large cache of emails sent and received by key agency figure Lois Lerner were missing.  The emails in question were sent between 2009 and 2011, the time period in which the abusive scheme was concocted and implemented.  We were told that the lost emails were a result of a "hard drive crash" that happened to occur just ten days after a Republican Congressman made the first inquiry into alleged targeting practices. Those who've expressed doubts about the "crash" claims -- namely, a super majority of the American people -- were mocked and dismissed by the White House as adherents to a "conspiracy theory."  Lerner's suspicious efforts shortly after the scandal broke in 2013 to determine whether the IRS' internal instant messaging system was archived anywhere  are also indicative of nothing, the administration insists. Also shunted aside are the facts that email storage guidelines (based on federal law) were ignored, as was the requirement that the agency immediately report the loss of emails to the National Archives.  

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified repeatedly that his agency made every attempt to recover Lerner's emails after the supposed 2011 crash -- an assertion that has been contradicted by Koskinen himself, and by subsequent reports. One such report was the late July bombshell that Lerner's hard drive had only been "scratched," and that in-house IT professionals at the IRS had recommended enlisting "outside experts to recover the data," which they believed to be possible at the time.  For some odd reason, the IRS declined to do so, and instead destroyed Lerner's hard drive permanently.  Which brings us to the latest twist, reported by Dan last night: A Justice Department attorney told the Watchdog group Judicial Watch that the federal government does, in fact, back up all electronic records.  So the emails exist somewhere, according to this lawyer, but it'd be really hard to track them down.  Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton described the bewildering interaction on Fox News yesterday:

"They say it would be too hard to go and get Lois Lerner's emails from that back-up system. Everything we’ve been hearing about scratched hard drives, missing e-mails of Lois Lerner, other IRS officials, other officials in the Obama administration–it’s all been a pack of malarkey."

To recap, we've gone from "they ceased existing altogether after the hard drive crash," to "they may have existed after the scratch, but they're gone now," to "well, they're still floating around somewhere, but it's too difficult to retrieve them."  Lie upon lie.  That final excuse is redolent of Koskinen's deer-in-the-headlights moment in June when Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) asked why the IRS hadn't at least accessed the six-month "back up tape" to recover a portion of those emails immediately after the alleged hard drive incident.  If the agency really did take "extraordinary" measures to restore those emails, why wasn't that obvious step taken?  Koskinen ended up muttering about how it would have been "costly and difficult" to do so.  In other words, it was just "too hard."  The federal government had the capacity to take concrete steps to recover many of Lerner's emails, and they chose not to.  This new development suggests that they still have that ability, but are making a decision not to act.  This information may strike you as profoundly suspicious -- it might even rise to "smidgen of corruption" levels -- but that would make you a conspiratorial paranoiac, according to the administration.  

Shock Poll: ISIS' Approval Rating in France is...16 Percent?

In my opinion, that’s 16 percentage points too high (via Vox and Weasel Zippers):

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Nonetheless, these numbers send shivers down my spine. In essence, the poll suggests that a growing number of French citizens sympathize with ISIS, a group known, among other things, for using terrifying acts of cruelty and other forms of barbarism to expand their Islamic caliphate.

“No just God would stand for what [ISIS] did yesterday and what they do every day,” President Obama recently said, referring to the brutal slaying of an American photojournalist last week. And yet what we’re finding out is that thousands and thousands of impressionable would-be radicals (including children) are joining their ranks and participating in their bloodlust. The notion therefore that ISIS was ever a “jayvee” team (as the president once implied) has been sufficiently disproved.

Meanwhile, ISIS is threatening to execute another American aid worker if the U.S. doesn’t capitulate to their demands:

A third American hostage held by ISIS has been identified as a 26-year-old American woman who was kidnapped a year ago while doing humanitarian relief work in Syria. The terror group is demanding $6.6 million and the release of U.S. prisoners for the life of the young woman, who the family requested not be identified.

She is the third of at least four Americans who were known to be held by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. American journalist James Foley was executed by the group in a video that appeared online last week. Another writer, Steven Sotloff, was seen alive but under duress in the same footage.

The rise of ISIS is a terrifying and global phenomenon. But what’s more terrifying, perhaps, is that a plurality of Western Europeans actually support what they're doing, and what they stand for.

Wow: Iron Dome Intercepts Fifteen Rockets at Once

The Iron Dome is truly an incredible piece of technology. Watch as it takes down 15 Quassam rockets launched by Hamas—at once.

(Warning: video is loud and you may want to turn down your speakers)

Just a reminder: If the Iron Dome didn't exist, those 15 rockets would have each hit a populated area of Israel, potentially killing dozens of civilians. Hamas' charter explicitly states that they seek to "obliterate" Israel, and they have extensively used women and children as human shields.

Israel, on the other hand, has been praised for their proactive efforts to prevent civilian casualties.

The Israelis have used such telephone calls and leaflets for years now, in a stated effort to reduce civilian casualties and avoid charges of indiscriminate killings or even of crimes against the rules of war.

It's clear one side will stop at nothing to kill or maim innocent civilians—it's only thanks to amazing technology such as the Iron Dome that these attempts aren't successful.

H/t to this Reddit post.

Photobombed: Boehner's "Monkey in The Room"

When Speaker John Boehner (R- Ohio) joked about how his busy schedule made him feel like a wind-up toy, his staff decided to give him a little gift. 

On Boehner's 62nd birthday in 2011, the toy was moved into his Capitol Building office, and has been seen photobombing 29 times since then. The monkey is the "second most photographed subject" from Boehner's office and Flickr page.

Boehner's toy monkey made its first YouTube appearance on the Speaker's channel today.

"Every 15-30 minutes, they wind me up, and I do my thing," said Boehner in the video:

Mission Creep? Obama Approves "Surveillance Flights" in Syria

How intelligible is American foreign policy? Not very as Guy explained in his post yesterday: “During last summer's debate,” he wrote, “we were discussing strikes against the Assad regime. Today, we're talking about entering the country to defeat ISIS, which is intent on overthrowing the Assad regime and expanding its Islamist caliphate. The butcher we threatened to bomb last year now stands to benefit from our anti-ISIS campaign.”

This of course makes any discussion of expanding military airstrikes into Syria all the more complicated. On the one hand, if the president approves intervention, he could insulate and embolden Syrian President Bashar al-Assad even more -- a known despot. On the other hand, if we do nothing, ISIS’ dream of an Islamic caliphate stretching from Iraq’s northern border across all of Syria isn’t wholly out of the question. Neither of these outcomes, in other words, is particularly desirable.

For now, however, the New York Times confirmed yesterday that the president is slowly but surely inching towards military intervention:

President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, a precursor to potential airstrikes there, but a mounting concern for the White House is how to target the Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar al-Assad. Defense officials said Monday evening that the Pentagon was sending in manned and unmanned reconnaissance flights over Syria, using a combination of aircraft, including drones and possibly U2 spy planes. Mr. Obama approved the flights over the weekend, a senior administration official said.

The flights are a significant step toward direct American military action in Syria, an intervention that could alter the battlefield in the nation’s three-year civil war. Administration officials said the United States did not intend to notify the Assad government of the planned flights. Mr. Obama, who has repeatedly called for the ouster of Mr. Assad, is loath to be seen as aiding the Syrian government, even inadvertently.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the president has made up his mind about what to do yet, either:

Mr. Obama met Monday with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other advisers to discuss options, but the White House said Mr. Obama had not yet decided whether to order military action in Syria. The White House made clear that if the president did act, he had no plans to collaborate with Mr. Assad or even inform him in advance of any operation.

“It is not the case that the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. “Joining forces with Assad would essentially permanently alienate the Sunni population in both Syria and Iraq, who are necessary to dislodging ISIL,” he said, using the group’s alternative name, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Not surprisingly, this might be a bit of a problem (via The Guardian):

Syria has declared it is ready to help confront the rising threat from the Islamic State group but warned the US against carrying out air strikes on its territory without the consent of Damascus, saying any such attack would be considered an aggression. Walid al-Moallem, the Syrian foreign minister, said his government was ready “to co-operate and co-ordinate” with any side, including the US, or join any regional or international alliance against Isis. But he said any military action inside Syria should be co-ordinated with the Syrian government. “Any strike which is not co-ordinated with the government will be considered as aggression,” he said.

So, as far as I can tell, the current administration is only leaving themselves with two outs: (1) Do nothing militarily and risk more Syrian government losses to ISIS forces as they expand their caliphate. Or (2) conduct limited military airstrikes in the region unilaterally, thus possibly aiding Assad and fanning the flames of mistrust between Washington and Damascus.

What a mess.

If Obama's Bombing of Libya Was Legal, His Bombing of Syria Would Be Too

President Obama has already ordered reconnaissance flights over Syria and is currently deliberating whether or not to authorize military strikes on Islamic State bases in that country. But whatever Obama decides to do, do not expect him to wait for a vote in Congress authorizing his actions.

In 2013, as HotAir Noah Rothman notes, Obama promised he would seek a vote in Congress before bombing the Assad regime in Syria. But now, Rothman also notes, the White House is claiming they have no need to seek congressional approval before such a campaign. 

Asked to explain the discrepancy yesterday, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest claimed bombing Syria in 2014 "was a different situation" than bombing Syria in 2013 and then noted that Obama did not seek permission from Congress when he approved the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.

And it is true that Obama did not seek congressional approval to enter Pakistani airspace and kill bin Laden. But that short and small strike was perfectly in line with past presidential uses of executive war powers. From Townhall Magazine's June 2014 issue:

Before launching Operation Odyssey Dawn against Libya on March 19, 2011, Obama secured authorization from both the Arab League and the United Nations. But at no point did he ever push for a debate, or vote, in the United States Congress.

Now it is true that presidents have taken military action without specific authorization from Congress in the past. In 1986, for example, President Reagan also bombed Libya. And in 1998, President Clinton launched cruise missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan.

But those actions were both brief and limited responses to specific terrorist attacks on Americans. Reagan bombed Libya for a single day as punishment for their involvement in a bombing of American servicemen in Berlin. Clinton’s cruise missile attack was also limited to a single day and was in direct response to the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Obama’s attack on Libya, however, lasted seven months, one week, and five days. Countless Libyan military personnel were killed during the campaign, as well as more than 60 civilians according to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

But unlike Reagan and Clinton, who were responding to specific attacks on Americans, Obama acted without any provocation. Libya had not recently attacked America, and was not threatening to, when Obama started bombing the country.

There simply is no constitutional justification for Obama’s unilateral bombing of Libya. Which is why top lawyers at both the Pentagon and the Justice Department told Obama he had no legal right to attack Libya as broadly as he was planning without authorization from Congress.

But instead of deciding the issue democratically, Obama overruled his lawyers and ordered the DOJ to write a new legal memo justifying his decision.

If Obama can bomb Libya for over half a year, when that country presented no threat to the United States, then there is no stopping him from launching a similar, even larger, campaign against Syria as well. 

And Obama's expansive view of executive power does not end at the water's edge. In 2011, Obama told Hispanic journalists at a White House roundtable, "This notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is not true. The fact of the matter is there are laws on the books I have to enforce. And there is a great disservice done to the cause of getting the DREAM Act passed and comprehensive immigration reform passed by perpetuating the notion that somehow by myself I can just go and do these things.”

But just months later Obama did "just change the laws unilaterally" when he announced his June 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA functionally turned the failed DREAM Act legislation into executive action reality.

Then in 2013, when amnesty activists pushed Obama to expand DACA, Obama insisted, "If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws."

But now, of course, Obama is, again, planning to do act unilaterally on immigration, this time granting temporary amnesty to as many as 8 million illegal immigrants

Obama does not have to face the American people at the ballot box ever again. What political checks there are on his power are diminishing everyday and he seems increasingly to believe there are no legal limits to what he can do either.

Government-Funded Science: Monitoring What You Say On Twitter

The Washington Free Beacon yesterday reported on researchers at Indiana University, supported by a National Science Foundation grant, creating a database of "political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution" - called "Truthy":

The National Science Foundation is financing the creation of a web service that will monitor “suspicious memes” and what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online.


“This service could mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate,” the grant said.

There might be a good reason to do this study. Scientists are often interested in all sorts of ways that modern technology affects communication. What does seem clear is that this is, at best, on the fringes of what should be considered for publicly-funded research. If there's a public goods angle here, it's difficult to see.

This represents a major PR problem for government-funded science. On the one hand, many people think there's value in government money being used for science research. On the other hand, stretching it to funding databases of hate-tweets and shrimp treadmills sure makes it seem like there's probably a better use for public money.

That there's also a role for private science research is beyond the grasp of a lot of people. Sam Stein at the Huffington Post, riffing off Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski, finds it notable that politicians voluntarily donated money to scientific research while at the same time voting to cut a small amount of money from some government science agencies - like the very same National Science Foundation that funded the Twitter hate-tweet study.

Even in the face of silly-sounding research, members of Congress are accused of being "anti-science" when they vote to trim science funding. There's little agreement on what the optimal level of science funding is, but the U.S. isn't exactly trailing the rest of the world here:

Perhaps there's more and better research that the U.S. could be doing. But the fastest-growing portion of scientific research has been government funding:

That second image is from National Science Foundation data. The first is from R&D Magazine. Both come from this Science article.

In a hypothetical world in which the government instituted a 100% effective tax rate on everyone and, after defense and transfers, spent the rest of GDP on scientific research, we should all aspire to be anti-science. But we live in a world where we are slightly above the OECD pack in research spending/GDP, and a certain amount of that spending looks a little ludicrous to the public's eyes. And there's nothing at all hypocritical about acknowledging a separate role for applied science in the form of ALS research while representing a public that raises its eyebrows at duck phallus research.

Fraud: Virginia County Finds 17 Repeat Voters From 2012 Election

Virginia County officials have discovered multiple instances of voter fraud from the 2012 presidential election. Seventeen to be exact. The Virginia Voters Alliance and Election Integrity Maryland launched the investigation in Fairfax County, Va. and Maryland. Here's how they revealed the fraud and pursued a follow up inquiry:

Officials from Fairfax and Montgomery County, Md., identified dual voters by matching first and last names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.

Brian Schoenemann, secretary of the Fairfax County Electoral Board, said he sent letters and evidence to county Commonwealth Attorney Ray Morrogh, state Attorney General Mark Herring, U.S. Attorney Dana Boente and the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice requesting further investigation.

Oh yeah, and one of those people charged with fraud has reportedly been voting twice for over a decade.  

In response to these findings, Reagan George, president of the nonpartisan VVA, criticized political progressives for insisting voter fraud is an unfair invention intending to keep minorities away from the polls:

George said the presence of dual voters demolishes the argument by political “progressives” that voter fraud doesn’t exist.

“Their next point will be that voter fraud is such a small percentage that such voter fraud should be ignored. What percentage of the overall vote is tolerable for progressives?” George asked.

“VVA believes we should have zero tolerance for voter fraud in our elections,” he said in a statement.

Cathy Kelleher, president of the nonpartisan Election Integrity Maryland, says that her group has not been asked to help find additional dual voters, presumably because election officials intend on keeping Virginia blue:

Kelleher said EIM sent names of 164 alleged duplicate Virginia-Maryland statewide voters to Mary Wagner at the State Board of Elections.

“She passed them on to the State Prosecutor Emmett Davitt. We have not received any response to the inquiry,” Kelleher said.

Illegal voting isn't an anomaly for Virginia. In last year's gubernatorial race, voting irregularities and several cases of intimidation at the polls were found in 13 districts across the state after Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the election. Some votes were found cast by people who had moved out of the district or were deceased.

Voter fraud is real. Who knows how many more illegal votes were cast throughout Virginia's elections and the country as a whole. Hopefully this will be a wake up call to progressives who often choose to look the other way.

WH: Unlike Some Other People, We Don't View Things Through a Political Lens

Show of hands: How many of you literally laughed out loud at this instant classic from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest? (Skip ahead to the 1:37:20 mark of yesterday's eventful briefing for this exchange. UPDATE - It seems as though the White House has taken down this video, but you can view the clip by clicking the Buzzfeed link above): 

White House officials don’t view things through a political lens, according to the White House press secretary. "I think understandably people look at a lot of things that happen in this town through a political lens. That’s an understandable pursuit. That’s just not that we look at them," [he] said.

Oh yes, far be it from this White House to "look at a lot of things" through a "political lens." Team Obama politicizes everything they touch. When attempting to divine the intent behind any given action or choice made by the administration, the surest mechanism for cracking the code is often to adopt a mindset fixated on winning or surviving the immediate news cycle.  It's routinely that simple-minded and short-sighted. The Obama crew is regularly guided by a callow elixir of ideological fervor and political expediency.  Victor Davis Hanson wrote a lengthy piece lamenting the "politicization of everything" last year, and it continues to hold up well today.  The clearest and most cynical example I can think of is the administration's sales pitch and and implementation of Obamacare.  They knowingly offered a parade of utopic, un-keepable promises to the public in order to drag the unpopular legislation across the vote tally finish line, then ensured that critics' vindication wouldn't materialize until after the president's re-election campaign had concluded.  Indeed, the administration delayed a number of key decisions until post-November 2012 for the same reason, recklessly compacting the implementation timeline, causing the roll-out fiasco. As the law's policy outcomes violate presidential vows while harming both consumers and the overall economy, the White House has scrambled to unilaterallydelayalterpostpone and waive various provisions, "fixes" that expire...beyond the next election cycle.  It's all done "through a political lens."

Interestingly, Earnest's answer above came in response to a question about the optics of Obama condemning the beheading of an American citizen by an ascendant fighting force of Jihadi savages before promptly returning to the golf course. Days earlier, the president's team was criticized for tweeting that "a good time was had by all" at an opulent party on Martha's Vineyard in the midst of racially-charged riots in Ferguson, Missouri.  Obama also came under fire for jetting to a pair of fundraisers right on the heels of commenting on the downing of a jumbo jet by Russian-backed rebels over Ukraine, killing hundreds of civilians.  The most recent disconnect between the president's actions and the gravity of world events was glaring enough to attract the scorn of people (including yours truly) who typically find golf/vacation criticisms to be petty and frivolous:

"Jarring," declared USA Today's Susan Page.  They should have seen it coming, intoned NBC's Chuck Todd.  The irony is that in these cases, Earnest is telling the truth. The White House has decided not to give a damn about 'optics' failures in situations like this.  If they weren't going to cancel a Vegas fundraiser the day after an ambassador was assassinated by terrorists in 2012, they sure as hell aren't going to let a mere beheading disrupt Obama's plans while he's on holiday.  Contra Todd, they did see this uproar coming. They just didn't care. They've made the calculation that they'll get dinged in certain quarters, but that most people will never hear about it.  Which is why White House aides felt free to serve up this garbage in response to early complaints about the decapitation/golf juxtaposition:

"Aides said the golf game did not reflect the depth of his grief over Mr. Foley..."
His inner grief was overwhelming, you see:

In case you're wondering, yes, that photo was snapped during the round immediately following his beheading statement.  Our colleague, Allahpundit, has been snarkily describing Obama as "semi-retired" in recent weeks.  I suspect he's only half kidding.

Captive Journalist Steven Sotloff is Focus of New ISIS Propaganda Campaign

ISIS began a new social media campaign on Sunday featuring Steven Sotloff, the American journalist being held captive. On the heels of the brutal beheading of James Foley, ISIS is using this campaign to get the United States to back off. The jihadist warned at the end of Foley's execution that the president’s “next move” would decide Sotloff’s fate.

The well-planned campaign—which includes pre-formulated tweets, images and instructions for dissemination, all under the hashtag #StevensHeadInObamasHands—is being rolled out in Arabic in an ISIS forum called al-Manbar, where the group tends to post publications and instructions.[…]

In a forum post, the group offered 13 different phrases to be published and tweeted, all of them using the #StevensHeadInObamasHands hashtag, along with a variety of images relating to the threat.

The tweets are often cross-tagged with popular tags to inject them into conversations in particular demographics. For example, several images we spotted are tagged with #AskRicky, which usually refers to Ricky Dillon, a teen YouTube star with over 1.6 million YouTube followers and similar numbers on Twitter and Instagram. Users scanning that hashtag will now, intermittently, see ISIS propaganda tweets in the same stream. [...]

The group behind the new campaign seems to be dedicated to English language propaganda for ISIS, and its use of odd cross-hashtags shows an understanding of how to connect with hitherto out-of-reach demographics.

Although the exact demands of the group are unclear, the suspension of air strikes, the release of high-profile prisoners, and several million dollars are thought to be what ISIS is seeking.

H/T: Twitchy

Hearings On The Militarization Of Police Are Coming

While the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri has somewhat subsided, it’s nice to see that there’s a bipartisan consensus to review the militarization of police. It’s a controversial trend whose first vestiges were seen in the 1980s with the War on Drugs. After the 1033 program was established in the 1990s, which allowed the Department of Defense to give local law enforcement excess military equipment; the trend was accelerated.

In the post-9/11 era, the Department of Homeland Security has injected steroids into police militarization by issuing billions in terrorism grants. Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill said hearings would be held on the subject (via Roll Call):

The Missouri Democrat, chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, plans to take a broad look at programs like the Defense Department’s 1033 program that have steered surplus equipment to local police departments.

That DOD program has come under particular scrutiny from other lawmakers.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, last week said he would review the program, which is part of the defense authorization bill, before it gets to the Senate floor “to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended.”

McCaskill “plans to gather stakeholders from all sides in order to hear several perspectives, including those of local law enforcement,” the release said. “Details of McCaskill’s hearing will be available in the coming days.”

Additionally, President Obama wants a review of the role the federal government has in transferring military equipment to local law enforcement, according to Fox News:

President Obama has directed a review of federal programs and funding that allow state and local law-enforcement agencies to acquire surplus military equipment, a senior administration official said Saturday.

The review will include whether the programs are appropriate, if the agencies are getting enough training and guidance to use the equipment and whether the federal government is sufficiently auditing the use of the equipment.

The president hinted Monday that a review was likely in the aftermath of an unarmed Ferguson, Mo., teen being fatally shot by a police officer, which was followed by local law enforcement using military equipment to try to control the ensuing protests and riots.

“I think it's probably useful for us to review how the funding has gone, how local law enforcement has used grant dollars, to make sure that what they’re purchasing is stuff that they actually need, because there is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don't want those lines blurred,” Obama said. “And I think that there will be some bipartisan interest in reexamining some of those programs.”

Conn wrote a good piece about some of the equipment police have acquired through these programs. Additionally, in an investigation conducted by the Associated Press last summer, Michael Kunzelman noted that a disproportionate amount of 1033 equipment was going to parts of the country–usually rural– with little crime and few officers. He also cited the “scant” oversight regarding this program. The report by the American Civil Liberties Union also noted the lack of oversight with the militarization of our police.

This is a legitimate debate. As conservatives, we support the rule of law and want police to have all the necessary tools in order to protect the public and nab criminals. But, there’s also a question about tactics, the use of force, and how special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams are being used. We’re experience a 50-year low in violent crime, a 39% reduction in gun-related homicides between 1993-2011 alone. So, why have SWAT raids increased astronomically from an average of 3,000 per year in the 1980s to 45,000 by the mid-2000s?

Is deploying a SWAT team necessary to break up poker games, or serve warrants for non-violent offenses, like credit card fraud and underage drinking? In most cases, SWAT teams are used when there isn’t a situation that justified their deployment, like a hostage situation or an active shooter on the loose.

That’s not supporting the rule of law; that’s the state running amok.

IG Report: No One Died From Delays in Care at the Phoenix VA

The Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) has published its own preliminary report concluding that zero veterans died from delays in care at their facility in Phoenix, Arizona. This is a remarkable conclusion, I think, not least because when the story first broke in April, it was widely reported that at least 40 veterans died needlessly from negligence and interminable wait-times.

Nevertheless, the federal agency’s “independent office,” which was charged with investigating these allegations, is sticking to their initial findings:

The Department of Veterans Affairs says investigators have found no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at a VA hospital in Phoenix, deflating an explosive allegation that helped expose a troubled health care system in which veterans waited months for appointments while employees falsified records to cover up the delays. Revelations that as many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA hospital rocked the agency last spring, bringing to light scheduling problems and allegations of misconduct at other hospitals as well. The scandal led to the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. In July, Congress approved spending an additional $16 billion to help shore up the system.

The VA's Office of Inspector General has been investigating the delays for months and shared a draft report of its findings with VA officials. In a written memorandum about the report, VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald said: "It is important to note that while OIG's case reviews in the report document substantial delays in care, and quality-of-care concerns, OIG was unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the death of these veterans."

The language McDonald uses here is rather precise, isn’t it? According to the Inspector General’s report, he asserted, there was no “conclusive" evidence that veterans died because of delays. And yet, this contention is directly contradicted by anecdotal evidence -- an imprecise yet nonetheless compelling sign that the IG report is far from credible.

Take, for example, the tragic and preventable case of Thomas Breen -- who was denied care for a period of months, which his relatives ultimately conclude directly contributed to his death. Guy linked to this heartbreaking CNN piece in his write-up last spring:

Teddy says his Brooklyn-raised father was so proud of his military service that he would go nowhere but the VA for treatment. On September 28, 2013, with blood in his urine and a history of cancer, Teddy and his wife, Sally, rushed his father to the Phoenix VA emergency room, where he was examined and sent home to wait…Thomas Breen died on November 30. The death certificate shows that he died from Stage 4 bladder cancer. Sally says her father-in-law realized toward the end he was not getting the care he needed. "At the end is when he suffered. He screamed. He cried. And that's somethin' I'd never seen him do before, was cry. Never. Never. He cried in the kitchen right here. 'Don't let me die.'" Teddy added his father said: "Why is this happening to me? Why won't anybody help me?"

Infuriating. At the same time, here’s what another whistleblower told CNN about the culture of silence and corruption specifically at the agency’s Phoenix branch:

"Deceased" notes on files were removed to make statistics look better, so veterans would not be counted as having died while waiting for care, Pauline DeWenter said.

DeWenter should know. DeWenter is the actual scheduling clerk at the Phoenix VA who said for the better part of a year she was ordered by supervisors to manage and handle the so-called "secret waiting list," where veterans' names of those seeking medical care were often placed, sometimes left for months with no care at all.

For these reasons, DeWenter is among the most important and central people to the Phoenix VA scandal over a secret wait list, veterans' wait times and deaths. Despite being in the center of the storm, DeWenter has never spoken publicly about any of it -- the secret list, the altering of records, the dozens of veterans she believes have died waiting for care -- until now.

These are merely two examples casting doubt on the VA Inspector General’s “independent” report. Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) conducted a yearlong, independent study of his own. And what did he discover? A full-blown scandal in its own right: “Over the past decade,” he claimed, “more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of VA malfeasance.”

The problems at the VA, therefore, are systemic and far from resolved. And while the VA can contend that veterans didn’t die on their watch (at least in Phoenix, Arizona), I don’t think one government report released by the agency's own oversight office is necessarily going to exonerate them.

Blue State Residents Are Flocking to Red States

People are fleeing blue states in droves. In Illinois alone, half of its residents would rather move someplace else. You might recall Dan’s post detailing their plight. After all, the Land of Lincoln had anemic job growth; only 500 jobs were created between 2013-2014. But, while blue state residents flocking to conservative states might serve as good PR, it’s changed the electoral math. Blue state migration helped Obama win Colorado, Florida, and Virginia in 2008 and 2012 (via NYT):

Over the last few decades, residents of many traditionally liberal states have moved to states that were once more conservative. And this pattern has played an important role in helping the Democratic Party win the last two presidential elections and four of the last six.

The blue diaspora has helped offset the fact that many of the nation’s fastest-growing states are traditionally Republican. You can think of it as a kind of race: Population growth in these Republican states is reducing the share of the Electoral College held by traditionally Democratic states. But Democratic migration has been fast enough, so far, to allow the party to overcome the fact that the Northeast and industrial Midwest contain a smaller portion of the country’s population than they once did.

The migration helped President Obama win Colorado, Florida and Virginia in both 2008 and 2012. In 2014, the influx of blue-state natives gives Democrats a better chance to win Senate races in Colorado, Georgia and North Carolina, among other places.

The spread of people born in New York State offers a particularly telling example: Of the 20 million Americans alive today who were born in New York, nearly one in six now live in the South. That would have been almost unthinkable 50 years ago, when the share was one in 25.

Also, the Times noted that blue state migration is especially high in South Carolina, Idaho, and Utah. But have no fear; there’s no immediate impact yet. Not all residents from blue states are liberal, as seen with the migration patterns to Texas, Utah, and Idaho. In fact, the Lone Star State has welcomed a healthy share of red state migrants as well.

Nevertheless, the wonks helming the New York Times’ Upshot say that the "blue state diaspora" will likely continue. That might require conservatives to be savvier in their political maneuvering given the diluted voter rolls; challenge accepted.

British Embassy: Yeah, Sorry We Commemorated Torching the WH

The British Embassy in Washington D.C. offered an official apology this week after tweeting a surprisingly cheeky comment about the 200th anniversary of the British burning the White House. Apparently, the Brits held a barbecue and created a lovely cake to commemorate the time they torched our commander-in-chief's home during the War of 1812. 

Thousands of Americans questioned the tweets' intention and responded to the embassy on Twitter. Only two days prior to the barbecue, Patrick Davies, the embassy's Deputy Head of the Mission, detailed the scale of the disaster in the Huffington Post 

Washington, D.C. Late August, after sunset. A brigade of foreign troops marches unhindered down Pennsylvania Avenue, leaving the U.S. Capitol in flames at their backs. When they reach the White House, the soldiers break in to find a lavish banquet laid out on the dining table. As they devour the feast, one of them sneaks upstairs to the master bedroom and steals one of the president's shirts. Their dinner consumed, the soldiers pile the expensive dining chairs on the table, retreat outside, smash the windows and throw in burning torches. The resulting column of flame and smoke can be seen for miles around.

Only an hour after the first tweet, the British Embassy claimed they were actually celebrating that the UK-US have a  "#specialrelationship & work together shoulder to shoulder across the globe. #WarOf1812#UKUSrelations"

One hour after the second tweet, they offered an official apology: 

We'll give the British the benefit of the doubt on this one, and assume we just don't share their dry sense of humor. 

Where Open Carry Is Legal And Illegal

Last week, Sarah wrote about how the Kroger supermarket chain was responding to Moms Demand Action’s petition to ban open carry in their stores. Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey said, "We know that our customers are passionate on both sides of this issue and we trust them to be responsible in our stores."

While it’s from a pro-gun control organization, the Wall Street Journal published a good map from them showing where the open carrying of handguns is legal.

So, while anti-gun organizations, like Moms Demand Action, try to pressure business in denying a citizen's right to protect themselves in public, open carry is recognized in all but six states; making a store ban on such practices more of a symbolic victory. Gun owners can take their business elsewhere, with their firearms on their person.

But it's always smart to continually check for changes in state gun laws, especially if you're traveling.

Side note: It's legal to open carry rifles in Texas, but not handguns. 

Remember Those "Missing" Lois Lerner Emails? They Apparently Really Do Exist

We saw this coming, didn’t we? Fox News’ Shannon Bream broke the news this afternoon:

And National Review Online caught the relevant portion of the exchange:

“A Department of Justice attorney told a Judicial Watch attorney on Friday that it turns out the federal government backs up all computer records in case something terrible happens in Washington and there’s a catastrophe, so the government can continue operating,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton told Fox News’ Shannon Bream.

“But it would be too hard to go get lois lerner’s emails from that backup system,”Fitton continued, paraphrasing the DOJ official. “So, everything we’ve been hearing about scratched hard drives, about missing emails of Lois Lerner, other IRS officials, other officials in the Obama administration, it’s all been a pack of malarkey. They could get these records, but they don’t want to.”

And why wouldn’t they want to retrieve those records? Easy: such records, if released to the public, could perhaps further tarnish the government agency’s already diminishing reputation. For example, if the emails show conclusively that the current administration and the IRS were working together to explicitly target conservative non-profit organizations, the notion that the IRS scandal was somehow “phony” -- and that the president himself learned about the scandal in “news reports" -- would be totally discredited.

Judicial Watch, meanwhile, fully intends on continuing its crusade to recover these emails by obtaining them and placing their contents in the public record. So we’ll see how far they get.

For what it’s worth, most Americans think there was something fishy going on at IRS after the scandal broke, and would like answers.

Federal Judge Rules California's 10-Day Waiting Period Unconstitutional

Today, a federal judge ruled that California’s 10-day waiting period is unconstitutional. Gun owners Jeffrey Silvester and Brandon Combs, along with Calguns Foundation and the Second Amendment Fondation, challenged the law, saying that the 10-day waiting period adds additional costs and disruptions preventing them from exercising their constitutional Second Amendment rights (via Calguns Foundation):

In the decision released this morning, Federal Eastern District of California Senior Judge Anthony W. Ishii, appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton, found that “the 10-day waiting periods of Penal Code [sections 26815(a) and 27540(a)] violate the Second Amendment” as applied to members of certain classifications, like Silvester and Combs, and “burdens the Second Amendment rights of the Plaintiffs.”

“This is a great win for Second Amendment civil rights and common sense,” said Jeff Silvester, the named individual plaintiff. “I couldn’t be happier with how this case turned out.”

Under the court order, the California Department of Justice (DOJ) must change its systems to accommodate the unobstructed release of guns to gun buyers who pass a background check and possess a California license to carry a handgun, or who hold a “Certificate of Eligibility” issued by the DOJ and already possess at least one firearm known to the state.

Additionally, Judge Ishii said that the defendant, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, had to “show that the 10-day waiting period either falls outside the scope of Second Amendment protections as historically understood or fits within one of several categories of longstanding regulations that are presumptively lawful.” The State of California failed in that exercise.

From the ruling, it said [emphasis mine]:

First, in terms of relevant historical understandings, Defendant has not established that waiting period laws were understood to be outside the protections of the Second Amendment. Defendant has cited no statutes or regulations around 1791or 1868 that imposed waiting periods between the time of purchase and the time of delivery. Nor has Defendant cited historical materials or books that discuss waiting periods or attitudes towards waiting periods between 1791and 1868. There is no evidence to suggest that waiting periods imposed by the government would have been accepted and understood to be permissible under the Second Amendment. Cf.Peruta, 742 F.3d at1153-66.Second, in terms of Heller?s longstanding presumptively lawful regulations, Defendant has not established that the 10-day waiting period is a presumptively lawful longstanding regulatory measure that imposes a condition and qualification on the commercial sale of a firearm.

Moreover, Defendant has not established that the waiting period law is sufficiently “longstanding” to be entitled to a presumption of lawfulness. Included in the concept of a “longstanding and presumptively lawful regulation” is that the regulation has long been accepted and is rooted in history. See N.R.A., 700 F.3d at 196; United States v. Rene E., 583 F.3d 8, 12 (1st Cir. 2008). It is true that California has had some form of a waiting period since 1923. However, as described above, the Court is aware of no waiting period laws in any states during the time periods around 1791 and 1868. Consistent with these historical periods, currently only ten states impose a waiting period between the time of purchase and the time of delivery of a firearm. Waiting period laws did not exist near the time of adoption of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, and they are not common now. That one state may have had some form of regulation for a significant period of time is insufficient for the Court to conclude that the law has been so generally accepted that it is presumptively lawful. Cf.N.R.A., 700 F.3d at 196 (“. . . a longstanding measure that harmonizes with the history and tradition of arms regulation in this country would not threaten the core of the Second Amendment guarantee.”).Further, the 10-day waiting period at issue was not imposed until 1996, and it was not until 1975 that California began to impose a waiting period that extended to double digits (15 days). Prior to 1975, the waiting period was 5 days. The waiting period that was in effect the longest in California was the 1-day waiting period between 1923 and 1955for handguns, and there is an indication that the law was not applied to all transactions. Imposition of waiting periods beyond a “single digit” period is a recent development.

Cf.Church of the Am. KKK v. City of Gary, 334 F.3d 676, 682-83(7th Cir. 2003)(noting that 30-day advance notice requirement to obtain a permit was reasonable under the circumstances of one case, but that a 45-day advance notice requirement was a substantially longer period and not reasonable). Finally, the waiting period at issue applies to all firearms. Prior to 1991, the waiting period applied only to handguns. Although the 1996 waiting period is shorter in duration than the 15-day period imposed in 1975, the 1996/1991waiting period is wider in scope. Applying a waiting period to all firearms is a recent development. In essence, Defendant has simply pointed to the fact that California has had some form of waiting period since 1923. That is not enough.

The 10-day waiting period burdens the Second Amendment rights of the Plaintiffs.

The ruling also applied to those who have passed a background check and have a valid concealed carry permit.

Report: Obama Waited a Month to Approve Failed Foley Rescue Mission

British journalist Tony Harnden has the scoop, via RealClearPolitics:

The CIA had concluded that the base contained a secret prison in which a number of western hostages were languishing. James Foley, 40, an idealistic freelance journalist from New Hampshire who had once been kidnapped in Libya and held for 44 days, was thought to be among them. When the commandos reached the base, scores of Isis fighters swarmed out. A US air force AC-130 gunship laid down a wall of fire, killing up to 15 of the jihadists. According to locals, some of the commandos were wearing Jordanian insignia, perhaps to mask their nationality. They entered the buildings and found the prison. But the hostages were not there. The special forces troops had found what they term a “dry hole”...

Pentagon sources said Foley and the others might well have been rescued but Obama, concerned about the ramifications of US troops being killed or captured in Syria, took too long to authorise the mission. Anthony Shaffer, a former lieutenant-colonel in US military intelligence who worked on covert operations, said: “I’m told it was almost a 30-day delay from when they said they wanted to go to when he finally gave the green light. They were ready to go in June to grab the guy [Foley] and they weren’t permitted.” Another US defence source said: "The White House constantly goes back and forth on these things. These people are a bunch of academics who endlessly analyse stuff and ordering up another deep-thinking paper but can't decide what to order for lunch."

Read Allahpundit's analysis of this report, which is excellent.  He links to a New York Times story on the rescue attempt, which quotes a Pentagon official as suggesting that ISIS must have moved the prisoners just before the special forces operation.  It was a "matter of hours, perhaps a day or two," the Defense Department source told the Times.  So the actionable intelligence was time-sensitive, yet if Harnden's sources are to be believed, it took weeks to secure presidential approval for the mission.  Why?  "The White House’s fears of a debacle a la Desert One or Mogadishu are understandable, but less understandable now than they were before the Bin Laden raid," Allahpundit reasons. "Even if the Foley raid had fallen apart, what would the knock on Obama have been? That he had too much faith in the capabilities of soldiers who scalped the head of Al Qaeda and then exfiltrated without a single American casualty? The foot-dragging is also hard to explain. He took his time in ordering the Bin Laden raid, with internal deliberations extending over several months, but extra prudence was warranted in that case: Pakistan is (nominally) an ally, there were no innocent lives directly in the balance, and the White House had no reason to believe that Bin Laden would flee the scene before they got there. As I recall, intelligence showed he’d been at the Abbottabad compound for years. With Foley, that equation changed. The raid was aimed at enemy territory, the prisoners were being moved, and they could have been killed at any time," he writes.

All very strong points. The OBL raid required intricate planning and some degree of certainty because the costs of failure would have been catastrophic on multiple levels (letting bin Laden slip away, inflaming our nuclear-armed "ally" with nothing to show for it, etc).  In this case, the biggest political risk was putting boots on the ground, and in harm's way, in Syria -- a country in which Obama failed to enforce his own military red line just last year.  But now we might end up engaged in Syria anyway, but with very different objectives.  During last summer's debate, we were discussing strikes against the Assad regime.  Today, we're talking about entering the country to defeat ISIS, which is intent on overthrowing the Assad regime and expanding its Islamist caliphate. The butcher we threatened to bomb last year now stands to benefit from our anti-ISIS campaign.  Some reports suggest that we might even be collaborating with Assad to that end.  What a difference a year makes.

Before you go, let's check in on another 'Smart Power' misadventure.  The Obama administration "led from behind" and participated in a war to depose Libya's dictator from power in 2011, without Congressional authorization.  When Obama's War Powers Act authority expired, even according to his own lawyers, he essentially found new lawyers and extended the hostilities.  In the resulting power vacuum, the State Department failed to protect its personnel on the ground in Libya, ignoring and denying multiple requests for additional security in the country's most dangerous region.  That led to 2012's Benghazi massacre.  Less than two years later, the US was forced to evacuate our embassy in Tripoli as the country descended into full-fledged, failed-state chaos.  That slide into the abyss is on the brink of completion:

Islamist militias have seized control of Libya's main airport, setting planes and surrounding buildings ablaze.The group called Dawn of Libya, consisting mainly of fighters from Misrata, captured the major foothold in Tripoli at the weekend from a rival faction from Zintan in western Libya. The fight has largely destroyed the airport and scarred the capital, prompting diplomats, foreign nationals and thousands of Libyans to flee. It followed weeks of fierce fighting. The group said it has also taken hold of other locations in the capital controlled by rival militias. The fight has largely destroyed the airport and scarred the capital, prompting diplomats, foreign nationals and thousands of Libyans to flee.

There seems to be a worse, scarier actor around the corner in this region -- ISIS being the worst and the scariest. In the face of these complexities and threats, our foreign policy is incoherent and completely adrift.

Hollywood Stars Sign Letter Condemning Hamas

A statement condemning Hamas has been signed by nearly 200 celebrities, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Maher, Sarah Silverman, and Kathy Ireland. The letter was issued by the Creative Community for Peace, which describes itself as a apolitical, yet decidedly pro-Israel, "cross-section of the creative world."

We may not all share the same politics or the same opinion on the best path to peace in the Middle East. But we do agree that singling out Israel, the only democracy in the region, as a target of cultural boycotts while ignoring the now-recognized human rights issues of her neighbors will not further peace.

Katie wrote earlier today about babies who live in a hospital that is constantly targeted by Hamas' rocket attacks. These infants have done nothing to enrage Hamas except exist.

It's nice to know that not all celebrities are quick to jump on the anti-Israel bandwagon.