The mad doctor:
The thrill appears to have disappeared for the arms-folded Matthews.)
These clips have been making the rounds, and for good reason. The gentleman from South Carolina, a former federal prosecutor, was en fuego on the House floor yesterday as he rose to defend the constitution's separation of powers. Gowdy was advocating on behalf Republicans' ENFORCE Act, which is meant to grant members of Congress standing to sue the executive branch if an administration arbitrarily disregards duly-enacted laws. President Obama issued a veto threat over the bill, which passed mostly along party lines:
President Obama is threatening to veto a law that would allow Congress to sue him in federal courts for arbitrarily changing or refusing to enforce federal laws because it "violates the separation of powers" by encroaching on his presidential authority. "[T]he power the bill purports to assign to Congress to sue the President over whether he has properly discharged his constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed exceeds constitutional limitations," the White House Office of Management and Budget said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy. "Congress may not assign such power to itself, nor may it assign to the courts the task of resolving such generalized political disputes." The lead sponsor of the measure, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said it was designed to curb Obama's abuse of presidential authority, most notably in his frequent changes to Obamacare. Obama also threatened to veto another bill by Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., which would require the administration to explain decisions not to enforce laws when those decisions are rooted in policy concerns rather than just constitutional concerns.
In essence, the White House is arguing that the constitution's sacred separation of powers prevents Congress from seeking a legal remedy to reign in the president's...abuse of the constitutional separation of powers. This president has repeatedly and unilaterally altered, delayed and abandoned elements of the so-called "Affordable" Care Act, which was enacted by Congress and signed into law by Obama in 2010. As liberal law professor Jonathan Turley has warned, the Obama administration's sundry executive power grabs have been pervasive, impacting issues as far afield as immigration and presidential war powers. Here's Gowdy upbraiding his Democratic colleagues for standing and cheering Obama's State of the Union promise to bypass the people's branch in pursuit of his ideological agenda (via Twitchy):
In a separate speech, Gowdy rehearsed a series of verbatim, golden oldie quotes from Senator Barack Obama denouncing what he saw as President Bush's executive overreach -- including one assertion from Obama that one of the judiciary's most essential imperatives is to "guard against the executive branch's encroachment on the powers of the other branches." Yet here we are, with President Obama threatening to veto a bill that would address the exact constitutional safeguards he once demanded. Gowdy:
You've come a long way, champ:
From President Obama's unilateral re-write of education law, to his many Obamacare delays, a growing chorus of conservatives, and recently even some liberals, have been decrying Obama's abuse of executive power.
Up until now, most of Obama's liberal allies have either stayed silent or supported these actions. But now that it is becoming increasingly clear that Obama will get nothing done in Congress, these same liberal allies are asking Obama to abuse his executive power even further.
Take BuzzFeed's Jacob Fischler has a story out today on union frustration over Obamacare. “It’s clear they have chosen not to use what I believe is the same administrative authority and executive authority to address some of the issues that we have been pointing out that they have found basis to use for other areas,” International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger told Fischler.
In other words, if Obama can delay the employer mandate, refuse to enforce minimum health insurance requirements, and functionally repeal the individual mandate entirely, then why can't they fix labor's Obamacare Cadillac Tax problem too?
Obama is facing the exact same dilemma on immigration. After failing to pass amnesty legislation in his first year in office, as promised, he did manage to regain Latino support in June 2012 by unilaterally creating a limited mini-amnesty (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) without Congress.
At the time, conservatives warned that if Obama could get away with rewriting immigration policy through "enforcement discretion" as he did with DACA, then there was nothing stopping him from unilaterally enacting a much broader amnesty program.
It took almost two years, but amnesty advocates now completely agree with conservatives on the legal question. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reports:
“There has been a shift within the Hispanic media,” Jorge Ramos, the influential Univision anchor who has been called the “Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media,” told me. “If you read the editorial pages in the most important Spanish language newspapers, you notice immediately how the conversation has changed from attacking Republicans to attacking Obama.”
Ramos insisted there are some categories — parents and siblings of DREAMers, and parents of Latinos born here — that could legally benefit from presidential action. But whatever the legality of this, Latino media are increasingly convinced Obama can do this. “We are seeing more and more reporting in Spanish language media that Obama has the power to stop deportations,” Ramos said.
And the Spanish language media is 100 percent correct. If DACA is legal, then it should also be legal for Obama to end almost all deportations. The executive authority Obama claimed when justifying DACA simply has no limiting principle.
Obama's unilateral legislating is coming back to haunt him. Obama desperately needs Latinos and union members to show up at the polls this November, but the only way Obama can make them happy is by further shredding the Constitution's separation of powers doctrine.
But if he does that, he will only further motivate the Republican base and turn off moderate voters.
Which path will Obama choose? Will he turn to Congress to work on the legislative fixes he needs? Or will he continue to legislate from the White House?
Considering his recent personnel choices, the question answers itself.
…ummm no, Congresswoman. We have not.
Anyway, we all make mistakes and say dumb things. I do all the time. However, one would at least expect Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) -- a sitting member of Congress, mind you -- to have some idea of when the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Nope:
In her defense, perhaps the speech was written by an unlearned staffer. And since a representative’s schedule is often hectic and subject to change, maybe she didn’t have time to proofread the speech before reading it verbatim on the House floor. This of course presumes she’s not speaking extemporaneously -- she very well could be, I can’t really tell from the video, can you? -- and thus the blame sits squarely on her shoulders.
Either way, she’s off by well over a hundred years. Oops. Better luck next time, I guess.
In case anyone thought we knew everything about the NSA spying scandal, once again, we have new information about how the government has worked its way into our homes. According to a new report out yesterday, the National Security Agency has been using automated systems to infect computers with malware since 2010. And at times it even pretended to be Facebook in order to perform this installation.
A program codenamed TURBINE contaminated computers and networks with malware “implants” that could spy on users. All of this information has come from new documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
According to this report somewhere between 85,000 and 100,000 implants were deployed worldwide so far.
The agency used what is called “man-on-the-side” attacks to trick users into thinking that they were accessing Facebook, and once they were fooled, the NSA would hack into their computers and extract data from the hard drives.
Facebook claims they had no idea that the NSA was doing this. But the social network also said that it is no longer possible for the NSA or other hackers to attack users that way. Other social networks may be vulnerable still.
The NSA has also apparently used spam emails to infect malware onto computers. And depending on what kind, malware can do anything from using the computer’s microphone to record audio, to recording a computer’s internet history, and even using the camera to take pictures.
In the report, it also states that the NSA has been infecting computers with malware since 2004, but used to do so manually. Now because this has been accomplished remotely, the number of deployments of these infections has risen greatly.
Clearly the NSA hasn’t given up on their efforts to spy into our lives. Obviously we are all just going to have to be careful when downloading new software and using other social networks that are susceptible to this kind of hacking.
Ares Armor, a San Diego company that manufacturers and produces parts for firearms that are legally built at home, has been granted a restraining order against the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. The company is trying to prevent ATF agents from seizing a 5,000 customer list in addition to $300,000 in inventory. ATF is threatening to shut the company down if they fail to turn over requested information.
Why does ATF want a list of customers? ATF has classified plastic receivers as "firearms," while at the same time classifying the same receiver made of metal as legal. ATF wants to see who has purchased a plastic receiver from the company.
"Last week the BATFE Raided EP Armory based on a determination letter that had deemed the 80% Polymer product to be a firearm. The determination letter that the BATFE used to obtain warrants against EP Armory is based on incorrect information about the manufacturing process. The BATFE has been notified of their error and the incorrectness of their determination based on this error. This week on Monday, March 10th the BATFE threatened to raid us even though they are fully aware that their determination letter is factually incorrect. They requested that we turn over a list of every customer that had purchased a polymer lower from us and turn over the remaining inventory that we have," Ares Armor CEO Dimitrios Karras said in a declaration posted on the company website. "Our customer’s privacy is of the utmost importance to us. I cannot in good moral conscience turn over a list of names to the BATFE just because they unduly threaten us with an unjust raid based on information they KNOW TO BE FALSE! For the time we are SAFE! We were granted a Temporary Restraining Order against the BATFE on March 11th."
Thanks to the restraining order being granted yesterday, a raid of the company was stopped outside their front doors. ATF agents who showed up to raid the company were forced to leave. Karras described ATF's request for the list, saying an agent intimidated him "with the possibility of criminal charges if he was not satisfied" and that "I am now in constant fear for the safety of my employees, my customers and myself."
Here is a report from a local news outlet (please ignore the reporter's classification of AR-15s as "assault style" weapons).
If I had to venture a guess, I’d say Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) is probably the most vulnerable incumbent senator up for re-election in 2014. Perhaps this is why Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has announced yet another ad buy to send him packing and into early retirement. Per Politico, the conservative group has already funneled $1.4 million into the race -- and unfortunately for Team Pryor, AFP's latest television spot will be seen all over the state:
The 30-second spot from the Koch brothers-backed group is set to air statewide on cable and networks, along with digital advertising, for three weeks. Text at the end reads, “Senator Mark Pryor voted for Obamacare. Tell Sen. Pryor, Obamacare hurts Arkansas families.”
If the special election in Florida teaches us anything, it’s that Obamacare is an issue Republicans can win on. Despite having state-wide name recognition and tons of money, Democratic candidate Alex Sink lost by roughly two percentage points to her Republican opponent -- Congressman-elect David Jolly (R-FL). What’s notable, however, is that she ran on a platform of “fixing” Obamacare, as Guy noted in his analysis of the race. (Her opponent argued for its repeal). So just how toxic, then, is Obamacare? The election results, I think, speak for themselves.
A recent poll, too, found that among respondents most likely to vote, Pryor trailed his Republican challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), by nine percentage points. Thus Pryor is already feeling the effects of conservative attack ads. It’s early, of course, but the political headwinds that for so long were blowing against Republicans seem to be receding.
Ads like these are making a real difference:
The magnitude of Obamacare's failure is becoming increasingly clear every day. Enrollment rates and demographics are weak. Central promises have been shattered. Affordability remains elusive for millions. Costs for families, small businesses and the federal government are going up. And the uninsured aren't participating. In spite of a parade of delays and "fixes," Reeling from a bellwether special election loss, Democrats find themselves right back where they were in late 2013: Panicked over their poisonous signature law. Back then, they tried to blame "glitches" in the rollout. The problems that persist today cut to the heart of the law itself. How will Democrats spin Obamacare heading into November? They've devolved from vowing to proudly run on Obamacare, to focusing on making needed changes to the law, to...chaotic disagreement. Politico reports:
Democrats can’t even agree whether Obamacare was the reason for their crushing loss in a Florida special election Tuesday. Now picture how their messaging plan for the health care law is shaping up for 2014. Republican lobbyist David Jolly’s victory over Democrat Alex Sink has many Democrats privately worried and publicly split about how to talk about Obamacare. A few Democrats are advocating a drastic rhetorical shift to the left, by criticizing their own party for not going far enough when it passed the law in 2010. Other Democrats plan to sharply criticize the Affordable Care Act when running for re-election. Many plan to stick to the simple message that Obamacare is flawed and needs to be fixed —a tactic that plainly didn’t work for Sink. Taken together, the Democratic Party is heading into an already tough election year divided — instead of united — on the very issue Republicans plan to make central to their campaigns.
Pro tip: Messaging isn't the problem. Among the Democrats with the most to lose in November is a trio of vulnerable southern Senators: Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor. Hagan has literally fled Obamacare questions, Landrieu is on record saying that she is "100 percent" responsible for the law, which Mark Pryor called an "amazing success story." Rattled by how badly his "success story" is proceeding, Pryor is running an erratic campaign. He accidentally touted his opponent's website at a press conference on Medicare (which he repeatedly voted to cut in order to pay for Obamacare), and bizarrely accused his Republican foe of feeling "entitled" to his seat due to his military service, or something. That, coming from a career politician who used his family's prominent political name to get elected. Americans for Prosperity has launched a $700,000 television ad buy in Arkansas targeting Pryor for misleading his constituents about keeping their existing health coverage:
President Obama's Surgeon General nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has a history of gun control adovacy. When questioned on the topic during his confirmation hearing in February, Murthy said under oath that he won't make gun control a "priority" should he be approved by the Senate to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, despite saying in the past that guns are a "healthcare issue."
Last night, NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox made an appearance on The Kelly File and warned that Murthy will treat gun ownership and the Second Amendment like a disease.
"Mr. Murthy is not just a gun control supporter, he's a gun control activist and it is clear his agenda is to treat a constitutional freedom as a disease. That's not something the National Rifle Association is going to sit idly by and watch happen," Cox said. "The top doctor in America should not be a partisan ideologue...teaching people about obesity and all those issues that keep people healthy and safe is where the focus should be, not on the gun control agenda."
The NRA will score Senate votes for or against Murthy and has urged its five million members to contact and urge their Senators to vote no on his confirmation.
"We don't trust this nominee and there's a reason for it and that's because he's been an activist and like I said he's hell bent on treating a constitutional freedom like a disease. That should offend and concern everybody, whether you're a Second Amendment supporter or not," Cox said.
The Senate is expected to vote on Murthy's nomination sometime in the next few weeks.
Ah, guilt trips: everyone's favorite tactic to get someone to do what they want.
Covered California, the Obamacare exchange of California, released an emotionally-charged video on Tuesday promoting their "Days of Action," which span from March 1 through the 31st. (Why Covered California didn't just deem the month of March their "Month of Action" is still a mystery.) The video begins a Cesar Chavez quote, and then the shaming begins:
To recap: if you are a you Latino living in California who hasn't signed up for Obamacare, you are disappointing all of your ancestors, you're an irresponsible citizen, your grandparents and older relatives are doomed, and you might even be responsible for a man having a heart attack and a pregnant woman looking really sad. Gotcha. Thanks, Dolores!
Despite the extra push to enroll Hispanics in Obamacare, overall enrollment has lagged behind other ethnic groups. This could be for a couple of reasons: one, the Spanish language Obamacare site is unreadable gibberish, and two, the plans themselves are prohibitively expensive.
Young people are desperately needed to enroll to maintain the financial stability of the law. Things must be looking pretty dim if guilt and shame tactics are being employed to get sign-ups.
One year ago today white smoke filled the skies above St. Peter’s Basilica; the College of Cardinals, the world would later learn, had elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires, to succeed Pope Benedict XVI as Supreme Pontiff and leader of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Instead of marking his one year anniversary with pomp and circumstance, however, Francis eschewed celebrations altogether and made a humble request to the laity:
Please pray for me.— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) March 13, 2014
Francis' appeal Thursday echoed his gesture on that rainy night one year ago when he came out onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and introduced himself to the world. Rather than impart a blessing on the crowd below him, Francis asked first for a "favor" from the crowd, bowing his head and asking for the crowd to bless him.
Francis has continued to ask for prayers, ending nearly each appearance with a similar request.
Francis was spending his anniversary tucked away on retreat south of Rome with senior Vatican cardinals and monsignors. The Vatican said nothing special was planned for his anniversary during the retreat, just prayer.
Of course, most American Catholics approve of Pope Francis. But unlike his predecessor, western mainstream media outlets have also embraced and celebrated his papacy -- he appeared on the covers of both Time Magazine and Rolling Stone -- although perhaps for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, Pope Francis has undeniably improved the Church’s image, in ways unimaginable even a year ago. Columnist E.J. Dionne explains:
The most important aspect of a Pew survey released this month was not its finding that 68 percent of U.S. Catholics thought Francis was changing the church for the better, or that 76 percent said he was doing a good or excellent job of addressing the needs and concerns of the poor. No, the truly revealing fact about this study is that it did not even occur to Pew’s pollsters to ask in their benchmark poll a year ago whether poverty should be a priority of the new pope. This is no knock on Pew; the fact that its researchers had to include a new question about poverty this year shows how much Francis has transformed the church.
James Martin, a priest in the Jesuit order, expanded on this theme at CNN by writing that Francis’ humility is obviously one of the many reasons why he is so revered in the media, and indeed, one of the most popular leaders in the world:
Humility. Is there anyone who has not noticed Francis' humility? His first public gesture as Pope was not to bless the vast crowd in St. Peter's Square but to request the crowd's blessing. A few days later, he turned down the traditional papal digs in the grand Apostolic Palace in favor of a modest suite at a Vatican guesthouse.
Just this week, a photo taken of members of the Vatican staff on their annual retreat showed the Pope seated in their midst, along with the other bishops and cardinals, as just another person on retreat.
Humility of course is a Christian virtue, but it is also something that St. Ignatius Loyola, the 16th-century founder of the Jesuits, specifically asked Jesuit priests and brothers to embrace. There are three kinds of humility, St. Ignatius said. The first is exemplified by the person who does nothing immoral. The second is the one who, when faced with honor or dishonor, is "indifferent." The third is the person who chooses the humbler path, to be more like Jesus. Pope Francis exemplifies this "Third Degree of Humility."
Humility, however, is not what defines Francis’ papacy nor will it define it. The Catholic scholar George Weigel writes at National Review Online that while these “symbolic aspects” are heavily covered in the media -- and modestly important, too, he argues -- it’s important to remember that the unglamorous reforms Francis is instituting behind-the-scenes is what really counts:
For all his high media profile throughout the world, Pope Francis is actually committed to a certain downsizing of the papacy. His recent complaint about the image of the pope as “Superman,” in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, is not simply a matter of Bergoglio’s objecting to journalists’ turning him into something he knows he isn’t; it reflects his sense that, when the pope is the sole center of attention in matters Catholic, all others are getting a pass on their evangelical responsibilities. Much attention has been paid, over the past year, to what are essentially symbolic aspects of this papal downsizing: Francis’s residence in what was once known in media-speak as “the five-star Vatican hotel” but is now habitually referred to as the “humble Vatican guesthouse”; his more spare approach to papal liturgy; the simplicity of his ring and pectoral cross; his use of a Ford rather than a Mercedes. These things have their (modest) importance. But what really counts are the things that are rarely noted, much less commented upon: the dramatic decline in the role of the pope’s personal secretary, which had grown exponentially in recent pontificates; the pope’s insistence that, while he is the decider, things to be decided must be thrashed out thoroughly and openly before he decides, and that the thrashing must go on with him present, primus inter pares, but by no means the only voice in the debate; his willingness to hear correction, and to change because of it; his determination to make the world synod of bishops something more than a platform for enervating episcopal rhetoric.
There is a temptation in many of us to speak only of Pope Francis’ humility and modesty; his love for and commitment to the poor, the forgotten, and the unborn. These are attributes everyone talks about, and celebrates. But what matters also, I think, as Weigel wants us to understand, is that Pope Francis is very much his own man. He will evangelize and spread the "Good News" -- as "a son of the Church" and with God's grace -- as best he can, even if traditionalists and conservative Catholics alike find his methods unsettling:
Jorge Mario Bergoglio is a very old-school Jesuit, and it’s clear that, as such, he is going to be pope his way, not anyone else’s — which is a matter not of ego but of the kind of classic Ignatian religious formation (stressing a stringent, ongoing, personal discernment of God’s will) that once prepared 17th-century European intellectuals to paddle canoes up Lake Huron, thousands of miles from civilization, in search of converts among the native tribes. As he has said on numerous occasions, he is a son of the Church, who believes and teaches what the Church believes and teaches. He is going to give voice to those convictions, sometimes, in ways that surprise, even shock.
This, I suspect, is part of Pope Francis’ appeal. And the very reason why so many of us will be paying very close attention to him in the years ahead.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has obtained the latest draft of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “ObamaCare Memo” following Alex Sink's brutal defeat in Florida – and it’s ugly.
What a mess. Perhaps the most significant change the DCCC is making to its memo is deleting the line that suggests Republicans will not gain a large number of seats this year, ceding that the probability is “actually looking likely.”
The editor also seemed to realize that Obamacare is a losing message. Now, they're left to “rephrase” or “retool this spin.”
Sorry, but their party needs a whole lot more than red ink to fix the losing "Affordable Care" argument.
Conclusion: We have ideas, they have red pens.
Update: For the record, this is satire. But oh so believable.
Apparently, it's not enough that ObamaCare already constitutes an effective "tax" on work -- threatening to reduce the full-time workforce by 2.5 million people.
Now President Obama is announcing new regulations that could extend overtime to as many as 10 million new workers. Like so many of the President's initiatives, this one sounds good . . . for someone who has no clue about how jobs are created.
The regulations would redefine which employees can be deemed ineligible for overtime pay because they are "executive or professional." In effect, they make it more expensive to keep full-time employees on the payroll. Like ObamaCare, and like his minimum wage proposals, they simply create deterrents for businesses who would otherwise hire Americans who need jobs.
For a leader presiding over an era of unprecedented long term unemployment, the President certainly seems more eager to offer "sound good" proposals designed to create rallying cries for this year's election -- rather than making the smart choices that would actually put people back to work.
Suck it up, America. Cancel your cable subscription for the year, eat Ramen Noodles for a few weeks, and you'll be fine:
Premiums will rise in 2015 under ObamaCare, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Wednesday. “I think premiums are likely to go up, but go up at a smaller pace than what we’ve seen since 2010,” Sebelius said in response to a question from Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.). “The increases are far less significant than what they were prior to the Affordable Care Act,” she said during testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee. Average healthcare premiums for most consumers have been rising steadily for more than a decade, though the trend has slowed in recent years.
A few points: (1) We weren't promised that premiums would still continue to increase, but more slowly. We were promised that our rates would go down. By a substantial amount, too. Nancy Pelosi and friends said "everybody will have lower rates." Sebelius following up with, "actually, your rates will go up, but..." isn't going to cut it. (2) This White House continues to pretend that the recent slow down in rising healthcare costs is attributable to Obamacare. The government's own number crunchers have concluded that's not the case. During her testimony, Sebelius also repeated the claim that the administration has no way of knowing how many "enrollees" have paid their first premium -- which is a prerequisite for obtaining coverage:
HHS does not know how many of the people who signed up for Obamacare have followed through and paid their premiums, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House panel this morning. “I can’t tell you because I don’t know that,” Sebelius told Rep. Tom Price at a Ways and Means Committee hearing on the agency’s budget. She said the agency receives “aggregate data” from insurers about people who have paid premiums and are eligible for tax credits — HHS pays those subsidies to insurers — but not detailed enough information to answer Price’s question about a specific number.
Earlier this year, persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA ranked North Korea as the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. Sadly, this is a good example of why the repressive country landed in the No. 1 spot for the 12th consecutive year.
Via The Daily Mail:
Thirty-three North Koreans face execution after being charged with attempting to overthrow the repressive regime of Kim Jong-un.
The Koreans have landed themselves in hot water after it emerged they had worked with South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook and received money to set up 500 underground churches. It is understood they will be put to death in a cell at the State Security Department.
Experts believe the North Koreans are being punished more harshly than usual as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un combats a wave of dissatisfaction at the regime's isolationist "juche" doctrine.
Missionary Kim Jung-wook was arrested and jailed last year for allegedly trying to establish underground churches. Last week he held a press conference at which he apologized for committing "anti-state" crimes and appealed for his release from North Korean custody.
He told reporters that he was arrested in early October after entering the North from China and trying to make his way to Pyongyang with Bibles, Christian instructional materials and movies.
A South Korean intelligence source in China took issue with Kim's account, saying that the missionary did not enter North Korea voluntarily, but was kidnapped by agents of the Pyongyang government in China.
And as PJ Media's Rick Moran notes, we shouldn't be using the word 'executed' here. "Using that word would lend some legality and moral framework to Kim’s action," he writes. "This is nothing less than a massacre of innocent human beings — a slaughter that should raise an outcry in every civilized nation of the world."
According to Open Doors, there are approximately 50,000-70,000 Christians currently imprisoned in the country's notoriously brutal labor camps.
It isn't easy to find bipartisanship these days in Washington, but new revelations that the CIA has spied on members of Congress has outraged lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
California Senator and Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Dianne Feinstein took to the Senate floor last night to rip the intelligence agency for tapping into Congressional computers.
“The C.I.A. just went and searched the committee’s computers,” Senator Dianne Feinstein said on Tuesday, in a speech on the Senate floor. She accused the Agency of sabotaging the oversight efforts of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which she chairs, and thus the separation of powers; engaging in “a potential effort to intimidate this staff,” by accusing them of “hacking”; breaking its word; and maybe breaking the law. “Besides the constitutional implications, the C.I.A. search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the C.I.A. from conducting domestic searches or surveillance,” she said. The C.I.A. spied on the Senate, and the senator is angry.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa told Breitbart's Kerry Picket that he shares Feinstein's outrage and went so far as to call the CIA spying "treason."
“I think Senator Feinstein is as outraged as anyone and I share her outrage. I think the violation of the Constitutional separation of powers should be an offense of the highest level—virtually treason,” Issa told Breitbart News on Tuesday.
“Spying on the executive branch—spying on Congress or violating the separation of powers as to the Supreme Court or as to Congress is effectively treason. Treason—it’s written up in the Constitution,” Issa said of Feinstein’s revelations, adding, “I don’t know who gave the orders, but to spy on other branches is in fact a constitutional violation at the level of high crimes and misdemeanors and certainly should cause the removal of anyone involved.”
Is the CIA spying on Congress outrageous? Maybe. It's too bad Feinstein isn't as outraged when it comes to the NSA spying on Americans. When Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA is collecting phone records and information belonging to millions of Americans, Feinstein defended the agencies actions by saying, "It's called protecting America." Republican Senator Linsdsey Graham, who too shares Feinstein's outrage about CIA spying, also strongly defends NSA programs spying on Americans.
It seems lawmakers expect the government to trust them, why shouldn't the same trust be afforded to the American people as well?
Despite the existence of a dangerous world -- Russia and Iran just for starters -- Secretary of Defense Hagel recently proposed cutting the US military to pre-World War II levels.
Not only is that a terrible idea, it's particularly galling given that President Obama has wasted $120 billion on global warming over the past five years. That's more than twice the annual Social Security deficit. That's enough to have bought 1,400 F-35's -- or even "buy an iPad for every kid in school, pay for a months worth of gas for every American or give a $323 tax rebate to every American."
Angry yet? Keep in mind that fully 80% of the Energy Department's "Green Loan" program went to Obama backers. Cozy.
Roberto and William Isaias are fugitives from Ecuador. Ecuador wants the U.S. to turn them over. The Obama administration said no. Now all we have to do is follow the money to understand why:
The donations kept pouring in: hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to President Obama and more than a dozen members of Congress, carefully routed through the families of two wealthy brothers in Florida.
They had good reason to be generous. The two men, Roberto and William Isaias, are fugitives from Ecuador, which has angrily pressed Washington to turn them over, to no avail. A year after their relatives gave $90,000 to help re-elect Mr. Obama, the administration rejected Ecuador’s extradition request for the men, fueling accusations that such donations were helping to keep the brothers and their families safely on American soil.
“The Isaias brothers fled to Miami not to live off their work, something just, but to buy themselves more mansions and Rolls-Royces and to finance American political campaigns,” President Rafael Correa of Ecuador told reporters last month. “That’s what has given them protection,” he added, an allegation the Obama administration and members of Congress reject.
Admittedly, there’s a bit of a political battle going on between the U.S. and Ecuador over international fugitives, as The New York Times article points out. Ecuador has been harboring Julian Assange in its London embassy, and the country also openly offered asylum to Edward Snowden. If the donations weren’t part of the brothers’ case, it would be much less suspicious, of course. But since they are, we’re seeing yet another way money opens doors in this administration.
But beyond the political hostilities between the two nations, campaign finance experts say, the extensive donations in the Isaias case create the appearance of a financial conflict of interest that hangs over Washington’s decisions on the brothers’ fate. While the contributions were not illegal, analysts say they have opened the already politicized nature of extradition requests to greater scrutiny and raised questions about the access to power the donations provide.
Some analysts have even questioned whether fund-raisers have specifically sought out the two men for contributions because it was clear they were in trouble and would be more likely to give.
Predictably, the White House is saying the donations have nothing to do with decisions made regarding the Isaias case.
While Republicans are not particularly adept at attracting Millennials, it seems Democrats are not particularly adept at keeping them: only 17 percent identity as Republican while 27 percent identify as Democrat, a Pew Research report found. However, this tech-savvy, debt-burdened, areligious, racially diverse group of 18 to 33-year-olds are on the fast track away from the Democratic party.
As noted by the The Daily Beast:
While the Pew study lends much support to the story that the GOP is struggling with Millennials, far more interesting is the new revelation at just how much the Democrats have struggled with this generation in the last year or two. While Democrats have the edge over the GOP in terms of the number of Millennials identifying with their party, it is actually the Democrats who have seen a larger drop-off among the young in just the last few years. Obama's approval ratings, which at one point were sky-high with Millennials, have come back down to earth since the start of his second term. A majority of Millennials think the government should ensure everyone is covered by health insurance but 54 percent also disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, a result that is exactly in line with other generations’ views.
This is a huge demographic that is essential in the next election. Between Michelle Obama calling my generation “knuckleheads” and Obama being the worst president for youth economic opportunity, the Democratic party is doing a pristine job of warding away well-educated, hard-working, and debt-burdened Americans.
Millennials are also less trusting than previous generations and the Obama Administration has certainly failed its credibility test on multiple fronts.
Perhaps the GOP has been behind the Democratic party on their usage of social media platforms, trendy ads, and late-night comedy show appearances, but they are the party with the lasting principles and working policies. Millennials maybe just needed a little time to see past the Left’s catchy rhetoric.
This wasn’t wholly unexpected. After former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano resigned her post in 2009 to join the Obama cabinet as the Secretary of Homeland Security, then-Secretary of State of Arizona Jan Brewer assumed the governorship without Arizonans casting a single vote in her favor. She later won re-election in 2010, but due to a provision in Arizona’s state constitution, is barred from serving a third term. The AP has more:
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer ended months of speculation about her political future on Wednesday when she announced that she will not seek a third term in office.
The Arizona Constitution limits governors to two terms, but the Republican governor and her advisers have kept alive a scenario in which she might mount a longshot legal challenge to seek another four years in office.
That legal challenge, however, was unlikely to be successful:
Legal experts say it would have been a long shot to challenge the constitution and run again.
The 69-year-old Brewer made the announcement at a school where she boasted of her accomplishments on issues such as education and the economy.
The race for governor is wide open for the first time since 2002. Hence why several Republican candidates have already jumped into the race, all of whom were hoping -- and anticipating -- Brewer would step aside at the end of her second and final term:
Several other Republicans have entered the primary race for governor under the assumption Brewer wouldn't run again. They include Arizona State Treasurer and former Cold Stone Creamery CEO Doug Ducey, Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, former GoDaddy legal counsel Christine Jones, state Sen. Al Melvin and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
Actually, there are nine Republican contenders who’ve thrown their hats into the ring already. So even if she was successful -- that is, able to overturn a constitutionally-approved amendment barring her from serving another term -- she might have had her hands full anyway. After all, she recently vetoed SB 1062, a bill that, if signed into law, would have allowed religious Americans who operate businesses to refuse services to gays and lesbians. Here’s what she said about her decision to veto the measure:
"To the supporters of the legislation, I want you to know that I understand that long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before. Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes," she said. "However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want.
"Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value. So is non-discrimination."
I suspect many religious Arizonans took issue with her decision. That being said, she apparently did do a lot of good for her home state during her tenure, things conservatives can appreciate.
The people of Arizona will choose their next governor on November 4, 2014.
Heads up: This is the biggest news story of the week, yet it's getting relatively little play. Team O inched closer to taking this step back in December, when they created a broad "hardship" exemption to the individual mandate tax for anyone whose plan had been cancelled under Obamacare and found the new rates unaffordable. Here's what we wrote at the time:
The administration is conceding that Obamacare itself, and specifically its high costs, is a "hardship" for millions. With that in mind, how can they justify not extending the same waiver to all uninsured people? Or all Americans, for that matter? Yes, people who've been dumped from their existing coverage are the immediate victims of Obamacare's most visible (for now) broken promise -- but if the administration is acknowledging that Obamacare's supposedly affordable coverage really isn't as advertised, that's not a problem that's unique to the newly uninsured. It applies to everybody affected by the law.
It was a question of fairness: How could the White House grant these broad and essentially verification-free waivers to one group of uninsured Americans, but not another? The fairness issue reared its head again when the administration announced its second employer mandate delay last month. Big businesses get a pass on a punitive mandate that hurts them, but small businesses, individuals and families aren't spared? Now we have our answers. In a very quiet regulatory shift issued just last week, the individual mandate tax "hardship" exemption was expanded to include pretty much anyone willing to "attest" that they've experienced some sort of trouble obtaining insurance. Behold, the hated individual mandate tax dying a quiet death in a stack of unheralded regulations (via the WSJ):
In 2013, HHS decided that ObamaCare's wave of policy terminations qualified as a "hardship" that entitled people to a special type of coverage designed for people under age 30 or a mandate exemption. HHS originally defined and reserved hardship exemptions for the truly down and out such as battered women, the evicted and bankrupts. But amid the post-rollout political backlash, last week the agency created a new category: Now all you need to do is fill out a form attesting that your plan was cancelled and that you "believe that the plan options available in the [ObamaCare] Marketplace in your area are more expensive than your cancelled health insurance policy" or "you consider other available policies unaffordable." This lax standard—no formula or hard test beyond a person's belief—at least ostensibly requires proof such as an insurer termination notice. But people can also qualify for hardships for the unspecified nonreason that "you experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance," which only requires "documentation if possible." And yet another waiver is available to those who say they are merely unable to afford coverage, regardless of their prior insurance. In a word, these shifting legal benchmarks offer an exemption to everyone who conceivably wants one.
That's exactly right. This change could easily apply to the entire uninsured population -- the vast majority of whom haven't signed up for Obamacare coverage, with most citing lack of affordability as the top reason. The White House recognizes that dispatching the president to practically beg people to think about canceling their cable or cell phones in order to pay for his law's "affordable" care isn't politically sustainable. Nor is the idea of millions of long-term uninsured Americans remaining without coverage, but getting slapped with resulting fines for the first time. So the mandate tax has, in effect, been regulated out of existence until 2016. Allahpundit declares the mandate tax "dead," slayed at the hands of a president who is systematically and single-handedly uprooting his own signature accomplishment:
The IRS was never going to enforce the mandate strictly this year, but now they don’t have to enforce it at all. Anyone who’s declined to buy insurance by April 1st can simply claim hardship and that’s that. This makes three major rule changes to the core components of ObamaCare in the past month alone: On February 10th, the White House delayed the employer mandate for small businesses until 2016, and then, 10 days ago, it extended for two more years the rule allowing insurers to un-cancel plans for consumers who want their old, cheaper coverage back. Little did we know until now that, on the same day, they also all but suspended the individual mandate until 2016. And like Levin says, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever bring it back. Why would the next president, eager to begin his/her term on a strong note, want to reinstate a harsh financial penalty for noncompliance with O-Care when the guy who signed the law was unwilling to? The mandate is dead. Obama’s repealing ObamaCare himself, piece by piece.
So why was this enormous change made with zero fanfare? Two reasons: First, the White House is already far behind its projected pace on enrollments. They've decided against trumpeting a huge disincentive to signing up in the midst of their enrollment period's home stretch. Second, this is all hugely embarrassing to the president. This mandate tax is the tent pole of this whole enterprise. It is what allowed the law to narrowly survive the Supreme Court's scrutiny. Obama has also repeatedly threatened to veto Republican efforts to delay the mandate tax through the legislative process. He did so most recently last week. Democrats allowed the government to shut down last fall when the GOP's central "ask" was to do...exactly what Obama has now unilaterally done on his own. Once the March 31 deadline passes, the White House will need to determine whether or not to publicize its expansive, all-inclusive "hardship waiver." (Again, they're admitting that the hardship is Obamacare itself). This delay was so nonchalant that it hardly generated any attention at all until the Journal picked up on it earlier in the week. Through opacity, the White House spared itself another horrible news cycle. But if people don't hear about these new, anything-goes waivers, anger over the unfair mandate tax could continue to simmer and hurt Democrats. Decisions, decisions. In any case, Obamacare -- as it was originally envisioned and passed -- is gone. Think about that. It's extraordinary.
After yesterday’s latest poll results showed only 15% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, I may have found something that could increase those numbers. In a new bill that is now headed to the President’s desk for signing, taxpayer money will no longer fund presidential political conventions.
Congress has been split along party lines for quite a while now, so it is good to see them work together to redirect the funds used for presidential conventions. Funds from the presidential election campaign fund for the next ten years will instead go to the National Institute for Health, for pediatric research. The bill entitled “Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act” was promoted by Majority leader Eric Cantor. The bill was named for a young girl from Virginia who had an inoperable brain tumor and died last year.
The legislation passed the house last year, and it got the approval from the Senate this week. Now it just waits on President Obama’s signature.
This is the first time the conventions won’t be funded by American taxpayers since we started that practice back in the 1970s. This will amount to $126 million over the next ten years. With this public assistance for each convention only amounting to 23% of the price for the conventions, it’s shocking to think that each convention costs that much. Seeing as there will only be 6 conventions (3 per party) in that time period!
Not surprisingly, the president of Common Core has urged President Obama to veto the bill because the money goes to NIH, not the pediatric research department directly. Nonetheless, the money is going to a part of the government that could clearly use the money. And one can hope that they appropriate the funds properly.
Most likely, President Obama will sign the bill and it will become law. Even if he didn’t sign the bill, it appears Congress has enough votes to override a veto. Perhaps this is a good sign for the future of Congress and passing good legislation for the good of the country.
The FBI recently released 2013's top 10 most dangerous cities and surprise! They're all run by Democrats. Patriot Nation News breaks down the cities and their Democratic mayors:
Camden, NJ —Mayor Dana Redd, Democrat
Flint MI — Mayor Dayne Walling, Democrat
Detroit MI — Mayor Dave Bing/Mike Duggan, Democrat(s)
Oakland, CA — Mayor Jean Quan, Democrat
St. Louis, MO — Mayor Francis Slay, Democrat
Cleveland, OH — Mayor Frank Jackson, Democrat
Gary, IN — Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Democrat
Newark NJ — Mayor Corey Booker/Luis Quintana, Democrat(s)
Bridgeport, CT — Mayor Bill Finch, Democrat
Birmingham, AL — Mayor William A. Bell, Democrat
It's also important to point out that 6 out of the 10 most dangerous cities are in states with strict gun control laws.
Those who defend traditional marriage are not bigots. On the contrary, their beliefs are in many cases founded on Judeo-Christian values, as prescribed by God in the Bible. Studies show, too, that children from traditional families are less likely to live in poverty, drop out of high school, experiment with drugs, or wind up in prison. And there is merit to the argument, of course, that all children deserve a mother and a father
But how does the Catholic Church, religious conservatives, and people of faith contend with these new figures from the Pew Research Center? Sixty-one percent of young Republicans support same-sex marriage. And while I understand that traditional values -- including but not limited to traditional marriage -- are timeless and eternal and therefore not subject to the whims of public opinion, these trends nevertheless must have some traditionalists worried:
I think it’s self-evident that on this issue in particular, public opinion is rapidly shifting in favor of same-sex marriage. (Bonus question: How many Senate Democrats have shamelessly flip-flopped on this issue in the last year alone simply because it’s, well, politically expedient to do so?) Thus to ignore these trends is to live in denial and, indeed, in one’s own universe. The question, then, for religious conservatives at least, is how do they convince young people -- many of whom are in their own party, no less -- that traditional marriage is still worth defending?
Their arguments in defense of marriage are seemingly falling on deaf ears, if recent public opinion surveys are any indication. Young Republicans under 30 today would now find themselves in the majority if they came out in favor of same-sex marriage. How long until conservatives face this reality? After all, ignoring the problem -- as they did at CPAC -- won’t necessarily make it go away.