tipsheet
Katie Pavlich - Next Gun Control Push Coming Through Violence Against Women Act
Posted: 7/30/2014 7:55:00 AM EST

When President Obama's big push for gun control legislation failed last year it was thanks to Democrats, not Republicans, who voted against it. But despite unpopular gun control bills repeatedly failing to gain traction on Capitol Hill, Democrats and their special interest friends (funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg) continue to come up with clever ways to promote their agenda.

The latest push comes from Bloomberg's Everytown, a new group founded in April to house the former Mayor's other anti-gun groups like Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action. The new agenda item is keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. Fair enough, but as we've seen in the past legislation put forward by politicians backed by groups like Everytown usually targets law abiding citizens and goes beyond the stated purpose in order to serve a larger political purpose. Not to mention, advocating to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers while failing to recognize women must have the ability to defend themselves with a firearm is counter productive. After all, a restraining or is just a piece of paper.

Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing called Violence Against Women Act Next Steps: Protecting Women from Gun Violence. Coincidentally, Everytown released a new TV advertisement yesterday which inadvertently proved why women need a firearm to protect themselves. Further, Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar has introduced Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act as a "common sense" way to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Paying attention to the details of the solutions offered will be important.

The hearing starts at 10 a.m.

Matt Vespa - Al-Qaeda Has Made Europe An 'Inadvertent Underwriter' For Its Operations
Posted: 7/29/2014 8:45:00 PM EST

Well, it seems Al-Qaeda has found a new way to fund its operations: they kidnap Europeans and demanding ransom payments. In fact, it’s become a global business, according to the New York Times. To reduce casualties on their side, Al-Qaeda usually contracts criminals to nab the targeted individuals on commission. The Times also noted that while they threaten to kill their victims, very few hostages have been murdered in the past five years (via NYT):

Kidnapping Europeans for ransom has become a global business for Al Qaeda, bankrolling its operations across the globe.

While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just in the past year.

In various news releases and statements, the United States Treasury Department has cited ransom amounts that, taken together, put the total at around $165 million over the same period.

These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments, who funnel the money through a network of proxies, sometimes masking it as development aid, according to interviews conducted for this article with former hostages, negotiators, diplomats and government officials in 10 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The inner workings of the kidnapping business were also revealed in thousands of pages of internal Qaeda documents found by this reporter while on assignment for The Associated Press in northern Mali last year.

In its early years Al Qaeda received most of its money from deep-pocketed donors, but counterterrorism officials now believe the group finances the bulk of its recruitment, training and arms purchases from ransoms paid to free Europeans.

Put more bluntly, Europe has become an inadvertent underwriter of Al Qaeda.

Cortney O'Brien - Ted Cruz Found One Person Happy With the Job Obama is Doing
Posted: 7/29/2014 8:15:00 PM EST

"There's one person happy with how Obama is doing - and that's Jimmy Carter."

Today at the National Conservative Student Conference in Washington, DC, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) noted an intriguing parallel. America's high unemployment, troubled foreign policy and disenchantment with the president looks a whole lot like 1979 all over again - when President Jimmy Carter led the country into malaise. Fortunately, we had a conservative hero back then who was more than willing to step up and steer America back on course. Cruz believes we are about to experience this same reversal.

After recognizing the 50th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's "A Time for Choosing" speech in 1964, Cruz made the case for why 2014 and 2016 will prove to be America's "second wave of freedom:"

"I'm optimistic," Cruz said. "I spend every day traveling the country. The same thing that happened in 1980 is happening today."

He offered the audience a few specific reasons as to why he can't stop smiling:

"It's going to be an incredible year. We're going to retake the Senate and we're going to fire Harry Reid! 2016 will be even better."

After Cruz's encouraging speech, about a quarter of the crowd raced to the mics to ask him a question. One student asked about foreign policy, and Cruz had the guts to say what President Obama won't in regards to Russia's encroaching powers:

"Mr. Putin, give back Crimea."

I share Cruz's hope that these next two elections will be a wake up call to politicians who seem more interested in voting uniformly than doing what's best for their constituents. How else can one explain why hardly any Democrats have challenged the Obama administration for its lawlessness?

We need more conservatives like Ted Cruz, who isn't afraid of saying what needs to be said. Unbeknownst to him, there were some murmurings in the crowd suggesting he himself could very well be in the White House in 2016.

Perhaps the best part of his speech, however, was his jab at the show "True Blood" at the very beginning. After summarizing an episode which featured vampires killing Texas Republicans at a Ted Cruz fundraiser (I kid you not), the senator had a simple message for HBO:

"I'm very disappointed to have lost the vampire vote. But I was astonished and amused that HBO was suggesting that hardcore leftists are bloodsucking fiends."

Touché, Senator.

Matt Vespa - Son Of Hamas Founder: My Father's Movement 'Doesn’t Care About The Lives Of Palestinians'
Posted: 7/29/2014 8:00:00 PM EST
Meet Mosab Hassan Yousef. He’s the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the founders of Hamas. He’s now an evangelical Christian, living in the U.S. after being granted political asylum, and a former operative with Shin Bet, a branch of Israeli intelligence, which led to his father disowning him back in 2010:

In the letter, he said his family announced its "complete renunciation" of Mosab Yousef. The father said he was sorry to take such a step but said he had no choice after his son "disbelieved in God...and collaborated with our enemies," he said.

The elder Yousef, who helped found the militant Islamic group two decades ago, was humiliated last year when his eldest son announced he had converted to Christianity. Then the son told an Israeli newspaper last week that he had helped Israeli intelligence foil militant attacks and hunt down Hamas leaders — including his father.

As the Gaza conflict rages on, Yousef appeared last this week on CNN with Don Lemon where he said, “Hamas doesn’t care about the lives of Palestinians. Does not care about the lives of Israelis or Americans. They don’t care about their own lives. They consider dying for the sake of their ideology a way of worship. And how can you continue in that society?”

Lemon asked if peaceful co-existence was possible with someone who wishes to see you destroyed.

Yousef was blunt:

Well, Hamas is not seeking co-existence and compromise. Hamas is seeking conquest and taking over. And, by the way, Israel – the destruction of the state of Israel is not Hamas’ final destination. Hamas’ final destination is building the Islamic Caliphate, which means an Islamic state on the rubble of every other civilization. These are the ultimate goals of the movement.

Christine Rousselle - Study Dispels Fears Legalized Medical Marijuana Leads to Increased Teen Use
Posted: 7/29/2014 5:21:00 PM EST

A comparison of annual CDC surveys of adolescent drug use by showed that a state's legalization of marijuana for medical use has little impact on the chances that a teen will use marijuana.

Comparing surveys of marijuana use by adolescents conducted annually by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found the probability that a high schooler had used pot in the last 30 days was no more than 0.8 percent higher in legal states compared to states that had not approved medical marijuana.

"Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that the legalization of medical marijuana caused an increase in the use of marijuana among high school students," D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University, Daniel Rees of the University of Colorado and Benjamin Hansen of the University of Oregon wrote.

Marijuana is legal in 21 states for the treatment of a variety of diseases, and is legal in two states for recreational use. Two additional states, Alaska and Oregon, will vote this November about whether to legalize the drug for recreational use.

Approximately one out of every 15 high school seniors reports smoking marijuana on a daily basis, while about a third of high school seniors report smoking marijuana within the past year. A plurality of high school students claim that purchasing marijuana is easier than purchasing a beer, and half of high school students surveyed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration say that marijuana is "easy" or "very easy" to obtain.

This is fantastic news for patients in the 29 states that currently do not allow marijuana for medicinal use that may benefit from the drug. There have been incredible stories of patients who have been helped by medical marijuana, and frankly, the drug should be available to other sick patients regardless of what state they reside. This study shows that states who haven't legalized marijuana for medical use are doing more harm to patients who could benefit from the drug than preventing teens from smoking pot.

Sarah Jean Seman - Obama Declares Economic Sanctions on Russia
Posted: 7/29/2014 4:57:00 PM EST

The United States will impose key sanctions against the Russian economy, President Barack Obama announced Tuesday during a White House press conference.

The sanctions put an embargo on firearm sales to Russia and additionally target the country’s energy and finance industries. European Union leaders placed similar penalties against Russia just hours before; however, Obama claimed these additional U.S. sanctions will have "an even bigger bite."

"It's not a new cold war," Obama declared in response to a question, "What it is, is a very specific issue related to Russia's unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path."

This weekend, the Obama administration released surveillance photos revealing that Russian troops have fired artillery rounds against Ukranian militants.

"It didn't have to come to this. It does not have to be this way. This is a choice that Russia and President Putin in particular has made," Obama stated.

“If Russia continues on its current path the cost on Russia will continue to grow,” Obama warned. "Today is a reminder that the United States means what it says and we will rally the international community in standing up for rights and freedom around the world."

Katie Pavlich - Hillary Clinton: Hamas Operates in Civilian Areas Because Gaza is a Small Place or Something
Posted: 7/29/2014 3:40:00 PM EST

Speaking to journalist Jorge Ramos yesterday, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that Hamas operates in civilian populated areas in Gaza because it's "pretty small."

"The problem is, and this is something, I'm not a military planner but Hamas puts its missiles, its rockets in civilian areas, part of it is that Gaza's pretty small and it's very densely populated. They put their command and control of Hamas military leaders in those civilian areas," Clinton said.

Hamas doesn't operate in civilian areas because it's a "pretty small" place, not even "in part." Hamas intentionally and deliberately operates in civilians populations, including in schools and mosques, in order to get innocent Palestinians killed so they can use dead bodies as propaganda against Israel. Hamas purposefully uses human beings as shields. Period. Hamas doesn't operate inside civilian areas "in part," that's where their entire operation and propaganda campaign is based.

H/T JewsNews

Matt Vespa - At Netroots, House Democrats Slam Gerrymandering, Say Gridlock Unites Them
Posted: 7/29/2014 3:30:00 PM EST

We’ve heard this ad nauseum from the media and members of Congress that it’s just too divided up on the Hill. It’s too gridlocked, or something. As George Will said in his acceptance speech upon receiving the George Washington Award from Americans For Prosperity Foundation in 2010, “gridlock isn’t an American problem; gridlock is an American achievement.” At the liberal conference Netroots Nation earlier this month, a panel comprised of Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D- CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), and Dan Kildee (D-MI) all said it made up the ingredients for a “crazy Congress.”

The panel, moderated by Huffington Post politics reporter Sabrina Siddiqui, is described as such:

From endless Obamacare repeal votes to the IRS “scandal” to the disgusting politicization of Benghazi, the 113th Congress has been a sight to behold. Hear from two progressive Members of Congress serving their first term on how they persevered to move the ball forward on progressive issues despite a conservative majority bent on picking useless political fights. Come to this panel for an inside look at how progressives are fighting the good fight in this House of Representatives—and what it will take to break through and win on important issues.

Siddiqui described the IRS fiasco as a “so-called scandal” in her opening remarks – and went on the list the various issues Congress faced, or is still debating, while House Republicans try to get to the bottom of what happened at the IRS when Lois Lerner was running the division overseeing tax-exempt nonprofits; issues like the Violence Against Women Act, Hurricane Sandy relief, sequestration, immigration reform, and Syria to name a few.

She then posed a question to Rep. Kildee and the rest of the congressmen about what they’ve learned since being elected to Congress.

He said it was much more partisan than he had imagined, but said he was able to work on what he planned on working on – to a certain degree – in urban policy. Yet, as being the minority party in the House of Representatives, Congressman Kildee said he frustrated that his side is “playing more defense than offense.”

Congressman Takano said that he doesn’t get easily frustrated, which he attributes to his teaching career before entering public life; he taught high school for twenty-four years, so you know that tests your patience. The response drew some laughter from the audience.

“I try to keep my expectation in line,” he said. But Rep. Takano knew what he was getting into when he assumed his congressional office on January 3, 2013, where the lame duck Congress was still trying to hash out something for Sandy victims. Rep. Takano said House Republicans would eventually do the right thing, but had to be shamed into it by the Senate.

Although, he noted that the high point of the alleged dysfunction was the government shutdown. But Democrats in the House and Senate, along with President Obama held the line and the Republicans finally backed off their demands over Obamacare.

Rep. Takano said the tone changed after the shutdown with his Republican colleagues. They reauthorized the Workforce Investment Act, which he said would’ve been impossible in prior to the shutdown. So, standing firm against Republican hostage tactics, as he described them, was essential.

Rep. Lowenthal agreed with the premise that House Democrats play a lot of defense on the Hill, but said it’s important to be in that position on some. The congressman is on the Committee on Natural Resources, which he describes as highly partisan, where discussions about drilling on federal lands are common. “Somebody has to stand up and talk about the debate about some of the impact of climate change. And that’s what we do as progressives,” he said. It’s all about framing the debate.

He mentioned that one of the good things about the dysfunction in Congress is that it’s allowed Democrats to come together and create a political apparatus they can use when they retake the House. Rep. Lowenthal prides himself in being a member of the Progressive Caucus, where fellow Democrats support each other and lay out their policy objectives.

Lowenthal then railed against House Republicans, labeling them as arrogant and unwilling to heed to the will of the American public. “Remember history is on our side; the people are on our side; it’s only because of a crazy gerrymandering and the things that have happened in this county that we’re not in control of the Congress. America is not represented by the people who it really wishes to represent,” he said. So, that sentiment has also brought House Democrats, or at least the progressive ones, together.

Rep. Kildee also detailed how House Republicans are abusing the rules in way that’s unprecedented. Specifically, the number of closed rules on legislation that Kildee says silences the minority.

Granted, this is about House, but is he aware that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid nuked the Senate filibuster rules on most presidential nominees and appointments?

The panel moved on to discuss immigration reform and the border crisis. Rep. Takano noted that these immigrant children are turning themselves in to immigration authorities, so it’s not about needing for more border guards.

These fleeing awful conditions –gang violence being one of them – and that they should be able to make their case in front of a judge; hearings that are already law under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

Rep. Lowenthal described this as a test for America, saying the law is clear that these children have rights and deserve their day in court. He also said the largest Cambodian and Vietnamese populations in the United States live within his district, where he remembers Americans welcoming Cambodians fleeing Pol Pot. After Saigon fell in 1975, we welcomed those Vietnamese refugees.

The problem with that analogy is that Mexico and Central America aren’t being ravaged by civil wars or experiencing mass slaughter at the hands of genocidal dictators. They’re also not fleeing political persecution.

House Democrats are waiting in the tall grass for Republicans to implode. As expected, they’re unhappy being in the minority, but see they’ve gridlock as a way to build a political infrastructure for when they’re in the majority.

Of course, they railed against gerrymandering; Takano wants districts to be redrawn based on independent commissions like in California. Oh, and they’re the party of the middle class.

One last note on gerrymandering, the 2011 redistricting gave the GOP no advantage whatsoever (via Washington Post):

2012 compared to the 2010 Districts

What if we “re-run” the 2012 House election, but using the old districts? We have done that simulation, using the 2008 presidential vote in both the old and new districts to capture how the redistricting might have moved partisans around. If we assume that nothing else affects House election outcomes but the partisanship of the districts—in other words, if we allow redistricting to have its maximum possible effect—we find that the 2011 redistricting cost Democrats 7 seats in 2012. This is not nothing, but it’s far less than what the Democrats needed to take back the House and about half what Wang estimated.

2012 compared to history

Perhaps the pre-2011 maps are not the right standard. In fact, there is evidence they were already biased toward Republicans. The question is whether that advantage is a product of redistricting. In turns out when we go back further in time across multiple redistricting cycles, House elections have tended to favor Republicans for at least a couple decades. Once we put 2012 in this historical context, it does not stand out as a “great gerrymander” at all.

Conclusion

We’ve written cautionary notes about redistricting several times in the past months. Simply raising the possibility that redistricting isn’t always as powerful or pernicious as its critics suggest sometimes leads people to conclude that we are “gerrymandering deniers” who think redistricting has no partisan consequences whatsoever.

That is not the case. The analysis above does not confirm the worst fears about the “great gerrymander” of 2012. But given the challenge of answering “compared to what?”, we would not argue that the 2011 redistricting gave the GOP no advantage whatsoever. Political science research on redistricting has confirmed that control of the line-drawing process does yield some benefits. The challenge is in estimating what those benefits are. We have tried to show that the answer is far more complicated, and that the magnitude of the redistricting effect is probably smaller than many have assumed.

And, then there’s this bit from Philip Bump, also of the Washington Post:

Gerrymandering is a game of increments, not sweeping change. If the goal has been to solidify districts as Democratic or Republican to make it easier for incumbents to win handily, that doesn't appear to have happened widely. If, instead, the goal is to pick up a seat here or there -- as was certainly the plan in Florida -- that has likely been more successful.

But the idea that we've moved away from some golden era of hard-fought contests between cigar-chompin' politicians simply isn't true. As these maps of the results of the six races above make clear, elections have always been a mix of close and landslide contests. The average margins of victory in our 435 House races remains pretty consistent.

Katie Pavlich - Keep Your Guns at Home: Stay Granted in Washington D.C. Carry Case
Posted: 7/29/2014 2:45:00 PM EST

The ability for citizens, D.C. residents and outsiders alike, to carry a handgun open or concealed in Washington D.C. didn't last long. Just days after Federal Judge Frederick Scullin knocked down Washington D.C.'s complete carry ban as unconstitutional, he has issued a 90-day stay in the case. More from the Washington Times:

The order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Scullin brings a temporary reprieve to D.C. officials, who were sent scurrying over the weekend to interpret the effects of the ruling that gutted the city’s restrictive gun laws.

An order issued Saturday by the judge struck down the city’s ban on the carrying of guns in public as unconstitutional. While still struggling to comprehend the scope of the order, D.C. police ordered officers to stop arresting people for carrying legally registered guns on city streets.

D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan asked Monday for a stay either pending a potential appeal of the case or for 180 days to give city lawmakers time to craft appropriate legislation to regulate the carrying of guns in public.


In the meantime, NRA News host Cam Edwards has an idea:



Guy Benson - Emails: Insurers Warned of Big Premium Increases, Requested and Received Expanded 'Bailout'
Posted: 7/29/2014 2:20:00 PM EST


Lots to get to on the Obamacare front today, starting with the contents and implications of newly-revealed emails between the Obama administration and major health insurers. The House Oversight Committee has released the batch of correspondence, which paints a cozy picture of coordination and high stakes, high dollar back-scratching. White House officials coach insurance executives on how to discuss the law publicly -- praising them for helpful performances -- and insurers request and secure more generous Obamacare 'bailouts,' in exchange for minimizing unavoidable premium spikes. The exchanges show how Team Obama worked hand-in-glove with an industry it has vilified as greedy and unfair for public consumption. Healthcare policy expert Jeffrey Anderson has more in the Weekly Standard:


Behind the scenes, Big Government and Big Insurance maintain a cozy alliance that the Obama administration actively nourishes, often at taxpayer expense. Indeed, as emails recently obtained by the House Oversight Committee show, Big Government and Big Insurance have worked together to promote Obamacare. They’ve also worked together to make sure taxpayers will help bail out insurance companies who lose money selling insurance under Obamacare — that is, unless Republicans stop this from happening. Moreover, Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett is among the prominent White House officials who’ve been in the middle of this collaboration between insurers and the administration — between those driven by the profit motive and those driven by the power motive…


The Obama administration was coming under increasing political pressure — as millions of Americans found out that (contrary to Democratic messaging across the years), if they liked their health plan, that didn’t necessarily mean they could keep their health plan. After Obama lawlessly empowered himself to un-ban the plans that Obamacare had banned by law, insurers weren’t happy, so the administration responded by paying them off. It did so by changing the rules regarding two programs buried in the bowels of Obamacare — its risk-corridor and reinsurance programs. As Jay Cost and I wrote this spring, the administration changed the rules “to funnel more money to insurers. Put simply, the administration lowered the threshold at which insurers become eligible for reinsurance money, and it made more generous the formula by which insurers get paid under the risk corridors.” In the process, Obama effectively turned the risk-corridor program into his own personal slush fund.


When President Obama announced his on-the-fly "fix" to the unfolding "keep your plan" political crisis (by decreeing that millions of non-compliant plans could be effectively un-cancelled -- a change that a number of states rejected), insurance carriers became very concerned about the financial fallout of that decision. The resulting confusion, lost revenue, and problematic risk pools could force them to compensate with dramatically higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs for consumers. Very bad politics. Not only did they receive the changes they were seeking in the 'bailout' policy outlined above, they also demanded that the White House drop the pretense that any changes to the bailouts would be budget neutral. The administration complied, announcing that it would use "other sources of funding" to make insurers whole -- a maneuver of dubious legality, according to Anderson. The indefatigable Phil Kerpen consolidated and embedded some of the juicier bits of the emails into tweets:




Despite these taxpayer-funded 'bailout'-style gambits, rates are still being hiked significantly across the country. Recall the "summer drumbeat." The increases consumers are experiencing are being artificially held down by these reinsurance and risk corridor "slush funds" -- which, we remind you, are paid for by taxpayers. What happens when these provisions expire in a few years? Insurers are hoping that the risk pools will be more stable and predictable by then, but adverse selection is already a very real problem. Will the bailouts be extended (by Congress or unilaterally), thus ballooning the cost of Obamacare? Or will costs climb steeply, quite possibly driving healthier people out of the market? I'll leave you with some Obamacare odds and ends:


(1) Obamacare's automatic renewal policy, designed to streamline and simplify the process, may end up hurting many consumers: "If those amounts are too low, consumers could get sticker shock over their new premiums. Too high, and they'll owe the tax man later...It could be a new twist on an old public relations headache for the White House: You keep the health plan you like but get billed way more," reports the Associated Press.


(2) USA Today profiles two women who signed up for Obamacare plans, only to discover that they could not "keep their doctors, period" as promised by the president. Instead, these latest victims of 'access shock' are grappling with severely pared down provider networks. Welcome to the growing, disgruntled club, ladies.


(3) Supporters of the new law are once again trying to claim credit for a slowdown in Medicare spending that has pushed its latest insolvency date back to 2030. The government's own bookkeepers have determined that Obamacare has had no measurable impact in the current health costs slowdown (costs are still headed in one direction: up), which has been heavily influenced by the sluggish economy. The Washington Examiner's Phil Klein notes that Medicare's chief actuary is warning that Obamacare's Medicare "savings" aren't sustainable:


Paul Spitalnic, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also cautioned that it would be hard to maintain the policies put in place by Obamacare, which are responsible for helping to extend the trust fund on paper...Obamacare, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is to spend more than $1.8 trillion over 10 years to expand insurance coverage -- spending that is supposed to be offset by a combination of tax increases and extracting savings from Medicare. One of the misleading arguments that the Obama administration has been making since the debate over the passage of the law is that the the same dollars of savings could simultaneously be used improve the solvency of Medicare while paying for a new expansion of entitlements...If Obamacare uses the money generated by its Medicare cuts to pay for expanding health coverage — as called for by the law — then it doesn't help Medicare's long-term finances. On the other hand, if Obamacare does use savings generated from Medicare cuts to pay for future Medicare benefits, then Obamacare will add substantially to the overall federal deficit.


If Medicare reimbursement rates were to plummet as a result of the mandated cuts, "lawmakers would likely intervene to prevent the withdrawal of providers from the Medicare market and the severe problems with beneficiary access to care that would result," Spitalnic said. In other words, those on-paper savings are likely to vanish due to political considerations, pushing Medicare toward insolvency at a faster clip. The political Left is committed to defending the reckless and unsustainable status quo out of political expediency.