Christine Rousselle - CDC, NASA Have Highest Favorability Ratings of Federal Agencies
Posted: 1/25/2015 6:00:00 PM EST

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, Americans have little trust in the government as a whole, but have high favorability ratings for several individual agencies. Seventy percent surveyed approve of the Centers for Disease Control, and 68 percent approve of the job done by NASA. The IRS and the NSA had the lowest favorability ratings, with 45 and 51 percent, respectively, having a favorable view of those agencies.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 7-11 among 1,504 adults, finds that 70% have a favorable view of the CDC, which came under criticism last fall for its handling of the outbreak of the Ebola virus. Nearly as many (68%) have a favorable view of NASA, and 65% hold a favorable view of the Department of Defense.

While overall favorable ratings for most of the agencies tested have changed little over time, there has been a sharp decline in positive views of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Currently, 52% have a favorable view of the VA, down 16 points since October 2013. The agency has been widely faulted for delays in health care for veterans; the scandal led to the ouster last year of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

Among Republicans, the agency viewed most favorably was the Department of Defense, followed by the CIA and NASA. The CIA was the only federal agency that Republicans favored more than Democrats.

While the CDC got a bad rap late last year when the Ebola virus was discovered in Dallas, there has been no major outbreak of the disease and the agency did its job well containing diagnosed cases, and I'll give them credit for that. NASA has had its budget slashed, yet they've still accomplished some pretty amazing feats and made important discoveries.

Matt Vespa - We’ve Never Been This Close To Armageddon Since 1984
Posted: 1/25/2015 2:55:00 PM EST

We’re now three minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock, which is used to determine how close human civilization is to the apocalypse. This is the closest we’ve ever been to midnight since 1984. The reason is not nuclear war anymore. It’s the threat humanity faces from bioterrorism, climate change, and our lethargic response towards addressing it. But, nuclear weapons still play their part as well (via Slate):

That’s the closest it has been to midnight since 1984, at the Cold War’s peak. The only time humanity has been closer to self-destruction, according to the clock, was from 1953 to 1960, when it read 11:58 p.m. thanks to the nuclear brinksmanship between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War’s end turned the clock all the way back to 11:43 p.m. in 1991. So how did we end up right back at 11:57 p.m., just 24 years later?*

The answer is that nuclear war is no longer the only plausible, existential threat we face, according to the Bulletin’s science and security board. The other: climate change. And, more specifically, the world’s lackluster response to climate change.

As Lawrence Krauss explained in Slate two years ago, climate change was added to the clock-setting calculations in 2007, along with the dangers presented by biotechnology and bioterrorism. Despite ever-growing public awareness of the problem, global inaction on climate change has only darkened the picture since then.

Remember, it isn’t only climate change that has us poised precipitously at 11:57 p.m. today. It’s the combination of climate change and some discouraging recent developments on the nuclear-proliferation front. At a press conference Thursday, Bulletin executive director Kennette Benedict emphasized both. About the nuclear threat, she said:

The arms-reduction process has ground to a halt, with the United States and Russia embarking on massive programs to modernize their nuclear forces—thereby undermining existing nuclear weapons treaties. At the same time, other nuclear-weapons states are joining this expensive and extremely dangerous modernization craze.

The two threats may seem unrelated, but it’s worthwhile to think about them in the same breath, because there are some interesting parallels between them. The greatest danger posed by nuclear bombs is not their explosive power. It’s the prospect of a nuclear winter—that is, a form of very sudden, human-caused, climate change.

There’s that, and the fact that radiation will kill us all, too. Yet, the Slate piece did note that the Doomsday Clock’s methodology is subjective to the “biases and interests” of the scientists who move the clock handles.

While it’s a bit unnerving that we are so close to the end of the world, I’m still skeptical about climate change being the biggest existential threat humanity has faced in generations.

In other news, Mad Max: Fury Road will be released this summer; a franchise that pretty much became the blueprint for post-apocalyptic media. Here’s the trailer:

Kevin Glass - Ohio Gov. John Kasich's Tour: "Nothing To Do" With 2016
Posted: 1/25/2015 12:09:00 PM EST

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is on tour in the west promoting a constitutional balanced budget amendment - but before you make any presumptions, the former GOP-nomination-chaser says it isn't about 2016.

As the Wall Street Journal reports:

Fresh off his inauguration to a second term as governor, Mr. Kasich is travelling from South Dakota to Wyoming to Idaho in a tour that ends Friday. He is trying to round up support for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget — even as fiscal issues seem to be fading in Congress.

Mr. Kasich, who ran briefly for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000, says this budget campaign has nothing to do with his thinking about whether to try again in 2016. The tour may help build his national profile in a field crowded with ambitious Republicans, but he deflects questions about his plans.

“My options are on the table but I don’t have any more to say about that,” he said. When someone in Pierre, South Dakota raised the question, he joked about other Republicans who are eyeing a bid: “They are all in New Hampshire and here I am in South Dakota!”

Kasich won re-election in Ohio in 2014 by an impressive margin - more than 30 points - and such a strong showing in a purple state suggests an across-the-aisle appeal that would theoretically be helpful in any national election. Still, he's largely a dark horse in a race that is, to this point, led by household names like Bush and Romney.

Leah Barkoukis - Black Lives Matter: Abortion Killed 19 Times as Many Blacks as Murder
Posted: 1/25/2015 9:00:00 AM EST

After the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, protesters took to the streets across the nation declaring that ‘Black Lives Matter.’

It wasn’t a moment, they argued, but a movement.

“Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,” states. “It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

They are right: Black lives are intentionally targeted for demise—though not necessarily in the way they are protesting.

CNS News explains:

For every black murder victim in 2011 there were 19 blacks killed by abortion, according to data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 2011 is the latest year for which the data is available.

The CDC’s Abortion Surveillance Report for 2011 shows that 117,293 black babies were aborted that year in the 32 states and the District of Columbia that report abortion numbers to the CDC.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2011, shows that 6,329 blacks were murder victims that year (5,416 males, 910 females, and 3 unknown gender).

In other words, for every black American killed by homicide in 2011, there were 19 (18.5) blacks killed by abortion--and that’s just in the jurisdictions that report their abortion data. (See Table 13 in CDC report.)

Also, the 117,293 aborted babies is 1,753% higher than the 6,329 black murder victims.

Black lives do matter—beginning in the womb. It’s well past time the movement shift its focus.

Matt Vespa - Obama Targets Americans At The Pump
Posted: 1/24/2015 6:00:00 PM EST

Last week, the Obama administration announced it was proposing new rules for methane regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency will unveil the new regulations this summer.

The Obama administration’s goal is for methane emissions to be cut 40 to 45 percent by 2025. Yet, it was unclear how such an objective could be achieved, given that methane escaping from pipelines wouldn’t be subject to regulation, according to Politico. As Erik Telford of the Franklin Center wrote, this regulatory onslaught will only hurt Americans and small businesses; not to mention that the energy industry has taken steps to reduce emissions:

According to the EPA, methane accounts for about 9 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, making it the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States. It’s also the primary component in natural gas, which has helped lower energy prices substantially in the U.S. and around the world.

In fact, the boom in natural gas production is a key factor driving down prices at the pump and giving Americans a much needed respite after an extended recession. And experts have predicted that prices will drop even lower--anticipating an average of $2 a gallon by spring of 2015. However, those forecasts may not be accurate if the administration has its way.

The energy industry has reduced methane emissions by at least 16 percent since 1990, despite impressive increases of natural gas production--rising 37 percent during the same period. Furthermore, despite the natural gas industry being the target of the administration’s latest attack, more than 71 percent of methane emission are produced by other sources.

As energy costs increase for small businesses and prices start rising at the pump, it should be very clear to everyday Americans that Obama’s incursion on the energy industry is really an attack on them.

Tom Pyle of the Institute For Energy Research also commented on the pending new rules concerning methane emissions:

“EPA’s proposed methane regulation is redundant, costly, and unnecessary. Energy producers are already reducing methane emissions because methane is a valuable commodity. It would be like issuing regulations forcing ice cream makers to spill less ice cream.

“The Obama administration’s latest attack on American energy reaffirms that their agenda is not about the climate at all—it’s about driving up the cost of producing and using natural gas, oil, and coal in America. The proof is in the EPA’s own research on methane, which shows that this rule will have no discernible impact on the climate. Like most of the regulations coming out of this ideologically driven EPA, the environmental benefits of this new methane rule are virtually non-existent, but the economic costs for American families are very real.

“In 2012 President Obama dismissed and mocked the notion that we could drill our way to lower oil and gasoline prices. He was wrong. Thanks to increases in oil production on private and state lands, Americans are feeling some relief from high energy prices. Today, this administration has issued yet another crushing regulation aimed at driving energy prices right back up again.”

Cortney O'Brien - VA State Bar Kicks Bob McDonnell When He’s Down
Posted: 1/24/2015 3:00:00 PM EST

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) has already suffered the embarrassment of an arrest, a heated court battle, and a two-year sentence in prison as a result of an unethical relationship he and his wife had with a businessman who worked for a drug supplement company. Now, the embattled governor must humble himself once again. On Friday, the Virginia State Bar announced it was suspending McDonnell’s law license. More from The Virginian Pilot:

The Virginia State Bar announced today it has suspended former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s law license effective Jan. 29.

The bar’s Disciplinary Board decided the suspension as a result of McDonnell's conviction on 11 federal corruption charges, according to a public notice. His license was already administratively suspended because McDonnell hasn't paid his dues since mid-October, it said.

The former governor hasn’t practiced law since 2009 and it’s not clear if he would have in the near future, but the suspension is just another stain on his already tarnished reputation.

McDonnell’s fall from grace began when it was revealed that he and his wife had accepted thousands of dollars in gifts and bribes from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the CEO of Star Scientific, in return for promoting his company’s dietary supplement. In September, McDonnell was convicted on 11 counts of corruption. His wife Maureen is facing eight counts for her sentencing on February 20.

When the judge announced McDonnell’s verdict, he did so reluctantly, saying "It breaks my heart, but I have a duty I can't avoid." After all, the former governor served the Old Dominion well during his time in office and was once even considered a contender for the 2016 presidential race. 

There’s something even more humbling about being behind bars. After McDonnell serves his time, perhaps he will start to earn back some respect and dignity. Staff - Sarah Palin: I'm "Seriously Interested" in a White House Run
Posted: 1/24/2015 2:30:00 PM EST


Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin told The Washington Post in an interview Friday that she is “seriously interested” in running for the White House in 2016.

“You can absolutely say that I am seriously interested,” Palin said, when asked to clarify her thinking about a possible presidential bid.

Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee, said she stood by comments she made Thursday in Las Vegas to ABC News, where she first expressed enthusiasm about potentially competing for the Republican presidential nomination.

“I am. As I said yesterday, I’m really interested in the opportunity to serve at some point,” Palin said Friday, as former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, a potential 2016 rival, looked on.

Exit question: Should Sarah Palin run for president in 2016? Or should she sit this one out and serve the nation in other ways?

Matt Vespa - Walker Watch: Governor Plans To Be In New Hampshire, Nabs Ernst Strategist
Posted: 1/24/2015 12:00:00 PM EST

Yes, I’m sure a lot of you are waiting–or hoping–for Gov. Walker to announce his 2016 candidacy. His answer will probably come around the summer, but he’s scheduled to be a keynote speaker in New Hampshire on March 14 at an in-state Republican Party event (via RCP):

As he continues to gear up for a likely Republican presidential bid, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is planning his first trip to New Hampshire of the 2016 campaign season.

On March 14, Walker will be the keynote speaker at an event that is being hosted by the New Hampshire Republican Party in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

"We have enacted bold, successful reforms in Wisconsin and we have a great story to tell," Walker said in a statement announcing his visit. "I look forward to sharing our common sense conservative message with grassroots activists, and I thank the New Hampshire GOP for this exciting opportunity."

According to multiple Republican sources, Walker’s tightknit political team has been conducting interviews recently for high-level positions in what is likely to become an official campaign organization in the coming months.

Additionally, Walker’s political team recently nabbed David Polyansky, a Republican strategist who worked on Sen. Joni Ernst’s successful 2014 Senate election in Iowa. He’ll be responsible for the ground game there (via NRO):

Polyansky’s history in Iowa goes back to Mike Huckabee’s 2008 campaign: He helped orchestrate the former Arkansas governor’s surprise victory in the Iowa caucuses that year, and in then in 2012, while working for former congresswoman Michele Bachmann, he helped her win the state’s straw poll.

Walker is in Iowa this weekend for the Iowa Freedom Summit cosponsored by congressman Steve King and Citizens United. The news was first reported by the Des Moines Register.

Within political circles, Walker seems to be a candidate that could clear the 2016 field, despite Marco Rubio’s “concrete steps” towards a 2016 bid of his own. He has a fundraising network that could be one of the largest in the GOP, executive experience in a purplish state, pushing through an agenda, and will already be warmed up for the campaign season, since his entire first term was pretty much one long election (2010, 2012 recall, 2014 re-election). He’s a solid, pro-life conservative as well. Yet, as John Fund wrote in National Review, right-to-work and gambling could steer the Walker ship towards rocky shoals.

In Madison, both chambers of the state legislature are Republican–and they want a more aggressive right-to-work law that prohibits private sector employees from paying dues to unions. There’s also a $800 million dollar gambling project that awaits his approval or disapproval:

A total of 24 states — including Iowa — are right-to-work. The latest additions to the list were heavily unionized Michigan and Indiana.

Yet Governor Walker has made it clear that he views the push for right-to-work as a distraction from his buttoned-down agenda of business, tax, and education reforms. Wisconsin state-senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald told WISN-TV last Sunday that “not much will happen” on the issue in the next few months. Fitzgerald said he understood Walker’s desire to avoid large protests like those seen in 2011, when Act 10, a law restricting public-sector unions, passed.

Still, he has also warned Walker that “we can’t tiptoe through this session without addressing this.”

Another issue where Governor Walker will have to tread carefully in Iowa is the expansion of state-approved gambling. Walker will have to decide by February 19 whether to approve a proposed $800 million Menominee Indian tribal casino in Kenosha. “Influential social conservatives in Iowa are warning Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker that approving a proposed Kenosha casino next month could hurt his presidential bid” was the lead paragraph of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article this month. Newly elected Iowa U.S. senator Joni Ernst joined 600 other Republicans in sending Walker a petition urging him adopt a “No Expanding Gaming” policy. Bob Vander Plaats, a prominent social conservative in Iowa who led the successful defeat in 2010 of three Supreme Court justices who had approved same-sex marriage, has also written a letter to Walker highlighting the “increased societal problems of divorce, bankruptcy, debt, depression, and suicide” that gambling can produce. In 2012, Vander Plaats’s last-minute endorsement of Rick Santorum helped propel the former Pennsylvania senator to a photo-finish victory over Mitt Romney in Iowa.

Iowa political activists tell me that Walker is taking real risks of leaks in his Iowa coalition if he either approves expanded gambling or chokes on approving right-to-work — especially in a state such as Iowa that has had such a law on its books for more than 60 years.

Hey, there are risks with any national campaign. We’ll just have to see how this plays out. It still doesn’t diminish the fact that Republicans have a conservative governor from a purple state that can make a conservative agenda law, raise money, and appeals to both wings of the GOP. He has a political network ready–all we have to do is wait for Walker. Staff - Livestream: Iowa Freedom Summit
Posted: 1/24/2015 10:08:00 AM EST
The Iowa Freedom Summit is being livestreamed. Watch it below:

Daniel Doherty - Change: Only Romney Edges Rubio in New Poll
Posted: 1/24/2015 9:00:00 AM EST

The establishment is taking over.

Just kidding. But this poll is interesting:

A new Zogby Analytics of likely Republican primary voters shows that the 2012 nominee is in the lead for 2016, but only three points ahead of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and current Florida Senator Marco Rubio.The poll of 223 likely primary voters was conducted online January 16-18 and has a margin of sampling error of +/-6.6 percentage points.

Romney is on top with support from 16% of the voters, followed by Bush and Rubio with 13% each. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is next with 11%, followed by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee with 9%, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at 6%, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindahl with 4%, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz all at 3%. Other names included South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez, and former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum --- all receiving less than 1%.

For months, Rubio has been scraping the bottom of the barrel in 2016 polls. As far as I can tell, this is the first poll showing him exceeding double-digit support in months. But there is something far more interesting about this poll than just the top-line numbers. Rubio, for his part, is earning 13 percent overall largely -- and almost entirely -- because women support him.

“Rubio is receiving 22% support among women to only 4% of men and does equally well (16% each) among both self-identified Republicans and conservatives,” the pollsters write. By contrast, Romney and Bush are only earning 13 percent and 10 percent among women, respectively. That’s a huge advantage. For a party that has struggled to make inroads with this key demographic, Rubio is showing early signs of promise.

Another point to emphasize (and the Zogby pollsters did as well) is that, besides maintaining support-levels far above his rivals among female voters, Rubio’s broadly appealing. He doesn’t strictly fit the mold of a "tea party" candidate (think his advocacy for and defense of comprehensive immigration reform) but nor is he an "establishment" type, either. In 2010, he ran as a staunch conservative and was even featured on the cover of National Review magazine early in the campaign. So his support among both tea party and more moderate respondents -- in this particular survey, at least -- typifies his growing appeal and unique ability to transcend party labels. This realization may have also been one factor which led him to essentially take the plunge already.

Guy has written an extensive post titled “Rubio’s Gamble.” Go read it. In sum, he argues that the Florida senator’s path to the nomination is hardly clear-cut. But as this poll shows, he seems to have the potential and ability to make a huge splash in 2016.

We'll see if he sinks or swims.