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Daniel Doherty - RNC Initiates #FireReid Campaign
Posted: 7/22/2014 12:45:00 PM EST

It’s time to fire Harry Reid. Or so says the Republican National Committee -- which today launched its brand new campaign to wrestle control of the upper chamber from Democrats by explicitly targeting the Senate Majority Leader.

RNC National Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski issued the following statement this morning:

Today the RNC launches our #FireReid campaign.

Under the control of Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate has failed to listen to the American people and do what’s in their best interest. In fact, the U.S. Senate has failed to do much of anything that doesn’t serve Harry Reid’s quest to remain in power.

For example, the Republican-led House of Representatives has passed over 290 bills, including 40 jobs bills, that are stuck Harry Reid’s Senate. He won’t put them to a vote, even though they could put Americans back to work.

Likewise, Harry Reid has refused to let his Republican colleagues introduce amendments to legislation, a normal part of the lawmaking process. It’s his way or the highway. Or more accurately, it’s billionaire SuperPAC donor Tom Steyer’s way or the highway.

The RNC has put together a rather long list of all the reasons why Harry Reid must go. Blocking bills, breaking promises, and cutting off debate are only some of the grievances they document. But at the same time, they’re also trying to tie him to what they describe as the president's "failed" agenda; and as a result, will take their message to a dozen or so key battleground states to make their case:

The RNC will take this message to Senate races across the country. Beginning this week, we will launch robocalls in Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia. Those calls will tell voters that the only way to stop Obama is to vote Republican and fire Reid. The calls will remind them that a vote for their respective Democrat Senate candidate is a vote to rubberstamp the failed Obama-Reid agenda.

The ongoing Fire Reid campaign will use a variety tactics, including research briefings, social media, videos, interviews, and infographics to highlight where Harry Reid, empowered by a Democrat majority, has failed Americans: ineffectual leadership, ethical lapses, gridlock, ObamaCare, Keystone, and more.

The message is simple: if you want to get America moving in the right direction, you have to fire Reid in November.

Perhaps this message will also resonate with swing voters who find Reid’s mindless rantings and hypocrisy too much to bear. We'll see.

Kara Jones - North Korea Furious Over Viral Dancing Video Starring Kim Jong-un
Posted: 7/22/2014 12:00:00 PM EST

The Supreme Leader is not happy.

Kim Jong-un’s latest ire comes from a Chinese-made YouTube video that has North Korea demanding its removal from the internet. The video, which features Kim’s head superimposed onto dancing bodies, shows the dictator waltzing his way through a variety of hilarious situations.

However, North Korea is not quite amused. As the South Korean publication Chosun Ilbo reports, “the North feels the clip, which shows Kim dancing and Kung-Fu fighting, 'seriously compromises Kim's dignity and authority.'" Please.

Via NPR:

The newspaper says that after North Korea asked China to stop the video from spreading, "Beijng was unable to oblige."

In one segment, Kim pirouettes in a dance studio — before being hit with a kick delivered by President Obama. Other world leaders also make appearances, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

And while a couple of sequences make fun of Kim's fascination with weaponry, we'll note that the video doesn't accuse the North Korean leader of not having rhythm.

We should all know by now that Kim Jong-un takes himself very seriously.

The gratuitous anger over this video closely follows North Korea’s fuss about the release of a Hollywood comedy in which two journalists plot to assassinate Kim. North Korean officials even described the release of the James Franco and Seth Rogen film an “act of war” promising “merciless retaliation.”

The Mirror describes the bizarre nature of Kim and his cronies:

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) describes itself as a socialist state based around the country's official ideology of Juche - a philosophy of self-reliance initiated by the state's first President Kim Il-sung.

However, the country is widely viewed by the international community as a totalitarian dictatorship, with an elaborate cult of personality operating around the ruling Kim family.

Among some of the bizarre boasts, it was claimed that Kim Jong-il - father of the current leader - had a supernatural birth, invented the hamburger and in his first ever round of golf shot 38 under par – including five holes in one - before gloriously retiring from the sport.

The truth is that Kim Jong-un is a despot, but often viewed as a figure of fun in the West.

The video has already amassed nearly 900,000 views and counting:

Guy Benson - BREAKING: DC Circuit Court Ruling Deals Massive Blow to Obamacare
Posted: 7/22/2014 11:20:00 AM EST


This is big. Really big:




A full-blown Obamacare earthquake. The 'second highest court in the land's' judgment may not be final -- the administration will almost certainly appeal for an en banc hearing before the full court, and there's always SCOTUS -- but for now, it is the binding decision. What does it mean? George F. Will wrote a column summarizing the Halbig case and its potential implications earlier this year:


Someone you probably are not familiar with has filed a suit you probably have not heard about concerning a four-word phrase you should know about. The suit could blow to smithereens something everyone has heard altogether too much about, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (hereafter, ACA)...If [the lawsuit] succeeds, the ACA’s disintegration will accelerate...Because under the ACA, insurance companies cannot refuse coverage because of an individual’s preexisting condition. Because many people might therefore wait to purchase insurance after they become sick, the ACA requires a mandate to compel people to buy insurance. And because many people cannot afford the insurance that satisfies the ACA’s criteria, the ACA mandate makes it necessary to provide subsidies for those people. The four words that threaten disaster for the ACA say the subsidies shall be available to persons who purchase health insurance in an exchange “established by the state.” But 34 states have chosen not to establish exchanges.

So the IRS, which is charged with enforcing the ACA, has ridden to the rescue of Barack Obama’s pride and joy. Taking time off from writing regulations to restrict the political speech of Obama’s critics, the IRS has said, with its breezy indifference to legality, that subsidies shall also be dispensed to those who purchase insurance through federal exchanges the government has established in those 34 states...Some of the ACA’s myriad defects do reflect its slapdash enactment, which presaged its chaotic implementation. But the four potentially lethal words were carefully considered and express Congress’s intent. Congress made subsidies available only through state exchanges as a means of coercing states into setting up exchanges.

Democrats in Congress passed a law that explicitly limited Obamacare subsidy eligibility to consumers who purchased plans on state-level exchanges. They did so in order to coerce and bribe states into setting up their own marketplaces under the law. (Another attempt at coercion, mandatory Medicaid expansion, has been struck down 7-2 by the Supreme Court). Given the controversial law's unpopularity, a majority of states declined to establish exchanges, forcing the federal government to create the infamous federal version -- with Healthcare.gov as its centerpiece. Subsequent New York Times reporting indicated that HHS never expected to have to set up any exchange at all, let alone for 36 states. That's because they were laboring under the belief that the law's sticks and carrots would compel every state to implement marketplaces on their own. Many did not, and the plain text of the law clearly states that anyone buying coverage through any system other than a state-based exchange would not be eligible to receive generous taxpayer subsidies, which relieve much of the heavy cost burden for many consumers (even with the subsidies, many enrollees say they're struggling to pay).


Faced with this predicament, the IRS decided that Congress' true intent was for all exchange consumers to have a shot at subsidies if they were financially eligible, so it simply decreed it to be so in the form of a regulation that effectively rewrote a major provision the law. Today, the Court ruled that the law says what it says, and that the IRS overstepped. This decision, at least for now, plunges Obamacare into chaos -- and furious Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. When you ram through a lengthy, hastily slapped-together, unpopular law without reading it, unintended consequences sometimes arise. And this one's a biggie. Then again, as Will notes in his piece, a strong case can be made that this passage of the law was very much crafted intentionally, even if today's fallout was 'never supposed to happen.' Congress debated how to phrase the subsidy eligibility language, and ended up passing the Senate's version -- a move made necessary by the anti-Obamacare election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. A previous House version's verbiage had been much more encompassing. But it didn't pass. Obamacare did. If it stands, this ruling not only strips subsidy eligibility from many Americans (which could/will touch off a breathtaking adverse selection death spiral), it liberates tens of millions from the unpopular individual mandate tax. Why?



The individual mandate tax only applies in jurisdictions where consumers are eligible for subsidies. Thirty-six states are now off the table on that front, if this decision holds. The Court went out of its way to acknowledge the potentially drastic consequences of its ruling, ultimately concluding that it's not the judiciary's job to clean up messes made by legislators via ex post facto revisions:



Halbig will trigger a political firestorm that will feature much gnashing of teeth from Obamacare supporters. They ought to point fingers at Congressional Democrats for passing the law that they did, and at the president for signing it. They shouldn't, but will, berate these judges for their ability to read text as it's plainly written. To paraphrase the former Speaker of the House, they passed the law to find out what is in it. And this is what's in it. For more background on the case and its ramifications read this analysis from conservative healthcare wonk Michael Cannon. I'll leave you with this good question:



And how many of those people's coverage is actually in jeopardy of being much more expensive, or even dropped, because of Healthcare.gov's millions of data discrepancies? What a mess. For these logistical reasons alone, this saga isn't over. Stay tuned...


UPDATE - Relevant point. Harry Reid's filibuster power grab helped stack this full Circuit Court with Obama nominees who may be inclined to reverse the panel's 2-1 decision. Thus, overreach could salvage a migraine caused by overreach, and an appeal is on the way:




Gird your loins, SCOTUS. This storm's blowing your way.

UPDATE II - This is the exact same conclusion the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reached in 2010. The law says what it says, prompting some MSM snark:


Katie Pavlich - Chief POLITICO Columnist: Perry Sending National Guard Troops to Border So They Can Shoot Small Children
Posted: 7/22/2014 11:00:00 AM EST

POLITICO Chief Political Columnist Roger Simon is accusing Texas Governor Rick Perry of sending National Guard troops to the border so they can "shoot small children."


First off, lets just mark this under most asinine statement of the day. Second, funny how Simon conveniently ignores why Perry is sending the troops: to stop cartels and gang members who actually shoot and murder small children from entering the United States. Here's one example:

Border Patrol documents newly obtained exclusively by Townhall detail the crimes MS-13 and other gang members in the Nogales processing center admit to committing.

In an interview with Border Patrol agents, 15-year-old self admitted MS-13 member with the last name Aguilar said he killed a member of rival gang 18th Street six months ago with a fully automatic Uzi before coming to the United States.

"He claims he walked over to the wounded rival, and emptied the magazine into the rival's body," interview documents show.

Aguilar also admitted to, "being involved in extortion for the gang," and "collecting money from local vendors and threatening them if they refused to pay."

Finally, the smear from Simon that National Guard troops are interested in "shooting small children" is abhorrent and disgusting. Border Patrol alone has gone above and beyond agents' job descriptions to care for children pouring across the border without their parents in a humane way. The National Guard will no doubt do the same.

Daniel Doherty - Poll: Majority of Americans Support Israel's Right to Defend Itself
Posted: 7/22/2014 10:45:00 AM EST

It’s been almost a week since Israel launched its ground offensive into Gaza. Since that time, scores of IDF soldiers have been killed (including at least two American “lone soldiers”) and the civilian death toll (since the fighting first broke out) has now eclipsed 600. For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strenuously argued that despite the high costs of war, the world’s only Jewish state, surrounded by hostile and malignant actors, has a right to defend itself. This is a sentiment both President Obama and Secretary Kerry have publicly affirmed.

But the politics of the situation became somewhat inflamed over the weekend when Secretary Kerry was caught on an open mic. Speaking to an aide before an appearance on Fox News Sunday, he said Israel’s excursion into Gaza was “a hell of a pinpoint operation.” This has raised suspicions, especially on the Right, that the administration isn’t fully backing Israel. The State Department vehemently denies this allegation.

Nevertheless, it’s abundantly clear that the American public stands firmly behind our Middle Eastern ally. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they believe Israel’s actions are warranted, according to a freshly-released CNN poll:

Monday Palestinians officials reported more killed, bringing the death toll to around 550. It's unknown how many were militants, but the United Nations has estimated that 70% are civilians. Israel announced Monday that seven more of its soldiers were killed, bringing to 25 the number of Israeli soldiers who have died. Two Israeli civilians have also been killed.

According to the poll, 57% of the public said the Israeli actions against Hamas, the Palestinian organization that runs Gaza, are justified, with just over a third saying they are unjustified.

Forty-three percent of those questioned said Israel's using about the right amount of force, with 12% saying they're not using enough. Nearly four in 10 said Israel is using too much force in Gaza.

"Attitudes toward Israeli military action have been extremely stable over the years," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "In 2012, an identical 57% thought that Israel's actions against Hamas in Gaza were justified. And in 2009, the number of Americans who felt that way was only a few points higher, at 63%."

Not surprisingly, Republicans strongly support military engagement in Gaza:

Forty-five percent of Democrats questioned said that Israeli's military actions in Gaza are justified. That number jumps to 56% among independents and 73% among Republicans.

For what it's worth, the poll was conducted last weekend, and more than 1,000 U.S. adults participated.

UPDATE: Read Guy's post over at Hot Air about the appalling rise of anti-Semitism...in the United States.

Guy Benson - Vulnerable Senator: Obamacare Cancellation Stories Are Just 'Anecdotal,' You Know
Posted: 7/22/2014 10:22:00 AM EST


I'll say this for Sen. Mark Pryor, the Arkansas Democrat who votes with Obama 90 percent of the time: At least he didn't go the full Reid by calling millions of Americans liars. No, he merely dismissed the documented phenomena of canceled policies and increased premiums as "anecdotal" evidence against the law for which he cast the deciding vote:



Various polls have shown that Americans who were negatively impacted by the healthcare overhaul far outnumber its beneficiaries. Millions of plans were cancelled due to Obamacare's regulations, including tens of thousands in Arkansas, in spite of repeated promises that consumers would be allowed to keep their preferred plans, with more many more dropped policies looming. The administration itself predicted that as many as 93 million Americans would eventually be stripped of their existing coverage. Also, numerous polls and studies have indicated that most Americans have experienced a rise in costs, including for many of the newly insured. The law was sold by people like Pryor as a robust and across-the-board premium reducer. Both Barack Obama and his eponymous healthcare law are deeply unpopular in Arkansas. Let's review some additional "anecdotes," shall we? Premium increases in Florida:


Florida Blue, the state’s dominant health insurer, snagged more than one in three consumers on the health law’s exchange this year, but many could face rate hikes as the carrier struggles with an influx of older and sicker enrollees, said the company’s top executive...We will be under tremendous financial pressure initially given the age, risk profile and high utilization of the new membership,” he said. “It is far from clear that large enrollment in the marketplace is a financially beneficial place to be.” ... About 23 percent of those who bought exchange policies from Florida Blue this year were in the 18-to-34 age category, Geraghty said. That compares to 28 percent nationally. Initial federal projections were that 40 percent of enrollees nationally would be young adults.


We've been writing about Obamacare's risk pool and demographics problems for months. Now here's a story about a man in Oklahoma who's had a nightmarish experience trying to cancel his Obamacare plan. Thanks to Healthcare.gov's back end data problems (which won't be fixed anytime soon) and lack of customer service (hours of waiting on hold), it took him three months to terminate coverage that he no longer needed, and even then, he was stuck with a bill he shouldn't have owed:



Meanwhile, a legally-mandated and transparency-minded Obamacare database website...isn't working:


A long-awaited federal database designed to reveal doctor payments from the drug and medical device industries is plagued with confusing error messages, according to a report. Physicians told ProPublica that they are seeing long waits and error messages when trying to look up their entries on a preliminary version of the Open Payments website. "Doctors say it is taking them as long as an hour, sometimes longer, to verify their identifies and log in," reported Charles Ornstein with ProPublica. Those who make it through the system and do not have relationships with industry are reportedly met with the message: "You have the following errors on the page. There are no results that match the specified search criteria."

But never mind all that. Everything is working "incredibly well," we're told. People "love" Obamacare! In fact, I think it was Senator Mark Pryor who once gushed that Obamacare was "an amazing success story." What many Americans wouldn't give for an exemption like the free pass just extended to US territories by HHS -- after years of insisting that they didn't have the legal authority to grant such a waiver. Turns out the administration's definition of what counts as a "state" depends on the political imperative of the moment. Speaking of which, keep an eye on this court decision, which should be arriving any day.

Christine Rousselle - The EPA is Apparently a Huge Fan of Kim Kardashian Game
Posted: 7/22/2014 10:00:00 AM EST

Last night, an official Environmental Protection Agency Twitter account sent out a rather curious tweet:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

"Kim Kardashian: Hollywood" is currently the top free app in the iTunes App Store. In the game, players create a "celebrity" avatar and attempt to make said character famous.

The tweet was posted for more than an hour before it was eventually taken down.

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle raised an eyebrow to the bizarre tweet. Rep. Dingell (D-MI) was confused as to what a "Kardashian" was:

Whereas Rep. Stockman (R-TX) was a little more blunt:

There has been no further word as to how the EPA's rise to online superstardom is progressing.

UPDATE:

Rep. Dingell has been hilariously informed as to what a "Kardashian" is.

Katie Pavlich - Greg Abbott: Many Crossing the Border Are Here to Commit Crimes, Including Rape and Murder
Posted: 7/22/2014 9:30:00 AM EST

Yesterday Texas Governor Rick Perry announced the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas border with Mexico. Last night in an interview with Greta Van Susteren, Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott stressed that the focus of the troops will be to stop cartels and criminals who have been operating with impunity as Border Patrol resources continue to be overwhelmed.

"This is one of the most important things I can convey. The purpose of adding more boots on the ground is not to address women and children, it's to address this growing reality that a lot of people coming across the border are here for criminal purposes. They're killing, they're raping, they're robbing, they're doing all kinds of harsh criminal activity," Abbott said. "Right now you should consider them [National Guard troops] to be a force multiplier."

Further, Abbott said the federal government and President Obama have "turned their back on Texas," but stressed that this is not simply a Texas issue but instead one that affects the entire country.

"This is a United States of America issue. Look at all of the different states in the country that are reacting to the situation," Abbott said. "The President has turned his back. Remember Greta it was two weeks ago the President was in Austin, Texas just a few hundred miles away from the border and he had his hand out taking money from people for political purposes and he could not trouble himself to go down to the border to see first hand for himself, the catastrophe that he is partly responsible for creating."

Kevin Glass - Study: Expanded School Breakfast Program Offers Little Benefit to Students
Posted: 7/22/2014 9:11:00 AM EST

The US Department of Agriculture conducted a large experiment with school breakfast programs in public schools from 1999 to 2003, alternately providing either universal breakfasts or breakfast-in-class programs aimed at both expanding access and eliminating the stigma associated with the school breakfast program. Policymakers have long been concerned with low participation rates in the breakfast program and these experiments were designed to combat that problem.

It worked: participation in the school breakfast programs rose. The problem, a new study finds, is that the expanded participation brought largely no benefit to those it was intended to help.

As authors Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and Mary Zaki of Northwestern University write:

Despite the increase in breakfast consumption under BIC, we find no positive impact on most other outcomes. In contrast to the earlier, quasi-experimental literature, we find no positive impact on test scores and some evidence of negative impacts. Similarly, there appears to be no overall positive impact on attendance rates or child health. There is suggestive evidence that BIC may improve behavior and health in some highly disadvantaged subgroups, though.

The authors urge that their results don't speak against the effectiveness of the school breakfast program as constituted, but merely against efforts to expand the program. They find that the increase in participation resulted largely from students who merely substituted school breakfasts for those they were already getting at home - and that a certain percentage of the increase in participation was from some children eating two breakfasts. The authors write that "the realtively modest measured benefits suggest that policymakers should carefully consider how to trade these off against the increased program costs."

Author James Bovard recently noted:

A 2006 Journal of the American Dietetic Association study concluded that "making universal-free school breakfast available" failed to change "students' dietary outcomes" or reduce the number of kids who skipped breakfast. Similarly, a 2006 Journal of Child Nutrition and Management study and a recent University of North Carolina study concluded that providing universal free breakfasts failed to improve academic performance.

This is a relatively small issue - "efforts to expand access to the federally-provided school breakfast program have largely been ineffective" - but it speaks to the challenge conservatives face in the public policy arena. Some children, and especially at-risk children from low-income families, are malnourished and the federal government has attempted to come up with a policy to increase participation rates in a program aimed at combating the problem; who could be against that?! But it turns out that federal efforts in this arena have been largely a waste of money, and sometimes actively harmful to the very children it's intended to help.

Pointing out that a relatively small program with a modest budget aimed at helping poor, at-risk children might be a waste of money is going to be unpopular. But one small, ineffective, well-intentioned program here, another small, ineffective, well-intentioned program there, and suddenly we're looking at a large, ineffective, well-intentioned government leviathan. In an era where the deciding electoral metric is "cares about people like me," it's hard to build a message that all those well-intentioned programs might not actually work well.

Katie Pavlich - 1000 National Guard Troops on Their Way to the Texas Border With Focus on Criminal Aliens
Posted: 7/22/2014 8:45:00 AM EST

Texas Governor Rick Perry is taking the border crisis into his own hands and announced late yesterday afternoon that he's deploying 1,000 National Guard troops to the border in hopes to stem the wave of illegal aliens pouring into the United States with a focus on stopping criminal aliens who are exploiting overwhelmed resources. The troop deployment will bolster the ongoing law enforcement operation known as Operation Strong Safety, which is "focused on combatting criminal activity in the region resulting from the federal government's failure to adequately secure the border," according to Perry's office.

This deployment builds upon Operation Strong Safety by providing additional personnel that will work seamlessly and side by side with law enforcement officials. It also builds on the National Guard's existing border presence, which has been utilizing air assets to patrol the region looking for illegal activity.

The statistics on crimes committed by illegal aliens since 2008 in Texas are staggering.

Since 2008, more than 203,000 criminal aliens have been booked into Texas county jails. Over the course of their criminal careers, these individuals have committed more than 640,000 crimes in the state of Texas alone, including more than 3,000 homicides and nearly 8,000 sexual assaults.

"There can be no national security without border security, and Texans have paid too high a price for the federal government's failure to secure our border," Perry said yesterday during a press conference. "The action I am ordering today will tackle this crisis head-on by multiplying our efforts to combat the cartel activity, human traffickers and individual criminals who threaten the safety of people across Texas and America."

"It's been approximately a month since I visited a federal detention facility in McAllen and saw first hand the human tragedy unfolding on our southern border. The plight of these unaccompanied alien children has rightfully captured national attention as we learn details of their harrowing journeys," Perry said. "Equally as concerning however is the fact that unaccompanied children only make up 20 percent of those apprehended crossing the border illegally. As the brave men and women of the Border Patrol are pulled away from their law enforcement duties to give humanitarian aide, drug cartels, human traffickers, individual criminals are exploiting this tragedy for their own criminal opportunities."


It has been extensively reported at Townhall that violent gang members from MS-13 and 18th Street are being housed at federal Border Patrol processing centers and that they are exploiting overwhelmed resources in order to recruit more members and to gain easy access to the United States.