Liberals rejoice! Vulnerable Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor has an ad that praises Obamacare. The media spot features his father, former governor and U.S. Senator for Arkansas David Pryor, detailing Mark’s struggle with cancer in the mid-1990s and how insurance companies didn’t want to pay for his care.
DAVID: When Mark was diagnosed with cancer, we thought we might lose him.
MARK: My family and my faith helped me through the rough times.
DAVID: But you know what? Mark’s insurance company didn’t want to pay for the treatment that ultimately saved his life.
MARK: No one should be fighting an insurance company while you’re fighting for your life. That’s why I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick, or deny coverage for preexisting conditions.
In a previous post, I wrote that Republicans were shifting gears on how to attack Obamacare in political ads; they’re trying to put the focus on the law’s impact on jobs and the economy. Now, it seems Democrats are doing some strategic maneuvering as well on this issue (via Washington Post):
The [Pryor] spot represents an effort to shift the debate over the law away from the land of GOP talking points where it has resided so long — in this and so many other Senate races — and back to one of the fundamental moral imperatives driving health reform, i.e., protecting the sick and vulnerable from insurance industry abuse. Republicans have long sought to dominate in the anecdote war — stressing hyper-exaggerated horror stories about canceled plans and lost coverage — while refusing to acknowledge the existence of the law’s many beneficiaries. And Dems have been perhaps not engaged on this front forcefully enough, because in places where control of the Senate will be decided, pointing to the folks gaining coverage might not be compelling to the persuadable voters Obamacare has alienated.
Republicans will undoubtedly cast this as an acknowledgment that their attacks on Pryor over the law are working and could no longer be ignored. They’ll argue Pryor is, in desperation, using his faith and personal experience as a shield against those attacks. But this misses what’s really going on here. This ad is actually coming at a point where there are signs the anti-Obamacare fires are cooling somewhat. GOP advertising against the law has fallen off sharply, and is surprisingly low in Arkansas. The ad appears geared towards persuadable voters — particularly women — who, now that the Affordable Care Act is not quite the albatross it was a few months ago, might now be open to hearing the Democratic case for the law, straight from the candidate.
This is a gutsy move on Pryor’s part, but unlike what WaPo’s Greg Sargent says about Obamacare not being “quite the albatross” to Democrats; others say the law is still a huge problem for them (via Cook Political Report):
The ad came on the heels of reporting that the number of GOP ads attacking Obamacare has dropped off, leading some to speculate that the issue of Obamacare is no longer as toxic to Democrats as it once was. Has this issue finally run its course?
Short answer: No. Obamacare remains a liability to Democrats this fall. It remains widely unpopular in southern red states where control of the Senate will be determined. It may not be the issue this cycle, but it is still a top negative for Democrats. Plus, the more unpopular the President, the more politically toxic any issue associated with him or his administration. One Republican consultant told me he’s calling this the “O” election: it is defined by views of Obama. And among Republicans and independents, those views aren’t positive.
Republicans and their allies took to the airwaves early this cycle with ads that linked the unpopular law to Democratic candidates. In most places, that linkage has been accomplished. Once the link has been made, said one GOP strategist “you’ve gotten what you’re gonna get.” In other words, once a campaign has established that their opponent has supported Obamacare, the lines are now set and aren’t going to move with a higher volume of attacks. However, there’s life after the generic Obamacare attacks. Said that same GOP operative, “don’t leave Obamacare behind, build on it.”
Over at the National Interest, Walter Russell Mead blogged about the 33 customers suing Anthem Blue Cross for limiting their health care provider choices:
The Affordable Care Act has lately become more unpopular than ever, even though coverage has expanded (at least in name), and some states saw only average premium hikes. This lawsuit might point to a major reason why: Consumers don’t like to have their choices limited, especially as the result of having their plans cancelled.
As for the premium hikes, Forbes did a 3,137-county analysis and found that premiums went up by an average of 49% in the individual market. For women, premiums went up 82%. For men, there’s been a whopping 92% hike. Obamacare still sucks, but Americans know this. Now, Republicans need to “build” on it by opening a second front: how will they fix it? Again, there are plenty of conservative ideas out there.
Pope Francis called the parents of slain journalist James Wright Foley on Thursday afternoon to offer his condolences. Foley was a faithful Catholic who previously wrote about praying the Rosary to keep himself focused while in captivity in Libya, as well as the power of prayer sustaining his strength while imprisoned.
I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her.
I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.
Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.
Pope Francis spoke to the Foleys through a translator for about 20 minutes, and the Pontiff was described as being "compassionate" and "loving" on the phone. Foley's father has described his son as a "martyr for freedom."
President Obama also called the Foleys on Thursday to express his sympathy.
The murder of James Foley by ISIS militants is a tragic loss that has rightfully been condemned by just about everyone. Kudos to Pope Francis for taking the time to console his parents.
Speaking from Martha's Vineyard to reporters Friday afternoon, White House advisor Ben Rhodes confirmed the gruesome execution of American journalist James Foley earlier this week as "absolutely" the first terror attack from ISIS on the United States.
"Absolutely. When you see somebody killed in such a horrific way that represents a terrorist attack, that represents a terrorist attack against our country and against an American citizen and I think all of us have the Foley family in our thoughts and prayers," Rhodes said. "The fact of the matter is that we've actually seen ISIL seek to advance too close to our facilities, certainly for our own comfort."
Rhodes' statement came after NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker asked if the administration agreed with a statement made by former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell earlier this week, who said, "We should mark the date down, because this is ISIS’ first terrorist attack against the United States," shortly after Foley was beheaded on video by ISIL/ISIS terrorists.
The false comparison in this tweet should be abundantly clear to pretty much everyone (via The Washington Free Beacon):
A Georgetown University professor whose father pled guilty to terrorism charges is facing criticism for comparing Israel to the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) on Twitter.
Georgetown University History Professor Abdullah Al-Arian, the son of Sami Al-Arian, a controversial Israel critic who pled guilty to conspiring with a terror group, tweeted out his take on a common nursery rhyme by comparing Israel to the terror group ISIL, which recently beheaded an American journalist on film.
Israel goes to great lengths to protect innocent civilians from military force and rocket fire; ISIS actively seeks out innocent civilians to rape, murder, and crucify them. Israel watches in horror as Hamas breaks cease-fire agreement after ceasefire agreement; ISIS beheads American journalists in order to goad Americans and the West into fighting another war. Israel has a democratically elected government that espouses tolerance and inclusion; ISIS is committed to establishing an Islamic caliphate where those who do not convert to Islam are slaughtered as infidels.
There is no comparison between Israel and ISIS whatsoever. To suggest otherwise is wrong, purposefully misleading, and an insult to Israeli citizens everywhere.
UPDATE: Read more about Katie's recent trip to Israel here.
Hamas, the Islamic terror group operating in Gaza, has executed 18 people accused of being "Israeli operatives." There was no trial, no due process, just death. Some of the men were dragged through the streets as an example. More from BBC:
Hamas sources in Gaza say 18 people suspected of collaborating with Israel have been executed.
The killings came after an Israeli airstrike left three senior Hamas leaders dead on Thursday.
And by the way, they apparently also executed two women for good measure.
FLASHBACK: Nancy Pelosi calls Hamas a "humanitarian organization."More Videos From Western Journalism
Sen. Harry Reid is continuing his odd habit of providing racial commentaries. It seems that Asians were the next demographic on his list, where his speech to the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce included some awkward jokes about Asian-Americans (via Time) [emphasis mine]:
I don’t think you’re smarter than anybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us you are,” Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told the guffawing crowd at the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce. Video of the remarks was recorded by the Republican opposition research group American Rising.
Later, before walking off stage, Reid quipped: “One problem that I’ve had today is keeping my Wongs straight.”
The group decided against backing the Reid-endorsed Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Lucy Flores, supporting Republican Mark Hutchison instead, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.
A spokesperson for Reid did not immediately respond to a request for comment
Sen. Reid has a history of making odd comments about ethnic groups, some of which have been racially-charged.
Back in 2008, Sen. Reid said that then-Sen. Obama would be successful in his presidential ambitions since he was a “light-skinned African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” These private comments were included in Mark Halperin and John Heilemann book "Game Change." Reid later apologized for his remarks.
In 2010, during his re-election bid, Reid told a group of Hispanic voters at a campaign event that he doesn’t “know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican.” That same year, Nevada elected Brian Sandoval, a Republican of Hispanic heritage, as their next governor. Sandoval handily beat Reid’s son, Rory, in that contest.
Right now, Sandoval’s incredibly popular, especially with Hispanics in Nevada; and has little to no opposition. Democrats were said to be having trouble finding a worthy opponent to challenge Sandoval in this Democrat-leaning state for 2014.
Oh, and if Sandoval decides to challenge Reid in 2016, things could get interesting.
UPDATE: (via the Washington Post): Almost forgot that he called New York Senator Kristien
Gillibrand the "hottest member" of the Senate; she was sitting a few feet away from him. And, said that Sen. Ted Kennedy's death would make it easier to pass Obamacare. He's very indelicate to say the least.
Update II: I almost forgot to add what Hot Air's Noah Rothman tweeted earlier today. Back in 2010, Reid criticized his then-Republican opponent, Sharon Angle, for making an Asian comment (via Politico):
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pounding Republican Sharron Angle for telling a Hispanic student group they looked Asian, hoping to fire up a crucial voting demographic in the process.
"I really don't know what my opponent was talking about, because you all look like Nevadans to me," Reid said to cheers at a Las Vegas get-out-the-vote rally today [ 10/19/10]....
Reid also blasted Angle at a press conference on Monday, saying, "Her mouth does not have the ability to speak the truth."
Editor's note: I was in Israel this week on a trip sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters and hosted by Israel's Ministry of Tourism.
Israel – On Wednesday morning I walked downstairs at my hotel in Jerusalem to grab breakfast before jumping on a bus headed south to Gaza's northern border with Israel. The plans for the day had changed as a result of the ceasefire agreement falling apart late Tuesday, so we left around 8: 30. When I got to breakfast at 7:30, my Red Alert application on my cell phone had already shown dozens of rockets had been launched into Israel from Hamas overnight. In fact, one siren had gone off in Jerusalem around 10 p.m. the night before a barrage of rockets had been fired at Tel Aviv. By the time breakfast started and ended, 12 rockets had been launched. More rockets were launched that day than during anytime so far in this war.
As we headed south and down the hill away from Jerusalem, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Being on a bus when rockets are being launched is not ideal. Roadways are considered open areas and often times the Iron Dome allows rockets headed for open areas to fall and running to shelter after the bus is pulled over isn’t an option. Regardless, I needed to get down to see how Israeli’s live under constant attack from Hamas terrorists. There are plenty of reporters stationed in Gaza and the West Bank, but it’s hard to find stories about the hell Israeli civilians go through when rockets are fired hundreds of times a day. Since June, Hamas has fired more than 3500 rockets at Israel. Over the past few days since the ceasefire was broken, Hamas has fired 300 rockets into Israel, killing a child and wounding others.
After a short drive from Jerusalem, we arrived at an intelligence center, Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. Less than five minutes after getting out of the parking lot and into the building, the rocket sirens went off and we quickly moved to a shelter down stairs.
“We work here and the thing that is the most most terrifying to me is to get used to the daily shutting because I have to say my children, one of them came with me today to work and he heard the alarm and just went away to the shelter. I don’t need to say anything to him, it’s building behavior and this is the most difficult for me because to get used to terrorism, to get used to this kind of life it’s catastrophic. We can’t live this way, that’s why we come here each day. No one gets a vacation,” one woman working at the Council explained. “We have to be strong, so our army can work.”
After our briefing in Hof Ashkelon, we continued to a little agricultural community on the border with Gaza called Netiv Ha’Ashara. A man named Raz, whose family has been in this area for decades, met us.
Ten minutes into our talk with him outside in a courtyard, the rocket sirens sounded again and we ran to get into shelters. Because Netiv Ha'Ashara is right on the border with Gaza, we only had five seconds to get there. Shortly after taking cover, we heard the Iron Dome intercept a rocket nearby. When we left the shelter we saw where the interception happened in the sky as a trail of smoke from the explosion was left behind.
When it was safe to go back outside, we moved inside to a community center that is used for gatherings. Raz briefed us on the challenges of living in the area, the history, etc. and then again, we heard the sirens. We ran to a shelter attached to the room and shortly after, heard an explosion. This time it wasn’t from the Iron Dome intercepting the rocket in the sky, but from a rocket landing in a nearby house.
Raz ran out to find out what happened and to make sure nobody had been hurt.
“There was a wreck in a house. This was a house that I used to live in until four and a half weeks [ago],” he said. “I built my new house here and I rented an apartment here and the one that is bombed now is where I lived four and a half weeks [ago]. The owner of the house had a baby two and a half weeks [ago].”
Walking around the community, Raz showed us a daycare center and the bomb shelter that sits just a few feet away. Many other shelters in the area were newly delivered over the past few weeks.
Although rocket fire is a major ongoing concern, the people here have been dealing with them for 10 years. The success of the Iron Dome has saved lives and serves to combat rockets falling into communities. The biggest concern now are Hamas tunnels, which were used to kidnap three Israeli teenagers in June, sparking the conflict. Raz and dozens of fathers like him worry about terrorists using tunnels to get into their communities to kidnap their children, which is why he sleeps with weapons and military gear next to his bed. He also walks around with a pistol in his waistband. Thirty of the tunnels built by Hamas from Gaza to Israeli cities, towns and the backyards of civilians have been destroyed, but the government will not say if they have all been annihilated.
After leaving Netiv Ha'Ashar and the Gaza border we drove to Ashkelon, one of the large cities in Israel under constant rocket attack during our visit. We met with the mayor’s office and spoke to the vice mayor about life in a rapidly growing beach city. We also heard from two teenagers living and studying there.
“I want you to know it’s a very hard experience to live like this,” student and head of the Ashkelon Youth Council Yuvall Sadon said. “We try to do our best. We try to give all the children living in Ashkelon spirit and a sense of a little bit of fun and normalcy."
Sadon works to help get children into shelters when rockets fly into Ashkelon.
“As the head of the Youth Council in Ashkelon, what we did is we opened more than 100 shelters,” she said. “We help to guide little children in the shelter and every evening we try to do something for the youth because it’s summer, it’s our vacation and they took the freedom from us because we always have to be thirty seconds away from a shelter. It’s not normal, it’s not a game so we try to stay normal and we want peace and we things normalized. We don’t want war and we don’t want rockets. We’re sick and tired of this.”
Two hundred and seventy two Schools are supposed to open in seven days with 27,000 students in the city but that opening may be delayed due to continuing rocket fire.
Israel’s Iron Dome system is a miracle and although it stops people from being killed, it cannot stop the mental trauma and daily disruptions of living life Hamas wreaks on Israeli civilians. Not to mention the toll terror takes on the tourism industry and ultimately the economy. Regardless, life goes on.
“We go to PTA meetings, we go to shops, when we get old enough if we’re lucky we can play with our grandchildren,” our guide Amir Orly said. “For us Israel is home.”
This isn't necessarily "news," per se, but it's confirmation from a respected nonpartisan source. The 'Taliban Five' for Bergdahl trade, sans mandatory Congressional notification, was not legal. But the Obama White House executed it anyway, over the objections of the intelligence community:
President Obama's decision to exchange captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Guantanamo Bay detainees violated federal law, according to a legal opinion the Government Accountability Office sent to Congress Thursday. That's because the administration failed to notify Congress at least 30 days before the transfer, as required under a law passed in February. The Pentagon notified Congress of the deal on May 31, the same day the transfer was made. And because Congress did not authorize spending for the exchange, it also violated the Antideficiency Act, a law intended to protect Congress's power of the purse. The Department of Defense spent $988,400 on the transfer, the Pentagon told the GAO. An intentional violation of the Antideficiency Act is a crime punishable by up to two years in prison, but those criminal penalties are rarely enforced.
Partisan hackery is expected from hacks, but a number of self-respecting Democrats raised concerns about the swap at the time. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California raised hackles about being kept in the dark by the executive branch, in contravention of the law. The White House's excuse -- at least for awhile -- was that they had to act quickly with no leaks, or else the terrorists were going to kill Bergdahl. This complicated their concurrent narrative that the arrangement was a normal "prisoner exchange," with plenty of precedent in US history. Feinstein shot back that she'd seen no evidence to back up the administration's "they were going to kill him!" excuse. Others also noted that she and her Republican colleague kept extremely sensitive Bin Laden raid details under wraps for months. The Obama White House broke the law, then served up contradictory excuses for doing so. In the end, not only did we effectively negotiate with terrorists to secure the release of an American soldier held hostage (setting aside Bergdahl's record of, um, "honor and distinction"), we released five high-ranking, extremely dangerous Taliban commanders (who are vowing to resume jihad) as our end of the "deal." And how's this for timing?
In an interview with the BBC, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond acknowledged that the apparent executioner spoke with a British accent and said the video seemed to be genuine. Hundreds of Britons are believed to have traveled to Syria to fight in the country’s civil war, including many who have joined the Islamic State...A European intelligence official said the British government was examining the video, and the speech of the purported executioner, to compare it with former Guantanamo Bay prisoners and other British residents believed to have joined the Islamic State. Both prisoners in the video are wearing orange shirts and pants, similar to orange jumpsuits worn by detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Western intelligence services are exploring the possibility that ex-Gitmo detainees (the supposedly "lower threat" ones, released prior to the 'Taliban Five') may hold leadership positions within the death cult that's marauding through vast swaths of Iraqi and Syrian territory. A former Guantanamo inmate was also implicated in the deadly 9/11/12 attack on the US compound in Benghazi, too. It's almost as if a lot of these guys really were bloodthirsty Islamist radicals, not innocent victims of US overreach, after all. That's why Congress has repeatedly refused to provide the funds to close the Gitmo detainment center, and why they passed a law that requires the White House to provide ample warning prior to releasing any further inmates. The Obama administration ignored that law, and spent a lot of taxpayer money to complete the illegal transaction. The broke the law knowingly, by their own admission, and in spite of what they knew to be the clear will of Congress. Democrats have decried House Republicans' lawsuit against the White House's flagrant lawlessness on Obamacare, but what other recourse does Congress have to rein in an administration that ignores provisions of laws deemed inconvenient? I know what Democratic campaign committees' answer would be, if only to touch off another round of fake hysteria, designed to extract additional millions from their gullible, paranoid base.
Down syndrome is a condition in which a baby is born with an extra chromosome. Those diagnosed with the syndrome experience mental disability and a plethora of physical challenges. But, is that really justification for abortion? Ethologist Richard Dawkins thinks so. When a Twitter user asked his opinion on whether she should abort a child after learning he or she would have Down syndrome, he was harshly straightforward:
@InYourFaceNYer Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 20, 2014
Because of the criticism he received as a result of the tweet, he wrote a response on his website, richarddawkins.net. He apologized not for the content of his tweet, but for the “feeding frenzy” it prompted, blaming the backlash on the fact that Twitter limited his response to 140 characters. So, he took the opportunity to offer a more in depth answer:
“Obviously the choice would be yours. For what it’s worth, my own choice would be to abort the Down fetus and, assuming you want a baby at all, try again. Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort. And, indeed, that is what the great majority of women, in America and especially in Europe, actually do. I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare. I agree that that personal opinion is contentious and needs to be argued further, possibly to be withdrawn. In any case, you would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child. Your child would probably have a short life expectancy but, if she did outlive you, you would have the worry of who would care for her after you are gone. No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice. Having said that, the choice would be entirely yours and I would never dream of trying to impose my views on you or anyone else.”
His expanded explanation may have been more elaborate, but it’s no less rational. One’s quality of life should not determine whether that person lives or dies, for every life has a purpose. In 140 characters, Dawkins was simply summing up his tragic point: a life with Down syndrome is not a life worth living. I would challenge Dawkins to consider this statistic: 99 percent of those with the condition report being happy with their lives.
But, he tweeted this defensive follow up trying to justify that other numbers are on his side:
In point of fact, a majority of Down Syndrome fetuses in Europe and USA are aborted. What I recommended is not outlandish but the norm.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 20, 2014
Again, it may be the “norm,” but that doesn’t make it morally right. Sadly, 90 percent of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Why should this be the case? Shouldn’t we be encouraging mothers that yes, their child will have obstacles, but they are strong enough to overcome them? Won’t that mother’s love for her child ultimately trump the challenges that will arise from his or her physical setbacks?
Dawkins didn’t offer any of these considerations and was unapologetic about his first argument:
To conclude, what I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most us, I presume, espouse. My phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I can’t help feeling that at least half the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand.
One mother who gave birth to a child with Down syndrome isn’t letting Dawkins get away with his insensitive comments. Former Governor Sarah Palin had this to say:
“I’d let you meet my son if you promised to open your mind, your eyes, and your heart to a unique kind of absolute beauty,” Palin wrote.
“But, in my request for you to be tolerant, I’d have to warn Trig he must be tolerant, too, because he may superficially look at you as kind of awkward. I’ll make sure he’s polite, though!”
For the owner of Bailey's Pizza in the small town of Searcy, Arkansas, keeping the Scripture and the sausage separate is something he believes he should not have to do.
As a new business that opened less than two months ago, owner Steven Rose started to offer a discount for those who bring in their church bulletin. When the Freedom From Religion Foundation got word of this small, 10% discount, they sent a letter demanding he stop honoring the reduction saying it violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Rose, a Christian who is actively involved in his local church, told KTHV that a wall inside the store reads, "God is the center of our lives, so our scripture wall is the center of Bailey's Pizza."
Rose told Fox News:
“I’m just selling pizzas, I love my Lord and you see it expressed all over my building – but I’m just selling pizzas. To me, if making a pepperoni pizza furthers the Kingdom – well I’m excited about that."
When a North Carolina restaurant started offering a discount for those who pray before their meal, the FFRF did the same thing and got their way.
“We are no longer issuing the 15% praying in public discount,” read a sign posted at the Mary’s Gourmet Diner. “It is illegal and we are being threatened by lawsuit. We apologize to our community for any offense this discount has incurred.”
Rose told TheBlaze.com that he does not plan on getting rid of the price cut for church-goers. Conservative legal firms have volunteered to represent Bailey's Pizza in the event the FFRF takes legal action over a discount that is a mere ten cents on the dollar.
As the world burns: Obama’s “stupid stuff” foreign policy and its disastrous effects | Gayle Trotter