Some sobering breaking news out of Manhattan this morning: a gunman opened fire outside the Empire State Building, wounding ten and killing at least two people, the gunman included. Apparently, it was a case of workplace violence. The New York Post reports:
A dispute between coworkers exploded into gunfire outside the Empire State Building this morning, leaving at least two dead including the gunman and an innocent bystander -- and a total of 10 people shot, sources said.
Responding cops killed the gunman shortly after 9 a.m. at the jam-packed intersection of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue.
It's unclear what sparked the deadly argument, which happened in the heart of the morning rush on a street loaded with commuters and tourists.
The shot bystanders include a female who died from her wounds, the sources said.
Others were shot in the buttocks and legs.
We'll bring you updates as we have them.
UPDATE: A couple of tweets offer some clarification of the situation. Apparently, the NYPD won't confirm that more than 10 have been shot, as of a tweet from 10:04AM. Mayor Bloomberg will be giving a statement soon as well, and we'll have more details on that as it happens.
UPDATE II: Fox News is currently reporting that the shooter was a designer of ladies handbags, who had been fired yesterday, and that he shot his manager in the head, although this is unconfirmed by other sources as yet. Additionally, the number of those shot has varied, with some sources saying 8, others 9, and the above story from the New York Post 10. AP reports that the shooter worked at a store in the building. Additionally, says AP, there is no connection to terrorism and it did not occur in any tourist-friendly areas.
UPDATE III: Michael Bloomberg is now giving a press conference, which you can watch live below, courtesy of WSJ.
Some new information from the press conference:
-Perpetrator was a former employee of Hazan Imports, and was apparently laid off a year ago during company downsizing
-The two dead are the 53-year-old suspect and his 41-year-old victim; police won't release their identities until their families have been notified
-9 others have been shot besides the two dead, but all of them are highly likely to survive, having merely been grazed by bullets
-This had nothing to do with terrorism
If an alien who knew nothing about American politics were to look at the line-up at the Democrat National Convention, he wouldn’t be blamed for assuming that abortion was the single most important issue to the American electorate. In the wake of Akin-gate, the DNC is trying to capitalize on the imaginary “war on women” that the Republican party is supposedly waging, and their party convention schedule reflects as much.
Democrats said that they will feature Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parent Action Fund, Nancy Keenan, president of the NARAL Pro-Choice America and Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University student whose plea for federal birth control funding drew the ire--and a subsequent apology--from Rush Limbaugh.
What's more, the Democrats are expanding their list of women ready to assail the GOP on women's issue, adding Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski and actress Eva Longoria to the list that already includes Sen. John Kerry and Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren.
Democrats led by party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz believe that the Akin controversy--and his refusal to leave the Missouri Senate race--has revived their chances of winning a majority of women in the presidential race, key to re-electing President Obama. On Wednesday, for example, the party turned their homepage over to the affair with the headline: "The GOP is dangerously wrong for women." And with a devilish move, they included pictures of Mitt Romney, running mate Paul Ryan and Akin.
"Romney, Ryan, Akin and the GOP want to take women back to the dark ages," the Democrats add.
Quite, I'm sure.
The “abortion-palooza,” as my colleague Ed Morrissey dubbed it, certainly appeals to a certain kind of woman – the Sandra Flukes of the world – but is it enough to win with women in November?
The best answer appears to be…eh. It’s clearly a distraction from the actual issues this election is supposed to be about – most specifically, the economy. And polls indicate that it’s not something really on the minds of the American electorate – it doesn’t even register in Gallup’s poll of voter concerns.
But it’s a distraction that can work, and it’s up to the Romney campaign to shift the focus back to issues of more immediate consequence. See, there’s a voting bloc called “Walmart Moms,” suburban women with children 18 years of age or under, who shop at Walmart at least once a week. They’re a swing bloc, whose issues aren’t totally aligned with either party, but they do tend to care about the “women’s issues” that liberals push. They look like this:
Kathleen Sweeney, 62 years old, director of religious education at a church in Mount Sinai, N.Y., supported Mr. Obama in 2008 but is leaning to Mr. Romney now. "I'm hoping Romney will be more effective in getting us out of the economic doldrums we're in," she said. "That's the weak spot of the Obama administration. The economy's still in bad shape."
Chris Hilton, 58, a real-estate-company owner from East Peoria, Ill., is also disappointed that the economy and the housing market haven't improved as much as she had hoped. Still, she is leaning toward voting for Mr. Obama because of his positions on the health law, women's pay and because Mr. Romney has said he would cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
"I'm afraid he might take away some of the rights that we fought for so long for," Ms. Hilton said of the GOP candidate. She voted for Mr. Bush in 2004 and Mr. Obama in 2008.
They tend to skew liberal on social issues, but waver between the parties on fiscal issues – and that’s what they care about. These women are thinking about the tax rate, and how it affects their paychecks; caring for elderly parents; getting kids off to college. Thus, it’s a matter of elucidating the ways women and their families will benefit from the economic policies a Romney/Ryan administration would pursue.
Alex Bratty, a Republican pollster with Public Opinion Strategies, is a leading expert on these “Walmart Moms,” and she and her Democrat polling partner Margie Omero have zeroed in on the attitudes these women have toward both candidates:
In a memo based on six recent focus groups, five of them in battleground states, Bratty and Omero describe Walmart moms as frustrated with the tone of the campaign and with both candidates – "overwhelmed by negative ads they cannot trust" and very much interested in the more unfiltered settings offered by the coming conventions and debates.
"They do not feel like either candidate is really connecting with them on the issues that matter most: the economy, education and health care."
Romney gets first crack with his convention. And reading through the focus group reports suggests a steep hill. "On the one hand they see his successful business record and say that is the kind of president the country needs right now – that his success is the American Dream" Bratty and Omero wrote. "On the other hand, they worry about how little they know about him."
Common descriptions of Romney from the focus groups: Not personable. Polished. Slick. Out of touch.
The president, however, can skip the hand stands.
Unhappy. Disappointed. Dissatisfied. Broken promises. Overwhelmed. Those were some of the labels attached to the Democratic incumbent during the discussions.
"There is not a lot of confidence that another four years will result in things getting better," is one damning line from the Bratty-Omero memo.
In other words, Romney’s greatest challenge is likeability – these women might be willing to accept the economic plans he’s laid out, given their disappointment with the president, but they’re not sure they can really trust him. Once again, however, this explains the Democrats’ strategy to highlight the issue of abortion. The economy isn’t an issue where these women feel particularly confident in his abilities – and in fact, the only thing he really has going for him are female “healthcare” initiatives like contraception and abortion.
The Akin controversy has given Democrats an opportunity to pander to women about issues like abortion, which this swing bloc does care about, but which isn’t their primary concern and, in all honesty, is unlikely to be at the forefront of any upcoming policy debates. It’s simply a convenient way for Obama and company to avoid a discussion about a losing issue for them.
It’s up to Romney, then, to remind these women that there are more immediate and pressing concerns, like our nation’s solvency. If he can shift the focus – and assure these women that his policies will help them – then he ought to pick up a few extra female votes in the fall.
Thanks to some fundraising woes, the Democrat National Convention had to be shortened from four days to three. The Republican National Convention remains a four-day program. But in the interest of fairness, the networks will only be covering three hours of each convention – and that means Ann Romney, who will speak at 10:30PM on Monday, August 27, has been cut from their broadcasts.
CBS plans instead to show a rerun of “Hawaii Five-O,” its hit police series. Viewers of NBC will see a new episode of “Grimm,” about a homicide detective with the supernatural ability to sense evil. And ABC plans to show “Castle,” a series about a best-selling mystery novelist who helps solve crimes.
The networks, which reap considerable advertising dollars even from summer reruns, have told the Romney campaign that they will broadcast an hour of convention coverage on the final three nights — but no more.
The Romney campaign is reportedly angry about the snub, and considering moving Ann to another night, though no schedule changes have been announced. The networks, for their part, argue that it’s not worth airing the extra night because it’s not as “high-drama” as the 2008 conventions, where the Democrat nomination hung in the balance until the eleventh hour and Sarah Palin burst onto the scene, electrifying the conservative base.
Add to that the overwhelming sense that the country is in a funk and that the presidential campaign cannot seem to rise above petty insults and blatant distortions, and there is a feeling at many of the news networks that Americans would rather be hearing about something — anything — else.
In an interview last week, Brian Williams, the NBC News anchor, thought for a moment when asked if it was possible to recapture Americans’ interest in the presidential election.
“I think if we could sprinkle in some Olympic events,” he deadpanned. “Floor vault is a personal favorite. Badminton, but it takes up a lot of floor space.”
But, turning serious, he acknowledged that “people have had it up to here” with political news. “I’d love more coverage of the conventions,” he said. “I also live in the real world.”
He’s not wrong, to be sure; the campaign process is so long now that Americans have been saturated with the 2012 race for the White House since mid-2011. But this is the time when interest tends to pique, as the election itself draws nearer. Moreover, Ann Romney is a humanizing influence in her husband's life. He's often accused of being "robotic" or "emotionless," and his graceful, lovely wife detracts from the cold, calculating CEO image that so many on the Left have peddled.
Perhaps the networks really are trying to balance their coverage -- and hey, it's better than the Democrats' situation, where the NFL season opener will preempt the Wednesday night festivities on NBC. But it’s hard to imagine that the networks would have ignored Michelle Obama’s speech, even if it meant broadcasting a bit of extra time from the Democrats’ convention, given that it’s a chance to see the [potential, in Ann’s case] First Lady in action.
What do you get when you put two evil dictators in a room together? Apparently...a book:
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has been out of the public eye for more than two months, is working on a book with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and is not at death's door, a pro-government blogger said on Wednesday.
Yohandry Fontana, who often is first to report official information and viewpoints, attacked a Barcelona-based blog and other social media for spreading the idea that Castro, who turned 86 on August 13, is seriously ill, and said there was "bad news" for them and "the creative boys of the CIA."
"Fidel Castro works together with Hugo Chavez on a book that will appear soon," Fontana wrote.
So what's it about? A how-to book about ruling a small nation with an iron fist? A juicy tell-all of life as a communist dictator? Something completely ersatz, in which they reveal that they have a joint love of birdcalling? Will there be a book tour? Are they going to sit down with Oprah or the ladies from The View?!
So many questions. It's obviously all but impossible to verify whether or not we can expect to see some sort of dictatorial bestseller in the near future, but it sure does make for a ridiculous headline.
Newsweek has been known for its absurd cover stories of late: from using the only unflattering photo of Michele Bachmann available, to calling Obama the "first gay president," the bias has unmistakeably trended leftward. But this week's edition features a head story of a very different breed: Niall Ferguson, former advisor to John McCain during his run for the White House, writes that Obama's policies have failed, and it's time to replace him.
The Daily Beast has the article live now, including this particularly damning passage:
In his fiscal year 2010 budget—the first he presented—the president envisaged growth of 3.2 percent in 2010, 4.0 percent in 2011, 4.6 percent in 2012. The actual numbers were 2.4 percent in 2010 and 1.8 percent in 2011; few forecasters now expect it to be much above 2.3 percent this year.
Unemployment was supposed to be 6 percent by now. It has averaged 8.2 percent this year so far. Meanwhile real median annual household income has dropped more than 5 percent since June 2009. Nearly 110 million individuals received a welfare benefit in 2011, mostly Medicaid or food stamps.
Welcome to Obama’s America: nearly half the population is not represented on a taxable return—almost exactly the same proportion that lives in a household where at least one member receives some type of government benefit. We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.
And all this despite a far bigger hike in the federal debt than we were promised. According to the 2010 budget, the debt in public hands was supposed to fall in relation to GDP from 67 percent in 2010 to less than 66 percent this year. If only. By the end of this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), it will reach 70 percent of GDP. These figures significantly understate the debt problem, however. The ratio that matters is debt to revenue. That number has leapt upward from 165 percent in 2008 to 262 percent this year, according to figures from the International Monetary Fund. Among developed economies, only Ireland and Spain have seen a bigger deterioration.
Those four paragraphs are utterly jawdropping. This president ran on the promise of alleviating our economic crisis, and all he's done is exacerbate it and hid the numbers with the government entitlement programs as a bandaid.
The whole article is worth reading, and here's something to consider: when you're a Democrat and Newsweek is running a cover story against you, you're probably in trouble.
This week, Ann Romney shared that she had a multiple sclerosis flare-up during the primaries -- and she didn't even tell her husband, not wanting to worry him while he was running for president. In an interview with NBC's Rock Center, she revealed it was a "little bitty" incident, but "enough to give [her] a real scare."
“It was such a crazy time, and I didn’t want to have anyone worrying about me, especially Mitt. I didn’t tell anyone, but I knew I had to quit,” Ann Romney said.
Ann Romney, who was diagnosed with MS in 1998, said the scare served as a “reminder that I can’t keep up the pace.”
“I started feeling tingling and a little bit of numbness coming back and I was dizzy, I started to get dizzy, the dizzy head, you caught the MS fog, the real foggy brain,” Ann Romney said.
Yet another reason to admire her courage, grace, and selflessness!
It’s the ultimate in Catholic double standards: a website called www.PrayForPaulsChangeOfHeart.org launched this week, calling for Catholics to pray that he abandons his Path to Prosperity budget in favor of something more in line with the Church’s social justice teachings. If you click around, you can also find a page with one sentence requesting prayers for Vice President Joe Biden, noted adamant supporter of the pro-choice cause. (It says nothing of Kathleen Sebelius, whose Mass attendance doesn’t exactly jive with her record of eschewing established Catholic doctrine.)
In condemning Ryan’s budget, the site pulls from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ letter to Ryan, which outlines the criteria the Church feels a Catholic policymaker ought to consider when crafting budgetary policy:
1. Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.
3. Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.
Of course, it’s very easy for a Catholic capitalist to dispute each of these claims – first and foremost, how does it serve the poor if the government continues down its current path to bankruptcy? – and this potential for argument creates a crucial distinction between budgetary policy and life issues. A budget has room for interpretation, and there are different ways to construct the social safety net; abortion, however, is a clear-cut issue, a literal matter of life or death.
In fact, as Ryan’s own bishop, Robert C. Morlino notes, the Catholic Church has a prerogative to approach matters concerning “intrinsic evil” – i.e. abortion – head-on, and leave to the lay people those matters where intrinsic evil is not present.
Making decisions as to the best political strategies, the best policy means, to achieve a goal, is the mission of lay people, not bishops or priests. As Pope Benedict himself has said, a just society and a just state is the achievement of politics, not the Church. And therefore Catholic laymen and women who are familiar with the principles dictated by human reason and the ecology of human nature, or non-Catholics who are also bound by these same principles, are in a position to arrive at differing conclusions as to what the best means are for the implementation of these principles — that is, “lay mission” for Catholics.
Thus, it is not up to me or any bishop or priest to approve of Congressman Ryan’s specific budget prescription to address the best means we spoke of. Where intrinsic evils are not involved, specific policy choices and political strategies are the province of Catholic lay mission. But, as I’ve said, Vice Presidential Candidate Ryan is aware of Catholic Social Teaching and is very careful to fashion and form his conclusions in accord with the principles mentioned above. Of that I have no doubt. (I mention this matter in obedience to Church Law regarding one’s right to a good reputation.)
So I’m going to be a little blunter about it: the Catholic Church needs to shut up about Paul Ryan’s budget.
Now, I say this as a devout Catholic myself, but one who is absolutely fed up with watching the Church stick its nose into matters of fiscal policy. Indeed, the Church, and indeed, all of us as individuals, have a moral obligation to aid the least among us, as Christ calls us to do. But as the savior of the world Himself said, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s. The Catholic Church has mixed itself up with Caesar, and conflated its mission to serve the poor with government subsidized entitlement programs.
The government is not responsible for administering care to the least among us – the government can’t accomplish this! It’s much too big, and too far removed. This is a basic principle of Catholic social justice teaching, called subsidiarity. To quote Bishop Morlino once more:
At the same time, the time-tested best way for assisting our neighbors throughout the world should follow the principle of subsidiarity. That means the problem at hand should be addressed at the lowest level possible — that is, the level closest to the people in need. That again, is simply the law of human reason.
Who, then, is best equipped to take a hands-on approach to alleviating the crisis of poverty: a large, ungainly, centralized federal government, or ministers of the Catholic Church, who are guided not by paychecks and days off, but rather by a sense of purpose and love?
The Church has spent the last half-year engaged in a moral battle with the government over the Health and Human Services contraception mandate, after spending a good deal of time before that trying to work with the government to pass a healthcare reform bill it found palatable (for the record, the USCCB did not support Obamacare in the end, but only because it contained pro-abortion policies). How ludicrous that the Church would attempt to work its agenda into government-sponsored programming, and then balk when the government fails to adhere to Catholic doctrine. We don’t live in a Catholic theocracy, and it’s not the federal government’s job to carry out the Church’s mission.
Moreover, paying taxes which are then redistributed to the poor does not constitute charity; that’s a federally-imposed financial burden, not love. Again, render unto Caesar what is his, but to God what is God’s. The Catholic Church will never totally get its way when working with the government, because those in government don’t hold the Church’s interests at heart.
If American Catholics want a vice presidential candidate to condemn, then by all means, look to Joe Biden. His well-documented position on life issues aside, consider his abominable record of personal charity: he’s a man of considerable wealth, and yet in 2011, he donated 1.5% of his income to charitable causes. This is what happens when we fool ourselves into thinking that taxes are a form of charity. Real charity is stamped out when we decide that it’s a virtue to pass the buck on caring for the least among us to the government.
All this is to say, there's some misplaced "Catholic outrage" at play here. To pray that Catholic politicians make decisions that reflect their faith is a wonderful thing to do. But condemning a man who adheres to absolute life doctrine while taking a fiscally conservative position on an issue of no intrinsic evil -- all while ignoring the much more blatant sins present in certain other politicians -- is morally dishonest.
He may be utterly useless when it comes to putting forth a workable budget, but hey, at least Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is a good matchmaker! The New York Times has an article out today about the many marriages that have come about after time working in Schumer's office, and it's actually rather amusing:
Schumer staff members, put simply, like to marry each other. There have been 10 weddings so far, and two more scheduled this fall — an average of nearly one “Schumer Marriage” (his term) for each year he has spent in the Senate.
Cupid’s arrow lands where it will, but many of the couples say that Mr. Schumer, a New York Democrat, has an unusual knack for guiding its journey. He keeps close track of office romances, quotes marriage-friendly Scripture (“God to man: be fruitful and multiply”), and is known to cajole, nag, and outright pester his staff (at least those he perceives as receptive to such pestering) toward connubial bliss.
Forget Master of the Senate. This is the Yenta of the Senate.
“What’s the holdup?” the senator asks couples who are dillydallying on an engagement. “Did you get a ring yet?” Other could-be-marrieds receive a simple instruction: “Get moving!”
“He would just keep saying, ‘Let’s go already,’ ” recalled Sean Sweeney, a top Democratic strategist who began dating the woman who would become his wife when they were on Mr. Schumer’s staff in 1999. When he proposed, the senator reacted “like a sportscaster,” Mr. Sweeney said. “ ‘Goooooal!’ ”
I can't decide if this is cute, or a little too Michael Scott...
Standing behind a sign that said “Protect and Strengthen Medicare,” Paul Ryan addressed a crowd of enthusiastic seniors this morning in Florida at The Villages, the world’s largest retirement community. And standing by his side when he took the stage was none other than his 80-year-old mother Betty, a Florida resident and Medicare recipient herself:
Ryan sought to reassure seniors that his and Mitt Romney’s plans for Medicare were intended to preserve the program’s benefits for current recipients while shoring it up for future generations as well. He also hit President Obama for using Medicare as a “piggybank” for Obamacare:
“The president raised $716 billion from the Medicare program to pay for the ‘ObamaCare’ program. What’s more, in addition to that he puts a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in charge of Medicare who are required to cut Medicare in ways that will led to denied care for current seniors. “
“We will end the raid of Medicare, we will restore the promise of this program and “Four million seniors are projected to lose their Medicare plans that they chose and enjoy today under this ObamaCare plan.”
“We will end the raid of Medicare, we will restore the promise of this program and we will make sure this board of bureaucrats won’t mess with my mom’s healthcare or your mom’s healthcare.”
“Medicare should not be used as a piggybank for ObamaCare. Medicare should be the promise that is made to our current seniors, period, end of story.”
He’s working to dispel the falsities that the Democrats have attempted to spread about “ending Medicare as we know it,” instead focusing on the ways his plan won’t affect current recipients, and the need for reform in order to maintain solvency. He struck a hopeful tone regarding the future of Medicare, and managed to explain an extremely complex issue in terms that were understandable.
He also managed to get a hit in at Obama for the “You didn’t build that” remark, proving that he’s a major campaign asset in terms of both his policy expertise (and explanatory finesse) as well as his ability to be an attack dog.
Notice how fired up he was about that at the end – seems like Obama’s remarks on small business ownership really hit home for him. Passion like that is great to see – he’s ready to fight!
Ross Murty built his business, and he wanted President Obama to know. So he wore this shirt while catering an event for the president:
Wearing a Romney shirt to a job for Obama? That takes some guts!
“No one from the government was there when we were sweating it, when we were building this business,” Murty said. Before him was a bank of chafing dishes filled with smoked beef brisket, pulled pork, vegetable parmesan bake and cheesy hash brown casserole provided to the White House press corps covering the president’s three-day swing across Iowa this week.
Murty, 45, a registered Republican, didn’t really have a choice with the catering job. His partner, Bret Dalton (a registered Democrat), accepted the work on Saturday while Murty was away in Chicago watching a Cubs game. Dalton volunteered for Vice President Biden’s presidential campaign in 1988, when he was a student at Iowa State University.
But that’s not why he got the contract.
“One of Obama’s lead people came into the deli Saturday morning,” Dalton said. “I didn’t even know it was for Obama until that night.”
When he found out, though, Dalton had some fun. He called up Murty, who was driving back from Chicago, and asked: “Guess who’s coming to town this week?”
“He was a little stunned,” Dalton recalled. But the two take their political disagreements in stride, and the conversation was all in good fun, both said.
“I would never say no to anybody for any reason,” Murty said. “My partner and I have different views in politics, but business is business.”
The Obama campaign had no comment on Murty's T-shirt.