Conn Carroll - White House Refuses To Take Netanyahu's Word On Two-State Solution
Posted: 3/19/2015 3:50:00 PM EST

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that the Obama administration will continue to "reevaluate" its relationship with Israel despite a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he was committed to a Palestinian state.

"What is apparent is that in the context of a campaign while he was the sitting prime minister of Israel, he walked back from commitments Israel had previously made to a two-state solution," Earnest said. "And so because of what he has articulated and because of his pretty clear indication that he is prepared to withdraw from very serious commitments that Israel has previously made to a two-state solution, that does and has prompted us to reevaluate our approach to this matter."

Asked to identify an example of how President Obama could change his policy towards Israel, Earnest mentioned that the United Stats "has repeatedly intervened" in debates "at the UN and other places" in favor of Israel, and that those interventions could end.

"I'm not suggesting that any policy decisions have been made at this point. I don't want to leave you with that impression," Earnest said. "It has promoted us to reevaluate the strategy that we will put in place to make those decisions. And that is something that we will do moving forward."

The comments Obama found so offensive came in an interview Netanyahu gave Monday where he told an Israeli news organization, "I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel. There is a real threat here that a left-wing government will join the international community and follow its orders." 

Asked directly if that meant a Palestinian state could not be formed as long as he was prime minister, Netanyahu said,  "Indeed."

But then on Thursday, Netnayahu told NBC News, "I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change. I was talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable. To make it achievable, then you have to have real negotiations with people who are committed to peace.”

"I haven’t changed my policy," Netanyahu insisted. "What has changed is the reality.” 

But Earnest insisted that the White House's interpretation of Netanyahu's Monday interview was important than Netanyahu's assurances Thursday. "Words matter," Earnest said. "And that is certainly true in this instance and I know very well that the Israeli prime minister is aware of that. And he was talking about something that even he would acknowledge is a very important issue, an issue that has serious consequences for the country that he leads."

Asked directly why, if words matter, that the White House was choosing to value Monday's words more than Thursday's, Earnest replied, "The reason for that is simply that for years Prime Minister Netanyahu and his predecessors have been committed to a two-state solution and to this approach. And because of his comments days before the election it does raise questions about his commitment to that solution."

"The fact that his commitment to this issue has understandably called into question it raises questions about our approach at least in the minds of policy makers inside the administration," Earnest continued. "And that is why we are going to evaluate our approach to this matter moving forward."

Asked separately when Obama would be calling Netanyahu to congratulate him on his victory, Earnest said White House officials were working to schedule the call as early as today, and that Obama was likely to raise the issue of Netanyahu's campaign rhetoric during the call.

Matt Vespa - Dems: Hey, There's That Abortion Language Republicans Were Talking About
Posted: 3/19/2015 3:30:00 PM EST
Piggybacking on Guy and Noah's coverage of the anti-human trafficking bill saga. An aide to Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota admitted to seeing the abortion language, but didn’t inform the senator before the bill was voted on in the Senate Judiciary Committee; it passed unanimously.

As Guy wrote, the Democratic filibuster over this bill is due to the provision that bans the funding of abortions–the Hyde Amendment–unveiled a truly ugly side (I know; there are many) of the political left. Moreover, Democrats knew this language was going to be added. The law–Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act–contains spending, and adding the Hyde Amendment to appropriation bills isn’t an alien process:

Read the whole Politico story, which lays out the facts -- which, in turn, lay the blame for this embarrassing debacle directly at Democrats' feet. Recapping: Prosaic legislative language restricting taxpayer funding of abortion was included in Republicans' anti-sex-trafficking law. GOP authors alerted their colleagues on the other side of the aisle that this provision was coming a few months ago. The resulting bill received zero dissenting votes in a Senate Judiciary Committee vote. But once pro-abortion activists started raising hackles, Democrats decided to filibuster a law that would help victims of sex trafficking. This, from the party that carries on about the so-called "war on women." In a feeble attempt to defend their decision, Democrats initially and falsely claimed that Republicans "snuck" the language into the bill, then were forced to retreat to "we didn't read the bill." … Note well that McConnell offered Democrats an up-or-down vote to amend the bill by stripping out the abortion language. Democrats promptly objected to having the opportunity to vote on that specific item, which is ostensibly their entire basis for obstructing the underlying legislation's passage. … Just so we're crystal clear, Senate Democrats' apparent commitment to (deeply unpopular) taxpayer-funded abortion is causing them to actively block an anti-human-trafficking bill. They knew the pro-life language was in there for months, but now they're pretending to have suddenly discovered it, to their shock and horror -- but they don't want to actually vote on whether to strike the supposedly offending language. Incredible.
Regardless, Senate Democrats have chosen to die on this hill, and they’re still peddling–with the help of liberal media outlets–the “Republicans pulled a fast one of us” talking point as evidenced here, here, and here. In Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) office, it seems his staff just ... missed it (via the Hill):

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters Tuesday that his staff did read the bill, but suggested that they missed the provision. "My staff did review it, and this is one of those obscure section references that doesn't, as I understand it, even include the words Hyde Amendment or abortion," he said. "And there was a representation made to several senators that this — there was nothing else in the bill to be concerned about other than a few listed issues, and this was not included."
Granted, that portion is true. Here’s the text that started the whole thing:

Limitations. – Amounts in the Fund, or otherwise transferred from the Fund, shall be subject to the limitations on the use or expending of amounts described in sections 506 and 507 of division H of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (Public Law 113–76; 128 Stat. 409) to the same extent as if amounts in the Fund were funds appropriated under division H of such Act.
As NPR noted, the Consolidated Appropriations Act was passed last December, so let’s hop to Sec. 506 and 507:

SEC. 506. (a) None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for any abortion. (b) None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion. (c) The term ‘‘health benefits coverage’’ means the package of services covered by a managed care provider or organization pursuant to a contract or other arrangement. SEC. 507. (a) The limitations established in the preceding section shall not apply to an abortion— (1) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or (2) in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life- endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed. (b) Nothing in the preceding section shall be construed as prohibiting the expenditure by a State, locality, entity, or private person of State, local, or private funds (other than a State’s or locality’s contribution of Medicaid matching funds). (c) Nothing in the preceding section shall be construed as restricting the ability of any managed care provider from offering abortion coverage or the ability of a State or locality to contract separately with such a provider for such coverage with State funds (other than a State’s or locality’s contribution of Medicaid matching funds). (d)(1) None of the funds made available in this Act may be made available to a Federal agency or program, or to a State or local government, if such agency, program, or government subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions. (2) In this subsection, the term ‘‘health care entity’’ includes an individual physician or other health care professional, a hospital, a provider-sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health care facility, organization, or plan.
Ailsa Chang of NPR wrote, “To be sure, even Democratic staffers say they should have caught the language. But they contend it's a stretch to argue the abortion provision was, as Republican Sen. John Cornyn put it, ‘as plain as the nose on your face.’" Okay. It’s not explicit, but, again, Democrats knew this provision was going to be included–and Democratic staffers for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee aren’t stupid. Even Sen. Cornyn mentioned that he’s skeptical over the talking point that Democrats were left in the dark:

 Cornyn dismissed the notion that Democrats didn't know what they were voting on.
"The idea that there's been some sort of ambush is just preposterous, it's just not credible," he said from the Senate floor. "They object to language that has been the law of the land for 39 years."

The legislation passed unanimously earlier this year out of the Judiciary Committee. "You think they didn't read the bill before they put their name on it?" Cornyn asked, referring to the bill's Democratic cosponsors.

"Our friends across the aisle have some outstanding staff. ... I don't believe that they would have missed a reference in this legislation."

If senators weren't informed that the legislation included the abortion provision, Cornyn had some frank advice: "If that's true, I'd get new staff."
Politico did report that the abortion language is on pages four and five of the Senate bill. Regardless, it’s a bill that shouldn’t have been bogged down with melodrama from Democrats, but Sen. Cornyn is considering a deal to end the impasse:

Cornyn told reporters that he is looking at having Congress appropriate the money for the victims fund established by the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, versus having the money come from criminal fines. “I think there's a way we can restructure and accomplish what we would want to accomplish ... which is make sure we have this fund which is available,” the Texas Republican told reporters.

“Of course they would be subject to the same restrictions that appropriations have been subject to for 39 years which is the Hyde Amendment.”

The Hyde Amendment prevents federal funds from being used for abortions. Democrats have refused to let the human trafficking bill move forward because of its inclusion in the bill, seeing the Hyde Amendment’s application to a fund set up through fines as an expansion of the government’s ban on federal funds for abortion.

Cornyn said that under the potential solution, Congress would annually appropriate the money for the victims fund and would subject it to the same restrictions on abortion as other federal funds. “I frankly don't see it,” Cornyn said of the Democrats' expansion argument. “But, I'm looking at a way to make some progress.”
In the meantime, Republicans are holding up Loretta Lynch's confirmation vote to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder, which drew a nasty–and extraordinarily unnecessary–racial response from Sen. Dick Durbin–and he wasn't even in a Starbucks.

UPDATE: Democrats filibustered the bill again, and they rejected Cornyn's deal.

Katie Pavlich - Obama Administration: Netanyahu "Apparently" Won The Israeli Election
Posted: 3/19/2015 2:30:00 PM EST

Speaking to reporters during the daily briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest again refused to directly congratulate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his election victory earlier this week, calling it an "apparent" win. (Emphasis is mine).

"As I believe I said yesterday, we certainly congratulate the Israeli people on the completion of another election and again the fact that there are free and fair elections in Israel that sort of determine the political leadership of their country is one of the many important things the United States has in common with Israel. It's part of what forms the bond between our two countries, this sort of commitment to Democratic principles and the Democratic tradition and the President does intend later today, or as early as today at least, to telephone the Prime Minister to talk to him about the election and to offer him congratulations on the apparent victory for his party in the elections," Earnest said. 

Apparent victory? Is Earnest implying Netanyahu's re-election isn't legitimate? Considering Netanyahu won by a larger percentage than expected, the use of "apparent" to describe election results is highly questionable.

It's become clear the Obama administration is disappointed, to say the least, about Netanyahu holding onto power.

Katie Pavlich - Congress is Still Flying First Class Using Your Money
Posted: 3/19/2015 1:45:00 PM EST

Members of Congress have been flying on first-class tickets to and from their districts for years and they've been sticking American taxpayers with the bill. The good news is, last year Rep. Paul Gosar (R - AZ) wrote and submitted a request with Rep. Walter Jones (R-CA) along with Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) to the Committee on Appropriations asking that language prohibiting lawmakers from traveling first-class on the taxpayer dime be added to the Fiscal Year 2015 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act.

Since then, some progress has been made. Although Members of Congress are still using taxpayer funds to fly first-class, Gosar and seven bipartisan Members have submitted appropriations rider language to permanently stop them from doing so. The language "seeks to codify language that is in line with requirements for travel by employees in the Executive Branch, including members of our Armed Services."

“Efficient travel to and from Congressional districts contributes to effective execution of the official duties of members of Congress. As with all federal spending, Member’s Representational Allowance is funded by taxpayer dollars. Therefore, it is the responsibility of elected Representatives to use the utmost efficiency and transparency when conducting official business," Gosar said in a statement. “Currently, a loophole exists that allows members of Congress to fly first-class at the expense of the American taxpayer. When we have rules in place not allowing our military to fly first class, there is absolutely no reason Members of Congress should be treated any different. Furthermore, luxury airfare accommodations utilizing taxpayer monies would seem inappropriate in any fiscal climate, but at a time of soaring deficits and with a federal debt in excess of $18 trillion, such expenditures are especially wasteful. Elected leaders are public servants of the people and shouldn’t be considered a privileged class.” 

Meanwhile, lawmakers are costing you millions of dollars per year in unnecessary and entitled travel costs.

Guy Benson - Spite: Angry Obama Doubles Down on Iran Deal, Punishes Israel After Netanyahu Victory
Posted: 3/19/2015 1:05:00 PM EST

Apologies for quoting myself, but here's what I wrote within hours of Benjamin Netanyahu's dramatic victory Tuesday night -- then repeated here on Wednesday morning:

Parting thought: Given Obama's knee-jerk rejection of electoral thumpings, Tehran should consider adding some big demands to their list. Who knows what O might be willing to agree to, out of spite for Israeli voters, Bibi and the Cotton 47? Gulp.

My point was pretty simple.  This president has extremely thin skin and extraordinary self regard.  He views rejections of his agenda as personal affronts; in his mind, such setbacks not are not occasions for reflection and reconsideration, but unforgivable provocations and betrayals.  Hence the White House's assertion that Obama feels "liberated" by Republicans' 2014 sweep, evidenced by his executive amnesty power grab -- which he'd previously dismissed as illegal, and against which the GOP had successfully campaigned.  Given Obama's vindictive posture against political opponents and voters who don't accede to his wishes, I reasoned, there was a good chance he'd turn his petty instincts against Israelis and their leader.  Our president personally despises Netanyahu, partly because Israel's Prime Minister has demonstrated the temerity to challenge and defy him in public.  By endorsing Netanyahu, despite alleged and unseemly American influence, the Israeli electorate explicitly crossed Obama, an inexpiable sin.  Indeed, there will be consequences.  Exhibit A:

As I said Tuesday night, Iran should issue new demands. Obama sees red, and is a punishing mood. His appetite for vengeance against Republican critics and Israel's leadership may be strong enough to compel him to agree to additional Iranian concessions, because that'll show 'em. Which brings us to the disgraceful exhibit B:

In the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decisive reelection, the Obama administration is revisiting longtime assumptions about America’s role as a shield for Israel against international pressure. Angered by Netanyahu’s hard-line platform toward the Palestinians, top Obama officials would not rule out the possibility of a change in American posture at the United Nations, where the U.S. has historically fended off resolutions hostile to Israel.

The White House would no doubt use Netanyahu's "marginalization of Arabs" as a pretext for America's potential abandonment of our close ally to the international community's rabidly anti-Israel wolves. Jennifer Rubin deals with those allegations here. Bill Kristol thinks Congress should immediately pass a resolution affirming the US' support for Israel against the United Nations "jackals." A fine idea, in theory, but how would that modify the Obama administration's behavior? It's quite clear that they couldn't care less about what Congress thinks.  He does not view them as a co-equal branch of government.  He views them as an annoying, disposable obstacle to the implementation of his agenda.  Meanwhile, the Associated Press has new details on the emerging contours of the dangerous Iran deal:

A draft nuclear accord now being negotiated between the United States and Iran would force Iran to cut hardware it could use to make an atomic bomb by about 40 percent for at least a decade, while offering the Iranians immediate relief from sanctions that have crippled their economy, officials told The Associated Press on Thursday. As an added enticement, elements of a U.N. arms embargo against Iran could be rolled back...Officials said the tentative deal imposes new limits on the number of centrifuges Iran can operate to enrich uranium, a process that can lead to nuclear weapons-grade material. The sides are zeroing in on a cap of 6,000 centrifuges, officials said, down from the 6,500 they spoke of in recent weeks. That's also less than the 10,000 such machines Tehran now runs, yet substantially more than the 500 to 1,500 that Washington originally wanted as a ceiling. Only a year ago, U.S. officials floated 4,000 as a possible compromise...Washington believes it can extend the time Tehran would need to produce a nuclear weapon to at least a year for the 10 years it is under the moratorium. Right now, Iran would require only two to three months to amass enough material if it covertly seeks to "break out" toward the bomb. The one-year breakout time has become a point the Obama administration is reluctant to cross in the set of highly technical talks, and that bare minimum would be maintained for 10 years as part of the draft deal. After that, the restrictions would be slowly eased...Any March framework agreement is unlikely to constrain Iran's missile program, which the United States believes may ultimately be aimed at creating delivery systems for nuclear warheads. Diplomats say that as the talks move to deadline, the Iranians continue to insist that missile curbs are not up for discussion.

So Iran gets a bestowal of international legitimacy on its intact nuclear program, it keeps thousands of spinning centrifuges (more than the perceived minimum needed to make a bomb), it receives a huge economic shot in the arm via major sanctions relief, and its rogue missile program doesn't get touched.  Iran is required to make no meaningful changes to its terrorism-financing and facilitation, its meddling and undermining of foreign governments, or its horrific human rights record.  And the restrictions imposed by the pact have an expiration date, getting phased out after just a decade.  In return, the West gets...a promise from Iran that it'll reduce the scope and activity of its illegal nuclear program (presumably with some verification measures), which hopefully ensures that the regime's "breakout" time horizon is lengthened by a number of months.  All of this presumes, of course, that Tehran doesn't cheat, as it always does.  They've been actively cheating on UN-imposed arms restrictions, and they've even violated the interim deal struck as a condition to continue the current negotiations.  What about that?  The Obama administration says it was just an honest mistake:

When nuclear monitors said Iran had started testing a single advanced centrifuge last year, some U.S. politicians and analysts jumped on the report as proof the Islamic Republic can’t be trusted. To U.S. officials negotiating with Iran, it was probably just a mistake -- one that shows the pitfalls in the highly technical accord being discussed. Describing the incident in detail for the first time, U.S. officials, who asked not to be identified following diplomatic rules, said the testing was probably done by a low-level employee on Iran’s nuclear program who didn’t understand the limits placed on his experimentation.

Incredible. Steve Hayes succinctly sums up the distressing Smart Power state of play:

Matt Vespa - Islamic State Claims Responsibility For Tunisia Shootings
Posted: 3/19/2015 12:11:00 PM EST

As Dan reported yesterday, there was a horrific shooting at the Bardo National Museum in Tunisia, where gunmen killed over 20 people. Most of the victims were European. While it was initially reported that ISIS was suspected to be behind the attacks, it’s now official (via WSJ):

Islamic State claimed responsibility on Thursday for the attack on a museum in the Tunisian capital that killed 21 people, including 18 foreign tourists.

Wednesday’s attack on the Bardo National Museum in the capital Tunis was aimed at “citizens of Crusader countries,” the SITE Intelligence Group quoted the extremist group’s media arm as saying. The claim couldn’t be independently confirmed.

In the statement issued by its media arm, Islamic State also warned of more attacks, saying the assault on the museum in Tunis was the “first drop of rain.” It didn’t state whether it was referring to further attacks in Egypt or elsewhere.

It’s the worst attack in Tunisia in 13 years, and the government has promised a “merciless war on terrorism” in response.

Cortney O'Brien - Tribeca Film Festival to Feature Documentary on Reverend Who ‘Courageously’ Preaches About Gun Control
Posted: 3/19/2015 12:00:00 PM EST

“Is it possible to be pro-life and pro-gun?” A documentary at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, “The Armor of Light,” is searching for an answer to that question. The film, directed by Walt Disney’s grandniece Abigail E. Disney, will follow Reverend Rob Schenck as he challenges congregations to reconsider their support of gun rights, as he fears these views may contradict their pro-life beliefs. Judging by the documentary’s description of Schenck's gun control advocacy as “courageous,” it’s obvious what sort of agenda Disney is setting.

What price conscience? Abigail Disney's directorial debut, THE ARMOR OF LIGHT, follows the journey of an Evangelical minister trying to find the courage to preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America. The film tracks Reverend Rob Schenck, an anti-abortion activist and fixture on the political far right, who breaks with orthodoxy by questioning whether being pro-gun is consistent with being pro-life. Reverend Schenck is shocked and perplexed by the reactions of his long-time friends and colleagues who warn him away from this complex, politically explosive issue.

I’m sure this won’t be a scene in Disney’s documentary, but guns can actually save lives too. Perhaps one of Schenck’s sermons should focus on the numerous instances in which people used firearms out of self-defense. He’d have plenty to choose from. On average, there are 1.5 million defensive gun uses per year, according to this thorough report from the Cato Institute, which cited The National Survey of Private Ownership of Firearms. Another study featured in the report analyzed 5,000 news incidents from October 2003 to November 2011 and found that 1,277 of the incidents were criminals who ran from armed inhabitants.

If you want one specific example of how a guy with a gun came to the rescue, how about this man in Tulsa (who happens to use a wheelchair), who killed two bad guys with a handgun while they were attacking his friends? Without his firearm, who knows how much damage the assailants could have done. Firearms have a way of equalizing otherwise lopsided battles.

Another case in point: In 2007, Jeanne Assam, the security guard of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, stopped a gunman in his tracks with her firearm after he started firing in the church, killing two people and injuring two others. Here's what the church's senior pastor, Brady Boyd, had to say:

"Three people are needlessly dead, but many more lives could have been lost."

Assam herself also commented on the ordeal:

"I was very focused. I knew what I had to do," she said. "It was it just seemed like me, the gunman and God."

In light of these incredible stories, I have a better suggestion for a documentary: How about we feature gun-wielding heroes like these?

Another fact that won’t fit in Disney’s documentary, is that women are the fastest growing demographic of firearm owners. Oh, and the most common reason? Self-defense.

With all this said, I have to acknowledge that I appreciate Schenck's efforts on behalf of the pro-life movement. He has even taken his cause to the steps of the Supreme Court. Yet, his anti-gun agenda is way off base, for the reasons I mentioned above. In this column for USA Today, he even referenced the radical Everytown for Gun Safety while arguing for fewer guns in homes. No wonder Hollywood tracked him down.

Fork Films’ liberal agenda is very clear. Among the funding recipients featured on their website, is “Vessel,” a documentary about one woman’s mission to provide abortions aboard ships in countries where the procedure is banned, and “Citizen Koch,” which demonizes the Tea Party-backing Koch Brothers.

Looks like the anti-conservative status quo is alive and well in Hollywood and next month's Tribeca Film Festival will include more preaching to the liberal choir.

Matt Vespa - Gloria Steinem To Cross The 38th Parallel In May – Go Right Ahead, Lady
Posted: 3/19/2015 11:15:00 AM EST

In the wake of the March 5 assault on U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert by a pro-reunification activist, feminist icon Gloria Steinem plans to trot across the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas, calling it an event of “huge importance.” Steinem, along with other women, is working with the United Nations, North Korea, and South Korea, hoping to garner their blessing for this event. Its aim is to officially end the Korean War and promote reunification. Yet, they did not say what would be their secondary plans, if any, should either side reject their proposal. Additionally, they seem to be having trouble finding North Korean women to participate in this gathering. North Korea is arguably one of the largest prisons in the modern world; I can probably think of a couple of reasons off the top of my head (via Stars and Stripes):

Organizers of the effort called on Wednesday [March 11] said they hope for 30 women, including two Nobel Peace laureates, to cross from North Korea to South Korea on May 24, which is International Women's Day for Disarmament.

The walk also marks the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean peninsula.

The women say they are still seeking approval from both countries and the United Nations. Kim Song, a diplomat with North Korea's mission to the U.N., said that the proposal "is under the discussion in my capital." There was no immediate response from the U.N.

"It's hard to imagine any more physical symbol of the insanity of dividing human beings," said Steinem, a longtime advocate for women who has visited the South Korean side of the DMZ. "To me, to walk across it has huge, huge, huge importance."

The women said they also soon will launch an online petition calling on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean, as well as President Barack Obama and the leaders of North and South Korea to take the necessary actions to finally end the Korean War with a peace treaty. The war ended in 1953 with the armistice.

The women would not say how or whether they would go ahead with the march, from either side, if permission from either North or South Korea does not come.

Christine Ahn, co-coordinator of this march and head of the group Women Demilitarize the Zone, told reporters that they received a letter last year from North Korea's U.N. mission that said its officials "understand the significance of this occasion and the important peacemaking role that women have played throughout history."

But so far, she said, she has been unable to communicate with any women inside tightly controlled North Korea about joining the first part of their planned march, from Pyongyang to the border.

This is purely symbolic. Does anyone actually believe Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of Democratic People’s Republic (HA!) of Korea, will just give up power because some women from the evil, capitalist West took a stroll across the 38th parallel? As for reunification, that’s another shot in the dark (literally) due to the lack of facts and data about North Korea’s socioeconomic situation, which most can figure out is probably a notch or two above dismal.

South Korea is one of the world’s largest economies. It’s part of the trillion-dollar club concerning its GDP, and half of that will be eaten up if some reunification event occurs in the future. In 2013, Reuters reported that reunification could cost 7 percent of South Korea’s GDP every year for a decade. In dollars, that’s about $81 billion, but those projections only go up until 2020. They’re short term, but the South Korean government sees more positives than negatives with reunification:

Despite the risk of an enlarged debt burden, the government sees more good than bad in the unification, with the ministry saying it would act to off-set the swift ageing of the South Korean population.

The ministry also pointed out the benefits of increased cooperation with neighboring countries, including the development of a gas pipeline linking South Korea and Russia.

Plans for the pipeline hatched during the administration of outgoing President Lee Myung-bak have been shelved indefinitely because North Korea has not cooperated.

The ministry also said the elimination of the North Korean risk factor would result in increased offshore investment and South Korea would benefit in the long term from mineral resources in the North.

Yet, these are government figures, which are usually lower than originally projected and change dramatically over time. Such budgetary dynamics aren’t just a hallmark characteristic of Washington. In 2014, it was projected that South Korea would have to dole out $500 billion over the next two decades to bring North Korea out of Medieval Times. Additionally, there’s the looming risk that such an endeavor could bankrupt the South, inflicting disastrous economic consequences akin to the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in 2008 (via Bloomberg):

About $500 billion would be needed to develop North Korea’s economy over 20 years after reuniting, according to a report released this week by South Korea’s Financial Services Commission. By contrast, the West German economy was 10-times larger than East Germany’s when the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, the financial watchdog said. West Germany spent about $2 trillion rebuilding a single country, some estimates show.

Shin Je Yoon, the FSC’s chief, said he is embarrassed about the unreliability of its calculations, using a photo of the open sea at a conference in Seoul on Nov. 19 to illustrate how speculative they are.

Other estimates for the cost of unification range from $50 billion to more than $3 trillion.

As long as South Korea knows little of its neighbor’s economy, sudden unification could create a shock as big as the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008, Shin said.

The process would weaken South Korea’s public finances, put pressure on the won and raise borrowing costs, according to Hong Jung Hye, a Seoul-based fixed income analyst at Shinyoung Securities Co. Kwon Goohoon, chief Korea economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said potential unification wasn’t one of the main attractions for investing in South Korea.

Nevertheless, Steinem and company might see an ally in South Korean President Park Geun-hye who announced a government plan for reunification last year, though its an issue that has depreciating value amongst her citizens. Bloomberg noted that in 2012, Park’s predecessor Lee Myung Bak tried to raise funds for a “joining of the nations;” the costs of the government marketing campaign exceeded that of the donations.

Bruce Klingner, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and former Korea specialist for the CIA, told the International Business Times last year that reunification is losing popularity amongst South Korea’s younger generation, who are fiscally conservative and wary of such monumental economic projects like reunification. I don’t blame them; it sounds like the “Money Pit” version of nation building.

Lastly, how are the people of the North Korea? Psychologically? What do we know about South Korea’s potential new partners in democracy? Of course, it’s contingent that Kim Jong-un abdicates power and other sociopolitical events. Well, for starters, they’re brainwashed, deprived of expression, and they have a dress code on steroids (via the Guardian):

Yeon-mi did not testify before the UN inquiry, but became a YouTube sensation last autumn, following her emotional speech at the One Young World Summit in Dublin. Looking like a fragile porcelain doll dressed in a flowing pink hanbok (traditional Korean dress), Yeon-mi took the podium and, fighting to keep her composure, told a harrowing and heartbreaking story: “North Korea is an unimaginable country,” she began in halting English. “We aren’t free to sing, say, wear or think what we want.”

She said she believed the dictator could hear her thoughts, and she described the hideous punishments meted out to those who broke the rules or expressed doubt about the regime. When she was nine years old she saw her friend’s mother publicly executed for a minor infraction. When she was 13, she fled into China, only to see her mother raped by a human trafficker. Her father later died in China, where she buried his ashes in secret. “I couldn’t even cry,” she said. “I was afraid to be sent back to North Korea.”

Last year, the UN report on North Korea’s abysmal record in human rights included “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

Frankly, Steinem should scrap the walk, and South Korea should keep its money.

As for Mr. Lippert, he says he’s “lucky” to be alive. His attacker, Kim Ki-jong, attacked him with a 10-inch kitchen knife declaring that North and South Korea should be reunified before attacking Lippert, causing wounds to his hands and face that required 80 stitches. Kim, who could possibly face an attempted murder charge, is known for his anti-American, Korean unification antics. He tried to build a funeral altar for his fellow cities to mourn the death of Kim Jong-il in 2011. That turned out poorly (via NYT):

Kim visited North Korea seven times from 1999 to 2007. But those visits were approved by the South Korean government and took place during a period when many South Koreans, including government officials, journalists and scholars, were allowed to visit the North under Seoul’s “Sunshine Policy” of encouraging exchanges and reconciliation.

Yet Mr. Kim was also among a small minority of progressives in South Korea who tried to build a funeral altar at the center of Seoul to encourage South Koreans to express condolences over the death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in late 2011. The progressives said such a gesture would help promote reconciliation with the North, but their attempt crumbled in the face of protest from conservative South Koreans, who denounced them as “jongbuk,” or North Korean sympathizers.

Yeah, I really don’t see the point of this little rendezvous on the 38th parallel. North Korea did send their thanks to Kim, calling his assault a "righteous punishment." 

Matt Vespa - Hillary’s Speaking Fee Could Cost This Non-Profit 10 Percent Of Its Budget
Posted: 3/19/2015 10:50:00 AM EST

With Hillary and her team getting all this 2016 campaign stuff in order, why not add a speaking gig along the way. She plans to address The Camp Association of New Jersey and New York in Atlantic City today. Yet, there’s no news if Clinton will be paid her usual speaking fee for the occasion. If that’s the case, then she will cost the Camp Association, a non-profit, 10 percent of its annual budget (via Boston Globe):

Hillary Clinton is hiring staff in Iowa and New Hampshire. She’s beefing up her press operation. She’s reaching out to Hispanic leaders.

But even as she continues ramping up a likely 2016 presidential candidacy, there’s another paid speaking stop on the books this week: The American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey.

It’s a not-for-profit organization that may be spending up to 10 percent of its $2 million budget to land Clinton for the Thursday speech in Atlantic City, if the former first lady is charging her usual fee of $200,000. The camp confirmed she would be paid for the appearance, but didn’t disclose the size of the fee. Clinton’s office declined to comment.

Her decision to squeeze in another paid address presents a public reminder of Clinton’s skillful use of her prominent profile to land whopping fees for herself and her family’s charitable empire. Her persistence in sticking to her speaking schedule, meanwhile, despite intense controversy it has generated, shows how two decades in the public spotlight seem to have inured her to much criticism.

Clinton initially asked to be paid $300,000 when she agreed to speak at the University of Nevada Las Vegas Foundation last year. She settled for $225,000, according to according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, which obtained her contract via a public records request. The terms required that the university pay for a transcript of the event and stipulated that Clinton would only pose for 50 photographs. Students there asked Clinton to donate her fee to the university.

When she appeared at the University of Buffalo in October 2013, the fee was $275,000, according to a copy of the contract obtained by the Public Accountability Initiative, a nonprofit research group that did records request for the document.

Her royal highness was paid $300,000 to speak at UCLA, though an investor, who contributes to UCLA’s lecture circuit, covered her fee. She was given another $300,000 to discuss the ills of the middle class at Silicon Valley in February.

After the email fiasco–and developments that her server wasn’t secure–you have to wonder if Hillary is done with the optics game. I think any politician with decades in the limelight will be “inured” to public scrutiny, but even they know it’s probably not the best idea to return to business as usual and pretend that this whole matter, especially with her email controversy, will somehow go away. Clinton is being Clinton, playing by her own rules knowing safely that the Democratic nomination is in her hands. Therein lies the point CBS News’ John Dickerson was making about Hillary’s image and why she needs to campaign tenaciously to shed the image that she’s a limousine liberal; people need to know that she cares about them. He used Iowa as an example, given that it’s a state with six electoral votes. If people there see her campaign aggressively, it could neutralize some of the negative aspects attributed to her speaking fees. After all, Hillary is a pretty weak campaigner to begin with – it could be good practice. Well, for now, it doesn’t seem she’s channeling that mindset.

For those who say that this email scandal is mostly a DC-centered story, that doesn’t seem to be the case. At Hot Air, Noah wrote how strong Hilary supporters in New Hampshire have grave concerns about the email controversy regarding transparency and how she handled it. And by strong Hillary supporters, we’re talking about people who don’t want anyone else to challenge her for the nomination, according to Bloomberg's Mark Halperin and John Heilemann who conducted this focus group with Purple Strategies. Additionally, two-thirds of Americans have heard about the email issues plaguing Clinton, but 66 percent said it didn’t change their opinion of the former first lady–and 49 percent said it would not impact their vote for her in 2016, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. Then again, 55 percent of Americans, including 46 percent of Democrats, agree that an independent review into her emails should be conducted.

Oh, and she’s obviously being paid something for this appearance because her spokesman won’t say anything about the fee, or how much it’ll take out of the Camp Association’s budget. What’s with all the secrecy? Oh wait; it’s the Clintons.

Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s office, declined to comment on how much Clinton will be paid for Thursday’s speech to the summer camp group and whether Clinton took into consideration the size of the not-for-profit’s budget when she set her rate. In the past, Clinton’s fees for some of the events have been paid to her family foundation, which pairs nonprofits with corporate leaders that want to invest more in charitable work. Merrill declined to say whether the check from this speech went to the Clinton Foundation.

Guy Benson - Jon Stewart: Damn These Republicans For Blocking the Bill Democrats are Filibustering, or Something
Posted: 3/19/2015 10:35:00 AM EST

Embarrassing ignorance, or deliberate deceit? You make the call:

On Tuesday night’s Daily Show, Stewart ripped into the GOP leadership for engaging in “f*ckery” by holding up a bipartisan bill designed to combat human sex trafficking. Hapless Democrats, in contrast, were guilty of mere “dumbassery” by trusting Republicans wouldn’t add anti-abortion language to the legislation. “It’s the same way nobody blames the bears in Grizzly Man for eating the delicious-looking meat sack who kept sticking his hands in their poop.” Stewart cracked. “‘Cause they’re bears!” The comedian worked through his usual routine, slamming Mitch McConnell for ”bowing down to right-wing special interests” and lamenting bipartisan — but almost-entirely Republican — dysfunction on Capitol Hill. The clip circulated widely through the left-wing media, with outlets like Talking Points Memo, Salon and Raw Story noting Stewart’s self-righteous fury with approval.

The clip, if you'd like to subject yourself to it, is here.  At the risk of repeating myself, Stewart's narrative is comprehensively unsupported by the facts:

(1) Senate Republicans are not holding up anti-sex-trafficking legislation by any stretch of the imagination.  They introduced the bill in question, brought it to the floor, and voted unanimously in its support.  Democrats have twice filibustered the bill, preventing a yes/no vote.

Democrats claim their opposition arises from language that bars taxpayer dollars from paying for abortions within a new fund created under the proposed law.  At first, they tried to claim that Republicans surreptitiously inserted the provision at the last minute. Not true. The bill's full text has been available for months. Republicans informed Democrats of their intent to include the abortion language last year.  One top Democratic staffer has admitted she knew about the 'offending' item all along

(3) The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the bill -- with the abortion passage intact -- without a single dissenting vote on Feburary 26.  Democrats included.  Mollie Hemingway notes that the legislation was introduced with 13 Democratic co-sponsors, ten of whom are now filibustering their own bill.  She also highlights this tweet from the abortion lobby:

Actually, nobody else noticed because eight female Senators, including four Republicans, were sponsors of the bill when NARAL tweeted that out. But who can be bothered with facts when there are fanatical ideological narratives to serve?

(4)The execrable Dick Durbin declared that Republicans' stance in favor of the anti-trafficking legislation is evidence of their "anti-women" crusade. When the Weekly Standard's& John McCormack asked him if the Democrats who have sided with the GOP to break the filibuster and pass the bill as written are also waging a 'war on women,' Durbin said he "respects" their decision. Republican support for the bill is anti-women. Democratic support for the bill is respectable and fair.

(5) Mitch McConnell, the primary object of Stewart's self-righteous ire, offered Democratic leaders an up-or-down, simple majority vote on removing the "controversial" abortion language from the bill.  They promptly objected, presumably because their members didn't want to go on record regarding that particular issue -- even though it's the entire basis for their obstructionist gambit.

(6) Why might Democrats be antsy about actively voting for taxpayer-funded abortion?  Because it's extremely unpopular with the American people.  Hemingway and McCormack cite a 2010 Q-poll showing two-thirds of the public in opposition.  A 2015 Marist survey pegs opposition at 68 percent.  Non-conservative columnist Eleanor Clift writes that the legal prohibition on taxpayer-financed abortion is a settled matter, and that legislative language routinely reflects that reality.  Harry Reid himself has voted to maintain that anti-abortion status quo on many occasions, touting his alleged support for the "sanctity of life."  Democrats are picking a fight over a longstanding policy that enjoys broad consensus support -- and they're doing so while blocking a measure designed to help victims of human sex trafficking.  It's literally indefensible.  Hemingway is correct that the top take-away from this ignominious episode is that extreme abortion special interests are in firm control the Democratic Party. Another lesson is that Democrats seem to be pushing their obstructionism as far as possible, curious to see just how much the media will let them get away with.  Jon Stewart's diatribe is the sort of perfidious positive reinforcement they're hoping to elicit.  If the Left can successfully 'controversialize' standard Hyde Amendment-style abortion funding restrictions, they'll set a radical new precedent -- one that would please their abortion lobby donors, and very few others.  Republicans must hold the line on this.  Force Democrats to filibuster this bill every single day, and suspend all other non-essential business until their ugly effort is defeated.