Cortney O'Brien - Wow: Disabled Combat Vet Gets Rave Reviews on ‘Dancing With the Stars’
Posted: 3/17/2015 6:00:00 PM EST

Monday night, a wounded military veteran took the ballroom stage on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.” Judging by his beautiful performance, however, you’d never know he had lost two limbs.

Noah Galloway is a combat veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005. Three months into his tour of duty, he lost his left arm and leg in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack. His severe injuries launched him into a deep depression, until one day he decided to turn his life back around and get into shape. Today, he is a personal trainer and even recently appeared on the cover of Men’s Health. After restoring both his mental and physical fitness, he’s now giving himself a new challenge: putting his dance skills to the test as a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars.” Although he may be at a disadvantage from the other competitors who have full function of all their limbs and joints, he insists his injuries are not a handicap.

"I want to be more than just the guy missing an arm and a leg."

He has successfully shed that label in just his first dance. Performing a cha cha with DWTS pro Sharna Burgess, Galloway’s effortless movements earned him a standing ovation from the audience.

The judges were equally impressed. Carrie Ann Inaba said it was “profound” and Bruno Tonioli called him a "titan" for what he accomplished.

With his courage, Galloway has demonstrated that veterans are more than charity cases. Before him, former U.S. Army Soldier Jose Rene "J.R." Martinez joined the DWTS cast in Season 13. For those unfamiliar with Martinez's story, he suffered severe burns while serving in Iraq after his Humvee struck a roadside bomb. As a result of the accident, he had to undergo several skin graft surgeries that left him with scars over his face and body. Martinez would go on to win the ABC show. Doesn't really sound like someone who needs pity...

Can Galloway be the next vet to carry a mirrorball trophy home? It's too early to tell, but his cha cha was truly an historic and poignant moment. Kudos to "Dancing with the Stars" for giving Galloway the chance to shine.

I’ll leave you with Judge Len Goodman’s short but poignant reaction:

"Noah, I salute you. Well done."

Watch Noah’s complete dance - and please, give him your vote, not your sympathy.

Matt Vespa - Rand Paul Expected To Announce Presidential Run Next Month – But He Could Change His Mind
Posted: 3/17/2015 5:55:00 PM EST

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) plans to announce his intention to run for president next month, or it could be an announcement that he's not. We'll all know by April 7 (via Lexington Herald Leader):

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul isn't waiting for the Kentucky Derby to shoot out of the starting gate.

Next month — the day after the NCAA championship game — Paul plans to announce that he is running for president in front of hundreds of supporters at Louisville's Galt House.

While Paul's team stressed that the senator might still decide against running for president, they confirmed the planned April 7 launch date, which was originally reported by The New York Times, and said invitations to the event have already been sent to supporters and Republican officials.

The event will prominently feature Kentucky in an effort to capture the historic nature of the announcement for the state. That also dovetails with the desire of Paul's budding campaign team to build a sense of state pride around his candidacy, building a foundation for the senator's presidential campaign and keeping his approval numbers aloft as he tries to run for re-election to his Senate seat simultaneously in 2016.

Following the announcement, Paul will leave Louisville to embark on a nearly week-long trip to the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, with fundraising stops and grassroots rallies in a handful of other states along the way.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has threatened legal action should Sen. Paul try and run for two federal offices at the same time, which is against Kentucky law. Paul wants to stay out of the courts.

So, Rand is trying to circumvent that law by urging the state party to have their next year’s May primary pushed back to March. Oh, and he wants it to be a caucus, which will give Paul some breathing room in the primary phase of 2016. If he’s successful in clinching the nomination, another problem could arise (via USA Today) [emphasis mine]:

Trying to thread the needle of running for president and the Senate at the same time in Kentucky, Sen. Rand Paul on Saturday will make his case to state Republican officials for shifting next year's May GOP presidential primary to a March caucus.

A likely presidential contender, Paul is attempting to get around a state law that bars a candidate from appearing on a ballot more than once in most cases.

Appearing before the 54-member Republican Central Executive Committee in his hometown of Bowling Green, Paul will ask for a caucus system for selecting national convention delegates, a process that would not be governed by state law.

In a Feb. 9 e-mail to central committee members, Paul said he was not asking for anything unusual, just a way to run for two offices at once, as Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP's vice presidential candidate, did in 2012.

"My request to you is simply to be treated equally compared to other potential candidates for the presidency. Over half of the states already allow this to occur," the senator wrote.

Paul told reporters last month a court challenge would be costly and lengthy, probably stretching beyond next year's election.

The caucus approach addresses the conflict with state law, at least for the primary season, the senator said. He said he would worry about the general election later.

The general election could be a problem for Republicans in Kentucky if Paul secures the GOP presidential nomination: state law prohibits parties from replacing candidates on the ballot after the end of the primary season unless a candidate dies, is disabled or is determined to be ineligible to hold office. Bottom line: the Kentucky GOP could end up without a Senate candidate if Paul is at the top of the ticket.

Again, that's if he decides to run for president.  Nevertheless, Sen. Mitch McConnell is well aware of the consequences if voters decide to Stand with Rand in 2016. So far, Paul is running unopposed for re-election for his senate seat in 2016; it’s a guaranteed Republican hold, whereas the White House isn’t.

Paul’s last hope to change the Kentucky law barring him from running for two federal offices at the same time was dashed in the 2014 elections, where Democrats held onto their majority in the Kentucky House of Representatives. 

Daniel Doherty - Bibi On Israeli Elections: 'A Major Victory For The People of Israel!'
Posted: 3/17/2015 5:50:00 PM EST

The race hasn't been officially called yet, but early exit polls suggest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political party -- Likud -- will almost certainly stay in power. As a result, Netanyahu himself has emphatically (if prematurely) called the election today "a great victory":

UPDATE: Apparently Bibi's victory is indeed a fait accompli:

UPDATE: For what it's worth, 61 seats are needed to form a government. A friendly reminder:

Under Israel's proportional electoral system, no party has ever won the 61 seats needed for an outright majority in the 120-member parliament — and it typically takes weeks of negotiations for a governing coalition to be formed.

UPDATE: The prime minister is also not directly-elected:

After the official parliamentary election result is published, Israel's president usually invites the leader of the party with the largest number of seats to form a government within 42 days.

If the leader forms a coalition, the Knesset holds a vote of confidence in that group and the government is approved by a vote of at least 61 members.

So bear that in mind.

UPDATE: Perhaps the election might actually be close:

UPDATE: Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Israeli Labor Party (part of the Zionist Union political alliance with Hatnuah) and Leader of the Opposition, stressed that their election results were the best since 1992, and that he will try to form a government. Also, 71.3 percent of Israeli soldiers voted in today's elections.

UPDATE: Watch the livestream of the Israeli election results on i24news.

UPDATE: Netanyahu has finished delivering his victory speech.

UPDATE: More on the Israeli elections from the AP:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to have fended off a strong challenge from the country's opposition leader in parliamentary elections Tuesday, emerging from an acrimonious campaign in a slightly better position to form Israel's next government.

But with the sides nearly evenly divided, a victory by Netanyahu's Likud Party still was not guaranteed. His chief rival, Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union, said he would make "every effort" to form a government, and an upstart centrist party led by a former Netanyahu ally-turned-rival was set to be the kingmaker. The country now heads into weeks of negotiations over the makeup of the next coalition.

Both Netanyahu and Herzog will now compete for a chance to form a coalition that commands a majority in the 120-seat parliament, a daunting task in Israel's fractured political landscape. Netanyahu appeared to have a better chance of cobbling together a government with right-wing and religious parties. Herzog would have to appeal to more ideologically diverse parties.

Guy Benson - Of Course: WH Slams GOP Budget That Cuts $5.5 Trillion, Balances Within Eight Years
Posted: 3/17/2015 4:40:00 PM EST

House Republicans produced their federal budget blueprint for fiscal year 2016 today, with new House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price hailing the plan as "a balanced budget for a stronger America." The offering would reduce projected federal spending by an ambitious $5.5 trillion over the next ten years, achieving balance within eight -- without raising taxes. It increases overall spending during that budget window, but at a significantly slower rate of growth the current trajectory.  Spendthrift Democrats, naturally, would prefer to accelerate spending growth across-the-board, despite record debt, massive unpaid-for promises, and deficits that are projected to climb back to $1 trillion annually in the coming years. Price's committee released a short, optimistic video summarizing their fiscal roadmap:

Here's how they summarize some key points of their document:

- Balances the budget in less than 10 years without raising taxes, in contrast to the President whose budget never balances  

- Cuts $5.5 trillion in spending – higher than any previous House Budget Committee proposal • Calls for a fairer, simpler tax code to promote job creation and a healthy economy

- Calls on Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution

- Repeals Obamacare in full – including all of its taxes, regulations and mandates • Promotes freedom of choice, affordability, and patient-centered health care solutions • Eliminates IPAB, an unelected, unaccountable board of bureaucrats charged with making coverage decisions on health care

- Provides for a strong national defense through robust funding of troop training, equipment and compensation • Boosts defense spending above the president’s levels while putting in place a plan to responsibly address the current spending caps and the threat of sequester

- Ends the Obamacare raid on Medicare • Strengthens Medicare by making structural improvements to save the program • Eliminates the “double dipping” of Disability Insurance and Unemployment Insurance • Prevents the president’s plan to raid the regular Social Security Trust Fund 

You can read the full proposal here; Chairman Price's USA Today column summarizing his budget is here.  The plan is rather similar to recent iterations advanced by erstwhile Budget Committee chief Paul Ryan, including its full repeal of Obamacare and necessarybipartisan Medicare reforms for future seniors -- which Democrats have lied about for years.  Two interesting notes about the FY '16 version is that it effectively transforms food stamps into state-run programs via block grants, similar to the Medicaid reforms included in previous years' versions (as well as this year's).  It also hikes military spending over sequester-enforced limits, a demand that defense hawks have been voicing for some time.  They pay for these increases with a bit of gimmickry, which Ed Morrissey argues is actually pretty defensible as far as these things go.  Price also describes reductions in spending on federal benefits, including the elimination of costly and problematic loopholes:

There is no shortage of waste, fraud and abuse across government agencies which is why we propose reforms that would make those programs that do serve an important purpose more efficient, effective and accountable. For example, we propose (details not public yet) closing the double-dipping loophole in the disability insurance program that allows an individual to receive both unemployment insurance and disability payments. No one ought to be held eligible for both benefits at the same time, and this budget would protect taxpayers and maintain the integrity of these programs by ending this wasteful practice.

The White House has already rejected House Republicans' blueprint out of hand, sounding the usual demagogic notes about hurting the poor and helping the rich. President Obama's 2016 budget never comes close to balancing, despite trillions in requested tax increases, would add an estimated $8.5 trillion to the national debt over the current budget window, and does virtually nothing to address America's unfunded liability crisis -- which Obama used to acknowledge.  But his good government pantomime ended long ago.

Leah Barkoukis - Study: Yes, Press Was Very Biased During 2012 Election Coverage
Posted: 3/17/2015 4:14:00 PM EST

A new study of more than 130,000 news articles on the 2012 presidential election between Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama proves without a doubt that the press strongly leans Democratic.

The study, published in the authoritative journal Big Data & Society, also tested the campaign themes the media focused on and determined that Obama succeeded in stealing the economic issue from Republican Romney.

"The 2012 elections saw an 'issue trespassing' strategy with President Obama taking the initiative on the economy," found the survey of stories produced by 719 U.S. and international outlets.

The survey used a technical language processing analysis to filter all the stories and found that Obama was portrayed as an attack dog and Romney on defense. Key was Obama's ability to "own" the economic message despite Romney's repeated assaults and the public's general view that the GOP handles the economy better.

"Overall, media reporting contained more frequently positive statements about the Democrats than the Republicans. Overall, the Republicans were more frequently the object of negative statements," the study’s authors wrote. "The Republican Party is the most divisive subject in the campaign, and is portrayed in a more negative fashion than the Democrats."

While the study’s findings are not exactly surprising, it’s important nonetheless to show that liberal media bias isn’t exactly a fictional conservative grievance. Information gatekeepers such as the news media have a great role to play when it comes to influencing the public’s opinion about candidates. What Republicans can do to level the playing field as 2016 approaches, however, remains to be seen.

Conn Carroll - Study: Obama's Amnesty To Cost Taxpayers $7.8 Billion A Year
Posted: 3/17/2015 2:45:00 PM EST

President Obama's latest executive amnesty program will cost taxpayers $7.8 billion a year a Heritage Foundation scholar told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Tuesday.

"I estimate that, at least, 3.97 million illegal immigrants would be eligible to obtain legal status under [the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program]. The average DAPA eligible individual has a 10th grade education," Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Robert Rector testified. "Assuming all DAPA eligible individuals receive legal status, cash payments from [the Earned Income Tax Credit] and [the Additional Child Tax Credit] to DAPA recipients would equal $7.8 billion per year."

Rector did also note that DAPA recipients would pay $7.2 billion a year in Social Security, Medicare and income taxes, but by law, all of those Social Security and Medicare taxes must go to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds to pay for future Social Security and Medicare benefits for DAPA recipients. Rector estimates that DAPA recipients will consume $1.3 trillion in Social Security and Medicare benefits over their lifetimes.

The costs of Obama's amnesty will only become larger if DAPA recipients are ever made eligible for Obamacare benefits. Under Obama's current amnesty program, DAPA recipients only receive Social Security Numbers, work permits, and drivers licenses. But if they were to ever be given permanent legal residence, then they would also be eligible for Obamacare, which Rector estimates would cost tax payers another $14 billion per year.

Daniel Doherty - Politico: Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) To Resign
Posted: 3/17/2015 2:35:00 PM EST

Politico reports that embattled Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) will resign his congressional seat before the end of the month.

When asked yesterday by the news outlet about “questionable mileage reimbursements,” the congressman responded about a day later, in part, with this:

“Today, I am announcing my resignation as a Member of the United States House of Representatives effective March 31,” Schock said in a statement. “I do this with a heavy heart. Serving the people of the 18th District is the highest and greatest honor I have had in my life. I thank them for their faith in electing me and letting me represent their interests in Washington. I have given them my all over the last six years. I have traveled to all corners of the District to meet with the people I’ve been fortunate to be able to call my friends and neighbors.”

Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE: Reuters provides some context:

Schock, 33, gained a following for posting flashy photos on social media of himself traveling, surfing and on other adventures. But he was hounded with questions after The Washington Post wrote in February about lavish decorations in his Capitol Hill office. ...

Concerns arose about his spending habits, with several media outlets reporting that he failed to disclose some expenditures and had to repay others after improperly using taxpayer funds.

UPDATE: None of these problems were going away, either:

Schock's high-flying lifestyle, combined with questions about expenses decorating his office after the TV show "Downton Abbey," add to awkward perceptions on top of allegations he illegally solicited donations in 2012.

The Office of Congressional Ethics said in a 2013 report that there was reason to believe Schock violated House rules by soliciting campaign contributions for a committee that backed Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., in a 2012 primary. The House Ethics Committee has said that query remains open.

UPDATE: Hence why the resignation wasn't altogether unexpected:

UPDATE: Politico added an update to their initial story. It appears the congressman was caught red-handed ripping off taxpayers:

Schock billed the federal government and his campaign for logging roughly 170,000 miles on his personal car between January 2010 and July 2014. But when he sold that Chevrolet Tahoe in July 2014, it had only roughly 80,000 miles on the odometer, according to public records obtained by POLITICO under Illinois open records laws. The documents, in other words, indicate he was reimbursed for 90,000 miles more than his car was ever driven.

UPDATE: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has weighed in on the impending resignation:

Rep. Schock was elected to Congress in 2008.

Katie Pavlich - Cute: Little Kid Worries When Ted Cruz Says "The World Is On Fire"
Posted: 3/17/2015 2:30:00 PM EST

During a recent town hall event in New Hampshire, Texas Senator and potential 2016 GOP presidential nominee Ted Cruz used the cliche, "The world is on fire," when discussing foreign policy. One three-year-old in the audience took notice, got a little worried and asked Cruz, "The world is on fire?" 

Cruz is getting slammed by liberal media outlets for "scaring" a child, but I find the exchange adorable.

Conn Carroll - State Department: "Fairly Certain" Hillary Clinton Did Not Sign Separation Form
Posted: 3/17/2015 2:10:00 PM EST

Spokesperson Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the State Department has no record of Hillary Clinton signing a separation agreement when she ended her tenure as Secretary of State and that she is "fairly certain" Clinton did not sign any such document.

"We have reviewed Secretary Clinton's official personnel file and administrative files and do not have any record of her signing the OF-109," Psaki said. Asked specifically if this means Clinton did not sign a separation agreement with State, Psaki added, "I think we are fairly certain she did not."

The form in question, OF-109, asks departing government officials to certify that they have “surrendered to responsible officials all unclassified documents, and papers relating to the official business of the Government acquired by me while in the employ of the Department." 

Clinton's business-related personal emails, none of which she turned over until just recently, would have qualified as such documents. 

Falsely certifying that one has turned over all such documents, which is what Clinton would have done if she signed such a document at the time of her departure, is a federal crime.

Psaki was quick to add that Clinton is not the only Secretary of State not to sign such a form. "In addition, after looking into their official personnel files, we did not locate any record of either of her immediate predecessors signing this form. It's not clear that this form is used as part of a standard part of checkout across the federal government or even at the State Department so we're certainly looking into that."

Christine Rousselle - Open Carry Passed By Texas Senate
Posted: 3/17/2015 2:00:00 PM EST

Texas is one step closer to becoming the latest state to permit the open carry of handguns. The Texas Senate earlier today voted 20-11 along party lines to allow residents of the Lone Star State to carry a weapon unconcealed without a permit.

More than half of U.S. states permit people to carry firearms without a permit. Texas was one of just six states (plus the District of Columbia) that forbids the practice. On the other end of the spectrum, Vermont, Alaska, Arizona, and Wyoming are "constitutional carry" states that permit residents to carry both concealed and openly without a permit.

From the Associated Press:

Senators voted 20-11 Monday to approve Senate Bill 17, which would allow open carry legal for those with a concealed handgun license.

Vote after vote on more than 20 proposed floor amendments to SB 17 showed party lines were drawn. Every vote was 20-11, with the 20 Republicans voting in favor and 11 Democrats voting against.

The bill would allow concealed handgun license holders to display their guns outside of their clothes.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) has pledged to sign a bill legalizing open carry into law. Texas forbade the concealed carry of firearms until 1995.

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