tipsheet
Christine Rousselle - Former Mayor Attempts to Assault Maine Governor With Jar of Vaseline at Forum
Posted: 4/3/2015 6:20:00 PM EST

Yesterday, during a town hall-style forum about the state's budget, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) was nearly assaulted by a flying jar of Vaseline thrown by the former Mayor of Biddeford, Joanne Twomey. Twomey, who stormed the stage and was hampered by security before she could actually forcefully throw the jar at the governor, proceeded to toss a jar of Vaseline on to the stage. The forum then ended shortly afterwards.

In 2013, LePage described a Democrat state senator of being "[...]the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline."

The exchange starts about two minutes in to this video:

From the Portland Press Herald:

Twomey had not been charged with any crimes as of Thursday night, and Steele said he was not sure if police would pursue the issue.

Afterward, Twomey defended her actions while talking to the media and other forum attendees, several of whom accused her of “ruining” the event.

Regardless of a person's thoughts about any elected official, it's not okay to rush the stage and throw something (anything!) at a person. That is not how adults communicate. The fact that Twomey had the presence of mind to carry a jar of Vaseline to the event speaks volumes of her character.

Guy Benson - Comparison: Previous Obama Demands vs. Terms of New Nuclear Framework
Posted: 4/3/2015 4:15:00 PM EST

President Obama insists that his administration's preliminary outline of a nuclear deal with Iran is a "good deal," and the best option the West could have hoped for. Despite asserting for years that no deal would be preferable to an overly-permissive one, the White House now presents its proto-agreement as the only real alternative to all-out war.  This line of argument relies on a now-familiar demagogic construction from Obama: "It's my way, or catastrophe -- and those who disagree are reckless ideologues."  In examining the terms of the agreement, however, one is struck by how far it strays from the administration's stated goals heading into negotiations.  Obama has moved the goalposts dramatically (as is his wont) and is hoping that observers will simply disregard his previous statements and stances (as has long been his wont).  The Washington Post's editorial board declines to wipe its collective memory and mindlessly pick up pom-poms for Obama's new definition of what constitutes an acceptable bargain.  The stinging opening passage from their tough house editorial entitled, "Obama's Iran deal falls far short of his own goals:"

The “key parameters” for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program released Thursday fall well short of the goals originally set by the Obama administration. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be “reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state. That’s a long way from the standard set by President Obama in 2012 when he declared that “the deal we’ll accept” with Iran “is that they end their nuclear program” and “abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place.” Those resolutions call for Iran to suspend the enrichment of uranium. Instead, under the agreement announced Thursday, enrichment will continue with 5,000 centrifuges for a decade, and all restraints on it will end in 15 years.

Here's video of Obama in 2013 dismissing critics of the interim agreement the P5+1 powers reached with Iran (which the regime subsequently "accidentally" violated while actively cheating on other international embargoes), assuring concerned Americans that the US government did not recognize any Iranian right to enrich. He detailed some additional concessions an eventual deal would need to secure from Tehran (via CNS News):


“They don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They don't need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess…"

Obama went on to say that a core question would be whether Iran demonstrates a willingness to "roll back" its nuclear program's advancements. Many of those advancements came to fruition in secret, rogue facilities that were hidden from international inspectors, in direct violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory. Those NPT breaches prompted a string of UN resolutions and were the impetus for the tough sanctions regime (opposed at the time by Obama) that ultimately forced the regime to the bargaining table.  Yesterday's announced framework would vitiate all of those existing UN resolutions and lift all nuclear-related sanctions (with re-imposition being a highly unlikely outcome, even if Iran is accused of cheating).  The outline cites NPT as a backstop against Iranian misbehavior beyond agreed-upon 10- and 15-year restriction expirations, but the regime has repeatedly flouted that treaty.  Why would things be any different?  In any case, according to Obama's own previously-stated standards, any Iran deal was supposed to achieve certain minimum aims:

(1) "End their nuclear program," with the US refusing to acknowledge any Iranian "right to enrich."   The new framework keeps Iran's nuclear infrastructure almost entirely in place, requiring mostly reversible pauses in capacity and capability.  It enshrines Iran's right to enrich uranium, permitting the regime 5,000 centrifuges to do so.

(2) Require Iran to "abide by UN resolutions."  The new framework eliminates and supplants those resolutions, on which Iran had repeatedly cheated, and is still failing to meet with full compliance.

(3) Reflect the reality that Iran doesn't need "an underground, fortified facility like Fordow" for a peaceful program.   Instead of being eliminated under the new framework, Fordow remains operational, with hundreds centrifuges spinning.  Iran merely agreed to temporarily treat Fordow as an academic "nuclear research" location, abiding by a 15-year moratorium on uranium enrichment.

(4) Reflect the reality that Iran "certainly" doesn't need a heavy water reactor at Arak."  Under the terms of the new framework, Iran gets to keep the heavy water reactor at Arak, so long as they "redesign and rebuild" it in such a way that precludes production of weapons-grade plutonium.  After 15 years, Iran is free to build additional heavy water reactors.

(5) Prevent Iran from using and developing "advanced centrifuges," capable of producing more potent nuclear material, faster.  The new framework does limit active centrifuges to the simplest form available for ten years, after which Iran's stockpile of five more advanced centrifuge models can come back on line (they are put into "timeout," not destroyed, under the deal).  Even during the ten-year pause, Iran is allowed to engage in "limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges."

(6) Require Iran to "roll back" nuclear advancements.  While some technologies are frozen and mothballed, precious few elements of Iran's nuclear program will be irreversibly dismantled, and none -- zero -- of its existing nuclear sites (including the secret ones Iran lied about while making important advancements) will be closed.


The IAEA's former nuclear inspections chief declares himself "puzzled" by the deal, flatly stating, “you’re going to leave Iran as a threshold state. There isn’t much room to maneuver.”  That bleak assessment echoes the exact concerns expressed by the Israeli government, which strongly opposes the proposed agreement.  Meanwhile, the French are castigating yesterday's developments as an exercise in weak-kneed capitulation:

On Friday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio that France had rejected an original of the deal outline as “not solid enough”, and had held out for firmer conditions. However, Fabius told the radio station that the Iranian delegation had responded by threatening to walk out of the talks. The French delegation was considered by observers to be one of the hardest bargainers of the P5+1 countries...French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who represented France in the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, revealed on Friday that his nation had rejected an original version of the deal reached the day before for not being “solid enough.”

Desperate to keep the Iranians at the table, John Kerry accepted those "not solid enough" terms one day later.  I'll leave you with video of Iranians celebrating in the streets over what the regime has been applauding as a big victory, some hardliners' grousing notwithstanding:


Before you go, read this piece by Daniel Drezner, who counts the ways the new framework could still fall apart prior to finalization.

Matt Vespa - New Report Lists 601 Ways To Save $2.6 Trillion Over Five Years
Posted: 4/3/2015 3:35:00 PM EST

We all know government waste is a problem. Then-Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) published an annual Wastebook report to highlight absurd government spending during his time in the Senate. Now, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has released their Prime Cuts report for 2015, highlighting 601 programs that are costing the U.S. billions of dollars a year. According to their press release, if Congress were to adhere to their 601 recommendations, it would save taxpayers $639 billion in the first year alone and $2.6 trillion over five years.

There are also no “scared cows” in their report; everything is put in the fiscal crosshairs. With a national debt of $18.2 trillion and climbing, everything should be discussed, which could draw some raised eyebrows from conservatives over defense. Here are some of the biggest slices of pork:

Eliminate the Rural Utilities Service

1-Year Savings: $9.6 billion

5-Year Savings: $48.1 billion

The Rural Electrification Administration (REA) was established in 1935 to bring electricity to America’s rural communities. By 1981, 98.7 percent electrification and 95 percent telephone service coverage was achieved. Rather than declaring victory and shutting down the REA, the agency was transformed into the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) in 1994, and then expanded to provide loans and grants for other utilities including telephone service to underserved areas of the country. That mission was further expanded under the 2002 Farm Bill to provide broadband services to unserved or underserved rural areas, which are generally defined as communities with populations of less than 20,000. These services are provided in part through the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program (BAP).

Some of the BAP’s wasteful projects include the $667,120 given to Buford Communications of LaGrange, Arkansas (population 122) in 2009 to build a hybrid fiber coax network and a new community center. This equates to $5,468 per resident of LaGrange.

Another RUS program that has been rife with waste is the Water and Waste Disposal System Loans and Grants Program (WWD), which was intended to improve quality of life and create jobs in rural communities. According to a

July 2012 Department of Agriculture Inspector General (IG) report, “as of September 30, 2011, RUS had obligated $3.3 billion in grants and loans to fund 854 WWD projects throughout the United States.” Only three of the

22 projects examined by the IG were completed on time, and the majority of the projects were started five to 30 months after the funds were obligated. The RUS created only 415 new jobs through the WWD, which is “less than 20 percent of the actual jobs identified in planning estimates.”

Eliminate Unrequested Funding for Retrofit of M1 Abrams Tank to the M12A SEP Variant

1-Year Savings: $120 million

5-Year Savings: $3 billion

Over the objections of senior DOD officials, members of Congress have for many years been earmarking funds for the M1 Abrams tank retrofit program. In his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) on February 17, 2012, Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno said that the U.S. possesses more than enough tanks to meet the country’s needs. In fact, the Army has so many M1 tanks that 2,000 of them are parked

in a California desert.

The army intended to retrofit the remainder of the 2,384 M1 tanks it needed by the end of 2013, after which it would delay the upgrade program until 2017, saving taxpayers $3 billion. During this timeframe, the DOD would focus on designing the next generation of tanks, which would be better equipped for the changing nature of warfare. Intended to take on other tanks, the M1 Abrams proved susceptible to asymmetric tactics such as improvised explosive devices employed by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. General Odierno stated that warfare has changed: “...we don’t believe we will ever see a straight conventional conflict again in the future.”

Unfortunately, members of Congress have different ideas. On April 20, 2012,
a bipartisan letter insisting on the continuation of the program from 173 representatives reached the desk of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Although the main tank plant is located in Lima, Ohio, suppliers are spread across the country, which helps to explain the extensive support.

The FY 2015 DOD Appropriations Act contained a $120 million earmark for the program, and hinted at a parochial incentive for continuing the program, stating that the funding will be used to “maintain [the] critical industrial base.” There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned jobs program disguised as national security. Since FY 1994, there have been 38 earmarks for the M1 Abrams program, requested by at least 13 members of Congress, costing taxpayers $906.6 million. As Congress continues to ignore the DOD, taxpayers will continue to foot the bill for modifications to what Gen. Odierno described as “280 tanks that we simply do not need.”

Reduce Medicare Improper Payments by 50 Percent over Five Years

1-Year Savings: $0

5-Year Savings: $24 billion

Medicare is plagued with the highest reported amount of improper payments of any federal program. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) FY 2014 Comprehensive Error Rate Testing Report, the improper payment rate was 12.7 percent and the improper payment amount was $46 billion. Because of its chronic vulnerability to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, GAO has for 20 years designated the Medicare program as “high risk.”

In a bipartisan effort to reduce improper payments and help stave off the impending bankruptcy of the Medicare Trust Fund, Congress first implemented a Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) demonstration project for Medicare Parts A and B that ran from 2005 to 2008 and recovered more than $900 million in overpayments to providers. Congress enacted legislation to expand the program nationwide and make it permanent, a process that began in early 2009 and was fully implemented by September 2010.

In 2010, Congress further expanded the scope of RACs in the Affordable Care Act to include auditing for Medicare Parts C and D. The legislation also required states and territories to establish RAC programs for Medicaid, noting that the RAC program was a proven, valuable tool in reducing improper payments.

Since the beginning of the RAC program, $9.7 billion has been returned to
the Medicare Trust Fund. In FY 2013 alone, RACs collected $3.65 billion, according to the Medicare Trustees’ report to Congress on the program. Only $57.6 million of that amount, or 1.6 percent, was overturned at the first level of appeal. In addition, only 9.3 percent of all claims that reached the top level of appeal to administrative law judges were overturned in FY 2013.

RACs have an average accuracy rate of 96 percent, which makes them far and away the most successful tool Congress has ever implemented to protect taxpayers and Medicare beneficiaries from rampant improper payments.

Raise the Eligibility Age for Medicare Recipients

1-Year Savings: $0 billion

5-Year Savings: $7.8 billion

The populations that receive Medicare and Social Security are identical; thus, it makes sense that the eligibility age for each should be raised simultaneously. Medicare alone is expected to cost more than $1 trillion annually by 2020 and will become insolvent by 2030. The 2014 Medicare Trustees Report projects Medicare spending as a percentage of the economy to increase from 3.4 percent in 2014 to 6.3 percent in 2085.

Under current law, Medicare recipients can begin collecting benefits at the age of 65.

According to a March 10, 2011, CBO report, using 2017 as the starting point to increase Medicare’s eligibility age by two months annually until it reaches 67 would reduce Medicare costs by 10 percent by 2035. It would reduce federal spending by $124.8 billion over the next 10 years. As life expectancies (happily) keep growing, raising the eligibility age is likely to be the easiest, least controversial method of reining in Medicare costs.

Other recommendations include privatizing the U.S. Postal Service, which has been running at a loss of $10.5 billion over the past two years; minting $1 coins to replace printing $1 bills, which would save $146 million in the first year and $730 million over five years; and privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which would save $1.5 billion in the first year and $6.7 billion over the next five.

Out west, voters and politicians will probably like CAGW’s suggestion that the federal government should stop buying land.

Corporate welfare, peanut, dairy, and sugar subsidies are also placed on the chopping block. Corporate welfare may find some bipartisan support, but the subsidies will be an obstacle. Just look at the agriculture lobby and their defense on sugar subsides, which was detailed by Newt Gingrich during his presidential campaign in 2012 (via NYT):

Asked during a debate in Florida whether he favored sugar industry subsidies, Mr. Gingrich said that “one of the fascinating things about America” was how “cane sugar hides behind beet sugar,” and he went on to explain: “There are just too many beet sugar districts in the United States. It’s an amazing side story.”

Indeed. 

As the Star Tribune wrote last year, the lobby has given over a million dollars to over 100 House and Senate candidates, along with spending another million spent on lobbying. Who knew the sugar lobby rivaled that  of big business and banks in influence:

American Crystal Sugar has become one of the country's most powerful lobbying groups, doling out cash contributions to lawmakers at levels approaching big-business groups like the American Bankers Association. And it's all for a single objective: To guarantee tariffs and price supports allow sugar beet farmers to make money, even if it drives the cost of sugar above the global market.

To protect sugar subsidies, American Crystal's political arm gave $1.16 million to 177 House and Senate candidates in 2011, and spent more than $1 million for lobbying. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich alluded to the sugar industry's power in a debate last week in Florida.

“In an ideal world, you would have an open market …," Gingrich said. "But it`s very hard to imagine how you`re going to get there … The capacity of the agricultural groups to defend themselves is pretty amazing.”

So, while CAGW’s report is a great blueprint for putting government on a diet, there’s the special interests, and other machinations of government, that will make gutting and cutting the pig into nicely sliced “prime cuts” difficult. Still, we should all accept that challenge.

Leah Barkoukis - The Friday Filibuster: Deal or No Deal
Posted: 4/3/2015 2:20:00 PM EST

The Friday Filibuster: The one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about this week in politics.

90 percent- the chance Carly Fiorina will run in 2016

1.6 million – the number of letters Americans sent to Congress to end ObamaNet

58 percent of Kentuckians support local right to work laws

50 percent of Florida voters see the former Secretary of State as dishonest, as do 49 percent of Pennsylvania voters and 47 percent of Ohio voters. 

40 percent - The percentage of the Hispanic vote the GOP needs to win in 2016. 

HRC

Hillary is still in hot water over Email-gate. Rep. Trey Gowdy is requesting she appear before the House Select Committee on Benghazi to further understand the decisions she made regarding public records, like wiping her server clean. It also doesn’t help matters that she was caught in a lie about using only one device for email, or that her ex-aide had a secret intelligence network. All of this is making that time she said the Bush administration might have ‘something to hide’ by refusing to turn over documents all the more hypocritical

Campaigns & Elections

Not to be left out with Sen. Ted Cruz already announcing, and Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio soon to announce, Dr. Ben Carson said this week he’ll “likely” be unveiling his presidential plans the first week of May. Whether NJ Gov. Chris Christie jumps into the race remains to be seen, but he did pledge his support for a 20-week abortion ban just hours after a pro-life group placed his name in red. Is this telling? We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side of things, Sen. Elizabeth Warren will not be running for president in 2016, which leaves an unchallenged Hillary. According to Rubio, the next election is going to be much bigger than just which party will win, it will determine the future of this country. At the congressional level, as we learned last week, Harry Reid will be retiring in 2016; here’s a video of the very worst of the Nevada senator. He won’t be missed

Indiana & Religious Freedom

The reaction this week to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been fierce, with critics claiming the RFRA is a draconian attack on LGBT rights under the guise of religious liberty. The reality, however, is far from it. But progressives can’t handle the truth. Nevertheless, Pence addressed the controversy head on and set the record straight, going so far as to agree to have the state legislature improve the bill’s language. On Thursday, GOP lawmakers came up with a fix, but not in time to prevent supporters of the bill from being hacked and the target of threatening attacks.

Global Security

Just before the deadline for a nuclear deal this week Iran made yet another demand that they were no longer willing to ship their enriched uranium out of the country. Predictably, the deadline came and went and Howard Dean said it’s time for the U.S. to walk away. As of Thursday, however, Iran and six world powers “agreed on the outlines of an understanding to limit Iran’s nuclear programs.” This is not a deal, though. Guy fleshes out what it is exactly. Either way, however, it seems Iran got the better of the agreement.

Meanwhile, chaos in Yemen continues; al Shabaab carried out a deadly attack on a university in Kenya, killing roughly 150 individuals; and European leaders are increasingly for sending U.S. arms to Ukraine

In other news

Lois Lerner escaped criminal contempt charges; Sen. Bob Menendez has been formally charged with corruption; and the IRS offers tax deductions for abortions but not stillborn babies. 

Matt Vespa - Carry Rights Are Here To Stay In DC
Posted: 4/3/2015 12:45:00 PM EST

Last July, the Palmer v. DC case finally struck down the District of Columbia’s law prohibiting the carrying of firearms outside the home as unconstitutional. Now, it’s here to stay (via FoxDC):

District of Columbia officials will no longer challenge a court ruling that struck down a ban on carrying handguns outside the home.

Attorney General Karl Racine announced Wednesday that he'll ask a federal appeals court to dismiss the District's appeal in the case.

The D.C. Council has already passed laws allowing people to obtain concealed-carry permits. However, gun-right advocates say it's too difficult to get a permit and are challenging the new laws in court. Residents must show a specific reason why they need to carry a handgun, among other restrictions.

Racine says in a statement that his office will focus on defending the concealed-carry laws. He says he's confident they will be upheld.

The Palmer case was a decision five years in the making, and it applied to both open and concealed carrying of handguns. Yet, the ten-round magazine ordinance and the ban on the open carrying of rifles and shotguns remained in effect. A stay in the decision was agreed upon by both parties to allow the DC city council to draft a law that reflected the court’s decision. To no one’s surprise, the new law was a stringent "may issue" carry law. The Washington Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowksi discussed at length the concealed carry application process, where only eight permits have been issued (so far) in a city of nearly 660,000. Oh, and there's only one instructor to handle all these applications.

Yes, this is more of a symbolic victory. But it’s worth noting that this news, coupled with Illinois being the last state to recognize concealed carry rights in 2014, shows that there is some form of carry law on the books in all 50 states, including the District of Columbia. That’s a sign of progress. The next step is taking "may issue" carry laws into the courtroom. We almost got there with Drake v. Jerejian, which concerned the “justifiable need” requirement in the New Jersey concealed handgun permit process. John M. Drake, one of the petitioners, argued it was unconstitutional; the Supreme Court declined to hear the case last year. If one day the Court decides to hear this case–and strikes down that provision–DC will have to revise their permit process again. And it could strike "may issue" carry laws as unconstitutional across the country. 

Cortney O'Brien - Wow: Bitter DC Dems Want 'Reagan' Removed from Airport Title
Posted: 4/3/2015 11:00:00 AM EST

In 1998, the Washington National Airport in Arlington, VA was renamed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport – and local Democrats are still bitter about it.

The Washington Post recently conducted a survey of Washington, DC area residents, asking them what they prefer to call the busy airport. The results show that while younger people tend to call it by its current title, Reagan National, older, liberal commuters refuse to utter the name of the conservative president. In total, 72 percent of Republicans surveyed said they refer to it as 'Reagan' or 'Reagan National,' while only 35 percent of Democrats acknowledged the airport by that name. 

Survey participant Jason West's eloquent explanation perhaps says it all.

“I’m still mad about the name, because of how it got passed. It got forced upon all the people here by a small group of powerful men in Congress,” says survey respondent Jason West, 57, a business analyst who lives in D.C.

“It’s almost like all those Republicans wanted to stick a middle finger up to all the people who live here,” West recalls. “I don’t know why [President Bill] Clinton didn’t veto it.”

Yeesh. Talk about being overly sensitive. I'm not the biggest fan of John F. Kennedy or his policies, but am I going to stop calling New York City's main international airport JFK? Of course not.

Interestingly, it's not just commuters who are rejecting the 'Reagan National' title. One of President Reagan's most notable demonstrations while he served in the Oval Office has apparently left pilots with a bad taste in their mouths as well.

Reagan’s firing of 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981 may also be why neither pilots nor air traffic controllers seem to use the airport’s proper name. When talking to pilots, air traffic controllers say DCA or National, says Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown, who didn’t speculate as to why that is. Pilots tend to say “Washington Tower” or “National Tower.”

That's right. Because of a decision made over 30 years ago that, in context, was a fair one, (Reagan warned the striking pilots they would lose their job if they didn't return to work), pilots flying into DC today reject his name. 

WaPo did manage, however, to find at least one DC resident who had some common sense. Chris Sloan, 50, is a banker from Connecticut and happens to be a Republican, yet his reason for calling the airport 'Reagan' has nothing to do with his party.

“I don’t call it Reagan because of my political affiliation,” Sloan says. “I call it Reagan because that’s the name of the airport.”

A liberal who is bold enough to call it the 'Reagan airport' does not have to worry about their conscience - it's just a name. They are not denouncing their long held beliefs; they're taking a mode of transportation.

If you still refuse to let go of grudges or bitterness toward the 40th president and can't even fly from an airport named Reagan, go fly a kite.

Daniel Doherty - Prosecutors: Evidence Suggests Lubitz Planned to Crash Germanwings Flight 9525
Posted: 4/3/2015 9:00:00 AM EST

One of many questions that have surfaced after German pilot Andrea Lubitz allegedly drove a commercial airliner into a mountain in Southern France last week is whether or not he planned to carry out such a despicable act of cowardice in advance. Bearing in mind the obvious caveat that the investigation is still underway – and investigators can never know with absolute certainty what happened – the preliminary evidence suggests that it was.

The New York Times reports:

The co-pilot at the controls of the Germanwings airliner that crashed into the French Alps last week had been searching the Internet in the days immediately leading up to the crash for information about how to commit suicide and the security measures for cockpit doors, prosecutors said here on Thursday. …

“During this time the user was searching for medical treatments, as well as informing himself about ways and possibilities of killing himself,” they said in a statement.

“On at least one day the person concerned also spent several minutes looking up search terms about cockpit doors and their safety measures,” the statement said.

Strangely, as the flight descended during those eight minutes of desperation, Lubitz remained eerily silent. As far as investigators can surmise, he was breathing calmly and relatively serene until the moment of impact. Investigators, meanwhile, have also concluded that the flight’s captain was locked out of the cockpit, and attempted to use several objects to regain entry when he discovered what was happening. Finally, we also know Lubitz suffered from “severe depression” – a medical condition the company he worked for apparently knew about.

Given these facts – as well as new details that Lubitz was both 'Googling' ways to off himself and the security mechanisms of cockpit doors – is there any doubt that he committed this treacherous act of mass murder? As it happens, there is:

Friends of Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz say he is being framed as a murderer in the plane crash that killed 150 on board a flight last week from Barcelona, Spain, to Düsseldorf, Germany. His supporters have established a Facebook page titled (in German) “Andreas Lubitz A320, we are against the hunt” to share their theories about the causes of the March 24 crash in the French Alps, the Daily Mail reported. Several commenters on the page have said investigators' statements that Lubitz, 27, intentionally crashed the plane are part of a cover-up by Germanwings parent company Lufthansa to hide mechanical issues that may have resulted in the crash.

This would be one hell of a cover up. The evidence, however, strongly suggests that Lubitz was solely responsible for what happened.

Defending him by eliding – or even inventing – certain facts does not necessarily make him innocent.

Greg Hengler - FeIgned Outrage and Polical Theater From Democrats in Indiana/Arkansas
Posted: 4/3/2015 8:34:00 AM EST

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

Bill Bennett and Matt Franck on Indiana's political theater, aka the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Jeb Bush blasts the Democrats feigned outrage towards Indiana and Arkansas. Mike Gallagher and Dennis Prager discuss the liberal common core value seen in Indiana and Arkansas: hysteria. Hewitt and Tom Cotton on Obama's Iran deal. Bill Bennett and Michael Rubin on Obama's Iran "framework." Hewitt and Arthur Brooks and being for something as opposed to being against something with regards to the Indiana/Arkansas. Prager on the Germanwings Flight crash.

Guy Benson - Revealed: What You Need to Know About the Iranian Nuclear 'Framework'
Posted: 4/2/2015 6:45:00 PM EST

The deal is not done -- as the Iranians are eager to remind everyone -- because various particulars must still be hammered out between now and the end of June. The devil still lurks in crucial details, and potential sticking points abound. That said, the framework announced earlier today is more specific that many had expected. It contains elements that both sides will point to as meaningful wins, though Iran appears to have gotten the better of the agreement on the whole. Based on a State Department "fact sheet" summary -- worded, unsurprisingly, to reassure skeptical Americans -- and other reporting, here's what we know:


What Iran Gets:

(1) An active nuclear program with international legitimacy: The Obama administration's original goal at the outset of these talks was to eliminate Iran's nuclear program; the Washington Post's editors write that the White House's stance has since "evolved into a plan to tolerate and temporarily restrict [Iran's nuclear] capability." Their infrastructure stays intact. They don't have to shut down any existing nuclear sites, including the ones they illegally developed in secret.

(2) Thousands of operational centrifuges: Despite agreeing to effectively uninstall (but not destroy) roughly two-thirds of their centrifuges (although that statistic is actually inflated), Iran is permitted to keep 6,100 on line, with just over 5,000 actively enriching low-grade uranium. The US' reported initial aim was to reduce this number to between 500 and 1,500. Hundreds of centrifuges (sans uranium) will continue to spin in Iran's once-covert, difficult-to-penetrate Fordow mountain facility, which was discovered by Western intelligence agencies in 2009.  Iran says it will convert the facility into a nuclear "research" center, used for purely peaceful purposes.

(3) Expiration dates on restrictions: Virtually all of the major Western-imposed restrictions on Iran's program "sunset" after a period of 10 to 15 years.  Iran's chief negotiator described these limitations as temporary, lasting only "for a period of time."  These are gigantic, consequential concessions. President Obama confirmed these points in his Rose Garden statement this afternoon, but Sec. Kerry later told reporters that there was "no sunset" in the deal.  Kerry may have been referring to the IAEA inspections regime, which does not appear to have any expiration date, meaning that Iran has, in theory, agreed to perpetual inspections over an unlimited time horizon.

(4) Major sanctions relief: Crucially, all American and international nuclear-based sanctions against Iran are to be lifted immediately upon an initial IAEA (the UN's nuclear watchdog) affirmation that Tehran has so far lived up to its end of the bargain.  Kerry stated that the exact timing of this major event is still under discussion, but if it goes through, Iran will receive immense sanctions relief in exchange for going along with the program at its earliest stages.  There does not appear to be any phase-in of sanctions reductions over time, contingent on continued Iranian compliance.  This would be an enormous boon to Iran's economy (freeing up cash for the regime to fund its continued malfeasance around the world), with Western "strings attached" getting severed very early on.  In addition to the sanctions, existing anti-Iran UN resolutions will be ripped up.  They would be extremely challenging to re-impose, for reasons discussed below.

(5) No action on other abuses and rogue programs: The regime's sponsorship and direct facilitation of terrorism, malignant meddling in the region, egregious human rights abuses, and rogue missile program are all untouched by this agreement.  Obama acknowledged all of these ongoing sins in his statement, noting that US sanctions attached to the regime's other bad behavior will remain in place.  America is cutting a deal with a regime that it admits is still engaging in international lawlessness and terrorism on a massive scale.

What America and the West Get:

(1) A relatively robust-sounding inspections/verification regime: Again, this might have been what Kerry meant when he was boasting about the deal's lack of a "sunset."  In fact, really important parts of the agreement would expire after just ten years, but it seems as though the inspections aren't among them.  We'll see if indefinite, unlimited inspections makes the final cut of this still-unwritten "deal."  It appears for now that by accepting the IAEA's so-called "additional protocol," Iran has effectively agreed in principle to allow "snap," or unannounced, inspections.  They've also granted international inspectors access to known and suspected nuclear sites.

(2) Limiting Iran's enrichment to low levels, with rudimentary technology: For now, that is.  These limitations start to go away after 10 years, with others following five years on.  The discussed restrictions would apply to the number of centrifuges enriching uranium, the important enrichment levels (which determine whether nuclear materials can be used in a bomb), and the sophistication of centrifuges being used and developed by Tehran.

(3) A lengthened Iranian nuclear "breakout" period: At present, Iran is estimated to be two-to-three months away from achieving "breakout" (the process of enriching enough nuclear material to the necessary level of purity to make the bomb).  The terms of this framework would extend Tehran's breakout period to one year.  That's an improvement that would theoretically allow the world community extra time to identify and punish any Iranian subterfuge.  Why "theoretically"? Stay tuned. 

(4) Iran reduces its current stockpile of nuclear materials:  In addition to cutting its number of operational centrifuges, Iran agrees to scale back its stockpile of existing low-enriched uranium from 10,000 kg to 300 kg.  The West insisted upon removing that stockpile from the country, but the Iranians started resisting that course of action as a deal-breaker in the last few days.  The State Department's summary doesn't make clear what happens to the nuclear material in question.  Does it get shipped out of Iran?  Does it get diluted by international monitors?  Unclear.

Outstanding Problems and Concerns:

Well, let's start with Iranian officials' various triumphant pronouncements, including throwing serious shade at the State Department's "fact sheet," which is dismissed as "spin."  Which of its elements does Tehran view as illegitimate or misleading? One supposes that Kerry and company will find out in the next few months, as the nuclear clock ticks away, of course:


Beyond that, the agreement appears to punt on the important question of how Iran will address concerns about previous alleged military applications of their nuclear program, which the IAEA has been insisting they do for some time.  "Coming clean" about past activities a developments is an important step in ensuring that the international community can effectively monitor Iran's nuclear progress, or lack thereof.  How this gets resolved is another TBD component of the "understanding."  Also, let's say Iran were to violate the terms of a finalized deal (as they did with the interim deal, which was dismissed as a "mistake" by the Obama administration).  Then what?  Then, in theory, the international community could quickly reimpose "snap back" sanctions, and consider other options -- including even harsher sanctions, or military action.  But this would require a difficult-to-achieve consensus at the UN Security Council, with always-looming vetoes resting in the hands of the Chinese, and...Putin's Russia, which rarely misses a chance to frustrate American designs and embarrass our leaders.  And this all assumes the vaunted international community would even be able to agree that Iran was cheating at all.  These disputes could drag out for long periods of time, experts warn, presenting logistical and geopolitical delays of which Tehran would no doubt take full advantage.   In other words, reinstating lapsed sanctions and taking corrective action against will be a laborious, improbable undertaking.  Iran also knows that it doesn't necessarily need to push its luck with dramatic breaches; the regime can cheat at the margins, and wait out certain restrictions in the deal, after which they'd be legally free to move ahead with an extensive nuclear program, the existence of which had been effectively blessed by the West.  The Israelis, who have the most to lose at the hands of an intensely anti-Semitic nuclear-armed Mullahocracy, are, shall we say, alarmed:


Finally, a few notes on President Obama's Rose Garden remarks, after which he took no questions: He gave a short history lesson about recent US-Iranian relations, correctly stating that stepped-up sanctions hurt Iran's economy and forced them to the negotiating table.  He didn't mentioned that he'd strenuously resisted those very sanctions.  This is a reflection on his judgment.  Obama went on to claim that the current interim agreement has worked flawlessly, despite cynics' complaints when it was unveiled. This brag ignores an inconvenient little "mishap" that we oughtn't worry about.  Let's also recall that a major reason that additional sanctions were slapped on Iran in the first place is that they were caught cheating on another international nuclear treaty -- because that's what they do.  They cheat.  The State Department's fact sheet assures us that even when various provisions of the new would-be deal expire, Iran would still be bound by that same treaty (NPT) it has already breached.  In an attempt to fortify the mullah's good intentions on the nuclear front, Obama cited a religious order, or "fatwa," issued by Ayatollah Khamenei that forbids nuclear weapons. Two problems: The fatwa doesn't actually exist, and Iran has a history of ignoring their own fatwas in order to achieve their military goals.  Obama's reference to this nonexistence edict is misleading and naive.

Obama also stated his administration's intention of "fully briefing" Congress on any eventual deal, and to seek out a "constructive role" for them to play.  Will the president deign to "allow" a coequal branch of the United States government to vote on what amounts to a foreign treaty, as required by the Constitution?  He didn't say.  Perhaps encouragingly, he warned Congress not to kill the deal (which may signal that a vote will be held, as key leaders on the Hill are pushing hard), lest the failure of international diplomacy be "blamed" on America.  He, of course, resurrected his straw man that opposition to a very flawed deal is tantamount to adopting a pro-war stance.  He basically said straight-up that only a negotiated agreement, not harsh sanctions or military action, can solve the Iranian nuclear problem -- which at the very least undermines is own leverage moving forward.  Last but not least, Obama is asking the country to trust him that this "good deal" is "by far" our best option.  This is a man who repeatedly made false assertions to Americans about his healthcare overhaul, was humiliated and routed by adversaries in the Syrian 'red line' debacle, and green-lit and (attempted to whitewash) an unpopular (and unlawful) deal trading five top-level terrorists back to the Taliban in exchange for an accused American deserter.  His credibility on foreign policy is quite low, as is the American public's overall opinion of Iran's trustworthiness and intentions:



Leah Barkoukis - Nigeria's President-elect Vows to Crush Boko Haram
Posted: 4/2/2015 4:31:00 PM EST

In what proved to be a historic election in Nigeria this week, with challenger Muhammadu Buhari ousting incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, Boko Haram’s insurgency may finally be put in check—something Jonathan’s administration utterly failed to do.

Though Buhari has a rather sketchy record as the country’s former military dictator, there is reason to believe he has the will—and hopefully the ability—to turn things around.

“I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror and bring back peace,” Buhari said in his first address to the nation. “We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism. In tackling the insurgency, we have a tough and urgent job to do.”

He also pledged to rein in widespread corruption in the country.

But Buhari, 72, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), preached a receptive government “for all Nigerians” that would work to eradicate the “evil” of corruption.

He said: “There shall no longer be a ruling party again. [The] APC will be a governing party. We shall faithfully serve. We shall never rule over the people as if they were subservient to government. Our long night has past and the daylight of new democratic government has broken across the land.

“Democracy and the rule of law will be established in the land,” he added. “Let’s put the past behind us, especially the recent past. We must forget our old battles and past grievances and forge ahead.

“You shall be able to go to bed knowing that you are safe and that your constitutional rights remain in safe hands. You shall be able to voice your opinion without fear of reprisal or victimisation. You are all my people and I shall treat everyone of you as my own.”

Buhari won the election with 15.4 million votes compared to Jonathan’s 13.3 million.