Paul Ryan Proposal Conflates Anti-Poverty Programs, Returns Power to States

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) studied a blend of politics and economics at his Ohio alma mater and he has continually made this fusion a priority in Washington. The House Budget Committee Chairman proposed a pilot program to consolidate 11 federal anti-poverty programs into one fund which would stream directly to states which opted-in. This conflation would, in theory, allow more flexibility for states to create aid options based on the unique struggles of its impoverished residents.

Ryan explained his plan in a USA Today op-ed Thursday:

Here's how the program would work: Each state that wanted to participate would submit a plan to the federal government. That plan would lay out in detail the state's proposed alternative. If everything passed muster, the federal government would give the green light. And the state would get more flexibility to combine things such as food stamps, housing subsidies, child care assistance and cash welfare. This simpler Opportunity Grant would include the same money as current law.

Plans would be approved on four conditions: The state would have to spend all funding on people in need. Second, the state would have to hold people accountable through work requirements and time limits for every able-bodied recipient just as there are for cash welfare today.

Third, the state would have to offer at least two service providers. The state welfare agency couldn't be the only game in town. And fourth, the state would have to measure progress through a neutral third party to keep track of key metrics.

The House Budget Committee defined federal anti-poverty programs as “duplicative and complex” in a 205-page analysis of the War on Poverty in March. The government spent $799 billion on the programs in 2012, the report found.

The new program would give families choices between approved non-profits, for-profits, or community groups, removing the monopoly of state agencies. According to Ryan, the scheme, dubbed the “Opportunity Grant,” would create more accountability and could be more closely eyed for results rather than sums.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) claimed Democrats would welcome any programs that would “create pathways to the middle class,” however, he was wary that the term "reform" might actually be a clever attempt to cut “vital safety-net programs.”

Rejoice: Meriam Ibrahim and Family Escape Sudan, Arrive in Italy

Sentenced to death for apostasy and confined to a prison cell for months (where she delivered her second child) Meriam Ibrahim fully expected to die a martyr's death. But now, it can be said, her harrowing experience is finally over.

And Thank God.

To recap, she was initially granted a pardon and freed after Sudan’s government overturned her death sentence for apostasy when international lobbying efforts from humanitarian groups and Western governments proved successful, only to be detained at the airport for “falsifying” her travel documents. Her entire family was apprehended, too, and after some scary bumps in the road, was finally granted refuge at the US embassy in Khartoum -- where she’s languished for about a month. Today, however, with the help of the Vatican and the Italian government, and in conjunction with the US State Department, she and her family arrived safely in Italy this morning:

Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian woman who was spared a death sentence for apostasy and then barred from leaving Sudan, met Pope Francis on Thursday after arriving in Rome to jubilant scenes following intense international efforts to free her.

Ms Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani thanked the pontiff for his support and he in turn thanked her for staying true to her Christian faith despite the threat of execution if she did not recant.

The 27-year-old was flown to Italy in a government aircraft and landed at Rome’s Ciampino airport accompanied by her family and Italy's deputy minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli, who flew to Sudan to collect her late on Wednesday

She was released after intense diplomatic negotiations from the Italian government and the Vatican ended an ordeal that lasted almost a year.

So what role did Italy and the Vatican play in securing Ibrahim, and her family’s, release? An indispensable one, it would seem:

[Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Lapo Pistelli] said Italy had become involved in the case because, as a Catholic country, it was very moved by Ibrahim's story and wanted to help.

Italy has good relations with Khartoum and offered to help the U.S. Embassy there to speed up the process of getting U.S. passports for Ibrahim and her family to leave the country, the minister said.

They succeeded, and now one of the most infamous cases of Christian persecution in recent memory can be laid to rest. Pope Francis, meanwhile, welcomed Meriam Ibrahim to the Vatican with open arms upon her arrival. The photograph taken of them, I believe, serves as a fitting and joyous conclusion to an otherwise traumatic and enervating world-event:

Ibrahim, her husband, and their two children are expected to fly to the US in a few days.

Local News Station Exposes How DC Will Collect $61 Million in Parking Tickets Next Year

If the increased metro fare in Washington, DC doesn't consume commuters' paychecks, the parking tickets certainly will. Emily Miller, author of "Emily Gets Her Gun," is the chief investigative reporter for Fox 5. Wednesday night, the local DC-based news station aired her latest report in which she exposed how the local government is finding any excuse to dole out those unpopular pink slips to unsuspecting drivers.

During her investigation, Miller abided by the law, using a Parkmobile app to pay for parking. Yet, upon her return from her yoga class, found a neatly placed ticket on her dashboard, informing her she received a fine for not placing a paper receipt on her car. How many other people, she wondered, were losing money paying with the app?

But, the most ridiculous ticket she received, involved the condition of her city-provided registration.

Apparently, Miller's registration had become unglued while parked and she had "failed to properly affix sticker."

However, she showed viewers a picture of the evidence that suggests otherwise:

"You can clearly see all the information on my registration sticker."

In court, the hearing examiner offered her a deal for half off. Miller still wasn’t buying it:

"I just paid $125 for this sticker a month ago. Now I want to pay $25 more?"

She claimed that the meter maid's photo showed that the sticker was originally put below the black defrost line, which is absurd.

Miller went through the rest of the court process and found she had the option to appeal her case, yet she'd have to pay the initial fine, plus an appeal fine.

Miller summed up the injustice:

"The government is buying cheap tickets and faulting us."

In another instance of the government benefiting from its own mistake, Miller explained how one person supposedly ended up with a poor credit score because of a ticket that never got sent to his house.

Miller interviewed a bank employee who claims to know victims of bad credit score in consequence of a parking violation:

“I actually work at a bank and some people will have mortgages years later, and because of a D.C. parking ticket that never got sent to their house, they can't get a loan, they can't get a mortgage, everything is in trouble,” said Sonia Benjelloun.

Miller tried to request a FOIA from the Department of Motor Vehicles seeking an explanation for these questionable fines. Their response? "The DMV is not required to answer questions."

As Miller asked, "What does that even mean?"

Miller wasn't the only one to call foul on the city’s eagerness to hand out parking tickets. Fox 5 Anchor Tony Perkins also chastised the local government for being too obsessed with "little nitpicky things like this, it's ridiculous."

Thanks to all these nitpicky violations, the city council expects to pocket $61 million next year from parking fines. That is $100 a year for every man, woman and child in the city, according to Fox 5.

I think it’s inevitable that anyone living in the Beltway knows someone who has been victim to the local government’s iffy parking laws. My roommate's friend got a ticket for not backing into spot. My other friend got a ticket for an expired meter, even though she says the meter itself was malfunctioning. She entered a month-long battle in which she had to write the government a letter and print out copies of receipts at the restaurants she went to while she was parked. She ended up not having to pay because her ticket had not even been entered in the system. As you know now, others are not so lucky.

Many drivers consider it more of a hassle to fight the system than to pay the fine. Here were a few of the common complaints Miller found on the street:

"Seems like it would take half a day or more and it’s just such a hassle."

“Just the idea of going to traffic court and the possible hours it would take – it just sounds terrible.”

Can we still criticize the government if we don't voice our frustrations?

Thankfully, more people are speaking up. Immediately after Fox aired Miller's segment, local drivers sped to their phones.

Drivers shouldn't have to be victims. With the revelation that the DC government is raking in millions of dollars off commuters, residents may soon take another look at walking to work - or moving somewhere else.

Watch the full report here:


Flashback: WH, Dems Killed Bill to Strengthen Obamacare Eligibility Verification

In light of the Government Accountability Office's eye-opening investigation into Obamacare's virtually nonexistent fraud protection safeguards, it's worth revisiting some recent history. Prior to last year's government shutdown, House Republicans passed a series of Obamacare-related bills over the adamant objections of most Democrats. One bill, called the 'No Subsidies Without Verification Act,' sailed through the House 235-191, with every single 'no' vote being furnished by Democrats. Only five members of President Obama's party backed this common-sense measure -- which, needless to say, died in Harry Reid's Senate. The impetus behind the legislation was the White House's announcement last summer that it would at least initially rely on the honor system in dispersing the law's subsidies to a subset of the population, wherein enrollees would self-report their income and insurance status. Administration officials had little choice but to pull this trigger, for two reasons: They'd already delayed the employer mandate (complicating the eligibility verification process), and the back end payment systems of weren't going to be completed on time (they are under construction to this day, and won't be ready until 2015). Conservatives decried the move as a reckless invitation to fraud and proposed mitigating solutions, resulting in the aforementioned legislation. As I mentioned earlier, 191 members of Nancy Pelosi's caucus voted to defeat anti-fraud protections that would have delayed the flow of taxpayer-funded subsidies until a basic verification regime was up and running. The White House immediately slapped the idea down:

Like dozens of other bills from the House meant to tweak or repeal ObamaCare, this one also seems likely to go nowhere in the Senate. The White House has said the bill is unnecessary, and President Obama would veto it if it were presented for his signature.

He never followed through on that threat because the bill never reached his desk. Flash forward to mid-October, when the partial government shutdown finally drew to a close. The GOP had been routed, and the only "concession" they won was a requirement that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius certify that Obamacare subsidy eligibility verification procedures had been faithfully carried out prior to the awarding of subsidies. She did so in a letter to Vice President Biden dated January 1, 2014:

"I certify that the American Health Benefit Exchanges (Marketplaces) verify that applicants for advance payments of the premium tax credit and cost-sharing reductions are eligible for such payments and reductions, consistent with the requirements of section 1411 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act…the Marketplace verifies application information provided by the consumer when making an eligibility determination. The Department of Health and Human Services has issued regulations that detail these procedures, and the Marketplaces have implemented numerous systems and processes to carry out these verifications."

Seven months later, the GAO has revealed that "the federal marketplace approved coverage for 11 of our 12 fictitious applicants who initially applied online, or by telephone," with these fake applicants securing approval for $30,000 in taxpayer-funded annual subsidies. Beyond that, "as of July 17, two of the fake applicants were told their citizenship had been verified." The verification process, certified as adequate and thorough by the Obama administration, confirmed the citizenship of two non-existent people. One final background note: When critics of the "honor system" gambit raised their concerns, the administration dismissed the issue as impacting very few consumers, stating that the newly-granted "flexibility" regulations only applied to states running their own exchanges. The implication was that the federal exchange was all squared away. But the coverage approval for those 11 fictional enrollees all came through the federal marketplace, according to GAO.

House Democrats were irresponsible to vote against the 'No Subsidies Without Verification' Act. Senate Democrats were derelict in obstructing its passage by refusing to bring it to a vote. The White House was wrong to shrug the proposal off as "unnecessary." President Obama was myopic and foolish to threaten a veto. And Kathleen Sebelius was negligent in rubber-stamping a system that clearly was not up to the task. Taxpayers have every reason to worry how their hard-earned money is being dispensed through Obamacare, and genuine program enrollees -- who've turned over a great deal of sensitive information -- have every reason to wonder what other safeguards are woefully inadequate. I'll leave you with the GAO director
declining to say whether he believes the Obama administration will have its act together before the next open enrollment period in November:

Gowdy Destroys IRS Commissioner Over Non-Compliance With Investigation Into Tea Party Targeting

Yesterday IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified on Capitol Hill after news surfaced Lois Lerner's hard drive was scratched and that data Koskinen said was lost, may not be lost at all. Considering how difficult it is to access an internal hard drive on a computer, scratching is very suspicious.

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee say that their investigators have learned that the hard drive belonging to former IRS official Lois Lerner was "scratched" and that data was recoverable, according to a release from the committee. The release says that it's unclear if the scratch was put there deliberately or accidentally. Republicans are now accusing the IRS of not being forthcoming after they said in court filings that the data on Lerner's hard drive was unrecoverable....Whether Lois Lerner's emails and data were lost has become the most recent focus in Republicans' investigation into the targeting of conservative groups by the tax-exempt office of the IRS. Lerner pled the fifth during two appearances before the House Oversight Committee, which called her to testify about that targeting.

Since testifying in front of Congress last month, Koskinen has changed his testimony and story about "lost" IRS emails multiple times. Yesterday Rep. Trey Gowdy took him to task over inconsistent statements and slow walking the investigation into IRS targeting of conservative groups. Koskinen argued that he is not asking questions or investigating because the Inspector General has opened an investigation he doesn't want to compromise.

"Our policy is that if the IG starts an investigation, the agency will not themselves run a competing investigation to try to get there first,” Koskinen said.

In the Obama administration, non-investigation is just the latest cover-up and delay tactic being used to avoid the truth about what really happened.

Non-Border State Governors Demanding Answers From Obama on Illegal Immigrant Crisis

The illegal immigration crisis on the border is showing no signs of stopping and the problem has spread well beyond states sitting side-by-side with Mexico. The Obama administration has been shipping unaccompanied minors to family members living illegally in the United States for months. Illegal aliens under the age of 18 have been shipped to states as far away as New York and Massachusetts, prompting non-border state governors to demand answers from the White House about what the President is planning to do to stop the crisis.

In an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren last night, Utah Governor Gary Herbert detailed a letter sent to President Obama by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, and himself expressing illegal immigration concerns.

"This is about America. We are not a border state but a lot of undocumented immigrants come up to Utah," Herbert said. "Why we're incenting families and parents to send their young people to our borders on the hope they'll get inside America really is puzzling in many ways and certainly not a very good, healthy immigration policy for America."

Herbert also criticized President Obama for his lack of leadership on the crisis.

"Nothing is really happening in Washington D.C., there's a dearth of leadership. The President won't even go down to the border to look and see first hand what is taking place. He needs to come up with a plan of first securing the border. I think that's something everybody agrees with. Why can we at not least take that first step," Herbert said. "We are being ignored and quite frankly the governors are tired of it. We've tried to do some things in our own states but we've been told very directly by the courts, 'this is a federal issue.' Okay, we'll back off, but we expect the federal government to do something. The President's got to lead."

President Obama has requested nearly $4 billion to throw at the problem, none of that money bolsters border security.

Corporate Tax Inversion: Quick Fix or Complete Overhaul?

The Senate Finance Committee met Tuesday to address the increasing national concern over corporate tax inversion and its negative impact on U.S. economy. Lawmakers were split along partisan lines when discussing whether relocated firms should be subject to punitive legislation.

The Congressional Research Service recently revealed that over the past 10 years, at least 47 American corporations inverted by reincorporating abroad. This is a significant spike considering only 29 did so the previous 20 years combined.

(Click here to see enlarged graph.)

The latest deal is pharmaceutical research and development corporation AbbVie Inc.'s merger with Ireland-based Shire PLC. As I reported last month, medical technology giant Medtronic also moved its headquarters to Dublin, where corporate tax is just 12.5 percent compared to the U.S. rate of 40 percent.

Nearly a dozen more are currently seeking to buy out smaller foreign companies in order to move their legal addresses overseas, thus escaping the superfluous tax burden imposed on American businesses.

Yesterday, chairman of the committee Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) described the anomaly of inversion as a "virus" and called for a stand-alone law to retract the tax benefits enjoyed by these corporations.

Republicans are reluctant to support any retroactive bill, instead pushing for a broader tax overhaul. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), explained, "Rather than incentivizing American companies to remain in the U.S., these bills would build walls around U.S. corporations in order to keep them from inverting. This approach, in my view, completely misses the mark."

Our country has the highest corporate tax rate of any other in the industrialized world. Take a look at how we stack up:

Something needs to be done. If Sen. Wyden has one thing right, it's this: "My concern is that tax reform is moving slowly, inversions are moving rapidly and that is a prescription for chaos."

Israel's Justice Minister Tells Off UN

Predictably, the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to launch a commission of inquiry on Wednesday into alleged war crimes committed by Israel during its current fighting in Gaza. And if you’re wondering—yes, it was a Palestinian-drafted resolution.

China, Russia, Latin American, African, Arab, and Muslim countries supported the resolution, while European countries on the 46-member council abstained. The United States was the only member state to vote against it.

“The decision today by the HRC is a travesty and should be rejected by decent people everywhere,” the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office stated in response. “Rather than investigate Hamas, which is committing a double war crime by firing rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians, the HRC calls for an investigation of Israel, which has gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way, including by dropping leaflets, making phone falls and sending text messages.”

Israel's Justice Minister wasn't having any of it either. Via Weasel Zippers (and Google translate):

I have [four] words to say about the decision of the UN human rights council – see if I care!
We will keep on making decisions for the safety of Israeli citizens according to our moral compass, the IDF will fight the terror and keep on doing the most to avoid harming innocents, and you [written plural] will keep on encourage the terror – because that is exactly what your decision is doing.

I'll leave you with this photo of the day:

Report: French Jews Mass Immigrate to Israel to Escape Persecution

Guy and Cortney have both written about and appraised the disturbing reports from across the globe that anti-Semitism has once again reared its ugly head. Canada, Germany and even the United States have seen appalling acts of vandalism and destruction carried out in recent days against Jewish businesses and Jews themselves. But perhaps the worst rioting and targeting of Jews has occurred in places like France. In fact, the safety and security of the Jewish people there feel so threatened that, as Weasel Zippers sharply noted, Jews would “rather live in an actual war zone” than a nation at peace. Indeed. That gives you some idea of the degree to which the Jews of Europe are now fearing for their lives:

More than a thousand Jews have made aliyah (the term used when Jews immigrate to Israel) in the past 10 days, according to the Israeli government.

"I came because of anti-Semitism,” said teary-eyed Veronique Rivka Buzaglo, one of 430 immigrants who arrived from France the day before. "You see it in the eyes of people. I see it in everything," she told HuffPost.

It’s also worth noting, I think, that the HuffPost piece excerpted above was published several days ago. Nonetheless, that doesn’t change the fact that Jews are being increasingly targeted and persecuted with vehemence and impunity in supposedly pluralistic countries. I won’t give anti-Semites such as these the satisfaction of posting their hateful rhetoric here, but it’s clear that they’re emboldened by a dangerous and bigoted ideology. An ideology, as it happens, one only wishes would have been stomped out and extinguished during the last century.

Oregon, Alaska to Vote On Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in November

Oregon and Alaska may be the next states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for persons 21 and older. Residents of both states are set to vote in November about whether the recreational use and selling of marijuana should be permitted. Oregon's Initiative Petition 53 qualified yesterday for the November election, and a petition in Alaska to vote on the issue received over 45,000 signatures in April, cementing its inclusion on the ballot in November.

Colorado and Washington both legalized the sale and consumption of marijuana for recreational purposes in 2012. Marijuana was first sold legally in Colorado on January 1, 2014, and on July 8, 2014 in Washington state. Oregon's proposed law, if passed, sets a target date of January 2016 for sales to begin.

Both Oregon and Alaska have decriminalized certain amounts of marijuana, and both states permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Since legalizing marijuana, Colorado has raised about $35 million in taxes and license fees, plus increased tourism from people eager to buy and use marijuana legally. (Exact figures from Washington state were not yet available, but an estimated $150,000 was raised from taxes in the first three days of legalized sales in just five stores.)

As Washington state is Oregon's direct neighbor to the north, it makes sense that Oregon would pursue legalization as well. Personal, home use of marijuana was declared legal in Alaska in 1975 as a result of the case Ravin v. State, but the sale and purchase of the drug remained illegal.

The consumption and sale of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but the Obama administration has repeatedly said that they do not seek to interfere with state laws.

If You're Thinking About Bringing Your Guns Into DC, DON'T!

There are places where you just don’t go with your firearms. Any gun owner knows them; any person who staunchly supports Second Amendment rights knows them; any person who knows gun laws knows them.

Save for Vermont, which has GREAT laws supporting the Second Amendment (you don’t need a permit for concealed carry), much of the Northeast is pretty much off limits to law-abiding gun owners from out of state. In most cases, the only Northeastern state that has reciprocity concerning concealed carry permit holders is Pennsylvania, whose laws on the subject aren’t bad. But, everyone should know that it’s never a good idea to bring a gun into the District of Columbia. Additionally, everyone should know that it’s even more insane to try and carry in the District of Columbia.

On July 18, Rep. Tom Marino’s press secretary, Ryan Shucard, was arrested for bringing his Smith and Wesson 9mm handgun into the Cannon House Office Building (via Roll Call):

Shucard entered the southeast door of Cannon with the weapon. The Smith & Wesson 9mm and magazine were found during the search required for entry into the building, according to Schneider. People entering Cannon, including those with staff identification badges, like Shucard, are required to step through metal detectors and place bags on the belt of an X-Ray machine.

Shucard is charged with carrying a pistol without a license, a felony. He is currently being processed at Capitol Police headquarters

Today, another man, Ronald William Prestage, was arrested in the same building for carrying a 9mm Ruger handgun. Prestage is from South Carolina and has a concealed carry permit in that state, but DC doesn’t permit open or concealed carry. If you’re caught, you face a $5,000 fine, a five-year prison sentence, or both.

Hopefully, there will be a day when DC honors concealed carry permit holders, permits open carry, and becomes more friendly to gun rights, but until that time; it’s a wise choice for every gun owner to not bring their firearms into DC.

Democratic Senator Hit With Plagiarism Allegations

Well, it seems “Papergate” just ensnared Montana Democratic Senator John Walsh. Mr. Walsh was appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock to replace outgoing Sen. Max Baucus, who decided to become the Obama administration’s Ambassador to China. Walsh is described by the New York Times as having something the Democrats lack in their political ranks: a seasoned military record. Walsh is a decorated Iraq War veteran, but his reputation might be marred by a final term paper he wrote in obtaining his master’s degree, where a substantial portion was written without crediting anyone (via NYT):

An examination of the final paper required for Mr. Walsh’s master’s degree from the United States Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.

Mr. Walsh completed the paper, what the War College calls a “strategy research project,” to earn his degree in 2007, when he was 46. The sources of the material he presents as his own include academic papers, policy journal essays and books that are almost all available online.

Most strikingly, each of the six recommendations Mr. Walsh laid out at the conclusion of his 14-page paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” is taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document on the same topic.

In his third recommendation, for example, Mr. Walsh writes: “Democracy promoters need to engage as much as possible in a dialogue with a wide cross section of influential elites: mainstream academics, journalists, moderate Islamists, and members of the professional associations who play a political role in some Arab countries, rather than only the narrow world of westernized democracy and human rights advocates.”

The same exact sentence appears on the sixth page of a 2002 Carnegie paper written by four scholars at the research institute. In all, Mr. Walsh’s recommendations section runs to more than 800 words, nearly all of it taken verbatim from the Carnegie paper, without any footnote or reference to it. In addition, significant portions of the language in Mr. Walsh’s paper can be found in a 1998 essay by a scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a research institute at Harvard.

On Wednesday, a campaign aide for Mr. Walsh did not contest the plagiarism but suggested that it be viewed in the context of the senator’s long career.

Montana is one of the states Republicans seem poised to pick up in the 2014 midterms.

CNN Poll: Twice As Many Americans Were Hurt By Obamacare Than Helped

Not an unusual data point at all, based on the polling trend -- but a timely reality check for the delusional "people love Obamacare!" propagandists. CNN's latest national survey includes a number of noteworthy nuggets, including the "Affordable" Care Act fallout verdict referenced in the headline (via Ed Morrissey):

(1) President Obama's job approval rating is mired at (42/55), languishing roughly where it's been for months. He is underwater with men (39/58), women (45/52), young people (45/49), and independents (34/62). Seventy-seven percent of Democrats and nearly two-thirds of non-white voters continue to give Obama high marks, but virtually everyone else's views have soured.

(2) The president is sucking wind on personal characteristics, as well:

- Is a strong and decisive leader: (48 yes / 52 no), which is amazingly generous, in my book.

- Generally agrees with you on issues you care about (43/56)

- Can manage the government effectively (42/57)

- Cares about people like you (51/48), down from his 2008 high water mark of (73/27)

- Shares your values (46/53)

- Is sincere in what he says (49/49). Ahem.

Obamacare's overall approval rating remains upside-down by nearly 20 points (40/59), virtually unchanged from its
March "rebound." Democrats' self-congratulatory convulsions over "eight million new enrollees" failed to move the needle. (Reasons for scare quotes here, here, here, and -- new today! -- here). Asked whether the law has helped or hurt their families, respondents shared the bad news:


As we've seen in the other polling linked above, a plurality of Americans say they haven't been impacted too much by the new law -- yet, at least. As I've said in the past, I generally fall into this category, as the "only" effect I've felt is a monthly premium increase of nearly $100. But of those consumer who have been affected, they break two-to-one into the "worse off" camp. Obamacare is helping some people; mostly Americans with preexisting conditions and those who are eligible for very generous subsidies. But it's hurting far more people. And a substantial majority oppose the law. Obamacare was pitched as a win/win for everyone, with no trade-offs and no losers. That has not been the case. Indeed, Politico is showcasing one class of Obamacare losers, who've encountered "access shock" -- a phenomenon we've been tracking for quite some time:

Anger over limited choice of doctors and hospitals in Obamacare plans is prompting some states to require broader networks — and boiling up as yet another election year headache for the health law...It’s not just a political problem. It’s a policy conundrum. Narrow networks help contain health care costs. If state or federal regulators — or politicians — force insurers to expand the range of providers, premiums could spike. And that could create a whole new wave of political and affordability problems that can shape perceptions of Obamacare.

The Tampa Bay Times profiles one woman whose frustrating experience underscores this problem

Charlene Lake thought she got a decent deal through the Affordable Care Act marketplace: a Humana HMO that included a family doctor a few miles from her home. Five months later, Lake wonders if she can even use the insurance she bought. Her plan's dominant health care provider, JSA Medical Group, recently announced that it would take no new patients covered by Humana's exchange HMOs at least until fall. That leaves Lake no choice but to use the community health centers left in her plan's network, rather than the traditional physician's practice on which she planned. She has company...aside from first-year fumbles, the case also shows the downside of limiting consumer choice of physicians through what is known as narrow networks. Or, in Lake's case, a network so narrow it barely exists. "You can't make people sign up for a health care plan and then not have a doctor," said Lake, a St. Petersburg antiques dealer who is in her 50s. Narrow networks of hospitals and physicians help insurers maintain profitability while holding down premiums and complying with ACA rules.

Lake's quandary is redolent of the doctor-finding headache an Obamacare supporter and 'beneficiary' from New Jersey described in April. The good news is that there's at least one group of Obamacare enrollees who have voiced zero complaints whatsoever about their benefits: The fake ones.

Hillary's Empathy Problem

More than two-thirds of Americans, 67 percent, believe Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016, according to a new The Economist/YouGov poll.

And in the plus column for Hillary, the same poll shows that 60 percent of Americans think she will win the White House in 2016 if she does run.

But underneath those numbers is some cause for alarm. While more Americans (46 percent) view Hillary favorably than unfavorably (45 percent), just 38 percent of Americans believe Hillary "understands the problems facing ordinary middle class people."

Contrast that number with a similar question from the 2012 exit polls:

If you look at the 2012 exit polls, you’ll see that the very same electorate that re-elected Obama by a 51 percent to 47 percent margin, also told exit pollsters, by an even larger 51 percent to 43 percent margin, that “government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.”

Republicans won the argument over the size and scope of the federal government. But Obama won the argument over “who cares about people like me.”

Obama and Romney mostly split voters who chose their candidate based on who “shares my values,” who “is a strong leader,” and who “has a vision for the future.” But among those voters who cast their ballot based on which candidate “cares about people like me,” Obama walloped Romney 81 percent to 21 percent.

"Understands the problems facing ordinary middle class people" is not the exact same question as "cares about people like me," but it's close.

Obama won reelection in 2012 because he established a personal connection with millions of Americans who don't normally vote. He changed the electorate by convincing new voters that he cared about their problems.

Hillary does not seem to have that same connection with everyday Americans. Three-quarters of Americans (75 percent) describe Hillary as "wealthy," which is almost identical to the 72 percent that described Mitt Romney the same way. Meanwhile just 32 percent of Americans say Obama was wealthy before he was elected president.

And Hillary's recent book tour could not have helped this perception either. From her claim that she was "dead broke" to her insistence that she is "not truly well off" she has proved to be truly tone deaf to middle class America reality.

And let's not forget her six figure speaking fees from Goldman Sachs or from public universities strapped for cash.

And no middle class parent could possibly think a mother whose daughter scored a $600,000 no-show job with NBC News has any idea what it is like to really worry abut your child's career.

If Hillary does win in 2016, it is not going to be because Americans believe she "cares about people like me."

NYT: NY Governor 'Hobbled' State Ethics Commission

It’s just one of those awkward moments. Gov. Cuomo established the Moreland Commission to investigate corruption in state politics, only to find out that a media firm that benefited his campaign had been implicated in campaign finance violations. The commission was dishing out subpoenas, so what did he do? His office hobbled the commission, and then straight up shut it down (via NYT):

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set up a high-powered commission last summer to root out corruption in state politics. It was barely two months old when its investigators, hunting for violations of campaign-finance laws, issued a subpoena to a media-buying firm that had placed millions of dollars’ worth of advertisements for the New York State Democratic Party.

The investigators did not realize that the firm, Buying Time, also counted Mr. Cuomo among its clients, having bought the airtime for his campaign when he ran for governor in 2010.

Word that the subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse.

“This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive:

“Pull it back.”

The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn. The panel’s chief investigator explained why in an email to the two other co-chairs later that afternoon.

“They apparently produced ads for the governor,” she wrote.

The pulled-back subpoena was the most flagrant example of how the commission, established with great ceremony by Mr. Cuomo in July 2013, was hobbled almost from the outset by demands from the governor’s office.

Oh, but it gets worse. The Moreland Commission’s executive director, Regina Calcaterra and its chief of investigations, E. Danya Perry, did not get along at all.

The first bout came when Perry wanted to investigate the Real Estate Board of New York’s political donations. These were some of Gov. Cuomo’s biggest supporters. Calcaterra told Perry not to serve the subpoena, even though the board approved it; the Governor’s Office later killed it, according to the Times.

Things got so bad that investigators began to suspect that Calcaterra, who has a long history within Democratic politics, was allegedly spying on them, providing color commentary to the NY Governor’s Office:

A sense of paranoia spread through the office, where, one staff member said, the mood began to resemble that of a prison camp. Ms. Perry told investigators to assume that Ms. Calcaterra was indeed reading their emails. One investigator told colleagues he had become convinced that it was true after Ms. Calcaterra asked him about something he had mentioned only once, in a message he had emailed from his Moreland account to his personal account.

Investigators began keeping files on their laptops rather than on a shared drive, several staff members said, so that Ms. Calcaterra would not be able to gain access to them.

Ms. Perry was asked to give an update on investigations. Prompted by one of the co-chairs, she began to detail some of the obstacles she and her investigators faced, attendees said: The governor’s office was editing letters, telling her what subpoenas she could not issue and dictating what investigative avenues she could not pursue. Her voice cracked with emotion.

And Ms. Calcaterra typed away furiously on her BlackBerry.

The Times piece is a lengthy read, but typical of the less than ethical dynamics within the halls of state governments in the Tri-state area.

In New Jersey, senior staffers from Governor Chris Christie’s office were allegedly involved in some politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. The media saw there was blood in the water and “Bridgegate” was born.

Yet, in New York, we have a sordid history of interference from the Governor’s Office on an ethics commission that Cuomo himself established in an effort to avoid causing the governor any potential embarrassment or connections to felonious activity. Right now, federal prosecutors are looking into why the Moreland Commission was shut down – and the role Governor Cuomo and his office played to that end. We shall see if the media tackles this story with the same aggressive fervor as they did with Gov. Christie.

But, I wouldn’t advise taking bets on it.

Ukrainian Officials: Two More of Our Planes Were Shot Down

After the tragic death of 298 civilians from more than 10 different nations -- all of whom were murdered when pro-Russian separatists shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, according to U.S. intelligence officials -- one could reasonably expect rebels in the area to exercise some restraint. It appears, however, that they are only becoming more emboldened (via The Washington Post):

Two Ukrainian warplanes were shot down Wednesday over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in the same vicinity as a Malaysian airliner that was downed last week, Ukrainian officials said.

The planes, both Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft, were struck in the vicinity of Saur Mogila, a town just west of the Russian border, said Aleksey Dmitrashkovsky, a spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces.

The Daily Mail obtained video of what appears to be parts of a Ukrainian military fighter plane on fire and falling from the sky:

And unsurprisingly, Ukraine’s government cannot confirm any survivors at this time, according to Fox News:

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said two Sukhoi-25 fighters were shot down Wednesday afternoon over an area called Savur Mogila. The planes may have been carrying up to two crew members each, according to Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksiy Dmitrashkovsky.

The pilots ejected from the planes but it is not known if they survived, Fox News confirms. A search party is out looking for them.

Nevertheless, only six days after shooting down a commercial jetliner, separatists in the region are brazenly continuing their surface-to-air missile campaign, or so it seems. They obviously don't fear their hostile actions will merit any sort of concerted or serious response from the West. (Either that, or they just don't care). In any case, President Obama has urged his Russian counterpart to control the separatists (who he claimed exerts “extraordinary” leverage over them), a plea that, as far as I can tell, is going completely unheeded:

Be sure to read Noah Rothman’s analysis over at Hot Air about why Russian President Vladimir Putin is so concerned about maintaining supremacy in Eastern Ukraine, and why a permanent cease-fire agreement between Kiev and Moscow is unlikely anytime soon.

Bottom line: Russia, he argues, has much more at stake than we do.

Supermodel Bar Refaeli Shows Support For Israeli Soldiers, Ending Terror on Instagram

World famous Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, who has graced the pages of Sports Illustrated and endless high fashion magazines like Vogue, Marie Claire and Glamour, has been showing her support on her Instagram feed for Isreali Defense Forces since the ground invasion of Gaza started nearly a week ago. The captions on her photos didn't embed, so I have included them in quotes above each one.

"This made me very excited! Our soldiers.. Thank you! Please be careful and come back home safe ?? #stopterror"

Since her initial post above, 32 IDF soldiers have been killed.

"These days are so difficult to bare. Brave young men who have protected our country from terror. My heart goes out to their families. They will always be remembered and respected #RIP"

Before the ground offensive to take out Hamas rockets and tunnels into Israel began last week, Refaeli posted about the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and killed by terrorists.

"Gil-ad, Eyal & Naftaly you are in our hearts. Hoping for your safe return ?????? #bringourboysback"

"3 good souls. murdered brutally by Hammas. #stopterror May they r.i.p."

Naturally, she's receiving an insane amount of hate as a result. Here's a few of the comments. For more visit her page.

In an age when mindless celebrities are supporting Hamas, a terrorist group, and posting "free Gaza" on their social media pages, Refaeli's unwavering support for her country's actions, self defense and stopping terror is refreshing.

"Gas the Jews": Anti-Semitic Protesters Loot Shops, Burn Cars In France's 'Little Jerusalem'

Sarcelles, France is a suburban city located just north of Paris. It is known as “Little Jerusalem” to Jewish residents, who say the community feels like home. Unfortunately, the neighborhood is now the latest victim of anti-Semitic rioting. This past week, despite a government ban on protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza against the terror organization Hamas, pro-Palestinian protesters looted Jewish shops, set fire to automobiles and chanted “Kill the Jews” in the city that is supposed to celebrate Jewish culture.

The Huffington Post UK reported the violence, including horrid pieces of eyewitness news:

Eighteen people were arrested for attacks on shops, including a kosher supermarket, a Jewish-owned chemist and a funeral home. Rioters, who carried batons and threw petrol bombs according to eyewitnesses, were yards from the synagogue when they were driven back by riot police who used tear gas.

“They were shouting: ‘Death to Jews,’ and ‘Slit Jews’ throats’,” David, a Jewish sound engineer told The Times. “It took us back to 1938.”

On Sunday, locals reported hearing another pleasant chant, "Gas the Jews," according to Huff Po.

This is just the latest bout of heinous behavior in the country home to Europe's largest population of Jews. Anti-Semites also recently stormed Paris synagogues.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has not been afraid to label the violence what it truly is:

"What's happened in Sarcelles is intolerable: attacking a synagogue or a kosher grocery is quite simply anti-Semitism, racism," he said.

Valls also said that Sarcelles had never before seen such violence, according to the BBC.

Some condemn Israel’s use of force against Hamas seemingly without taking into account Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorism.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said something to this nature:

“There are some in the West who tell us, we support Israel’s right to defend itself … as long as you don’t exercise that right,” Netanyahu told Fox News. “Well what else could we do, what would you do … if 80 percent of your people were in bomb shelters?”

What’s more, while Israel has been willing to accept ceasefires, Hamas continues to reject them. A recently released CNN poll revealed that Americans are taking note of this, with 57 percent of respondents supporting our Middle Eastern ally’s use of force.

Nevertheless, anti-Semitic behavior continues to spread like wildfire, as more frightening protests also recently took place in London, Vienna and Berlin…and yes, even here in the US.

2014 Election: For Those Who Think The Senate Is A GOP Lock...Think Again!

Larry Sabato giving us a view from above this morning on C-SPAN2:

Obamacare's Fraudulent Incentives

The Government Accountability Office confirmed yesterday what conservatives have been warning for years: Obamacare is an open invitation to fraud.

Specifically, GAO Forensic Audits and Investigative Service Acting Director Seto Bagdoyan testified before the House Ways and Means Committee about a GAO investigation that tested Obama administration claims about the internal controls the federal government has set up to prevent fraudulent Obamacare coverage and subsidies.

GAO investigators used fictitious identities and documents to apply for Obamacare coverage on 12 separate occasions. The Obama administration granted coverage and subsidies to 11 of 12 fraudulent applicants. Additionally, as of July 2014, the GAO reported that fake documentation sent for two enrollees had been "verified".

“The total amount of these credits for the 11 approved applications is about $2,500 monthly or about $30,000 annually. We also obtained cost-sharing reduction subsidies, according to marketplace representatives, in at least nine of the 11 cases,” Bagdoyan said.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare is set to spend $1.4 trillion on Obamacare subsidies over the next ten years.

Obama's complete failure to prevent fraud in his signature domestic accomplishment even had some liberals questioning the administration. "This lack of oversight just isn’t acceptable," Indiana University School of Medicine professor Aaron Carroll (no relation) blogged, "The GAO should be checking this stuff, and the administration should be responding to it. Let’s see what happens."

Carroll should not hold his breath. Obama has every incentive to get as many "beneficiaries" signed up for Obamacare no matter how fraudulent they are. Democrats have made the number of "Americans" enrolled in Obamacare the defining metric for the law's success. There simply is no penalty for signing up fake people.

True, the IRS will supposedly fine people who "knowingly and willfully" provide false information $250,000. But no one believes the IRS will ever enforce those penalties. Carroll's co-blogger Nicholas Bagley, an assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan, explained to Vox, "The money at stake in any given case is too small, and the process for imposing civil money penalties too cumbersome, to justify much in the way of governmental enforcement."

"I would be surprised if the government decides to spend a lot of government resources on this," added Washington and Lee University law professor Timothy Jost.

In fact, the federal government has a long history of ignoring fraud in welfare programs. Just look at the Earned Income Tax Credit. According to the Inspector General of the Treasury Department, the IRS mails out somewhere between $13.3 billion and $15.6 billion in fraudulent EITC payments every year. That comes out to about 22 to 26 percent of the entire EITC program.

As long as a program's success is defined solely by how many people are benefitting, the federal government will continue to shell out billions in fraudulent payments every year. Obamacare only made that situation much, much worse.

Rep. Braley: Sorry Bro, I Have A Fundraiser To Attend UPDATED: Braley Campaign Responds

* This post has been updated.

Democrats seem to be having a trouble prioritizing as the 2014 midterm cycle heats up. Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Iowa and U.S. Senate candidate, is a perfect example. Over a period of two years, he decided to skip 75% of committee meetings that directly dealt with veterans’ health care. In one instance, Braley’s absence on the committee was due to him attending three fundraisers for his campaign. (via Des Moines Register):

Over a two-year period, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley missed 75 percent of meetings for a committee that provides oversight over the Veterans Administration, including one meeting on a day he attended three fundraisers for his own campaign.

A few months later, news reports exposed systemic problems in patient care that have since resulted in the resignation head of the federal department of veterans affairs.

Republicans argue that Braley, who missed 15 of the 20 Veterans' Affairs Committee meetings in 2011 and 2012, has shown a lack of commitment to conditions within the health care system for veterans.

Democrats who back Braley, a trial lawyer and seven-year congressman who is now running for U.S. Senate, say he has been an outspoken voice for veterans and it's wrong for his GOP rival, Joni Ernst, to "try to inject partisan politics into veterans issues." He missed the veterans affairs meeting on the day of the three fundraisers because he went to another congressional hearing, aides said.

At 10:19 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2012, the committee held a hearing on a backlog of disability claims and reports of problems with mental health care and stewardship of VA funding, congressional records show. The roll call shows Braley didn't attend.

Braley's aides said he skipped it to attend a 9:36 a.m. Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting on the "Fast and Furious" gun trafficking scandal. The congressional record marked Braley "present," but reveals that he offered no testimony during the three-hour hearing, which ran until 12:45 p.m.

Video caught no sight of Braley. His seat isn't always visible, but the multiple times it's within camera view during the window the Veterans Affairs committee was in session (10:19 a.m. to 11:54 a.m.), Braley wasn't seated, a Register review of C-SPAN 3 and committee footage found.


On the same day, Braley had three fundraisers on his schedule for his re-election to the U.S. House, records from the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation show. He attended all three, campaign aides confirmed to The Des Moines Register.

Well, that’s embarrassing. Although, one could argue that President Obama gets the failing grade in optics for traveling to various fundraisers as Israeli troops enter Gaza, Ukrainian separatists allegedly having the ability to down commercial airliners, and the various scandals, namely the ones centered on the IRS and Veterans Affairs (VA), that continue to plague his administration.

On the day of his absence, Braley attended a 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. $2,500 breakfast at Johnny’s Half Shell, a $1,000 per person fundraiser at a law firm at noon, and a 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. $2,500 per person fundraiser on K Street, according to the Register.

At the same time, veterans were dying, or lingered in anguish on those infamous VA wait-lists.

UPDATE: Braley Campaign responded to the piece by Jennifer Jacobs of Des Moines Register on Braley's fundraisers and missing 75% of committee hearings dealing with veterans' health care:

Braley campaign spokesman Jeff Giertz said fundraisers Braley scheduled on Sept. 20 didn't conflict with the VA hearings.

In fact, at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 20, a subcommittee on economic opportunities for veterans met and Braley attended most of the hearing. He left early to attend a 3 p.m. classified briefing for U.S. House members with then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi.

Asked why Braley missed 75 percent of his Veterans Affairs Committee meetings in 2011 and 2012, Giertz said that in many cases, "there were conflicting hearings, classified briefings, or other responsibilities that drew Bruce away."

Investigators: Witnesses Say Lerner's Hard Drive Was Only 'Scratched,' Data Was Recoverable

The plot thickens, via NBC News:

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee say that their investigators have learned that the hard drive belonging to former IRS official Lois Lerner was "scratched" and that data was recoverable, according to a release from the committee. The release says that it's unclear if the scratch was put there deliberately or accidentally. Republicans are now accusing the IRS of not being forthcoming after they said in court filings that the data on Lerner's hard drive was unrecoverable....Whether Lois Lerner's emails and data were lost has become the most recent focus in Republicans' investigation into the targeting of conservative groups by the tax-exempt office of the IRS. Lerner pled the fifth during two appearances before the House Oversight Committee, which called her to testify about that targeting.

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp unloads on the IRS:

Despite early refusals to make available IT professionals who worked on Lois Lerner’s computer, Ways and Means Committee investigators have now learned from interviews that the hard drive of former IRS Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner was “scratched,” but data was recoverable. In fact, in-house professionals at the IRS recommended the Agency seek outside assistance in recovering the data. That information conflicts with a July 18, 2014 court filing by the Agency, which stated the data on the hard drive was unrecoverable – including multiple years’ worth of missing emails. “It is unbelievable that we cannot get a simple, straight answer from the IRS about this hard drive,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI). “The Committee was told no data was recoverable and the physical drive was recycled and potentially shredded. To now learn that the hard drive was only scratched, yet the IRS refused to utilize outside experts to recover the data, raises more questions about potential criminal wrong doing at the IRS.” It is also unknown whether the scratch was accidental or deliberate, but former federal law enforcement and Department of Defense forensic experts consulted by the Committee say that most of the data on a scratched drive, such as Lerner’s, should have been recoverable...Further complicating the situation, the Committee’s investigation has revealed evidence that this declaration may not be accurate. A review of internal IRS IT tracking system documents revealed that Lerner’s computer was actually once described as “recovered.”

Wow. It sure would be nice to get these IT experts on the record in sworn, public testimony -- if only to witness Democrats' epic excuse-making. Allahpundit snarks that even if a video emerged of Lerner beating her hard drive with a hammer, Elijah Cummings and friends would still be sneering about GOP "conspiracy theories." Based on these reports, it sounds as if the IRS at first tried to deny investigators access to these professionals, who've since revealed that Lerner's hard drive wasn't irrevocably "crashed" when the matter was brought to their attention in 2011 -- less than two weeks after Congressional Republicans first began asking questions about the agency's (since-admitted) abusive targeting practices. According to the release, the IRS decided against "utilizing outside experts to recover the data" at that time. Why? IRS Commissioner John Koskinen recently testified under oath that the IRS did everything it could to recover all of Lerner's files (before being forced to concede that they hadn't actually done everything). Lerner's lawyer has said the same, asserting that "every effort" was made to do so. This new evidence suggests that was not the case. A few questions: (1) What happened to the hard drive? After it was "scratched," and someone allegedly made the call not to mine its recoverable data, was it then proactively destroyed? Or is it still floating around somewhere? Camp's memo says the IRS "believes it was recycled." (2) How does a hard drive get scratched, exactly? And how often does that sort of thing happen -- unintentionally, that is? I'm not alone in wondering, either:

Let's not forget that the IRS now claims a group of more than a dozen agency officials who dealt with Lerner also experienced hard drive "crashes" (scratches?), resulting in lost emails. What are the chances of that happening? No, really. What are they? Here's another weird one, via a Washington Post piece that posed a series of questions to the IRS from a professional IT entity:

1.) What happened to the IRS’s IT asset managers who appear to have disappeared at a key juncture?

Ordering the destruction of a hard drive and documenting that process would be handled by trained, certified IT asset managers, according to IAITAM. But the group’s records show that at least three IRS IT asset managers were shuffled out of their positions around the time of the May 2013 inspector general’s report that detailed the agency’s targeting practices. IAITAM said investigators need to “determine if these in-house IT asset managers were removed from the picture as the IRS email investigation heated up.”

That timing seems...suspicious, no? Oh, and mere days after the IRS' Inspector General report blew this scandal wide open, why was Lerner poking around trying to figure out whether the agency's internal instant messaging system was archived anywhere, meaning that conversations could be traced? "Not a smidgen of corruption," the president insists. Americans don't believe him, and for good reason. I'll leave you with this Reason TV parody song, which amusingly pays tribute to all of these head-spinning "coincidences:"

BREAKING: Passenger Airline Crashes; 47 Reportedly Killed

**See updates below**

Another tragedy this week: a civilian airliner carrying 58 people crashed in Taiwan on Wednesday, killing nearly everyone on board:

Taiwan's Central News Agency says a plane has crashed in a failed emergency landing, killing 51 people.

The news agency cited the head of the fire department in the Taiwanese county of Penghu as saying that seven people were also injured in the crash.

The report cites the Civil Aviation Administration as saying the flight crashed Wednesday with 54 passengers and four flight crew and was operated by a Taiwanese airline, TransAsia Airways.

The report says the plane likely crashed when an attempt to make an emergency landing in the city of Magong.


UPDATE: It appears "heavy rain" might have prompted the attempted emergency landing:

Taiwan was battered by Typhoon Matmo early Tuesday morning, and the Central Weather Bureau was advising of heavy rain through the evening, even though the center of the storm was in mainland China.

The flight was heading from the capital, Taipei, to the island Penghu, halfway between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait. Pictures from the airport showed a handful of firefighters using flashlights to look at wreckage in the darkness.

UPDATE: Buzzfeed reports there could be more survivors:

UPDATE: But obviously nothing is confirmed:

UPDATE: Horrible:

UPDATE: More from AFP:

The island's local fire chief put the death toll at 45 while media reports said 47 were killed.

"The control tower lost contact with the aircraft soon after they requested a go-around (second attempt to land)," Chen told reporters.

The commercial domestic flight was carrying 54 passengers and four crew, officials said.

It was flying from Kaohsiung and had been delayed due to bad weather, according to Shen.

Man Representing Hamas Terrorists: Israel's Netanyahu is Like Hitler or Something

Try not to be overwhelmed by the irony in this post.

Last night on CNN the spokesman for the terrorist group Hamas, Osama Hamdan, accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of acting like Hitler.

"He's reflecting a new image for Hitler," Hamdan said. "They [Israelis] are acting in the same way killing Palestinians just because they are Palestinians."

As a reminder, Netanyahu is Jewish and Hamdan represents an Islamic terrorist group that denies the Holocaust. Hamdan is accusing Israel of doing exactly what the Palestinians are actually doing. Hamas is trying to kill Jews solely because they are Jews. Israel meanwhile, is simply defending itself. Further, Hamas works under the direction of the Iranian government, whose leaders want to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth.

It should also be pointed out that in the interview Hamdan made the argument that Israel is targeting houses, mosques and hospitals, but failed to admit Hamas has placed rocket launchers in those places for the exact purpose of being able to go on television and falsely blame Israelis for targeting civilians. People are dying in Gaza and the responsibility for why lies solely with Hamas, a terrorist group that values dead civilians for propaganda purposes more than they value human life.

H/T Twitchy

Harsh Gun Control Law Kills More Jobs: Beretta Leaving Maryland For Tennessee

Over the past two years we've seen numerous firearm manufacturing companies leave liberal states with new gun control laws. Maryland is the latest to state to face tough consequences for its new harsh and irrational gun control law. Beretta, a firearms company that has been in the state for decades, is headed to Tennessee with hundreds of jobs in tow.

Beretta U.S.A. announced Tuesday that company concerns over a strict gun-control law enacted in Maryland last year have made it necessary to move its weapons making out of the state to Tennessee.

The well-known gun maker said it will move to a new production facility it is building in the Nashville suburb of Gallatin that is set to open in mid-2015.

Beretta general manager Jeff Cooper said that a sweeping gun-control measure that was passed last year initially contained provisions that would have prohibited the Italian gun maker from being able to produce, store or even import into Maryland the products that the company sells around the world. While the legislation was changed to remove some of those provisions, Cooper said the possibility that such restrictions could be reinstated left the company worried about maintaining a firearm-making factory in Maryland.

"While we had originally planned to use the Tennessee facility for new equipment and for production of new product lines only, we have decided that it is more prudent from the point of view of our future welfare to move the Maryland product lines in their entirety to the new Tennessee facility," Cooper said in a news release announcing the move.

Last year Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed into law extreme gun control measures despite strong objections from the public. Currently Beretta employs 400 people in Maryland. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, overall the firearms industry employs more than 200,000 people, has an economic impact of over $33 billion each year and provides the federal government with more than $4 billion in excise taxes each year.