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.


(3)
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:


ACAworseoff


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.

Developing…

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.

Bachmann: You Know, I Could Very Well Run for President

Retiring Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) hasn’t ruled out running for president in 2016, she said today in an interview with Real Clear Politics. In her view, there’s lots of chatter about “various men” running, she explained, but virtually nothing about women.

Perhaps, then, she and other conservative women shouldn’t be so easily discounted:

Bachmann made the revelation during an interview, in which she was asked for her view on whether any Republican women might seek the Oval Office in 2016.

“The only thing that the media has speculated on is that it’s going to be various men that are running,” she replied. “They haven’t speculated, for instance, that I’m going to run. What if I decide to run? And there’s a chance I could run.”

Bachmann entered the last presidential race in June 2011 as a long-shot contender but was able to use her sway with elements of the Tea Party and an effective media campaign to rise temporarily toward the front of the Republican pack in a deeply fluid race.

Some Republicans might understandably balk at this suggestion. Yes, she defeated her rivals in the Ames Straw Poll in 2011, but despite this largely feel-good victory, her campaign never really got off the ground after that. What chance realistically, then, does she have? The field in 2016 will presumably be stocked full -- and overflowing with -- solid GOP candidates: former and current governors, youthful senators, and perhaps even a certain world-renowned surgeon. Is there room, in other words, for another tea party candidate in the mix, especially one who flamed out so early during the 2012 cycle?

Then again, Bachmann, by her own estimation, is a prolific fundraiser who has something almost none of the other presumed GOP candidates have: experience.

“Like with anything else, practice makes perfect,” she said. “And I think if a person has gone through the process -- for instance, I had gone through 15 presidential debates -- it’s easy to see a person’s improvement going through that.”

“I haven’t made a decision one way or another if I’m going to run again, but I think the organization is probably the key,” she said. “To have an organization and people who surround you who are loyal, who are highly competent, who know how to be able to run the ball down the field in state after state -- because now I think the primary process will be very different this time. It will tighten up; it will be a much shorter run than it was before.”

To her point, Christie et al. have never debated 15 times in front of a national television audience before...

Parting thought: Since we now know, as of today, that former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) is pretty much all-in in 2016, is a Bachmann/Santorum ticket currently or possibly in the works? Hmmmm.

Federal Judge Rejects Sen. Johnson's Obamacare Lawsuit

A federal judge dismissed Sen. Johnson’s (R-Wis.) Obamacare lawsuit Monday on the grounds that the senator had no legal standing in the case. Johnson filed the suit in January, claiming that the Office of Personnel Management took illegal and bias actions when it allowed congressional members and their staff to continue receiving federal health care subsidies while on the Obamacare health exchanges.

The OPM’s regulation violated Obamacare and also trounced on the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, according to Johnson’s complaint.

“The ACA provides that as of January 1, 2014, the only health insurance plans that Members of Congress and their staffs can be offered by the federal government are health insurance plans “created under [the ACA]” or “offered through an Exchange” established under the ACA…..

[T]he OPM Rule does not treat Members of Congress and their staffs like the Members’ constituents. Instead, it puts them in a better position by providing them with a continuing tax-free subsidy from the federal government to pay a percentage of the premiums for health insurance purchased through an ACA Exchange….”

Judge William Griesbach said the challenge could not be accepted in a court of law due to Johnson’s lack of cognizable injury, or legal standing, in the case:

Federal courts do not have jurisdiction to decide every legal question that may arise. Instead, federal courts may resolve questions only when they are presented in justiciable “Cases” or “Controversies.” U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2, cl. 1. “As used in the Constitution, those words do not include every sort of dispute, but only those ‘historically viewed as capable of resolution through the judicial process.’"

If every judge followed the constraints of the Constitution so affably, the nation might be in a much better position than it is now. Johnson, however, was disappointed that a "legal technicality" stopped the judge from addressing important constitutional issues.

Airlines Indefinitely Suspend Service to Tel Aviv After Hamas Rocket Lands Near Airport


The suspension of service into Ben Gurion International began as an ad hoc precautionary measure by several US carriers, following reports that a Hamas rocket landed within one mile of the airport. Soon after, the FAA instituted a 24-hour ban on US to Israel flights, over the objections and assurances of Israeli officials. European carriers are now following suit:



Germany and France's largest airlines Lufthansa and Air France say they're suspending all flights to Tel Aviv over safety concerns amid the increasing violence. Lufthansa said Tuesday evening that it was suspending all Tel Aviv flights for 36 hours, including those operated by subsidiaries Germanwings, Austrian Airlines and Swiss. The company says it made the decision as a precaution to protect the safety of its passengers and crews. Air France says it was suspending its flights until further notice for the same reason....Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel. Several heading toward the area of Ben-Gurion Airport have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system.


It's unclear as to why the FAA's moratorium only lasts 24 hours; Hamas continues to reject ceasefire terms, and Israelis overwhelmingly support their military's campaign against the terrorist organization. With IDF military objectives still on the table and Hamas' bloodthirsty intransigence, the conflict shows few signs of slowing -- let alone stopping -- in the immediate future. As the death toll mounts, Hamas supporters and sympathizers constantly harp on the "disproportionate" casualty count, noting that far more Palestinians have died than Israelis. They conveniently elide the primary reasons for that gap: Israel's 'Iron Dome' missile defense system and bomb shelter protocols have proven to be extremely effective at protecting civilians. Hamas, by contrast, intentionally and diabolically surrounds its arsenal and leaders with civilians. To recap: Hamas is actively targeting Israeli civilians, and failing. Israel is bending over backwards to protect Palestinian civilians, while Hamas publicly exhorts said civilians to risk their lives to frustrate and complicate attacks against terrorist targets. When Israel's safeguards against civilian casualties fail -- as is inevitable in war -- Hamas gleefully exploits the dead to pummel Israel in the court of public opinion. These tragedies are uniquely inevitable in this conflict because Hamas is knowingly putting innocents in harm's way. The terrorists are storing rockets in schools, using hospitals as their command centers, and reportedly traveling in ambulances "packed with children:"


With this conflict about to enter its third week, winning the PR war is the best Hamas can hope to achieve. Their weapon of choice, however, seems to be the cannon fodder of their own people, performing double duty in also sounding the drumbeat of Israeli condemnation. If you can't beat Iron Dome, then deploy sacrificial children as human shields...There are now reports that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are transporting themselves throughout Gaza in ambulances packed with children. Believe it or not, a donkey laden with explosives detonated just the other day.


Craven and intolerable. That same Wall Street Journal editorial asks whether many adult Gazans forfeited their right to 'innocent civilian' status by overwhelmingly electing a known terrorist cartel to represent them. It's a difficult, but legitimate, question. But anti-Israel forces will brush all of this highly relevant context to the side, opting instead to morbidly trumpet the number of the dead -- focusing on women and children for PR purposes. They will blame Israel, not Hamas' cynical degenerates, for these deaths. Of course, many of Israel's foes are willfully blind to the truth, and would obstinately ignore it even if it were conclusively presented through evidence. That's because many of Israel's foes irrationally despise Jews, and they're merely using the Israeli government as a proxy target for their bigotry. This isn't a specious smear. It's betrayed by their own actions. I've written pieces over the last two weeks about the sickening anti-Semitism on parade in Paris and Boston. Additional reports pile up by the hour. Canada:


A group of Canadian Israel supporters who were violently beaten last week by a crowd shouting anti-Semitic slurs said they continue to be bullied on the Internet and in the media by those who claim that they were looking for a fight. A family of six pro-Israel supporters demonstrating in downtown Calgary was assaulted late Friday by a crowd of around 100 protestors who were demonstrating against Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip...The pro-Palestinian protestors shoved flags into Hamilton’s face and taunted her with shouts of, “kill Jews, “Hitler should finish you off,” and “baby killers.” “I heard my mother screaming because six or seven guys had jumped on my brother,” who is 19 years old, Hamilton recalled. “He had a Star of David on his shirt and they were ripping it off, biting him, and scratching him, and stomping on him on the ground.”


Germany:



In a video taken at a large anti-Israel rally in Berlin this past Thursday, hundreds of protesters can be seen chanting in German, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight on your own” (“Jude, Jude, feiges Schwein, komm heraus und kämpf allein“).

It is uniquely horrifying that those words -- "Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight" -- are echoing in Berlin, of all places. Click through for video of a German Imam caustically praying for the annihilation of "Zionist Jews," asking Allah to "count them and kill them to the very last one. Don't spare a single one of them...make them suffer terribly." As I've written about the disgusting proliferation of anti-Semitic incidents around the globe, Israel critics have responded on Twitter, arguing that pro-Israel counter-protesters provoked the outbursts by showing up. This excuse is not only a laboratory pure example of the "heckler's veto," it also fails to explain the content of the slurs. Many of these barbarians aren't chanting, "shame on Israel." They're shrieking about despising and killing Jews. For them, none of this is about ceasefires, or rockets, or blockades, or land swaps. It's about an ancient, insatiable, and savage hatred. Fortunately, as Dan noted earlier, a large majority of Americans stand with Israel in this hour of terrible hardship. (Democrats are the least likely partisan group to call Israel's actions justified, but a plurality still do). The Jewish state may be a loathed scapegoat in many corners of the world, but not here. In fact, a Pew Research survey released last week showed that Americans' pro-Israel sympathies remain near all-time highs:



Self-described conservative Republicans split (77/4) in favor of Israel; liberal Democrats are the least pro-Israel cohort measured, at (39/21) -- still nearly a two-to-one margin.

Ex-Im Backs $16 Billion in Loans for State-Owned Corporations

Proponents of the Export-Import Bank, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), claim the corporate welfare bank is essential for protecting American jobs, but a new Heritage Action analysis of Export-Impot Bank annual reports show that $16 billions worth of loans have gone to state-owned foreign airlines since 2009 alone.

The Export-Import Bank has inked deals with 34 with foreign government owned corporations since 2009, including deals with China, Egypt, and Kazakhstan.

The biggest of the loan guarantees, at more than $2 billion, went to the National Aviation Co. of India for commercial aircrafts from Boeing, which just happens to be the banks biggest corporate welfare customer. Air China has also signed deals worth $1.8 billion with the Export-Import Bank since 2011.

Defenders of the Export-Import Bank, like Warren, claim the coporate welfare program creates American jobs. But whatever jobs are created for subsidized corporations are just lost elsewhere by non-subsidized American businesses.

This is why President Ronald Reagan proposed shrinking the Export-Import Bank saying at the time, "We’re doing this because the primary beneficiaries of taxpayer funds in this case are the exporting companies themselves–most of them profitable corporations."

Over 75 percent of all Export-Import corporate welfare subsidies go to large corporations, not small businesses.

And the corporate welfare bank is set to cost taxpayers more than $2 billion over the next ten years while bank officials are being investigated for fraud and corruption.

If the Progressive movement and their Democratic Party want to become the part of corporatism, then conservatives and the Republican Party must offer the American people an alternative by fighting corporate welfare in all its forms, including the Export-Import bank.

Rubio: Hillary Clinton Is So 20th Century

Speaking with NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), dismissed Hillary Clinton as an intimidating candidate for president in 2016. First, he challenged her record as Secretary of State:

"The truth of the matter is she was the secretary of state during an administration that has had virtually no successes on foreign policy," he said.

Voters seem to agree. A recent Politico poll reveals that 32 percent deem her tenure as Secretary of State “poor.”

Barring her foreign policy record, Rubio’s second slight against Clinton was a more intriguing one:

"I just think she's a 20th century candidate," he said. "I think she does not offer an agenda for moving America forward in the 21st century, at least not up till now."

The criticism was not supposed to be a jab at Clinton’s age, but that must certainly be in the back of many voters’ minds. The former First Lady is now 66-years-old, meaning she would be well into her seventies were she to reach the White House. What’s more, after Clinton was hospitalized last year for a blood clot in her head, some questioned whether she is healthy enough to run for president.

Rubio, on the other hand, is 43-years-old and has seemingly not faced any major health scares. He has not decided on a presidential run, yet will make up his mind by early 2015, he told NPR.

With Clinton, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren as the only Democratic names being thrown around for 2016, clearly the Republican Party has age on its side this time around.

Krauthammer: Obama Believes "If American Power Is Withdrawn, The World Heals"

"When he doesn't know what to do, he talks."

RNC Initiates #FireReid Campaign

It’s time to fire Harry Reid. Or so says the Republican National Committee -- which today launched its brand new campaign to wrestle control of the upper chamber from Democrats by explicitly targeting the Senate Majority Leader.

RNC National Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski issued the following statement this morning:

Today the RNC launches our #FireReid campaign.

Under the control of Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate has failed to listen to the American people and do what’s in their best interest. In fact, the U.S. Senate has failed to do much of anything that doesn’t serve Harry Reid’s quest to remain in power.

For example, the Republican-led House of Representatives has passed over 290 bills, including 40 jobs bills, that are stuck Harry Reid’s Senate. He won’t put them to a vote, even though they could put Americans back to work.

Likewise, Harry Reid has refused to let his Republican colleagues introduce amendments to legislation, a normal part of the lawmaking process. It’s his way or the highway. Or more accurately, it’s billionaire SuperPAC donor Tom Steyer’s way or the highway.

The RNC has put together a rather long list of all the reasons why Harry Reid must go. Blocking bills, breaking promises, and cutting off debate are only some of the grievances they document. But at the same time, they’re also trying to tie him to what they describe as the president's "failed" agenda; and as a result, will take their message to a dozen or so key battleground states to make their case:

The RNC will take this message to Senate races across the country. Beginning this week, we will launch robocalls in Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia. Those calls will tell voters that the only way to stop Obama is to vote Republican and fire Reid. The calls will remind them that a vote for their respective Democrat Senate candidate is a vote to rubberstamp the failed Obama-Reid agenda.

The ongoing Fire Reid campaign will use a variety tactics, including research briefings, social media, videos, interviews, and infographics to highlight where Harry Reid, empowered by a Democrat majority, has failed Americans: ineffectual leadership, ethical lapses, gridlock, ObamaCare, Keystone, and more.

The message is simple: if you want to get America moving in the right direction, you have to fire Reid in November.

Perhaps this message will also resonate with swing voters who find Reid’s mindless rantings and hypocrisy too much to bear. We'll see.

North Korea Furious Over Viral Dancing Video Starring Kim Jong-un

The Supreme Leader is not happy.

Kim Jong-un’s latest ire comes from a Chinese-made YouTube video that has North Korea demanding its removal from the internet. The video, which features Kim’s head superimposed onto dancing bodies, shows the dictator waltzing his way through a variety of hilarious situations.

However, North Korea is not quite amused. As the South Korean publication Chosun Ilbo reports, “the North feels the clip, which shows Kim dancing and Kung-Fu fighting, 'seriously compromises Kim's dignity and authority.'" Please.

Via NPR:

The newspaper says that after North Korea asked China to stop the video from spreading, "Beijng was unable to oblige."

In one segment, Kim pirouettes in a dance studio — before being hit with a kick delivered by President Obama. Other world leaders also make appearances, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

And while a couple of sequences make fun of Kim's fascination with weaponry, we'll note that the video doesn't accuse the North Korean leader of not having rhythm.

We should all know by now that Kim Jong-un takes himself very seriously.

The gratuitous anger over this video closely follows North Korea’s fuss about the release of a Hollywood comedy in which two journalists plot to assassinate Kim. North Korean officials even described the release of the James Franco and Seth Rogen film an “act of war” promising “merciless retaliation.”

The Mirror describes the bizarre nature of Kim and his cronies:

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) describes itself as a socialist state based around the country's official ideology of Juche - a philosophy of self-reliance initiated by the state's first President Kim Il-sung.

However, the country is widely viewed by the international community as a totalitarian dictatorship, with an elaborate cult of personality operating around the ruling Kim family.

Among some of the bizarre boasts, it was claimed that Kim Jong-il - father of the current leader - had a supernatural birth, invented the hamburger and in his first ever round of golf shot 38 under par – including five holes in one - before gloriously retiring from the sport.

The truth is that Kim Jong-un is a despot, but often viewed as a figure of fun in the West.

The video has already amassed nearly 900,000 views and counting:

BREAKING: DC Circuit Court Ruling Deals Massive Blow to Obamacare


UPDATE III (See other updates below) - The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled in the opposite direction on this precise issue, increasing the likelihood that we're ultimately headed to SCOTUS.


::Original Post ::


This is big. Really big:




A full-blown Obamacare earthquake. The 'second highest court in the land's' judgment may not be final -- the administration will almost certainly appeal for an en banc hearing before the full court, and there's always SCOTUS -- but for now, it is the binding decision. What does it mean? George F. Will wrote a column summarizing the Halbig case and its potential implications earlier this year:


Someone you probably are not familiar with has filed a suit you probably have not heard about concerning a four-word phrase you should know about. The suit could blow to smithereens something everyone has heard altogether too much about, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (hereafter, ACA)...If [the lawsuit] succeeds, the ACA’s disintegration will accelerate...Because under the ACA, insurance companies cannot refuse coverage because of an individual’s preexisting condition. Because many people might therefore wait to purchase insurance after they become sick, the ACA requires a mandate to compel people to buy insurance. And because many people cannot afford the insurance that satisfies the ACA’s criteria, the ACA mandate makes it necessary to provide subsidies for those people. The four words that threaten disaster for the ACA say the subsidies shall be available to persons who purchase health insurance in an exchange “established by the state.” But 34 states have chosen not to establish exchanges.

So the IRS, which is charged with enforcing the ACA, has ridden to the rescue of Barack Obama’s pride and joy. Taking time off from writing regulations to restrict the political speech of Obama’s critics, the IRS has said, with its breezy indifference to legality, that subsidies shall also be dispensed to those who purchase insurance through federal exchanges the government has established in those 34 states...Some of the ACA’s myriad defects do reflect its slapdash enactment, which presaged its chaotic implementation. But the four potentially lethal words were carefully considered and express Congress’s intent. Congress made subsidies available only through state exchanges as a means of coercing states into setting up exchanges.

Democrats in Congress passed a law that explicitly limited Obamacare subsidy eligibility to consumers who purchased plans on state-level exchanges. They did so in order to coerce and bribe states into setting up their own marketplaces under the law. (Another attempt at coercion, mandatory Medicaid expansion, has been struck down 7-2 by the Supreme Court). Given the controversial law's unpopularity, a majority of states declined to establish exchanges, forcing the federal government to create the infamous federal version -- with Healthcare.gov as its centerpiece. Subsequent New York Times reporting indicated that HHS never expected to have to set up any exchange at all, let alone for 36 states. That's because they were laboring under the belief that the law's sticks and carrots would compel every state to implement marketplaces on their own. Many did not, and the plain text of the law clearly states that anyone buying coverage through any system other than a state-based exchange would not be eligible to receive generous taxpayer subsidies, which relieve much of the heavy cost burden for many consumers (even with the subsidies, many enrollees say they're struggling to pay).


Faced with this predicament, the IRS decided that Congress' true intent was for all exchange consumers to have a shot at subsidies if they were financially eligible, so it simply decreed it to be so in the form of a regulation that effectively rewrote a major provision the law. Today, the Court ruled that the law says what it says, and that the IRS overstepped. This decision, at least for now, plunges Obamacare into chaos -- and furious Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. When you ram through a lengthy, hastily slapped-together, unpopular law without reading it, unintended consequences sometimes arise. And this one's a biggie. Then again, as Will notes in his piece, a strong case can be made that this passage of the law was very much crafted intentionally, even if today's fallout was 'never supposed to happen.' Congress debated how to phrase the subsidy eligibility language, and ended up passing the Senate's version -- a move made necessary by the anti-Obamacare election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. A previous House version's verbiage had been much more encompassing. But it didn't pass. Obamacare did. If it stands, this ruling not only strips subsidy eligibility from many Americans (which could/will touch off a breathtaking adverse selection death spiral), it liberates tens of millions from the unpopular individual mandate tax. Why?



The individual mandate tax only applies in jurisdictions where consumers are eligible for subsidies. Thirty-six states are now off the table on that front, if this decision holds. The Court went out of its way to acknowledge the potentially drastic consequences of its ruling, ultimately concluding that it's not the judiciary's job to clean up messes made by legislators via ex post facto revisions:



Halbig will trigger a political firestorm that will feature much gnashing of teeth from Obamacare supporters. They ought to point fingers at Congressional Democrats for passing the law that they did, and at the president for signing it. They shouldn't, but will, berate these judges for their ability to read text as it's plainly written. To paraphrase the former Speaker of the House, they passed the law to find out what is in it. And this is what's in it. For more background on the case and its ramifications read this analysis from conservative healthcare wonk Michael Cannon. I'll leave you with this good question:



And how many of those people's coverage is actually in jeopardy of being much more expensive, or even dropped, because of Healthcare.gov's millions of data discrepancies? What a mess. For these logistical reasons alone, this saga isn't over. Stay tuned...


UPDATE - Relevant point. Harry Reid's filibuster power grab helped stack this full Circuit Court with Obama nominees who may be inclined to reverse the panel's 2-1 decision. Thus, overreach could salvage a migraine caused by overreach, and an appeal is on the way:




Gird your loins, SCOTUS. This storm's blowing your way.

UPDATE II - This is the exact same conclusion the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reached in 2010. The law says what it says, prompting some MSM snark:


Chief POLITICO Columnist: Perry Sending National Guard Troops to Border So They Can Shoot Small Children

POLITICO Chief Political Columnist Roger Simon is accusing Texas Governor Rick Perry of sending National Guard troops to the border so they can "shoot small children."


First off, lets just mark this under most asinine statement of the day. Second, funny how Simon conveniently ignores why Perry is sending the troops: to stop cartels and gang members who actually shoot and murder small children from entering the United States. Here's one example:

Border Patrol documents newly obtained exclusively by Townhall detail the crimes MS-13 and other gang members in the Nogales processing center admit to committing.

In an interview with Border Patrol agents, 15-year-old self admitted MS-13 member with the last name Aguilar said he killed a member of rival gang 18th Street six months ago with a fully automatic Uzi before coming to the United States.

"He claims he walked over to the wounded rival, and emptied the magazine into the rival's body," interview documents show.

Aguilar also admitted to, "being involved in extortion for the gang," and "collecting money from local vendors and threatening them if they refused to pay."

Finally, the smear from Simon that National Guard troops are interested in "shooting small children" is abhorrent and disgusting. Border Patrol alone has gone above and beyond agents' job descriptions to care for children pouring across the border without their parents in a humane way. The National Guard will no doubt do the same.

Poll: Majority of Americans Support Israel's Right to Defend Itself

It’s been almost a week since Israel launched its ground offensive into Gaza. Since that time, scores of IDF soldiers have been killed (including at least two American “lone soldiers”) and the civilian death toll (since the fighting first broke out) has now eclipsed 600. For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strenuously argued that despite the high costs of war, the world’s only Jewish state, surrounded by hostile and malignant actors, has a right to defend itself. This is a sentiment both President Obama and Secretary Kerry have publicly affirmed.

But the politics of the situation became somewhat inflamed over the weekend when Secretary Kerry was caught on an open mic. Speaking to an aide before an appearance on Fox News Sunday, he said Israel’s excursion into Gaza was “a hell of a pinpoint operation.” This has raised suspicions, especially on the Right, that the administration isn’t fully backing Israel. The State Department vehemently denies this allegation.

Nevertheless, it’s abundantly clear that the American public stands firmly behind our Middle Eastern ally. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they believe Israel’s actions are warranted, according to a freshly-released CNN poll:

Monday Palestinians officials reported more killed, bringing the death toll to around 550. It's unknown how many were militants, but the United Nations has estimated that 70% are civilians. Israel announced Monday that seven more of its soldiers were killed, bringing to 25 the number of Israeli soldiers who have died. Two Israeli civilians have also been killed.

According to the poll, 57% of the public said the Israeli actions against Hamas, the Palestinian organization that runs Gaza, are justified, with just over a third saying they are unjustified.

Forty-three percent of those questioned said Israel's using about the right amount of force, with 12% saying they're not using enough. Nearly four in 10 said Israel is using too much force in Gaza.

"Attitudes toward Israeli military action have been extremely stable over the years," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "In 2012, an identical 57% thought that Israel's actions against Hamas in Gaza were justified. And in 2009, the number of Americans who felt that way was only a few points higher, at 63%."

Not surprisingly, Republicans strongly support military engagement in Gaza:

Forty-five percent of Democrats questioned said that Israeli's military actions in Gaza are justified. That number jumps to 56% among independents and 73% among Republicans.

For what it's worth, the poll was conducted last weekend, and more than 1,000 U.S. adults participated.

UPDATE: Read Guy's post over at Hot Air about the appalling rise of anti-Semitism...in the United States.

Vulnerable Senator: Obamacare Cancellation Stories Are Just 'Anecdotal,' You Know


I'll say this for Sen. Mark Pryor, the Arkansas Democrat who votes with Obama 90 percent of the time: At least he didn't go the full Reid by calling millions of Americans liars. No, he merely dismissed the documented phenomena of canceled policies and increased premiums as "anecdotal" evidence against the law for which he cast the deciding vote:



Various polls have shown that Americans who were negatively impacted by the healthcare overhaul far outnumber its beneficiaries. Millions of plans were cancelled due to Obamacare's regulations, including tens of thousands in Arkansas, in spite of repeated promises that consumers would be allowed to keep their preferred plans, with more many more dropped policies looming. The administration itself predicted that as many as 93 million Americans would eventually be stripped of their existing coverage. Also, numerous polls and studies have indicated that most Americans have experienced a rise in costs, including for many of the newly insured. The law was sold by people like Pryor as a robust and across-the-board premium reducer. Both Barack Obama and his eponymous healthcare law are deeply unpopular in Arkansas. Let's review some additional "anecdotes," shall we? Premium increases in Florida:


Florida Blue, the state’s dominant health insurer, snagged more than one in three consumers on the health law’s exchange this year, but many could face rate hikes as the carrier struggles with an influx of older and sicker enrollees, said the company’s top executive...We will be under tremendous financial pressure initially given the age, risk profile and high utilization of the new membership,” he said. “It is far from clear that large enrollment in the marketplace is a financially beneficial place to be.” ... About 23 percent of those who bought exchange policies from Florida Blue this year were in the 18-to-34 age category, Geraghty said. That compares to 28 percent nationally. Initial federal projections were that 40 percent of enrollees nationally would be young adults.


We've been writing about Obamacare's risk pool and demographics problems for months. Now here's a story about a man in Oklahoma who's had a nightmarish experience trying to cancel his Obamacare plan. Thanks to Healthcare.gov's back end data problems (which won't be fixed anytime soon) and lack of customer service (hours of waiting on hold), it took him three months to terminate coverage that he no longer needed, and even then, he was stuck with a bill he shouldn't have owed:



Meanwhile, a legally-mandated and transparency-minded Obamacare database website...isn't working:


A long-awaited federal database designed to reveal doctor payments from the drug and medical device industries is plagued with confusing error messages, according to a report. Physicians told ProPublica that they are seeing long waits and error messages when trying to look up their entries on a preliminary version of the Open Payments website. "Doctors say it is taking them as long as an hour, sometimes longer, to verify their identifies and log in," reported Charles Ornstein with ProPublica. Those who make it through the system and do not have relationships with industry are reportedly met with the message: "You have the following errors on the page. There are no results that match the specified search criteria."

But never mind all that. Everything is working "incredibly well," we're told. People "love" Obamacare! In fact, I think it was Senator Mark Pryor who once gushed that Obamacare was "an amazing success story." What many Americans wouldn't give for an exemption like the free pass just extended to US territories by HHS -- after years of insisting that they didn't have the legal authority to grant such a waiver. Turns out the administration's definition of what counts as a "state" depends on the political imperative of the moment. Speaking of which, keep an eye on this court decision, which should be arriving any day.