With her husband’s approval rating dipping lower every day, and a smaller electorate expected this November, Michelle Obama has the right to worry about the fast approaching 2014 midterm elections. Hence why the First Lady released a misleading, borderline desperate video this weekend.
“Equal pay for women, immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, and ensuring that women can make their own decisions about their bodies and their health care. My husband is working so hard on all these issues. But he needs leaders in Congress who will work with him – leaders who care about what’s going on in your lives and who will fight for you every single day.”
Apparently those heartless House Republicans could care less about their constituents.
Mrs. Obama then got straight to her point:
“We need you to be as passionate and as hungry as you were in 2008 and 2012.”
One year she notably forgot? 2010, a year when Americans were very passionate. They were passionate about the ugly economy. They were passionate about the high unemployment. Oh yeah, and they were especially passionate about the government getting between them and their doctors. That’s why these incensed voters turned our country red.
A new CNN poll puts the Democrats’ peril in perspective:
In the generic ballot question, the Democrats have a 4-percentage point 48 percent-44 percent edge over the Republicans among registered voters. The generic ballot asks respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates.
A smaller electorate could heavily favor the Republican Party. Single women, younger voters and minorities - who are generally consistent Democratic voters - typically vote in fewer numbers during midterms, according to wcti12.com.
She can keep urging her supporters on, but it’s clear voters aren’t “passionate” about the party who pushed through this disaster.
In a major victory for Second Amendment rights over the weekend, U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin struck down the Washington D.C. total ban on concealed and open carrying of firearms as unconstitutional. The ruling came after a five year long court battle and effective immediately, D.C. police cannot arrest someone for carry a legal firearm.
In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision striking down the city's 32-year-old ban on handguns. Since then, the city has rewritten its laws, lawsuits have been filed and even Congress has waded into the fight.
In a decision made public Saturday, Scullin concluded that the Second Amendment gives people the right to carry a gun outside the home for self-defense. He cited two U.S. Supreme Court cases as important to his ruling — the 2008 opinion striking down the District of Columbia's ban and a 2010 ruling involving Chicago's handgun ban.
"There is no longer any basis on which this court can conclude that the District of Columbia's total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny," wrote Scullin, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush and is a retired Army colonel.
This morning Emily Miller, author of Emily Gets Her Gunand an expert in understanding D.C. gun laws, explained on Fox and Friends what the ruling means for carrying a firearm in the District.
"Anyone who is a none D.C. resident who legally can carry in their home state, whether open or concealed, can carry in D.C.," Miller said. "D.C. residents, if you have a registered gun like I do, I can carry. If you do not have a registered gun you can still be arrested on the unregistered gun law."
UPDATE - Despite the UN's (and President Obama's) insistence on an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the battle in Gaza rages on. Israel is blaming errant Hamas rockets for horrible explosions at a hospital and a refugee camp, killing at least 10 people earlier today. The IDF published an infographic that it says tracks 100 Hamas rockets that have fallen within Gaza's borders since July 8:
Hamas aims for Israel, but its rockets have hit Gaza over 100 times in 9 days. pic.twitter.com/O1fJ5YYF23— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 16, 2014
Tragically, one of Hamas' rockets found its intended target today: Israeli civilians. Attention, "proportionality" fetishists:
Four people are pronounced dead from a mortar attack in the Eshkol region, and three others remain in serious condition...Hamas is celebrating the “success” of the mortar shelling at the Eshkol region.
And another Hamas attack:
Five Gaza militants breach Israeli border and open fire at IDF troops, causing several casualties. The troops returned fire, and it is possible some of the militants escaped back into the Strip. Troops are combing the area. Residents of a community in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council and of another community in the Sdot Negev Regional Council near the Gaza border have been instructed to remain in their homes.
This past weekend's 12-hour humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas, announced late Friday, represented a short respite in the three-weeks old conflict between the two sides. The first party to break the temporary calm was Hamas, after the terror group rejected Israel's offers to extend the peace window:
The Israeli cabinet approved a 24-hour extension of its cease-fire Saturday but said it would respond to any future rocket fire from Gaza after Hamas rejected an earlier proposed four-hour extension and fired rockets into Israel. The announcement came after Hamas confirmed that it fired five rockets at Israel late Saturday after rejecting an earlier offer from Israel to extend a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire by four hours, casting new doubt on international efforts to broker an end to 19 days of fighting. The terror group said two of the rockets were aimed at Tel Aviv. Police in Israel's second-largest city dispersed a peace rally attended by several thousand people because of the threat, a spokesman said. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group rejected Israel's proposal to extend an original 12-hour lull by four hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Saturday. Meanwhile, the Israeli military warned residents of areas where there had been heavy fighting against returning there.
Lots of information packed into that paragraph. Despite sustaining rocket fire after a rejected extension, the Israeli government nevertheless green-lit a day-long, good faith ceasefire. The Hamas rockets that punctured the quiet were aimed at Tel Aviv, where Israeli peace demonstrators had to be rapidly dispersed for their own safety. These people were demonstrating for an accommodation with the terrorist cartel that was literally trying to kill them. As Israel prepared to re-engage in the fight, it re-issued warnings to Palestinian civilians against returning to dangerous areas. Hamas, which targets Israeli innocents, also admonishes its civilians against heeding the IDF's warnings. They're more valuable to the terror campaign as human shields, frustrating Israel's response. And they're more valuable to the anti-Israel public relations campaign…well, dead. To the surprise of no one, Israel's unilateral 24-hour ceasefire didn't last:
Israel observed a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire from 8 a.m. on Saturday, during which time Gazan civilians stocked up on essential supplies and buried their dead. Israel offered to extend the cease-fire by four hours, and later by 24 hours, but was rebuffed in the form of rockets fired from Gaza. Israel continued to observe a cease-fire until mid-Sunday morning when volleys of rockets led the security Cabinet to order the Israel Defense Forces to continue its strikes on Gaza.
5 outgoing rockets from a populated area in Gaza a short time ago. Photo by reporter Nick Schifrin. pic.twitter.com/0Rm7g8WC5f— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 27, 2014
Having rejected several Egypt-proposed ceasefire agreements while breaking and violating the agreements to which they have acceded, Hamas had the gall on Sunday to insist upon a new one. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu highlighted the absurdity and dishonesty of the terrorist organization's demands on Fox News Sunday:
"Well, Hamas has broken five ceasefires that we accepted, and we actually implemented. They rejected all of them, violated all of them -- including two humanitarian ceasefires in the last 24 hours. Now they come with their own ceasefire proposal, and believe it or not, they're violating even their own ceasefire proposal. They're shooting at us as we speak. So Israel is not obliged, and is not going to let a terrorist organization determine when it's convenient for them to fire at our cities, at our people…we'll take the necessary action to protect our people."
Jennifer Rubin is exasperated by US Secretary of State John Kerry's inept meddling in the conflict, upbraiding him for being "in the wrong place, talking to the wrong people about the wrong thing." He's undermined Israel by throwing a lifeline to Hamas. Read her full analysis to get a sense of how badly he's bungled things. Rubin also links to a fascinating Times of Israel piece describing the degree to which "civilian life" in Gaza is intertwined with Hamas' terrorist activities, and the ongoing struggle of the IDF to try to respect innocent life deliberately embedded in a war zone:
Hamas has planted its military assets deep inside the very fabric of Gazan civilian life, [a military source] said. “Hamas operatives and area commanders, as well as their rocket cell members, keeps one part of their home for normal family life. A second part of the home is the command center, or the start of a tunnel. Daily life and military infrastructure are totally interwoven,” the source said. . . . “I have not entered one civilian home that did not have weapons, suicide belts, or booby traps in it. You can see the booby traps from the outside,” the source said. Any home found to be containing women and children leads to an immediate halt of the raid, he added. “We hold our fire, there’s no question. We don’t take chances with children and women. We allow them to leave, and then continue the raid. That’s who we are, and this is the source of our strength,” he added.
Meanwhile, Hamas sympathizers marched in Chicago over the weekend, as Europe continues to brace for more anti-Semitic violence. For many, Israel's defensive war effort is merely a "news hook" excuse to unleash their Medieval hatred of Jews. Awful:
Protesters have attacked synagogues, smashed the windows of Jewish-owned business and torched others, in scenes disturbingly reminiscent of the 1938 Kristallnacht in France. The marchers have chanted “Jews to the gas chambers”, and Jewish people have been attacked on the streets of Berlin. An 18-year-old Jewish man claimed on Friday he had been punched in the face in an unprovoked attack while wearing a skull cap in the centre of Berlin, in what would be the second such incident in less than a week. Police had to step in to protect an Israeli tourist couple from protesters who charged at them shouting “Jew! We’ll get you”...One Facebook page created in the last week, entitled Jeunes Revolutionnaires Francais, or Young French Revolutionaries, posted the names, photographs and addresses of 32 French Jews encouraging members to target them. After the picture of one young man seen wearing a skullcap was put up, he was attacked in his home in the Paris suburbs on Thursday evening by a group of masked men with iron bars. The group, which picked up 2,000 followers and more than 1,500 “likes”, was taken down on Friday night after it was reported to the social network...in Austria this week, a friendly football match between the Israel’s Maccabi Haifa and a French team had to be called off, after protesters stormed the pitch and fought with the players. The Haifa captain, Yossi Benayoun, defended his players for fighting back, saying “We had no choice but to defend ourselves”. The pitch invaders in Austria were mostly immigrants of Palestinian origin, and around Europe the new anti-Semitism is being seen a phenomenon confined to Arab and Muslim communities.
I'll leave you with a short spin around the globe, where American foreign policy is failing or nonexistent: (1) ISIS' march of terror through Iraq continues apace. The terrorists are destroying cultural and religious icons, as they keep Baghdad in their crosshairs. The Obama administration is responding by seeking the full repeal of America's authorization of force resolution vis-a-vis Iraq. (2) American officials have unveiled new evidence that proves how deeply involved Russia is in Eastern Ukraine -- further verification that Russia is directly attacking its neighbor. Moscow-backed rebels continue to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft following their downing of a large passenger jet with Russian equipment. The Obama administration's response is unclear. (3) The State Department evacuated US embassy in Tripoli and rushed its diplomats out of the country in a final admission that Libya is now a failed state, overrun by radical jihadists. The Obama administration supported the military effort to oust Mommar Gaddafi from power in 2011. The situation on the ground has steadily deteriorated ever since, punctuated by the Benghazi attacks of September 11, 2012. (4) As for Syria, where presidential red lines have been breached and re-breached, this Washington Post editorialheadline sums things up: "Syrian death toll and extremist threat increases, but the US does little." Click through and read it. We're not in good hands.
There are five days before the House and Senate will be forced by law to go on their August recess. With a race to the finish, it looks like a bipartisan Veteran's Affairs reform deal may be reached before the deadline Friday. More from Fox News:
The leaders of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees reached a tentative deal Sunday to improve veterans' health care -- a potential solution to help fix such ongoing problems as delays for benefits and long waits for medical treatment concealed by secret lists.
The tentative deal would also end speculation about whether Congress would indeed begin a five-week summer recess without a legislative solution amid widespread national outrage over problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The committee chairmen, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., worked through the weekend and have scheduled a press conference for Monday to talk about the tentative deal.
A spokesman for Sanders confirmed the agreement Sunday.
The pair said in a joint statement that they had "made significant progress" toward an agreement on legislation "to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals."
The VA scandal, which involves the deaths of dozens of veterans waiting for care in VA hospitals, is the only scandal both Republicans and Democrats both show outrage over. That being said, coming to an agreement about how to fix the VA is another story and bipartisan bickering has been at the center of the hold up for reform. It's been months since we first heard about secret waiting lists for veterans.
“In the wake of the biggest scandal in the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs, I am committed to working in a bipartisan manner with the Senate to send the president a VA reform package that will increase accountability at the department and provide veterans facing unacceptable waits for VA medical care the option to receive private-sector treatment. But arriving at a compromise will be impossible if Senate Democrats refuse to even participate in Veterans’ Affairs Conference Committee meetings and negotiations as they did today," House Veteran's Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller said late last week in a statement. “The crisis at VA is not a partisan problem, and I will do everything I can to prevent this from devolving into an exercise in the sort of bickering and name calling for which Washington has become infamous."
Miller also said he is willing to negotiate with the Senate for as long as it takes to get a bill through. The House legislation being offered as a solution to VA problems includes language that allows government employees working inside VA hospitals to be more easily fired for misconduct and incompetence.
Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Miller worked over the weekend to reach a deal and will hold a press conference Monday at 1:30 to discuss a compromise. Lets hope Congress can get something done before leaving Washington on Friday.
Following the launch of the Twitter account @congressedits, which shows edits to Wikipedia made from the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses associated with Congresss, Wikipedia has announced a 10-day ban on House staffers using that IP address to edit pages anonymously. Staffers, inspired that their Wikipedia edits would subsequently be broadcast to the 25,000-plus followers of @congressedits, were making unusual edits to various pages, prompting the temporary ban. House staffers that have official accounts on Wikipedia are still permitted to edit pages.
The Hill reports:
Apparently in reaction to the account, House staffers made a series of tongue-in-cheek edits, knowing they would show up on Twitter.
For instance, the Wikipedia page for “Moon landing conspiracy theories” was changed so that the theories were noted to be “promoted by the Cuban government.” Edits were also made to pages for the fictional reptilian race of aliens, ice cream brand Choco Taco and the secret society Skull and Bones.
As the edits are anonymous, it is unlikely the Choco Taco-loving conspiracy theorist working for the House of Representatives will ever be revealed.
Incoming House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) dodged questions Sunday when asked if House Republicans would delay Congress’ five-week vacation in order to address the continual crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Indecision over how to approach the steady influx of migrant children has lawmakers playing the finger-pointing game in Washington. The House, Senate, and White House will need to act quickly and work together if they hope reach a deal by the end of the week.
Scalise stressed the urgency of the situation while speaking with FNC’s Chris Wallace this morning. He declared that Congress is ready to tackle the issue but President Obama is more interested in securing funds for the Democratic party than securing the border:
Well, it’s ironic. We’re here in Congress right now and the president doesn’t want to work with us while we’re in town, he wants to wait until people are gone. The president has a lot of time on his schedule to secure fundraisers, but he has no time to secure the border. He has not taken his job seriously in this regard. The House is willing to lead. The House has laid out what we’ll do to solve this problem. The president just wants to sit back and play politics. He’s flying around the country doing fundraisers, he doesn’t have time to sit down and work with Congress.
He could solve this problem today. He has been AWOL, he doesn’t want to solve this problem, but we do.
We’re going to stay, we’re going to work, and we’re going to get our job done. I’d like to see the Senate take something up and do their job. I’d like to see the president do his job. But we’re not going to wait for that.
Here’s a little secret about members of Congress: they are people just like us and they like to go on vacation just like us. There is no easy solution to the complex problem at the border. We will see what happens in September.
As the Associated Press reports:
President Barack Obama's request for billions of dollars to deal with migrant children streaming across the border set off Democrats and Republicans. Lawmakers in both parties complained that the White House — six years in — still doesn't get it when it comes to working with Congress.
Obama is the "only person in America who can sign something into law and help bring members of his party on board for an outcome on a given piece of legislation that requires bipartisan support," McConnell said in an interview. "So it's a mystery, but that's the way they operate."
Several Democratic lawmakers echoed McConnell but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid alienating the president of their party. They said they were baffled by the White House's tactics in handling the border request. Several Democrats expressed frustration that the president and administration officials weren't more involved in legislative fights.
The Obama Administration at this point is either stubbornly ineffectual or completely incompetent. The complaints in this area have been the same throughout the entire Obama era, and they haven't gotten any better. President Obama's tactics seem to come down to making a wide-sweeping declaration and expecting it to just "get done," without actually working with Congress. This frustrates both Democrats and Republicans, and Obama refuses to actually try to remedy themselves in this area.
Well, “papergate” continues to plague Democratic Montana Sen. John Walsh, who didn’t attribute roughly a quarter of his paper for his Master of Strategic Studies at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
After allegations of plagiarism broke, the Montana Senator said he had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder while writing the paper, but didn’t want to blame his lapse in judgment on PTSD, according to the Associated Press:
Walsh told The Associated Press when he wrote the thesis, he had PTSD from his service in Iraq, was on medication and was dealing with the stress of a fellow veteran's recent suicide.
"I don't want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor," the senator said. "My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment."
Nevertheless, the fact that PTSD was even brought up, coupled with the plagiarism allegations, has angered veterans (Bozeman Daily Chronicle):
Retired Montana National Guard Sgt. Maj. Timothy Pentecost fought in Vietnam and Iraq, and according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, is 100 percent disabled by post-traumatic stress disorder. He also worked with Walsh.
“It's totally bogus,” an outraged Pentecost told the Chronicle. “I can't believe he's using the PTSD as a reason for what he has done in plagiarizing the paper, and that weak response he had was terrible.”
Brian Rudolph, 31, an Iraq and Afghanistan combat veteran from Great Falls, said he still has not heard Walsh apologize.
“I don't know if it's going to do a whole lot; I don't know how much people overall take that into consideration,” said Rudolph. “It's not that hard to cite something. It's quite a bit of his paper really. But I think there's a lot of people out there who have never had to write a paper so they might not understand the whole deal about it.”
The Chronicle added that Rudolph, who is undecided on the Montana Senate Race, said that the PTSD reference was “an irrelevant play for the public's sympathy.”
At the same time, members of the press, specifically the Washington Post, are aghast over the fact that a fourteen-page paper is sufficient for a Master’s Degree.
Regardless, plagiarism torpedoed then-Senator Joe Biden’s 1988 presidential bid; it very well could do the same for Mr. Walsh, who’s already facing less than hopeful prospects of surviving come Election Day.
As the border crisis drags on, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, a Republican, has decided to take matters into his own hands; he’s ordered 1,000 National Guard soldiers to head towards the border. It will cost $12 million a month.
Additionally, these units could be given arrest powers if they come across any immigrants trying to illegally enter the United States (via NYT):
In 2006, President George W. Bush sent 6,000 troops to the four border states where they repaired and built fences and roads, conducted surveillance and took over administrative and logistical duties. In 2010, Mr. Obama deployed 1,200 troops to bolster border security. Troops in those deployments did not have arrest and apprehension powers.
The ones due at the border next month will work side by side not with federal Border Patrol agents but with state police officers of the Department of Public Safety. They will not be able to enforce federal immigration laws but may be able to enforce state law. A 19th-century federal law [Posse Comitatus] that makes it a crime for military personnel to perform civilian law enforcement activities does not apply to state-duty troops.
It remains unclear if Mr. Perry will grant the troops the authority to make apprehensions. General Nichols suggested this week that Guard troops could do so if the governor requested it but that they had no plans to.
Mr. Perry has previously favored such powers. In a letter to President Obama last month, he asked him to deploy 1,000 troops under presidential authority and to give those troops “arrest powers to support Border Patrol operations.”
I’m sure Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration will have a problem with this…after their next fundraiser.
We wrote this poll up several days ago. But perhaps it merits some additional attention on a slowish news weekend.
For starters, there can be no doubt that some Americans have benefitted enormously from the Affordable Care Act. As Guy previously noted, the uninsured who’ve finally obtained coverage (or qualified for subsidies or suffered from preexisting conditions), are only some of the law’s intended beneficiaries. On the other hand, when determining the overall success of any government overhaul, one must always consider its functionality, its costs, and, indeed, whether or not it even helps people.
Check out the left-hand column below:
A bill to permit the practice of "unlocking" a cell phone--meaning a consumer could use the same phone on different carriers--was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama. The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act passed with wide bipartisan support and was sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) in the House and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in the Senate.
Unlocking a phone without the wireless carrier's permission was legal in the U.S. until a 2012 decision by the U.S. Copyright Office. That decision resulted in a grassroots campaign to fight for the legality of unlocking a phone. A petition on the website We The People garnered over 114,000 signatures in support.
The White House released a statement praising Congress for passing the bill, saying that it will help to restore "basic consumer freedom."
I applaud Members of Congress for passing the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. Last year, in response to a “We the People” petition from consumers across our country, my Administration called for allowing Americans to use their phones or mobile devices on any network they choose. We laid out steps the FCC, industry, and Congress should take to ensure copyright law does not undermine wireless competition, and worked with wireless carriers to reach a voluntary agreement that helps restore this basic consumer freedom. The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget. I commend Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, and Ranking Members Grassley and Conyers for their leadership on this important consumer issue and look forward to signing this bill into law.
Kudos to Congress for finally getting this one right. More consumer choices is always a good thing, and carriers have no right to refuse to unlock phones even after a contract has ended.
Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released his 73-page “discussion draft” outlining specific approaches to reshape how the federal government combats poverty. As Sarah reported, the proposal aims to reform the way government provides aid by consolidating 11 federal anti-poverty programs into one pilot program. States that choose to opt-in would receive streamlined funding for housing assistance, food stamps, child care, etc. to distribute according to need. This budget-neutral “Opportunity Grant” would theoretically give states more control while exchanging “more flexibility for more accountability”.
Though most discussion has circled around the Opportunity Grant, Ryan’s plan also includes ideas such revising prison sentencing guidelines for non-violent offenders. During his speech at the American Enterprise Institute Thursday, Ryan threw his support behind Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Utah) Public Safety Enhancement Act, saying: (emphasis mine)
“Did you know half of our ex-cons are reincarcerated within three years of release? But we know that there are programs that work, that get people out of a life of crime. That’s why Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Bobby Scott have introduced the Public Safety Enhancement Act. We’d let low risk, non-violent offenders exchange time in prison for time in pre-release custody as long as they complete a program with a proven track record. Here’s the point: non-violent, low risk offenders – don’t lock them up and throw away the key. Get them in counseling, get them in training, help them rejoin and contribute to our society.”
Ryan's proposal observes the tremendous strain that housing inmates puts on the economy:
About 2.2 million people are currently behind bars—a more than 340 percent increase since 1980. As a result, we spend about $80 billion on corrections at all levels of government—an inflation-adjusted increase of over 350 percent in that same period. This growing cost burden on society is a cause for concern.
In order to expand opportunity in America, Ryan emphasizes that once non-violent offenders have "paid their debt" to society, they should be able to move on. He explains that all too often, the consequence of incarceration extends even after release from prison. The proposal highlights three possible reforms to remedy this problem:
— Grant judges more flexibility within mandatory-minimum guidelines when sentencing non-violent drug offenders.
— Implement a risk- and needs-assessment system in federal prisons while expanding enrollment in rehabilitative programming to reduce recidivism. Allow non-violent and low-risk inmates to use enrollment to earn time off their prison stay towards prerelease custody.
— Partner with reforms at the state and local level.
For a nation that holds a higher percentage of its population in prison than any other country in the world, it is high time that Congress seriously addresses this issue. To fight poverty, we cannot ignore the impact our current prison system has on the chance of violators’ success upon release. Ryan’s discussion draft will hopefully prompt conversation amongst the American people and bring the incarceration rate to the forefront of Congress’ attention.
In his two presidential terms combined, President George W. Bush hosted a total of 318 fundraisers. Our current president, however, has already surpassed that number just two years into his second term. Most frustratingly, they often seem to come when we most need leadership from the commander-in-chief.
The turmoil between Israel and Hamas rages on and the downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight which took almost 300 lives has left nations in mourning. Yet, in the midst of these tragedies, Obama decided to attend another fundraiser. Five, actually:
Obama on Tuesday was starting a three-day West Coast trip, scheduled to attend at least five fundraising events in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles less than four months ahead of midterm elections that could change Washington's balance of power.
A few highlights of his most recent money-raising trip include an overpriced dinner:
The event is at the Hunts Point home of former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal and his wife, Jan, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by The Seattle Times.
The price tag for the event is $25,000 per person, with proceeds going to the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group that accepts unlimited donations.
And, of course, a bit of schmoozing with Hollywood, such as Obama’s fundraising trip at the Beverly Hills home of Shonda Rhimes, the producer of the ABC series "Scandal." After he “briefly” touched on the unfolding crisis in the Middle East, the party went on:
The international concerns didn’t dampen donor enthusiasm, with about 450 people attending at ticket levels ranging from $1,000 per person up to $32,400 per person, the latter including dinner with the president, according to a DNC official. Millions were expected to be raised from Obama’s series of fundraising events over the last few days, as donors increasingly focus on the possibility that the Democrats may lose control of the Senate in November.
Hey, he at least took one stop off his trip:
Obama did abandon one idea for the trip, however. The White House had been in touch with late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel about a presidential appearance on his show during the stop in Los Angeles.
"We elected not to do it this time, but hope we can arrange to do it in the near future," Earnest said.
Probably when he wants to escape the next crisis.
It's a known fact that the president's fundraising trips are not as well timed as his jokes. Another case in point: The day after the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, Obama went to a fundraiser in Las Vegas.
Obama may not quite hit Clinton’s number, (the 42nd president held a whopping 638 fundraisers), but at this rate he’ll sure come close.
Can someone tell him we don’t hire the president to be an incessant fundraiser?
If enthusiasm is any indicator of success, the Republican Party is in for a riveting season of midterm elections. GOP voters are more confident and exuberant about heading to the polls this year than their Democrat counterparts, a recent Pew Research Center report found.
Today, the Republicans lead on a number of key engagement indicators, though in some cases by smaller margins than four years ago. Currently, 45% of registered voters who plan to support the Republican in their district say they are more enthusiastic about voting than in prior congressional elections; that compares with 37% of those who plan to vote for the Democratic candidate. The GOP had a 13-point enthusiasm advantage at this point in the midterm campaign four years ago (55% to 42%) and the Democrats held a 17-point advantage eight years ago (47% to 30%).
However, as many voters who support the Republican in their district say they are “absolutely certain” to vote this fall as said this in June 2010. Three-quarters of Republican voters (76%) say they are absolutely certain to vote, compared with 67% of Democratic voters. Four years ago, 77% of Republican voters and 64% of Democratic voters said they were absolutely certain to vote in the fall.
This report came out several months after a Gallup poll showed Democrats are the least eager to vote out of all the political parties. Gallup also demonstrated the correlation between party energy and overall advantage.
General elections are not until November. So, while it may be too early to tell, this analysis of the voter landscape is looking positive for the Republican party.
It’s been infuriating to watch Hollywood elites ignorantly blast out their support for Gaza across social media platforms since the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians escalated this month. Thus, it’s refreshing to see one particularly outspoken celeb passionately stand up for Israel’s right to self-defense.
“If New Jersey were firing rockets into New York, we would wipe ’em out,” she tells the cameraman.
Rivers continues, “I don’t want to hear anymore, ‘Oh, we’ll do a partial truce.’ The Palestinians… you cannot throw rockets, and not expect people to defend themselves.”
Asked about civilian casualties among Palestinians, Rivers fires back, “Then don’t put your goddamn things in private homes! I’m sorry, don’t you dare put weapons stashes in private homes!”
When the cameraman asks Rivers where civilians should go, she replies, “I don’t care! They started it. You’re all insane! They started it!”
Rivers slams media coverage of the conflict, declaring, “The BBC should be ashamed of themselves. And CNN should be ashamed of themselves. And everybody… stop it already.”
When the paparazzo mentions Selena Gomez’s support for Gaza, Rivers sarcastically says, “Oh, Selena Gomez! Oh, yeah, that college grad. Oh, well, if Selena said that… let’s see if she can spell ‘Palestinians.’”
Thank you, Joan Rivers for not being afraid to tell it like it is. If you’re interested in seeing a list of other celebs that have tweeted in support of Israel, check out Twitchy’s list here, although none are quite as colorful as Rivers’ epic rant.
First, a fact. Obamacare's legislative text reads that tax subsidies administered by the IRS to help Americans pay for health insurance they are federally mandated to purchase reads that those tax subsidies will only apply to people who purchase coverage from insurance exchanges "established by the State." An exchange "established by the State" refers to state-run health insurance exchanges, established in ACA section 1311, as opposed to federally-run exchanges, established in ACA section 1321. The legislative language is pretty clear.
What ACA proponents want to say is that this just amounts to a "drafting error." Congress, of course, intended for the subsidies to apply to the exchanges run by the federal government; they just made a mistake.
It seems odd that we'd be able to divine the "intent" of the general will of 535 people, but some have now fallen back to asking if there was even a single legislator who thought that tax subsidies wouldn't apply to federal exchanges.
This is a good question, because it's unlikely that any legislator thought that would have been a good idea. But this gets to the heart of the problem with ACA: many legislators didn't know what they were crafting and voting on.
In the era of ACA's crafting, Republicans repeatedly brought up the point that legislators couldn't read the bill, because the legislative text hadn't been written. The Senate Finance Committee voted on what's called "conceptual langauge," but did anticipate that some states would not set up their own exchanges. Democrats also insisted that the "conceptual language" was enough to actually understand and vote on the law.
Max Baucus (D-Montana), chair of the Senate Finance Committee through which the health bill flowed, insisted that reading the law wasn't necessary.
“I don’t think you want me to waste my time to read every page of the healthcare bill,” Baucus said, according to the Flathead Beacon. “You know why? It’s statutory language. ... We hire experts.”
So that's what happened: in between the "conceptual language" and the actual legislative text, some experts who were writing the law thought it was a good idea to try to coerce states into creating their own exchanges by withholding tax subsidies from the federal exchanges. The actual legislators who voted on the legislation didn't know how the law would work, but they trusted the experts they hired.
One of the "experts" that helped write the law was Jonathan Gruber, an MIT health expert who also helped write Massachusetts' similar law. Gruber, in 2012, said that it was actually important that subsidies didn't apply to federally-run exchanges - and that it would be an incentive for states to set them up. The New York Times reported that he went to Capitol Hill to "help Congressional staff members draft specifics of the legislation."
Tom Carper (D-Delaware), who also served on the Senate Finance Committee, insisted that the legislative language wasn't important:
"I don't expect to actually read the legislative language, because reading the legislative language is among the more confusing things I've ever read in my life."
So, the Senate Finance Committee voted on "conceptual language" that established subsidies for exchanges without mentioning who those subsidies would apply to. They then hired experts, as Baucus said, who did intend for subsidies not to apply to federal exchanges, and those experts plainly wrote the law in the way that it wouldn't apply to federal exchanges. Democratic leadership then refused to post the legislative text for people to read in an adequate time period before passing the law, and as a result, Congress voted on legislation that was written by people who, yes, intended for tax subsidies only to apply to state-established exchanges.
On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:
Michael Medved’s brother Jonathan, has lived in Israel for over 30 years, and his sons have now been called up. Elliott Abrams, a U.S. foreign policy expert who served under both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush on Israel. Hugh Hewitt with Noah Pollack who is the executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel. Bill Bennett turned to healthcare expert James Capretta to sort through the DC Court ruling on O'care. Dennis Prager, upon hearing the President’s response to the ruling, was understandably agitated. Leon de Winter with Prager on Malaysian Flight 17. Hewitt with Daniel Halpern of the Weekly Standard has a new book out: Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine. Prager on the President’s latest speech on the heels of the Hobby Lobby decision.
Over the course of the current conflict, Hamas has turned down several ceasefire attempts, while Israel has agreed to the terms. The terrorist organization has conditioned any cessation of its rocketing campaign on Israel lifting its blockade of Gaza -- which was made necessary by previous Hamas attacks, and the purpose of which is to interdict additional weapons to be used in future attacks. Food, clothing, medicine, and other legitimate items are allowed to pass through. This demand is a nonstarter. US Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to the region and proposed a one-week truce that would allow breathing room for a broader deal to take shape. This time, it's Israel that has pre-emptively and decisively rejected the offer. Israel's leaders argue that the 'timeout' would interrupt their hard-fought ground incursion designed to destroy Hamas' so-called "terror tunnels." In short:
Kerry cease-fire would have saved Hamas's tunnels, destruction of which is entire reason for ground op. Israel rejected. Go figure.— Noah Pollak (@NoahPollak) July 25, 2014
Kerry, in face-saving mode:
Kerry: Israel never rejected cease-fire since it was never formally proposed http://t.co/Rc7m5MO8k1— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) July 25, 2014
Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey has explained why the tunnels, not rockets, are Hamas' most lethal tool in their murderous campaign against Israeli civilians. Indeed, heavily-armed Hamas fighters wearing Israeli military uniforms recently emerged from one such tunnel, killing two IDF soldiers. The Washington Post notes that tunnel-based assaults on Israeli neighborhoods are an appalling staple of the Hamas playbook:
Three times in recent days, Hamas fighters emerged from the tunnels in the vicinity of Israeli civilian communities, which they clearly aimed to attack. The concrete-lined structures are stocked with materials, such as handcuffs and tranquilizers, that could be used on hostages. Other tunnels in northern Gaza are designed for the storage and firing of missiles at Israeli cities. The resources devoted by Hamas to this project are staggering, particularly in view of Gaza’s extreme poverty. By one Israeli account, the typical tunnel cost $1 million to build over the course of several years, using tons of concrete desperately needed for civilian housing. By design, many of the tunnels have entrances in the heavily populated Shijaiyah district, where the Israeli offensive has been concentrated. One was found underneath al-Wafa hospital, where Hamas also located a command post and stored weapons, according to Israeli officials.
The IDF released aerial footage last week of one such attempted raid, which ended...badly for the terrorists:
Israeli officials say interrogations of captured Hamas militants have revealed plans for a civilian bloodbath scheduled for an upcoming Jewish high holy day:
Hamas had apparently been preparing a murderous assault on Israeli civilian targets for the coming Jewish New Year Holiday, Rosh Hashanah, which begins on September 24, according anonymous sources in the Israeli security services, as reported today by the Israeli daily Maariv. The Hamas plan consisted of what was to be a surprise attack in which 200 fighters would be dispatched through each of dozens of tunnels dug by Hamas under the border from Gaza to Israel, and seize kibbutzim and other communities while killing and kidnapping Israeli civilians. Israeli soldiers already frustrated a surprise assault by Hamas through one tunnel from Gaza into the Eshkol district of Israel on July 19.
Meanwhile, rockets have been discovered in yet another UN-administered Gaza school, while Hamas keeps on doing its craven, disgusting thing:
At noon today, terrorists fired mortars & anti-tank missiles from near an UNRWA school in Gaza, killing an IDF soldier. Details forthcoming.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 25, 2014
Our initial reports from the field indicate that terrorists also opened fire from within the UNRWA school.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 25, 2014
I'll leave you with this:
This map shows why we continue in our mission to expose and destroy Hamas' network of terror attack tunnels. pic.twitter.com/snPnupv0ud— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 24, 2014
But all Israel needs to do to achieve "peace" is end its blockade of Gaza (thus allowing Hamas to resupply its weapons cache), and cut short its mission to destroy the tunnels (which Hamas uses to store munitions and infiltrate Israel). The people who think this is reasonable are the same people who cheered Israel's unilateral and forcible withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 -- a good will gesture for which Israel has been rewarded with the election of Hamas and many thousands of rockets shot at their civilian population centers.
UPDATE - Israel has agreed to a 12-hour ceasefire:
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) July 25, 2014
#BREAKING Israel agrees 12-hour Gaza ceasefire Saturday morning: US official
Has Hamas agreed? (UPDATE II: Yes, apparently).
At this point in the border crisis, one would think the administration would be doing all it can to actually stem the flow of illegal immigrants from Central America. In reality, however, it seems some of their proposed solutions would do just the opposite.
The New York Times reports:
Hoping to stem the recent surge of migrants at the Southwest border, the Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico, according to a draft of the proposal.
If approved, the plan would direct the government to screen thousands of children and youths in Honduras to see if they can enter the United States as refugees or on emergency humanitarian grounds. It would be the first American refugee effort in a nation reachable by land to the United States, the White House said, putting the violence in Honduras on the level of humanitarian emergencies in Haiti and Vietnam, where such programs have been conducted in the past amid war and major crises.
Yes, you read that correctly. The administration is considering a plan that would allow Hondurans under the age of 21 (and possibly El Salvadorans and Guatemalans) to apply to the program in their own country. And the reason they need refugee status? Because they’re fleeing dangerous street gangs. Question: what can the children in Chicago’s South Side claim to get protection?
But seriously, how exactly will this decrease the number of Central Americans coming into the U.S.? Sure, we would have more control over who may fit the program's criteria, but what's to say those who don't won't try for the amnesty route and make the trek up north anyway? And if the definition of refugee is stretched to include people fleeing 'general crime and violence,' it's safe to say America's doors really are wide open--to untold numbers of people all around the world.
Under American law, refugees are people fleeing their country of origin based on fears of persecution by reason of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
The only category that would seem to apply is “social group,” experts said, but there is disagreement on what that means. Some contend that children could count as a group, but others say the refugee requirements are stricter, and would not apply to people fleeing general crime and violence.
“What is a social group?” said Muzaffar Chishti, director of migration policies for the Migration Policy Institute’s New York office. “This is going to create a huge deal of debate. You will see a lot of law developing on it.”
Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told The New York Times that migrants would need “nothing more than a bus ride to the consulate” to claim to be refugees. “We’re talking about, down the road, an enormous additional flow of people from those countries.”
And guess what? If it doesn't increase the total number of refugees coming into the country, President Obama's pen and phone can make this happen, no congressional approval needed.
Update: Guy Benson weighed in on the issue on Fox News' "America's Newsroom" today.
When a DC Circuit Court of Appeals panel released its Obamacare-related decision earlier this week, the Left's self-appointed "wonk" class kicked into damage control overdrive. The three-judge panel ruled that the 'Affordable' Care Act's explicit language proscribed the distribution of subsidies to anyone who did not enroll through state-based marketplaces. The fallout of this decision, if it's upheld down the line, is that consumers in the 36 states served by the federal exchange are ineligible to receive taxpayer-supported tax credits to offset the law's high premiums. This outcome would wreak havoc on the law's sustainability. Obamacare's text couldn't be clearer on this particular point, as even the Fourth Circuit Court, which reached the opposite ultimate conclusion, admitted; the limitation in question appears repeatedly in the legislative language. Many Obamacare supporters have insisted that this was an oversight. A drafting error. A typo. And conservatives raising this point are off their rockers, they sneer. One of the most influential players in this dispute is Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who is considered by many to be the architect of the law, and who told the New York Times, "I know more about this law than any other economist." He's filed amicus briefs in the relevant cases confirming liberals' assertions that it was never anyone's intention that only state-based exchange enrollees are eligible for taxpayer subsidies. Arguments to the contrary, he's said, are "screwy," "nutty," "stupid," and "desperate." In case he wasn't making himself clear, Gruber appeared on MSNBC this week and said this:
“Literally every single person involved in the crafting of this law has said that it`s a typo, that they had no intention of excluding the 'federal' states.”
Literally. He went on to decry suggestions to the contrary as "criminal." QED, right? Let's go to the video tape. Here's Gruber, who "knows more about this law than any other economist," explaining how the law he helped write and promote in 2012. The clip begins with his recent answer transcribed above, followed by his 2012 analysis:
"If you're a state and you don't set up an exchange, that means your citizens don't get their tax credits." He affirmed conservatives' argument in 2012 by sharing his own expertise about the law as it's written. Then, when his own explanation became politically problematic, he reversed positions, shamelessly arguing that "literally" nobody had ever intended to make the case that he himself had explicitly laid out. Who's the "criminal," again? The Left, gobsmacked by this discovery, cast about for answers, and Gruber gave them one this morning. It was comically pathetic:
I honestly don’t remember why I said that. I was speaking off-the-cuff. It was just a mistake. People make mistakes. Congress made a mistake drafting the law and I made a mistake talking about it...My subsequent statement was just a speak-o—you know, like a typo.
A "speak-o." That's a new one. He was just confused, you guys. He accidentally said the wrong thing. He was "speaking off the cuff." People make mistakes. But do they make "off the cuff speak-o mistakes" repeatedly, and in prepared remarks? Additional audio from a separate 2012 Gruber speech has surfaced:
"Finally, the third risk, and the one folks aren't talking about, which may be most important of all, is the role of the states...Will people understand that gee, if your governor doesn't set up an exchange, you're losing hundreds of millions of dollars of tax credits to be delivered to your citizens."
Not only did he offer this analysis at least twice, he emphasized the subsidy "risk" as an under-reported, highly important point. This man is a liar. And one of his prominent defenders has also admitted on tape that misleading the public about Obamacare's contents is justified in order to "win." Prominent Democrats agreed. For the humiliated Left, Gruber has gone from the gold standard witness on this question to an afterthought. Goalposts, shifted:
The ACA was the most debated and discussed piece of legislation in a generation. Find me a legislator saying what Gruber said. Go.— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 25, 2014
They said it in the legislation, champ. MT @chrislhayes Find me a legislator saying what Gruber said. Go.— jon gabriel (@exjon) July 25, 2014
Yep. It was in the bill, for which hundreds of Democrats voted. The House version included broader verbiage, but once Scott Brown got elected, Democrats didn't have the votes to revise their legislation. They had to embrace the Senate-passed bill, which specifically barred subsidies for consumers in states that hadn't set up their own marketplaces. One last point: Philip Klein worries that if the court's decision holds, it will create headaches for Republican governors who will come under intense pressure to set up Obamacare exchanges. You're heartlessly taking away people's healthcare! Ramesh Ponnuru isn't so sure that the politics would cut that way. Democrats are solely responsible for the mess they've made, and bitter attempts to blame Republicans for the law's myriad failures have thus far fallen flat.
Kelly Terry-Willis, the sister of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, is endorsing State Treasurer and former Cold Stone Creamery CEO Doug Ducey for Arizona Governor on behalf of her family. Her brother Brian, a highly trained BORTAC agent, was murdered in December 2010 by Mexican bandits carrying weapons from Operation Fast and Furious.
Terry-Willis released a statement supporting Ducey and expressed confidence in his ability to secure the southern border with Mexico.
“Our family understands the dangers of an unsecure border – our Brian died fighting to secure it. Thankfully, Arizona has the chance to elect a governor who also understands the dangers of an unsecure border. Someone who will stand up for what is right and do whatever it takes to get the job done. That next governor is Doug Ducey. My brother was a fighter and so is Doug," Terry-Willis said. “Doug is a strong advocate for a secure border and stands firmly behind every agent who places their life on the line to protect our country. The federal government hurt our family. A state government, led by Doug Ducey, will help yours -- and our out-of-control border. In the years since Brian’s death, my family has sought out strong leaders with sound moral character and the ability to affect change. One of those leaders is Doug Ducey, and my family and I wholeheartedly endorse him as the next governor of Arizona.”
She will also appear in a new video ad for the candidate which will start airing over the weekend in the Grand Canyon State.
“No family should have to endure what the Terry family has been through,” Ducey said in a statement. “I have nothing but respect and gratitude for Kelly and her entire family, and I’m honored and humbled to have their endorsement.”
Ducey is the first political candidate the Terry Family has endorsed since Brian's death. According to Real Clear Politics, Ducey is ahead in the primary by two points against five other Republican candidates.
Despite an ongoing humanitarian crisis at the border, President Obama is set to announce a major expansion of his already liberal executive amnesty program, according to multiple White House friendly sources.
On July 3, National Journal's Major Garrett reported:
Obama told the groups what they had been dying to hear—that he was going to condemn House Republicans for inaction and set the most expansive legal course permissible to beef up border security, slow deportations of noncriminal aliens, and provide legal status to millions of undocumented workers—all by himself. ... Obama made it clear he would press his executive powers to the limit. He gave quiet credence to recommendations from La Raza and other immigration groups that between 5 million to 6 million adult illegal immigrants could be spared deportation under a similar form of deferred adjudication he ordered for the so-called Dreamers in June 2012.
Yesterday, Time Magazine's Alex Altman reported:
When President Obama issues executive orders on immigration in coming weeks, pro-reform activists are expecting something dramatic: temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for perhaps several million undocumented immigrants. ...It’s hard to pin down how many people this would cover; it would depend on how the administration crafts the order. But the numbers are substantial. According to the CBO, there are an estimated 4.7 million undocumented parents with a minor child living in the U.S., and 3.8 million whose children are citizens. Around 1.5 million undocumented immigrants are married to a U.S. citizen or lawful resident, but have been unable to gain legal status themselves.
And Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown adds today:
The president has suggested privately that he would not go as far as extending temporary protections to all 11 million undocumented immigrants who would have qualified under the Senate bill. Instead, he’s weighing how to provide relief to subsets of the population based on family ties, longevity in the country or employment background. It’s unclear where he’ll draw the line, but advocates expect him to go far based on his initial statements that he wants to max out his legal authority.
All of these actions would, of course, be a huge flip-flop for Obama who has been claiming for months that his June 2012 DACA program was the absolute legal limit of how far he could stretch his executive powers.
Of course this would not be the first time Obama flip-flopped on the extent of his executive immigration powers. For the first three years of his presidency he insisted he did not have the legal authority to end deportations unilaterally.
“This notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is not true,” Obama told Hispanic journalists at a White House roundtable in November 2011. “The fact of the matter is there are laws on the books I have to enforce. And there is a great disservice done to the cause of getting the DREAM Act passed and comprehensive immigration reform passed by perpetuating the notion that somehow by myself I can just go and do these things.”
But Obama's June 2012 DACA order did exactly that: functionally turning the DREAM Act legislation into executive action reality.
Then in 2013, when activists pushed Obama to expand DACA, Obama insisted, "If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws."
Why has Obama changed his mind on the limits of his executive power so many times?
Time's Altman explained:
Despite the short-term political consequences, in the long run a bold stroke could help cement the Democratic Party’s ties with the vital and fast-growing Hispanic voting bloc. And it would be a legacy for Obama, a cautious chief executive whose presidency has largely been shaped by events outside his control. In the case of immigration, he has the capacity to ease the pain felt by millions with the stroke of a pen.
Damn the rule of law. All glory to Obama's legacy and the Democratic Party's emerging majority.
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput announced today at a conference in Fargo, North Dakota that Pope Francis has accepted his invitation to come to Philadelphia in September 2015 to attend the World Meeting of Families. Chaput's announcement confirmed rumors that the Supreme Pontiff was coming to the United States. The World Meeting of Families is an event held every three years by the Pontifical Council of the Family.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J. confirmed that the Bishop of Rome was indeed coming to Philadelphia for the event, and was also mulling offers to visit other major cities on the East Coast during his trip.
Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Friday that Pope Francis has expressed "his willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families" in Philadelphia, and has received invitations to visit other cities as well, which he is considering. Those invitations include New York, the United Nations and Washington.
The World Meeting of Families drew over a million people in 2012 in Milan, Italy for a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. It is likely the crowd in Philadelphia will be even larger, considering Pope Francis' popularity in the United States.
Personally, I'm pretty excited for Pope Francis' first trip to the United States since his election. I'm very curious about what he will have to say at the event, especially considering that this year's theme is the family's intrinsic value for society. In a time of rapidly falling birthrates and marriage rates, I wonder what Pope Francis will suggest as a possible solution.
Kristen Bell, known for her roles in the television series “Veronica Mars” and for voicing Anna in last year’s smash hit “Frozen,” teamed up with FunnyorDie.com to film a Mary Poppins spoof about increasing the minimum wage. Instead of the joyful nanny we all know and love, this Poppins is a disgruntled employee who demands a raise - or she'll fly back from where she came.
Singing to the tune of “Spoonful of Sugar,” Bell changed the lyrics a bit:
“Just a three dollar increase can make a living wage…I don’t get these birds for free.”
Then she had this exchange with her reflection, which seemed to be against a wage increase:
"Are you a Republican?"
"Well, I do like a good tea party."
Although this politically active Poppins thinks she is fighting for workers’ rights, a few inconvenient verses she left out go something like this:
“Small businesses are the least able to absorb such a dramatic increase in their labor costs...These proposals do not incentivize growth or hiring – they make it nearly impossible."
Or how about this little ditty:
“Raising the minimum wage raises the hurdle a worker must cross to justify being hired.”
Long story short: This Mary Poppins needs a Spoonful of Reality.
This isn't the first time "Funny or Die" has used celebrities and "humor" to espouse a liberal message. In September of last year, Jennifer Hudson filmed a parody of the TV show "Scandal" about Obamacare called "Scandalous," in which she concluded that all of her clients' issues could be solved by the president's health care law.
Watch their latest unfunny video below. Please excuse the language at the very end: