Elizabeth Warren Insists She's Not Running For President

Sorry, people who were hoping Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) would run as the Hillary Clinton alternative in 2016. In an interview on the Today show she made it clear: she is not running and enjoys her current position as a member of the Senate.

No. I'm not running and I'm not going to run. I'm in Washington. I have this really great job and a chance to try to make a difference on things that really matter.

Well there you have it.

Warren had been urged by progressives to run for president, especially in light of Clinton's various controversies. Warren, comparatively, has much less baggage than Sec. Clinton.

No Democrats have declared their intention to run in 2016.

BREAKING: Lois Lerner Escapes Criminal Contempt Charges

Lois Lerner, the disgraced ex-IRS official whose evident disdain for conservatives is now a matter of public record, will not be hit with criminal contempt charges for allegedly stonewalling Congress, despite House Republicans’ best efforts. Politico reports:

The Justice Department will not seek criminal contempt charges against former IRS official Lois Lerner, the central figure in a scandal that erupted over whether the tax agency improperly targeted conservative political groups.

Ronald Machen, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, told House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a seven-page letter this week that he would not bring a criminal case to a grand jury over Lerner’s refusal to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in March 2014. The House approved a criminal contempt resolution against Lerner in May 2014, and Machen’s office has been reviewing the issue since then.

Lerner and other IRS officials, however, are still under investigation by the FBI for the tea party targeting matter — which is a separate probe entirely.

In other words, she’s not off the hook yet – although she's avoided a major legal headache for now.

I'll leave you with this: the clip of Lerner's appearance in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has been the source of so much controversy:

Sen. Menendez Formally Charged With Corruption

This day was coming. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has been formally charged with corruption relating to dealings and interventions he made on behalf of one of his donors. The embattled Democrat vows to fight the indictment, and definitely ruled out resigning. 

“I’m not going anywhere,” he told reporters in March (via WaPo):

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) was indicted on public corruption charges by a federal grand jury in Newark, N.J., according to the Associated Press.

After a more than two-year investigation, Menendez faces charges for what prosecutors believe were improper efforts by Menendez to help Salomon Melgen, a Florida-based doctor who was also a contributor to Menendez’s campaigns and his longtime friend. Menendez intervened on Melgen’s behalf in a dispute with the federal regulators over Medicare charges and in a bid by Melgen to secure a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.

Menendez, would be only the second U.S. senator to face a federal corruption indictment in the last 20 years. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and suggested that any gifts he received from Melgen were part of a close, personal friendship that dates back to the early 1990s.

Federal prosecutors are also expected to unveil charges against Melgen connected to the gifts-for-favors allegations.

The Post noted that this case could last months, even years–and that Menendez's legal team tried desperately to convince Attorney General Eric Holder's top deputies not to file the charges. Menendez is the second U.S. Senator to be charged with corruption in two decades.  

IRS Offers Tax Deduction for Abortions But Not Stillborn Babies

Tax Day is quickly approaching and those looking to figure out which of their medical expenses are deductible might be surprised to see abortion at the top of the list of items that can be included in one's medical expense deduction. 

That’s right, according to the IRS, “you can include in medical expenses the amount you pay for a legal abortion.” In other words, killing your child earns you a tax break.

Even more disconcerting, however, is that the medical expenses parents incur for a stillborn child cannot be deducted. So death of a child by natural causes cannot be exempted, while the active killing of an unborn child can be deducted.

Got it.

H/T: LifeNews

MSNBC 'Debate' on Indiana Law: 'Cut His Mic Off!'

The Heritage Foundation's Ryan Anderson (with whom I happen to disagree on same-sex marriage) appeared on Ed Schultz's MSNBC program (cough) last night to discuss Indiana's religious freedom law, and the resulting conversation culminated with the host instructing producers to silence Anderson's microphone. End of Discussion:

Schultz advances one false or misleading narrative after another, then loses his composure when Anderson (or "Mr. Ryan," as Schultz calls him at one point) replies with rapid-fire factual corrections. Schultz interrupts Anderson's first answer almost immediately to contest the statement that Indiana's law is effectively the same as other RFRAs, including the federal law, which have been on the books for many years.  They are, in fact, virtually identical, with two relatively minor exceptions: First, the Hoosier State's law specifies that businesses are free to use RFRA claims to defend themselves from administrative sanctions and lawsuits, and second, it allows RFRA defenses to be mounted within private legal disputes that do not directly involve the government.  Anderson calmly explains that Indiana's legislative text reflects both the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby precedent, as well as the obvious reality that organizations like the New York Times and MSNBC can exercise First Amendment rights despite being corporations.  On the second small distinction, which Schultz didn't raise, four US circuit courts and the Obama DOJ have affirmed that RFRA protections can apply in cases involving private entities.  Defeated on the first point, Schultz moves on:  "If a gay couple walks into a restaurant, and I own it," he bellows, "you're telling me in Indiana, if I own that restaurant, that I can tell them to get the hell out of here? And you don't think that's discrimination?  That's the position of the right wing, correct?"  Incorrect.  Anderson challenges Schultz to point out any Indiana business that is denying services as a matter of course to gays and lesbians.  Schultz doesn't respond, perhaps because it isn't happening.  This form of discrimination wouldn't suddenly be "allowed" to happen under the new law anyway; it simply affords targets of government penalties or lawsuits the recourse of citing RFRA in their own self-defense...with no guarantee of success in court, mind you.  Here's another point, raised earlier in the week by Gabriel Malor:

Indiana does not have a public accommodation law that protects against anti-gay discrimination, meaning there’s no state law in Indiana preventing anti-gay discrimination in businesses even before the state RFRA was enacted. Notably, despite the lack of such a law, nobody can point to any Indiana businesses that were discriminating against gays.

Under Schultz's scenario, yes, a restaurant owner technically could tell a gay couple to "get the hell out," based on Indiana law as it's existed long before RFRA was even on the radar screen.  The new law doesn't change or impact that reality.  But just as importantly, despite business owners having the "right" to deny blanket services to gays for many years, Indiana businesses aren't doing so.  The Left has whipped up a self-righteous moral panic over a hypothetical situation that (a) is irrelevant to RFRA, and (b) has been proven to be unfounded by years of free, un-bigoted commerce in the state.  As far as gay rights and RFRA are concerned (most RFRA legal relief has absolutely nothing to do with gay issues), the most likely application at stake involves whether small businesses run by religious people can use RFRA as a defense against legal action stemming from their decision to decline providing their talents and services at same-sex weddings specifically.  This is a remarkably slender battleground.  Such modest carve-outs are a reasonable and fair accommodation in a free society.  A majority of Americans now support same-sex civil marriage, but a strong majority also believe that Orthodox Jewish florists, Muslim caterers and Christian photographers shouldn't be coerced into participating in those weddings if they'd prefer not to, on conscience grounds.  A tolerant, diverse society should permit such modest allowances -- just as it should allow, say, an LGBT activist photographer to decline a job at an aggressively anti-gay rights organization's annual convention.  Neither values-based choice should risk potentially business-destroying lawsuits.  Let's try authentic coexistence, rather than racing around trying to pummel each other into submission. RFRAs offer the possibility for that sort of cultural breathing room. 

Under the laws' balancing tests, people and businesses invoking RFRA defenses would first have to demonstrate that their religious exercise had been "substantially burdened."  It seems reasonable to conclude that serving gays at a lunch counter or hotel would not meet that threshold, whereas forced involvement in an actual wedding event could (or should).  Then the aggressor would need to show that superseding the defendant's religious liberties both serves a compelling interest, and is being meted out through the least restrictive means possible.  These are healthy, welcome protections and standards.  And once again, they do not guarantee that the defendants will prevail in the end.  There is no "open license to discriminate" here; RFRAs merely ensure that targeted parties have an opportunity to invoke this defense.  These facts are a far cry from the ignorant, indignant hyperventilation we've seen from many quarters over Indiana's new law.  I'll leave you with the outrage du jour, wherein a local news station literally went door to door in a small town trying to smoke out a business that might discriminate against gay customers.  They found...a pizzeria owner, who said she'd object to catering a gay wedding, thus unleashing an unhinged bullying firestorm of preposterous and frightening proportions:

The father in the clip understandably raised hackles by stating his opinion that people "choose" homosexuality, but the key sentence comes at the very end of the report: "The O'Connell family tells me that if a gay couple, or a couple belonging to another religion, stepped into their restaurant to eat, they would never deny them service. They only say they would just not cater their wedding."  Is this the sort of "hatred" over which these people (who did not seek the spotlight, by the way) ought to be abused and boycotted? Is this the sort of country we want to live in?

Ex-Clinton Aide Had Secret Intelligence Network, Raises Questions If Hillary Used This 'Undisclosed Back Channel’

ProPublica and Gawker have joined forces to investigate whether then-Secretary of State Secretary Hillary Clinton might have received intelligence from a secret network allegedly headed by Sidney Blumenthal.  Blumenthal was a former aide to President Bill Clinton and longtime ally. With the help of a CIA agent, he reportedly sent sensitive information to Hillary Clinton's private email account while she was Secretary of State. These emails have been turned over (both publications noted that Clinton's spokesperson assisted in this story), and there is no indication if she read or responded to them. We also don’t know who funded this secretive network, but it raises questions about the former secretary of state possibly using an “undisclosed back channel” for intelligence relating to Libya and other foreign affairs, according to ProPublica. The emails were posted on the Internet in 2013 by Romanian hacker Marcel-Lehel Lazar [emphasis mine]:

Starting weeks before Islamic militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, longtime Clinton family confidante Sidney Blumenthal supplied intelligence to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gathered by a secret network that included a former CIA clandestine service officer, according to hacked emails from Blumenthal’s account.

Blumenthal’s emails to Clinton, which were directed to her private email account, include at least a dozen detailed reports on events on the deteriorating political and security climate in Libya as well as events in other nations. They came to light after a hacker broke into Blumenthal’s account and have taken on new significance in light of the disclosure that she conducted State Department and personal business exclusively over an email server that she controlled and kept secret from State Department officials and which only recently was discovered by congressional investigators.

It’s unclear who tasked Blumenthal, known for his fierce loyalty to the Clintons, with preparing detailed intelligence briefs. It’s also not known who was paying him, or where the operation got its money. The memos were marked “confidential” and relied in many cases on “sensitive” sources in the Libyan opposition and Western intelligence and security services. Other reports focused on Egypt, Germany, and Turkey.

Indeed, though they were sent under Blumenthal’s name, the reports appear to have been gathered and prepared by Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of the CIA’s clandestine service in Europe who left the agency in 2005. Since then, he has established a consulting firm called Tyler Drumheller, LLC. He has also been affiliated with a firm called DMC Worldwide, which he co-founded with Washington, D.C., attorney Danny Murray and former general counsel to the U.S. Capitol Police John Caulfield. DMC Worldwide’s now-defunct website describes it at as offering “innovative security and intelligence solutions to global risks in a changing world.”

In one exchange in March 2013, Blumenthal emailed Drumheller, “Thanks. Can you send Libya report.” Drumheller replied, “Here it is, pls do not share it with Cody. I don’t want moin speculating on sources. It is on the Maghreb and Libya.” Cody is Cody Shearer, a longtime Clinton family operative—his brother was an ambassador under Bill Clinton and his now-deceased sister was married to Clinton State Department official Strobe Talbott—who was in close contact with Blumenthal. While it’s not entirely clear from the documents, “Moin” may refer to the nickname of Mohamed Mansour El Kikhia, a member of the Kikhia family, a prominent Libyan clan with ties to the Libyan National Transition Council. (An email address in Blumenthal’s address book, which was also leaked, was associated with his Facebook page.)

There’s no indication in Blumenthal’s emails whether Clinton read or replied to them before she left State on February 1, 2013, but he was clearly part of a select group with knowledge of the private clintonemail.com address, which was unknown to the public until Gawker published it this year.

You can read the Libya emails here.  It also appears Blumenthal’s reported network worked closely with the Libyan opposition at the time, even tossing the idea of putting operatives on the ground through a private contractor:

On September 12, 2012, the day after the Benghazi attack, Blumenthal sent a memo that cited a “sensitive source” saying that the interim Libyan president, Mohammed Yussef el Magariaf, was told by a senior security officer that the assault was inspired by an anti-Muslim video made in the U.S., as well as by allegations from Magariaf’s political opponents that he had CIA ties.

Blumenthal followed up the next day with an email titled “Re: More Magariaf private reax.” It said Libyan security officials believed an Islamist radical group called the Ansa al Sharia brigade had prepared the attack a month in advance and “took advantage of the cover” provided by the demonstrations against the video.

An October 25, 2012 memo says that Magariaf and the Libyan army chief of staff agree that the “situation in the country is becoming increasingly dangerous and unmanageable” and “far worse” than Western leaders realize.

Blumenthal’s email warnings, of course, followed a year of Libyan hawkishness on the part of Clinton. In February of 2011, she told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that "it is time for Gaddafi to go.” The next month, after having described Russian reluctance over military intervention as “despicable,” Clinton met with rebel leaders in Paris and drummed up support for a no-fly zone while in Cairo. On March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council voted to back Libyan rebels against Gaddafi.

It’s this buildup, which Clinton still proudly recalled in her 2014 memoir, that Blumenthal appears to join in on 2011. In addition to the intel memos, his emails also disclose that he and his associates worked to help the Libyan opposition, and even plotted to insert operatives on the ground using a private contractor.

A May 14, 2011 email exchange between Blumenthal and Shearer shows that they were negotiating with Drumheller to contract with someone referred to as “Grange” and “the general” to place send four operatives on a week-long mission to Tunis, Tunisia, and “to the border and back.” Tunisia borders Libya and Algeria.

“Sid, you are doing great work on this,” Drumheller wrote to Blumenthal. “It is going to be around $60,000, coverting r/t business class airfare to Tunis, travel in country to the border and back, and other expenses for 7–10 days for 4 guys.”

Gawker and ProPublica allege that “the general” is David L. Grange, who ran special operations from the Pentagon until 1999. He went on to found Osprey Global Solutions, which is a government contracting/consulting firm that specializes in intelligence, arms sales, and security training. Through documents posted by Lazar, Gawker and ProPublica, noted that a memo cited that Osprey would work with the National Transition Council–the governing authority in post-Qaddafi Libya–to “assist in the resumption of access to its assets and operations in country” and train Libyan forces in intelligence, weaponry, and ‘rule-of-land warfare.’”

Everyone involved, including the agencies investigating the hack, are refusing comment. Both publications reported that Drumheller’s business partner admitted that the former “worked” with Blumenthal, but stopped commenting from there. The FBI refused to comment, with Shearer saying he would heed to the advice of the Bureau and not talk about it.

Yet, the article also noted a Blumenthal memo on August 23, 2012 that detailed a series of kidnappings of foreign workers and diplomats in the Libyan cities of Benghazi, Tripoli, and Misrata, along with bombings that highlight a security situation devolving into chaos. Again, we do not know if Clinton read or replied to these correspondences, but if she did; it leaves her wide open to scrutiny, especially since she said no U.S. intelligence officials had “advance knowledge of the threat.” Granted, while the memo cited an increasingly hostile environment, it did not specifically say that U.S. foreign workers were at risk. Though, I doubt anyone will see it that way.

Though this network emailing Clinton’s private email address raises questions, the publications also mentioned that it was necessary to a certain degree:

Whatever Blumenthal, Shearer, Drumheller, and Grange were up to in 2011, 2012, and 2013 on Clinton’s behalf, it appears that she could have used the help: According to State Department personnel directories, in 2011 and 2012—the height of the Libya crisis—State didn’t have a Libyan desk officer, and the entire Near Eastern Magreb Bureau, which which covers Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, had just two staffers. Today, State has three Libyan desk officers and 11 people in the Near Eastern Magreb Bureau. A State Department official wouldn't say how many officers were on the desk in 2011, but said there was always "at least one" officer and "sometimes many more, working on Libya."

Reached for comment, a State Department public affairs official who would only speak on background declined to address questions about Blumenthal’s relationship to Clinton, whether she was aware of the intelligence network, and who if anyone was paying Blumenthal. Asked about the Tunisia-Libya mission, the official replied, “There was a trip with the secretary in October of 2011, but there was also a congressional delegation in April, 2011. There were media reports about both of these at the time." Neither trip involved travelling via Tunis.

Gawker updated its post to include that State had at least one desk officer assigned to Libya, despite no records of one in 2011 and 2012.

Still, who bankrolled this network? The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf aptly noted that just one of these missions, cited above, cost tens of thousands of dollars:

Who was paying for all this intelligence and analysis that wound up on Secretary Clinton's desk? Was this an expensive favor from someone? Did she bankroll it from her personal fortune? Was it hidden somewhere in the State Department's budget? The public deserves a true explanation, whatever it is, before they consider entrusting the presidency to her. So far, she is content to let voters wonder.

Bonus: Since we’re back on the issue of Clinton’s emails, James Carville conceded that the questions surrounding Clinton’s email server are “fair.” (H/T America Rising)

Here’s Ed’s post about this network over at Hot Air.

Latest: Airliner Knew Deranged Pilot Suffered From "Severe Depression"

It's been over a week now since 149 innocent passengers perished aboard Germanwings Flight 9525, all of whom suffered unimaginably and tragically in their final moments. Unsurprisingly, however, we still don't know (and probably cannot know) exactly why the flight’s co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, lost his mind and killed everyone on board.

And while it’s been firmly established that he was a deeply troubled young man (he shredded doctor notes declaring him medically unfit to fly and had, according to his girlfriend, an obsessive and overbearing personality), the latest bombshell is scandalizing: Lufthansa knew about Lubitz’s alarming medical history for years and did nothing.

The New York Times reports:

The co-pilot at the controls of the German jetliner that crashed in the French Alps last week informed Lufthansa in 2009 that he had suffered from severe depression, the company said Tuesday. …

It was the first acknowledgment by Lufthansa that it knew of Mr. Lubitz’s mental health issues before the crash, and raised further questions about why the airline had allowed Mr. Lubitz to complete his training and go on to fly passenger jets.

Why indeed? In fairness to Lufthansa, however, as Dennis Prager notes in his must-read column this week, just because a person is depressed does not necessarily mean he (or she) is capable of great acts of evil.

“We've heard repeatedly that Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was being treated for depression -- as if that largely explains why he did what he did,” he writes. “Yet, every one of us knows one or two depressed individuals, and it is inconceivable that they would commit mass murder.”

Thus, the airline could not possibly have known the depths of Lubitz's derangement. After all, Prager argues, Lubitz “lacked a properly functioning conscience” that, quite obviously, wasn't readily apparent to most people. And yet while “severe depression” might not necessarily be a medically disqualifying condition for pilots (clearly it wasn't in this particular instance), isn't it alarming that the airline was not more aware of, or concerned with, Lubitz's medical condition?

Meanwhile, this isn't helping matters:

Lufthansa, whose CEO previously said Lubitz was 100% fit to fly, described its statement Tuesday as a "swift and seamless clarification" and said it was sharing the information and documents -- including training and medical records -- with public prosecutors.

Despite his medical record, this false and now-retracted statement suggests that the airline was completely and totally oblivious to how dangerous Lubitz was to the general public.

Surely, then, if this tragedy teaches us anything, it's that Germanwings (and every other airline in operation around the world) needs to do a much better job vetting and monitoring their pilots.

Let's hope that process has already begun.

Newt Gingrich Pulls April Fools' Day Prank on Twitter

Fans of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R) may have been a tad surprised when they saw him tweet early this morning morning that he's had a change of heart and now supports President Obama's foreign policy:

...but never fear, Gingrich was simply getting a (very) early start on this year's April Fools' Day pranks.

Gingrich joins many other politicians who have used April Fools' Day to make a fake announcement. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) teased in a tweet that sounded vaguely like a declaration of a presidential run...that wound up being an announcement of support for the University of Wisconsin's Men's Basketball team in their upcoming game in the NCAA Final Four.

Happy April Fools! Trust nobody.

Indiana Pro-life Site Hacked After it Announces Support of RFRA

The Indiana Right to Life website has been taken offline by hackers after the pro-life group announced its support of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. While no direct explanation has been confirmed, the timing of the attack is certainly suspicious. The pro-life group sent out this urgent press release Wednesday morning:

Hackers took Indiana Right to Life's website offline Tuesday evening, possibly in retaliation for the organization's support of Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). A Twitter user claimed responsibility, using the same hashtag - #Offline - as was used by the apparent hacker who disrupted the state of Indiana's website on Friday, Mar. 27.

Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter responded to the hacking incident with no regrets about his organization’s goals:

"We face bitter opposition to our work protecting the unborn every day, but most who oppose our mission do so in the open," said Mike Fichter, President and CEO of Indiana Right to Life. "This attack on our website is cowardly. We have been exercising our freedom of speech as we support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is an important safeguard for pro-life Hoosiers against government directives supporting abortion. This attack appears to be in retaliation for that support. It's disappointing that the level of discourse has been lowered by a party wishing to silence our voice."

In a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) defended RFRA and lambasted the press for their mischaracterization of the important legislation. While many critics decried the bill as a tool to discriminate against homosexuals, Pence rejected that description and insisted it is simply about protecting Hoosiers’ religious freedom.

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was about religious liberty, not about discrimination,” he said. “As I said last week, had this law been about legalizing discrimination I would have vetoed it. This law does not give anyone a license to discriminate. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana does not give anyone the right to deny services to anyone.”

Indiana Right to Life’s endorsement of the bill comes as no surprise, considering it would, in part, prevent pro-lifers from being forced to support abortions.

I think the #Offline hacker needs to read the fine print. Hopefully the website is restored and Indiana Right to Life can get back to providing Hoosiers with important pro-life information and resources.

Howard Dean: Yeah, It's Time to Walk Away From the Iran Negotiations

According to some White House defenders'  simplistic and demagogic formulation, skeptics of the Iran deal are beating the drums of war. This ignores a range of alternative options, including the imposition of crippling sanctions, but that's not the point. The point is to pretend that Obama's permissive deal is the only thing standing between the US and a ground war in Iran. Via NRO, say hello to Howard Dean, warmonger:

Dean dutifully gets in his shots at Republicans and the "discredited" Israeli Prime Minister (whose people just handed a smashing victory), but he ultimately confesses that he's "worried about the way these negotiations have gone." He counsels the American delegation to pack up and leave, and perhaps return to the table at a later date when additional pressure has been ratcheted up against the regime.  Here's where things stand at last report: Top negotiators from several countries have departed Switzerland, despite the US' insistence that talks continue past yesterday's deadline.  Because the rate of progress is "slow going," according to the British Foreign Minister, this is the farcical readjustment of expectations bleeding out of the negotiations:

"Negotiators have a tentative agreement on the rough outline of a possible public statement on the progress they have made so far that would also highlight areas of disagreement, diplomats close to the talks said."

Not a dark April Fool's joke, I'm afraid. They've spilled past the twice-delayed deadline, and they might have a "tentative agreement on the rough outline of a possible public statement" to show for their efforts.  Why are people like the French, Howard Dean and Leon Panetta so dubious of the emergence a good deal at this stage?  Because Iran's regime is run by deeply untrustworthy, terrorist-facilitating, anti-Semitic, anti-American fanatics and liars.  And because based on multiple reports, US-led negotiations have thus far surrendered massive concessions to Tehran, possibly with more to come.  Smelling weakness, the Iranians have declared themselves unsatisfied with a legitimized nuclear infrastructure, a recognized right to enrich, and a sunset clause on Western-imposed restrictions (all huge giveaways).  They've tacked on additional demands, several involving a retreat from previously-agreed-to concessions on their part.  Rather than slamming the door on immediate sanctions relief, keeping centrifuges spinning at an underground fortified bunker, and balking at removing already-enriched materials from the country, Kerry and company have scrambled to make new accommodations.  We're not even sure if Tehran will promise to allow snap inspections or address past military applications of their rogue nuclear program, both of which have been considered by many to be bare minimums.  America has voluntarily ceded its position of strength at the table to one of desperation.  And as a reminder, these talks do not touch Iran's long-range missile program, human rights abuses, sponsorship or terrorism, or lethal meddling throughout the region.  And they persist despite the Iranian military staging a simulated assault on a replica American aircraft carrier, its Supreme Leader leading "death to America" chants, and its nuclear program "accidentally" breaching the terms of the existing interim deal.  I'll leave you with this Free Beacon video montage juxtaposing President Obama's tough talk with his negotiating team's repeated capitulations -- followed by a word from a world leader with real moral clarity:

ACLJ: Hey Obama, While You're Negotiating With Iran, Help Free Pastor Saeed

President Obama is still hoping to strike a deal with Iran's leaders over a controversial nuclear agreement – one which brought Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Capitol Hill to warn the world of its potentially disastrous consequences. While the president is negotiating, the American Center for Law and Justice reminded him of some other unfinished business: securing the release of American Pastor Saeed Abedini.

Abedini, a Christian pastor, was arrested in Iran two and a half years ago simply because of his faith. He has languished in a tortuous prison ever since.

Jay Sekulow, the Chief Counsel for ACLJ, is now urging the Obama administration to not be complacent.

Why hasn't Pastor Saeed been released? Like the nuclear talks, there are questions for both sides regarding Pastor Saeed.”

He continues:

Why can’t the U.S. make it happen? Can’t officials apply pressure to free this U.S. citizen? And for Iran -- which clearly needs to earn the world’s trust -- what better way exists for the Iranians to take an important step forward?

I had the chance to have a sit-down interview Mrs. Naghmeh Abedini last year. I found her demeanor to be somber, yet hopeful, for her family’s faith in God had not wavered. Yet, she said the president's words need to be followed by actions. She fears his dire situation will be all but forgotten in the nuclear negotiation process.

“I believe they’re going to use all the leverage that they have for nuclear talks, and I do believe Saeed has been abandoned and forgotten in this process," she said. "Again I’m thankful for those statements, but there has to be action to back that up. It’s been two years too long.”

Instead of making deals with a country that has failed to prove its trustworthiness, why not urge Iran to clean up its atrocious human rights record and demand Saeed's return?

That is a deal worth signing, Mr. President.

Townhall.com Welcomes Allen West as New Contributing Columnist

Townhall Media, a national leader in conservative news, announced Wednesday that former U.S. Representative (FL-22) and Lieutenant Colonel Allen West has joined the Townhall family of talented and influential conservative voices as a regular, bi-weekly contributor for Townhall.com.

"I am excited and honored to welcome Lt. Col. Allen West as a regular contributor to our site,” said Katie Pavlich, Editor at Townhall.com. “We look forward to sharing his unique perspective, shaped by his impressive background, expertise and experience in all aspects of life and public policy, with our audience."

West’s exclusive columns will cover a broad range of issues, including, but not limited to: health care, environment, retirement, education, taxes, and energy. His pieces run online every other Wednesday beginning April 1, 2015.

West, who is President and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, praised Townhall in a statement shortly after the partnership was confirmed:

“An example of the greatness of America is this: I remember being a civilian-military advisor to the Afghanistan Army for two and half years and the most integral medium that kept me in tuned to conservative perspective on issues was Townhall.com. And now, I have been blessed to be named a contributor to Townhall. This is what we must fight to preserve – the aspect that in our beloved Constitutional Republic, hopes and dreams are achievable by the individual by way of the pursuit of happiness – not a government perceived guarantee of happiness. I look forward to providing you, the thoughtful conservative reader, bi-weekly insightful missives.”

The NCPA is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to promoting free-market alternatives to government-regulated initiatives. For more information, please visit http://www.ncpa.org/. Lt. Col. West’s first column can be found here, and subsequent columns can be found every other Wednesday on Townhall’s homepage or at www.townhall.com/columnists.

Study: Fracking Doesn’t Mess With Your Drinking Water

Let the word go forth that fracking does not mess with your drinking water. In a new study of over 11,000 drinking wells, fracking wasn’t considered the reason for water contamination through methane creeping into the wells. At the same time, Science magazine noted that the authors of the new study are still disputing the validity of the results (via Science Magazine):

The new study of 11,309 drinking water wells in northeastern Pennsylvania concludes that background levels of methane in the water are unrelated to the location of hundreds of oil and gas wells that tap hydraulically fractured, or fracked, rock formations. The finding suggests that fracking operations are not significantly contributing to the leakage of methane from deep rock formations, where oil and gas are extracted, up to the shallower aquifers where well water is drawn.

The result also calls into question prominent studies in 2011 and 2013 that did find a correlation in a nearby part of Pennsylvania. There, wells closer to fracking sites had higher levels of methane. Those studies, however, were based on just 60 and 141 domestic well samples, respectively.

“I would argue that [more than] 10,000 data points really tell a better story,” says hydrogeologist Donald Siegel of Syracuse University in New York, whose team published the new study online this month in Environmental Science & Technology. Chesapeake Energy Corp., which has large oil and gas stakes in Pennsylvania, supplied the researchers with the database, the largest of its kind, and also funded the work.

For all their disagreements, scientists on both sides of the fracking debate agree that it is very unlikely that microfracturing of rock formation itself contributes to the vertical migration of gases. The problem, they say, is with a minority of badly cased or cemented wells—they just disagree on how often this occurs. Siegel cites a 2014 study that found that just 0.24% of the thousands of wells in northeast Pennsylvania were ever given violation notices related to the migration of methane into groundwater. But Anthony Ingraffea, a civil engineer at Cornell University who is alarmed by the risks of fracking, says those violation notices are just the tip of the iceberg. He points to a study he led, published in PNAS [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences] in 2014, which found that 9% of unconventional wells drilled in northeast Pennsylvania since 2009 already have structural integrity issues. That problem will grow, he says, as wells age, and as tens of thousands of new wells are bored. “We’re just at the beginning,” Ingraffea says.

So, it appears that the issue surrounding methane contamination of drinking wells mostly rests on poor construction of the well:

Siegel doesn’t deny that there have been problems with a few wells with poorly engineered steel casings or cracked and degraded cement walls designed to keep the boreholes from leaking. Such defective borehole walls can provide a conduit for the methane to move from the shale formation, more than a kilometer underground, to water wells just a hundred meters or so below the surface. But he says his study shows that it is an exceedingly rare issue. “We haven’t seen any evidence [of methane migration] other than the occasional local issue,” he says. “I think our paper, in my view, pretty much seals the deal.”

Regardless, the Obama administration has released new regulations on fracking, which is a method that’s used to extract natural gas since 1947.

Fracking, the Keystone pipeline, and the plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 30 percent by 2025 are issues at the heart of job creation in Washington. For construction, the impact could be steep with 45,000 jobs being lost every year if the EPA continues to push their agenda with ozone standards (via PCA):

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to further tighten ozone standards could result in the loss of more than 45,000 construction jobs each year, slow the nation's economy, and impede vital infrastructure investments.

PCA estimates that the cement industry alone would have compliance costs and plant closures that could lead to the loss of nearly 900 jobs. Cement manufacturing jobs are highly technical and well-paying, with an average wage of $77,481 per year. Most cement plants are located in small rural communities, so the impact would be felt disproportionately in those regions.

“A cement plant is vital to the economy of its community. When one is forced to close, the region loses jobs, it loses significant tax revenue for schools and public services, and it loses a strong supporter of local charities and civic activities,” said James Toscas, president and CEO at PCA. “Over the past four decades, the U.S. has virtually eliminated the severe air pollution that currently plagues some other countries. However, regulators have continued to tighten air quality standards, often with little or no proven health benefit. This has gotten to the point where our essential industries have struggled to meet current standards, incurred significant costs, and in some cases had to simply shut plants down.”

Most cement and concrete in the U.S is used for infrastructure. Higher costs for construction projects would mean that governments could afford fewer projects each year.

Second Blogger Hacked to Death In Bangladesh: Police Suspect Assailants Tied To Terror Group

A 27-year-old atheist blogger named Oyasiqur Rahman Babu was hacked to death by three Islamic extremists with machetes in broad daylight in Dhaka, Bangladesh Monday morning.

Dead upon arrival, Rahman was brought to a local hospital with two gashes in his throat and four in his face, Bangladesh’s Daily Star reports.

Two assailants in Rahman’s slaying (pictured above) were apprehended almost immediately, and confessed to the killing while being questioned by police, the Daily Star reports.

The pair were students at Hefazat-e-Islam, a known radical Islamist group which has demanded the death penalty for “atheist” bloggers that criticize Islam.

Authorities told local press that during interrogation, the suspects said they had killed Rahman because of his writing on religious issues, according to the Dhaka Tribune.

Also during interrogation the two apprehended suspects said they were instructed to carry out the attack by a third party, whom they named as “Masum.”

“Masum showed us some writings and a photograph of the person. He asked us to come to Dakkhin Begunbari at 9 a.m. when the man comes out of his house for office,” said one of the suspects, according to the Daily Star. “Accordingly, we carried out the attack with cleavers.”

Rahman was the second atheist blogger to be hacked to death in Dhaka in the past five weeks, and the fourth since 2006. In February, secular blogger Avjit Roy and his wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya were also attacked. Rahman had expressed his support of Avjit on social media after the previous attack, changing his profile picture to an image of the hashtag “#iamavijit.”

Freedom-loving nations and coalitions around the world have expressed their condemnation of the murder.

"The Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh condemns the brutal assault and killing of blogger Washiqur Rahman...

Posted by European Union in Bangladesh on Monday, March 30, 2015

“It’s a matter of tremendous concern that different journalists and other intellectuals have been attacked,” said Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, on Monday.

A total of four men -- the three assailants and the third party -- have been charged by local police with the murder.

Programming Note: The Hugh Hewitt Show

Mary Katharine Ham and I will be subbing for the great Hugh Hewitt tonight, taking the reins of his nationally-syndicated radio show from 6-9pm ET.  Guests include WaPo's Jennifer Rubin on Iran, The Federalist's Gabriel Malor on the Indiana firestorm, plus CNN's Jake Tapper, among others.  Oh, and we may or may not mention our forthcoming book, End of Discussion, which seems highly relevant in light of the Outrage Circus' patented fact-subordinating machinations over RFRA and gay rights.  It'll be a spirited, fast-paced show with lots of breaking news.  We hope you'll tune in. (And pre-order our book!)

Christians Under Attack in Egypt Over Church Honoring Relatives Killed by ISIS

Relatives of the Coptic Christians who were murdered by ISIS in Libya last month are now facing violent attacks of their own—all for wanting to build a church to honor their loved ones.

FoxNews.com reports:

An angry mob in the Upper Egyptian village of Al Our – the proposed site of the church because it was home to 13 of the 21 Christians murdered in the mass “beachfront” decapitation – descended on the community’s current church after the midday Islamic prayer Friday and chanted that they’d never allow construction of the new place of worship to begin, witnesses told Egyptian activists in the U.S.

Things turned far uglier after nightfall, the witnesses said, as a smaller number of individuals threw Molotov cocktails and stones at the church, injuring several people, and setting cars ablaze, including one that belonged to a relative of one of the victims of the Libyan massacre.

“The police came, but after the attack,” said Mina Abdelmalak, a Coptic Christian living in Washington who is in close contact with the witnesses to the events in Al Our. “There were already cars on fire. People had been bloodied. Stones and bricks had been thrown.”

The Coptic Christians from Al Our first sought permission from Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to build the church, which until recently has been a customary requirement for the religious minority in the country. No such permission is required to build mosques, however.

Even with al-Sisi’s consent, however, local Muslims objected, particularly over its location near the entrance to the village.

“This is a classic issue in Egypt,” Abdelmalak said, reports Fox. “Even after you struggle to get permission from the president to build a church, you still have to face the mob, which rejects the idea of having a church built in their neighborhood.”

A new location outside the village is now eyed following a meeting between Muslim and Coptic residents that the regional governor brokered.

“This has been effectively imposed on the Coptic residents,” Abdelmalak said. “Dictates to the Christian community are always presented as agreements.”

While police did arrest some members of the mob who participated in the attacks, they were released a few hours later.

Egypt currently ranks No. 21 on Open Doors’ annual list of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian.

Americans Send 1.6 Million Letters to Congress to End ObamaNet

It’s been just one month since the Federal Communications Commission voted to regulate the internet, yet freedom-loving Americans are already inundating Congress with their complaints.

On February 26, the FCC voted to alter the rules under Title II of the Communications Act in order to regulate our computers just like utility and phone companies. It is this extreme power grab that convinced American Commitment, a free-market advocacy group, to mobilize over 500,000 citizens to send letters to Congress sharing their concern about the rise of "ObamaNet." In total, 1,621,614 letters were mailed to Capitol Hill. Phil Kerpen, the president of American Commitment, told Townhall he was pleasantly surprised by the outpouring.

“I have never seen such an overwhelming push back from the general public against the federal regulatory action,” he said. “We’ve seen just a stunning response. In just one month, we had more than half a million people take action.”

Each constituent sent three letters through American Commitment – one to the House and two to the Senate. Kerpen said Congress cannot ignore such a barrage of demands.

“I think they’re starting to feel some pressure up on Capitol Hill.”

That pressure is even being felt across party lines. Last week, G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, became the first Democrat to announce he supported congressional action against the FCC regulations.

Kerpen is not surprised by the backlash considering the law’s vast consequences.

“It’s pretty astonishing what the FCC did here to end two decades of successful free market internet policy and instead say we’re going to regulate the internet like a public utility like a 1930’s law designed for the old phone system.”

Kerpen points to another factor that may be driving Americans’ powerful and passionate responses. A Rasmussen Reports poll from last year asked participants, “Are you worried that the FCC regulating the internet will lead to content control and politicization?” Sixty-eight percent said 'yes.'

“We’ve long argued that once you put federal bureaucrats in charge of the economics of the network, it’s only a matter of time before they try to control the content as well," Kerpen said. "I think that is a widely held concern.”

He said Congress has yet to respond to the campaign, but expects that as they move from the oversight phase into more serious legislative action, members will start addressing the letters.

These letters are likely to speak on behalf of all Americans who cherish their freedom and reject the current administration’s apparent obsession with controlling key aspects of their lives. Obamacare ring a bell?

Let the people tweet!

Surprise: Some Folks Are Abusing Their EBT Cards

Budget legislation passed by Congress last week includes cuts to some welfare programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The cuts have already attracted backlash from left wing activist groups like the feminist group UltraViolet, which launched a campaign to petition Congress to restore the funding.

“Overnight, the U.S. Senate voted for a budget that literally takes food away from hungry children,” UltraViolet’s campaign pleads. “The budgets that have now passed both the House and Senate make deep, painful cuts to the food stamps program.”

TurningPoint USA responded with a little digging. Here’s what they found:

After a brief search on Twitter and Instagram, Turning Point USA uncovered more than one hundred documented examples of welfare recipients abusing, mocking, and making light of welfare programs. Ripe with abuse, Twitter users attempt to sell food stamps, trade the stamps for weed, and purchase expensive food items.

Several of the social media posts use the hashtags #EBT, #EBTgang, #EBTcard, #EBTsquad, and #TeamEBT – many of which depict a culture of glorifying the use of Electronic Benefit Transfers (EBTs.)

A few examples of the Instagram posts from TurningPoint’s investigation:

The rest can be found here.

Poll: Voters In Key States Don't Trust Hillary Clinton Due To Emails

As Hillary Clinton prepares to launch her presidential campaign, a Quinnipiac Poll released Tuesday morning shows that nearly half of voters in key states don’t view her as honest and trustworthy.

“Majorities in each state think Clinton still has questions to answer about her emails,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll. “Voters in each state are evenly divided on whether Congressional hearings are warranted.”

In the wake of a tumultuous month of Clinton’s still-developing email scandal, 50 percent of Florida voters see the former Secretary of State as dishonest -- compared to 41 percent that do trust her.

In Pennsylvania, 49 percent of voters don’t trust Clinton and 44 percent do.

Ohio voters are nearly evenly divided: 47 percent don't trust Clinton and 46 percent do.

“Thirty-six percent of independent voters in the key state of Ohio say they are less likely to vote for her because of the e-mail controversy,” Brown said.

“The good news for Hillary Clinton is that the e-mail controversy has not done huge violence to her presidential chances,” he added.

The poll showed that GOP candidates would win against Clinton in both Florida and Pennsylvania.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush beat Clinton 45 to 42 in the Sunshine State, while Kentucky Senator Rand Paul beat Clinton 45 to 44.

“A red flag in blue state Pennsylvania,"said Tim Malloy, another assistant director of the poll. “Hillary Clinton, seemingly invincible before the e-mail scandal, ends up tied with Rand Paul.”

Gowdy To Clinton: Let’s Have That Interview About Your Emails, Madam Secretary

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, has sent a letter to Clinton’s attorney requesting the former secretary of state sit down for a transcribed interview about her private email address and server. Recently, Clinton’s attorney said that they won’t turn over the server, and that it would be a moot point because it had been wiped clean.

Gowdy has said ad nauseum that the committee isn’t interested in any emails relating to Mrs. Clinton’s personal life, or any emails that have nothing to do with Libya or the Benghazi terrorist attack in 2012.

“Toward that end and because of the Secretary’s unique arrangement with herself as it relates to public records during and after her tenure as Secretary of State, this Committee is left with no alternative but to request Secretary Clinton appear before this Committee for a transcribed interview to better understand decisions the Secretary made relevant to the creation, maintenance, retention, and ultimately deletion of public records,” wrote Gowdy. “The Committee is willing to schedule the interview at a time convenient for Secretary Clinton, but no later than May 1, 2015.”

We continue to believe Secretary Clinton’s email arrangement with herself is highly unusual, if not unprecedented. The decision to delete these records during the pendency of a congressional investigation only exacerbates our need to better understand what the Secretary did, when she did it, and why she did it. While she has cited a variety of justifications for this arrangement, many questions and details about the arrangement remain unanswered. These questions relate to:

  1. her decision to bypass an official government email account;
  2. whether she affirmatively turned over any relevant records during the pendency of the Accountability Review Board investigation or at any time after Congress first began investigating the Benghazi attack until December 2014;
  3. her decision to retain those records upon separation from the Department of State;
  4. the methodology by which these emails were subsequently searched for evidence of official records; and
  5. her decision to delete certain emails.

White House: We'll Probably Extend Nuke Talks With Iran

Talks surrounding Iran's nuclear program are down to the wire just five hours ahead of the 6 pm eastern deadline today. The White House is admitting a deal may not be reached in time and that talks may be extended to the end of June.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that even if a deal is reached today or tomorrow, experts need time to dig through the details. Earnest also said a military option is on the table and always has been, but that the administration is still working toward a diplomatic solution.

"The military option has been on the table for quite sometime and continues to be on the table today. That being said, the diplomatic approach would be more effective in resolving the international community's concerns than the military approach," Earnest said. "The President is willing to walk away from the negotiating table before signing a bad deal."

Earnest said any deal that is reached would have to include Iran shutting down every path they have to a nuclear weapon.

"Even if we were to reach a good agreement....we're still going to have a long list of concerns about Iran's behavior. I don't want to leave anybody with the impression we're going to solve all of those concerns through nuclear talks," Earnest said.  "The international community is united no this. What's holding up the talks is the specific commitment that we need to see."

Yesterday Iran made unattainable last minute demands as talks continued to fall apart. Iranian nuclear talks with the United States have already been delayed multiple times.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have stressed the importance of approving an agreement if one is reached.

Anti-Gun Hollywood Liberal Accused of Molesting Young Woman

Meet Harvey Weinstein: Hollywood liberal and an anti-gun zealot. One of his latest projects (which will bomb at the box office), is a movie specifically targeting the National Rifle Association. 

They are going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them,” Weinstein told Stern on Wednesday, referring to the NRA’s lobbying and political strength.

Weinstein did not go into specifics about the project, but said that Meryl Streep was involved and that it would not be a documentary but “a big movie like ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.'”

“I don’t think we need guns in this country, and I hate it,” Weinstein told Stern. “The NRA is a disaster area.”

But it turns out, Weinstein may have more than an anti-gun political position to blame for his stance against firearms ownership, especially among women. From the Washington Times

A 22-year-old Italian woman has accused Hollywood film producer and Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein of sexually assaulting her Friday night in New York City, police sources told the New York Daily News.

The woman, who wasn’t identified, told police that Mr. Weinstein, 63, touched her private area and her breasts about 6 p.m. Friday at the Tribeca Film Center, the sources reportedly said.

Mr. Weinstein has been questioned by police, and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance will decide whether to file charges, the Daily News reported.

“He initiated the contact,” the source said of Mr. Weinstein, the Daily News reported. “He saw her and spoke to her. She didn’t know who he was until he approached her.”

Funny how anti-gun men often turn out to be creeps. It isn't the men who support firearms ownership among women who we should be worried about, instead, it's the men who don't.

H/T @MadStJack

Pence on RFRA: "This Law Does Not Give Anyone A License To Discriminate"

Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) is under intense scrutiny after signing into law a statute that purportedly allows businesses to discriminate against certain classes of Hoosiers. Pushing back against all the misinformation, however, Gov. Pence defended the law in a press conference on Tuesday, thereby hopefully setting the record straight and addressing the controversy head-on.

“Let me say first and foremost I was proud to sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week,” he said. “I believe religious liberty, as President Clinton said when he signed the federal law in 1993, [is] our first freedom and it is vital to millions of Americans who cherish faith as I and my family do. But it’s also vital to the framework of freedom in our nation.”

“This legislation was designed to ensure the vitality of religious liberty in the Hoosier State,” he continued. “But clearly, there’s been misunderstanding and confusion and mischaracterization of this law. And I come before you today to say how we’re going to address that.”

He then dove into the specifics of the widely-pilloried bill.

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was about religious liberty, not about discrimination,” he said. “As I said last week, had this law been about legalizing discrimination I would have vetoed it. This law does not give anyone a license to discriminate. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana does not give anyone the right to deny services to anyone.”

“I don’t believe for a minute that it was the intention of the general assembly to create a license to discriminate or a right to deny services to gays, lesbians, or anyone else," he added. “But I can appreciate that’s become the perception, not just here in Indiana, but all across this country and we need to confront that."

He also announced, however, that the bill needed to be improved, and therefore would look to the state legislature first and foremost to help clarify and refine the bill’s language.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone,” he said, urging state lawmakers to act as soon as possible. “ We want to make it clear that Indiana is open for business. We want to make it clear that Hoosier hospitality is not a slogan, it’s a way of life.”

“Let me say I believe this is a clarification, but it’s also a fix,” he added. "[The bill] through mischaracterization and confusion, has come to be greatly misunderstood. And I’m determined to address this [problem] this week.”

Not surprisingly, he also characterized the national media’s reporting vis-à-vis the bill as both “reckless” and “irresponsible”—although he conceded in recent days it had “gotten better.”

Krugman: All of These 'Imaginary' Obamacare Horror Stories Are 'Invented'

Here we go again. One of the High Priests of the so-called "reality-based community" has for the umpteenth time pronounced Obamacare a great success, asserting that people who believe otherwise (like, for example, the majority of the American people) have either been deceived, or are liars. Paint-by-numbers acerbic Leftist, reactionary smear artist, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman calls Obamacare horror stories "imaginary disasters," made up from whole cloth to scare people and undermine a law that's working and helping people.  We've spent quite a lot of time refuting variants of this argument in recent years, producing detailed responses to President ObamaHarry Reid, and two different bloggers at Vox.  Here's Krugman -- in a column declaring Obamacare a success and its opponents discredited, no less -- bemoaning our "post-truth politics:"

In short, when it comes to the facts, the attack on health reform has come up empty-handed...And the favorable experiences of the roughly 16 million Americans who have gained insurance so far have had little effect on public perceptions. Partly that’s because the Affordable Care Act, by design, has had almost no effect on those who already had good health insurance: Before the act, a large majority of Americans were already covered by their employers, by Medicare or by Medicaid, and they have seen no change in their status. At a deeper level, however, what we’re looking at here is the impact of post-truth politics. We live in an era in which politicians and the supposed experts who serve them never feel obliged to acknowledge uncomfortable facts, in which no argument is ever dropped, no matter how overwhelming the evidence that it’s wrong. And the result is that imaginary disasters can overshadow real successes. Obamacare isn’t perfect, but it has dramatically improved the lives of millions. Someone should tell the voters.

Actually, when it comes to the facts, opponents' attacks on the law have been overwhelmingly vindicated. Obamacare has failed to deliver on nearly every major promise upon which it was sold.  Remember, one of the law's chief architects has conceded that its PR team lied about taxing benefits, lied about cost control, and intentionally exploited legislative opacity, which he bragged would help bamboozle "stupid" voters. So the statement that critics have "come up empty-handed" could only come from a cloistered, closed-minded ideologue who admits to shielding himself from uncomfortable data and opposing viewpoints.  Krugman also fails to mention that many of the millions who've "gained insurance" under the law previously had coverage and were forced to sign up through the exchanges when their suddenly-noncompliant plans were unceremoniously canceled.  He writes that the law had "almost no effect" on people who were already happily insured.  That's only true if you willfully ignore the millions of consumers who've received cancellation notices as a direct result of the law, and the millions more who will experience the same upheaval in the years to come.  Finally, poll after poll confirms that Americans who've been directly harmed by Obamacare substantially outnumber those whose lives have been "dramatically improved."  These are people's actual experiences, and no amount of smug, tendentious bloviating can alter people's everyday realities.  These disasters are not "imaginary" -- as Krugman might be aware if he deigned to read his own newspaper from time to time.  Here's the Times last month:

Ms. Pineman, who is self-employed, accepted that she’d have to pay higher premiums for a plan with a narrower provider network and no out-of-network coverage. She accepted that she’d have to pay out of pocket to see her primary care physician, who didn’t participate. She even accepted having co-pays of nearly $1,800 to have a cast put on her ankle in an emergency room after she broke it while playing tennis. But her frustration bubbled over when she tried to arrange a follow-up visit with an orthopedist in her Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield network: The nearest doctor available who treated ankle problems was in Stamford, Conn. When she called to protest, her insurer said that Stamford was 14 miles from her home and 15 was considered a reasonable travel distance. “It was ridiculous — didn’t they notice it was in another state?” said Ms. Pineman, 46, who was on crutches. She instead paid $350 to see a nearby orthopedist and bought a boot on Amazon as he suggested. She has since forked over hundreds of dollars more for a physical therapist that insurance didn’t cover, even though that provider was in-network...For still others, the new fees are so confusing and unsupportable that they just avoid seeing doctors...by endorsing and expanding the complex new policies promoted by the health care industry, the law may in some ways be undermining its signature promise: health care that is accessible and affordable for all.

Would Mr. Krugman care to repeat his "imaginary" rubbish to the faces of this cancer patient, this young mother, this erstwhile Obamacare poster child, or these workers in Pennsylvania?

I'll leave you with this interesting nugget from the Libre Initiative:

As the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2015 ends, analysis by Avalere Health shows that while 76 percent of eligible individuals between 100 and 150 percent of the Poverty level signed up through Healthcare .gov this year, enrollment figures decline dramatically among people earning more. Just 16 percent of those earning between 300 and 400 percent of the federal Poverty level signed up, and just 2 percent of those earning $46,000 or more per year did so. The data shows that for consumers who bear a significant portion of the cost themselves, the federal exchange is simply not a popular option. Only when large taxpayer subsidies are provided are people choosing to enroll in significant numbers. But people are required by the ACA to purchase health insurance or face penalties, and as these penalties increase over time, more Americans will be compelled to comply with the law or face penalties that are simply too onerous.

This is a wealth redistribution scheme that hurts the middle class.  As it turns out, people who are both mandated to buy coverage and handed large subsidies from taxpayers are the most likely group to sign up for Obamacare. Go figure. "Success!"

Reid: Nope, I Have No Regrets Calling Mitt Romney a Tax Cheat

The ends always justify the means.

Asked in a recent interview if he had any “regrets” about accusing 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney of not paying his taxes for ten years during the homestretch of the campaign, outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) essentially shrugged his shoulders.

“He didn’t win, did he?” he intoned.

The Washington Free Beacon captured the video:

We knew he was lying, of course, and the Romney campaign ensured in good time everyone else would, too. But such a smug and remorseless answer astonishes even me.

Or does it?

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Senator.

UPDATE: Watch the full clip here.