Uber Über Alles

Hundreds of taxis gridlocked downtown Brussels, Belgium on Tuesday, taking a stand against entrepreneurship, the free market, and the power of choice.

Unions claimed that more than 1,200 taxis -- including 100 from France -- drove through the heart of the city, slowing to block major intersections in protest of the expansion of the international ridesharing service Uber.

“We are fed up with Uber. They took 50% of our customers,” one of the protesters told the Wall Street Journal.

Taxis were emblazoned with signs reading “ceci n’est pas un taxi clandestin” (this is not an illegal taxi) and “non a Uber” (no to Uber).

The Silicon Valley-based startup that has revolutionized inner city transportation has now expanded to 55 countries around the world. Uber is often met with sharp resistance from taxi unions, who are often unhappy because Uber’s affordable pricing offers “unfair competition” to entrenched union drivers.

“It is killing all the jobs of the legal taxis who work legally and pay their taxes and so on – while the others have a complete other way of working, don’t pay their taxes and can offer less expensive services,” said a taxi driver in Brussels said, according to euronews.

Uber claims to comply with all tax laws.

“We’re totally legal, like totally legal, and the government is telling us to shut down. And you can either do what they say or you can fight for what you believe,” Uber C.E.O. Travis Kalanick told Vanity Fair last year.

The City of Brussels banned Uber from operating within the city last year, but last week Brussels Transport Minister Pascal Smet announced plans to legalize the driving service in 2016.

Uber operates freely in many European cities, but Brussels is not the first city which banned the company: Madrid, Spain has prohibited Uber within the city, and the service is highly regulated in Paris, France. Protests against the company’s expansion occurred all across Europe last summer, but Uber now thrives in more than 40 cities across the continent.

Hillary, What Are You Doing?

Hillary is reportedly launching her presidential campaign next month, and she’s already creating obstacles before she hits the ground running. The latest controversy surrounding the former Secretary of State was her use of a personal email account to conduct affairs of state, which appears to be a breach of the Federal Records Act. Then again, as Katie reported earlier this morning, the use of one’s personal email account for official business isn’t entirely alien to this administration:

This isn't the first time the Obama administration has been caught evading federal records laws by using personal email, which ultimately allows officials to escape scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act and Congressional investigation. During Operation Fast and Furious, former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer got caught forwarding and editing official information about the scandal to his personal email account. Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claimed she didn't have an email account. IRS officials caught up in the targeting of conservatives, including Lois Lerner, used a personal email account to conduct official government business. Former DOJ Civil Rights attorney and current Labor Secretary Tom Perez used his personal email account during his time at DOJ for official business. Just yesterday, a federal judge ruled the EPA lied about transparency in response to FOIA requests, and in the past, EPA officials have been caught violating federal records laws by using personal email to conduct government business.

It should be noted that Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) select committee that’s investigating Benghazi uncovered this development. Additionally, members of media, including Lawrence O’Donnell, seem stupefied, calling this story “unusual” and “a shocking breach of security” (via Mediaite):

New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters said this is definitely “unusual,” but only adds to the idea that Clinton is not very “forthcoming” and “not all business is being conducted in the open like it should be.” MSNBC senior editor Beth Fouhy also wondered, “Where were the State Department lawyers who allowed this to go forward?”

Fouhy said, “She understands rules and protocol, and for her to just willingly violate it just to preserve some semblance of privacy just really makes no sense.”

O’Donnell, meanwhile, was just baffled at how the Secretary of State could be “using a not-secure, commercial email system” the entire time. He called it a “stunning breach of security and said, “If it’s true that she never used a State Department email address, we have something that, at first read, has no conceivable rational explanation to it that is legitimate.”

On top of finding an explanation for this, if there is one, there's a frantic scramble to staff her long-awaited presidential bid. Right now, the S.S. Clinton is akin to a ghost ship, with no one really able to push back attacks against her, specifically the allegations lobbed at the Clinton Foundation, where the organization is accused of taking money from foreign governments while Clinton served as Secretary of State. At least one donation is being reported as an ethics violation.

The massive campaign machinery is in place, but for now, it’s up to “a small corps of well-regarded, loyal and badly overstretched aides who have been forced to deal with an avalanche of requests about the foundation, starting with reports that officials solicited millions in donations from foreign governments,” according to Politico:

While reporters scramble to divine the precise date Clinton will announce her candidacy (the consensus opinion since late last year is that has she’ll jump into the race later this month or in April), Clinton insiders say assembling and deploying staff is a far more important milestone.

“We have had our head up our ass,” one former senior Clinton aide told POLITICO, reflecting the general view of a half-dozen Clinton loyalists. “This stuff isn’t going to kill us, but it puts us behind the eight ball.”

Attempts by Clinton’s tiny personal PR staff have been less than effective. The revelations about the Clinton Foundation have made backers nervous, and Clinton’s inner circle has been coordinating with the foundation as it has become clear that the network of outside groups designed to defend and protect Clinton before her launch have been insufficient.

Pro-Clinton groups, like American Bridge, have also launched a counteroffensive against the email revelations, but have fallen short (via Politico):

A pro-Clinton armada of progressive groups led by David Brock – Media Matters For America, American Bridge and Correct The Record – is waging an aggressive effort to dismiss the coverage of Hillary Clinton's potential violation of federal email requirements as "deceptive."

The news of Clinton's use of personal emails for official business was first reported by The New York Times.

The Times article, by Washington-based reporter Michael Schmidt, stated that Clinton's exclusive use of a personal email address at the State Department "may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record." In reports and press releases, Brock's groups argued that Schmidt's article neglected to mention that the relevant portions of the Federal Records Act pertaining to such requirement did not go into effect until November 2014, after Clinton's tenure at State.

Unfortunately for these pro-Hillary groups, the regulations that are relevant to Schmidt's report – the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) requirements – have been in place since at least 2009, when Clinton became secretary of state.

According to Section 1236.22 of the 2009 NARA requirements, which Schmidt provided in an email, "Agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system."

Yet, earlier today, the former head of litigation at NARA, Jason Baron, said Clinton didn’t break the law–and that the Federal Records Act is “amorphous.” Though Baron said in the Times piece that “it is very difficult to conceive of a scenario — short of nuclear winter — where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business.”

It should be interesting how the media treats this kerfuffle to that of the Bush administration, who lost 5 million White House emails in 2007. John Podesta, Clinton’s probable campaign manager, said in the Wall Street Journal at the time “At the end of the day, it looks like they [the Bush administration] were trying to avoid the records act ... by operating official business off the official systems.”

So, does this show that Hillary doesn’t want to be president? If she does want to succeed Barack Obama in 2017, she’s been making it a lot harder for herself, especially given the fact that she’s a hyper-partisan figure whose favorability ratings sink the longer she sits in the spotlight.

Ron Fournier at National Journal wrote that the former First Lady should probably pack it in and call it a night concerning her presidential ambitions:

Perhaps Hillary Rodham Clinton shouldn't run for president.

Maybe she should stay at the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, where the former secretary of State could continue her life's work of building stronger economies, health care systems, and families. Give paid speeches. Write best-selling books. Spend time with Charlotte, her beloved granddaughter.

Because she doesn't seem ready for 2016. Like a blast of wintry air in July, the worst of 1990s-style politics is intruding on what needs to be a new millennium campaign: Transparent, inspirational, innovative, and beyond ethical reproach.

Many senior Democrats are angry [with the Clinton Foundation and personal email account developments], though not yet mad enough to publicly confront the Clintons. "This story has legs as long as the election," said a Democrat who has worked on Capitol Hill and as a presidential campaign manager. "She will be tripping over this crap until the cows come home."

Another presidential campaign veteran who held a Cabinet-level post in Bill Clinton's White House fretted out loud about the fact that the former first lady is breezing toward the Democratic nomination.

"We can't have a coronation when she's handing Republicans an inquisition," the Democrat said.

But now I wonder whether there is a part of her that doesn't want to be president. She seems to be placing obstacles in her lane before the race begins. Is this sabotage or something else?

My concern is that Clinton does not see this controversy as a personal failing. Rather, she sees it as a political problem that can be fixed with more polls, more money, and more attacks. In a Politico story about the push to assemble a presidential campaign staff, a former senior Clinton aide said, "We have had our head up our ass. This stuff isn't going to kill us, but it puts us behind the eight ball."

Due respect, Clinton's problem isn't a lack of staff. It's a lack of shame about money, personal accountability, and transparency.

In all, this is something Team Clinton surely didn’t want weeks before the launch of her national campaign. Cheers!

VIDEO: What is the Most Important Issue for Millennials?

With 2016 just around the corner, I asked young people attending the Conservative Political Action Conference what they believe is the most important issue for Millennials.

Russians Bring More Guns to Ukraine, Kerry Hopes for Ceasefire in "Days" If Not "Hours"

Days after the death of Putin opponent Boris Nemtsov, who claimed to be able to prove Russian support of the rebels in Ukraine, rebel armed forces are still moving heavy weapons and equipment into eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, American and European leaders are still discussing how to successfully implement a ceasefire to end the conflict. Since the Minsk Agreement last month, Ukrainian and Russian forces have had difficulty attaining the required ceasefire. As rebel forces are reportedly still moving to key cities in the east, Ukrainian troops are completing their removal of 100-mm weapons from Donbas, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

“Shooting, shelling has still been going on and people have still been killed over the course of these last days,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday to press in Geneva. “So there is not yet a full ceasefire... So our hope is that in the next hours, certainly not more than days, this will be fully implemented.”

President Barack Obama held a video conference Tuesday afternoon with leaders from France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. “to discuss the Ukraine crisis and global security issues,” the White House said. The U.S. has threatened further sanctions on Russia if the ceasefire is not successful.

“The concentration and movement of military equipment and personnel of the Russian armed forces, in particular tanks, armored personnel carriers, other armored vehicles, multiple rocket launchers, anti-aircraft and artillery units, continue in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yevhen Perebyinis said, according to ukrinform.ua, a Ukrainian news outlet.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “noted the importance of rigorously abiding by the ceasefire regime, continuing the process of removing heavy arms,” according to a readout of his telephone call with French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday.

In addition, the Minsk Agreement requires the exchange of all prisoners connected with the conflict. During the call on Tuesday, Poroshenko highlighted the necessity of “liberation of all hostages illegally kept imprisoned in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as in Russia.” After nine months, captured Ukrainian helicopter pilot Nadiya Savchenko remains in Russian custody for her alleged involvement in the death of two Russian journalists.

The area is controlled by illegal military formations, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Armen Harutyunyan, and though the death toll is much lower than early “ceasefire” attempts, casualties are still common.

Tuesday, Kiev announced three deaths and nine wounded in a shelling by Russian-sympathetic opposition -- the highest death toll in several days. According to the latest reports from the United Nations, more than 6,000 people have been killed in the Ukraine conflict since April 2014.

Single Tear: Todd Akin Rules Out 2016 Primary Challenge

One imagines Republicans everywhere are jumping for joy:

Former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) said Monday he will not challenge Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in a primary in 2016.

"In response to various questions: I will not be running for the U.S. Senate in 2016," Akin said in the statement, according to The Associated Press.

Let’s be clear: it’s impossible for candidates seeking high national office, who routinely speak in front of live television or studio audiences, to not make mistakes. The nominal 2016 Republican frontrunner made a (semi) big one last week that liberals are already running with. This sort of thing happens. But the unscientific and offensive way Akin answered a question about a woman’s right to choose after being raped was one of the most egregious and outrageous moments of the 2012 campaign. He was rightly criticized by everyone.

But perhaps it was a pardonable offense (at least in Republicans' eyes) if he got out. His refusal to throw in the towel afterwards, however, was a costly mistake. Unhelpfully, there were at least three other GOP candidates who could have filled the void had he dropped out in time (see previous link). For his intransigence—and inability to see the writing on the wall—voters of Missouri rewarded him accordingly.

Parting thought: Thankfully, Akin is not so ambitious as to primary an incumbent Senator so soon after ticking off every Republican in America. But should his political career be over? After all, the guy made one stupid comment. As Guy wrote at the time, liberals have said and done terrible things in the past and yet seem to be prospering. So I wonder: Can Akin restore his reputation and become a viable GOP candidate sometime down the road? Or is this line of thinking totally naive and unrealistic because the damage is already done?

BREAKING: House Passes Final Homeland Security Bill Funding Obama's Executive Amnesty

After passing a week long, temporary and emergency spending measure last Friday, the House of Representatives has passed legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security until the next budget year 257-167. The legislation includes funding for President Obama's executive amnesty and is on its way to his desk for a signature. 

“Let us remember that it was the president himself who said at least 22 times that he did not have the authority to unilaterally grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. Despite our best efforts in the House, we simply were not able to break the logjam of Democrats in the Senate who insisted on funding the president’s illegal actions as a prerequisite to an agreement on DHS appropriations," Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), who voted against the measure, said in a statement. “Requiring the funding of executive amnesty places illegal immigrants ahead of the national security concerns of the United States. I cannot understand the argument that providing work permits and federal benefits to those who have broken our laws is more important than funding the defense of our country. We have immigration laws for two basic reasons: to protect American jobs, and to preserve national security. The president’s executive actions violate both of those principles."

Two weeks ago U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas halted the implementation of executive amnesty, arguing the "case examines complex issues relating to immigration which necessarily involve questions of federalism, separation of powers, and the ability and advisability, if any, of the Judiciary to hear and resolve such a dispute." Last week U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg of the District of Columbia, who was appointed by President Obama, also issued an injunction against the executive action.

This post has been updated. 

Maine to Consider Constitutional Carry

For the second time in a little under a year, Maine's legislature is debating whether or not to allow the "constitutional carry" of guns. A bill submitted by Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Auburn) would allow people to carry concealed weapons without a license. Open carry is legal in Maine, and Maine is currently described as a "shall-issue" state for concealed carry permits.

From WMTW:

Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn has submitted a bill that he said he would restore Second Amendment rights.

The bill has bipartisan support in the state legislator, with 96 sponsors.

"We criminalize the act of putting on a jacket or a coat that conceals that. All we're doing, is saying we're not going to treat you like a criminal if you put a jacket on. If you can already, legally, open carry a handgun," Brakey said.

A similar bill failed in March 2014. Six other states permit (law-abiding) gun owners to carry concealed without a permit.

I think this law makes sense. As long as a gun is legally owned and the owner is law-abiding, it should not make a difference as to how the gun is carried. While some may squirm at the concept of "concealed carry without a license," I think Brakey phrased it well when he explained that under current law, wearing a jacket over ones weapon (turning an open carry situation into a concealed carry situation) could potentially make someone a criminal. Given the bill's bipartisan support, this seemed to resonate well with members of the legislature.

NRA's LaPierre: 'If You Care About Your Freedoms... You Belong In The National Rifle Association'

At the Conservative Political Action Conference, the National Rifle Association’s Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, addressed the crowd with the typical red meat, highlighting the pernicious agenda of Washington elites and distortions in the media. LaPierre had a message for the media as well.

“Your First Amendment right is not a license to kill the Second Amendment with lies,” he said.

He also touched upon how women in America are consistently being pigeonholed as a class of victims by Hollywood elites and the anti-gun/pro-gun control wing of liberal America. LaPierre asked what have they done to empower women?

He then went on to say how the NRA teaches women how to defend themselves with or without firearms. Moreover, it signals that the nation’s oldest civil rights organization knows that women will play a major role in the future of the gun manufacturing industry. More women are lining up for concealed carry permits and boosting rates of ownership; they’re the fastest growing demographic of new gun owners.

LaPierre also voiced his support for national reciprocity for concealed carry permit holders, noting that as states recognize carry rights, crime rates have dropped.

Yet, the most important part of his address was featured towards the end regarding the defense of the Bill of Rights. The first ten amendments in our Constitution should be defended with equal fervor, whereas liberals tend to put them on a graduated scale.

“One right depends on another; they’re all cut from the same cloth of what it means to be free people,” he said. “That’s why the NRA fights for free speech, assembly, and the right to privacy because we believe in protecting the entire Bill of Rights. It’s all connected.”

Lastly, LaPierre made it very clear that you don’t need to be a gun owner to become a member of the National Rifle Association. They’re 5 million strong, and await new members to fill the ranks every day.

Even if you don’t own a gun, or don’t care about the right to do so; if you care about your freedoms in any of its forms, you belong in the National Rifle Association. Just look at history. By the last decade, by every measure, the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms has gotten stronger than ever. Even as our other freedoms have been progressively diminished. The credit for rescuing firearm freedoms goes to the five million members of the National Rifle Association.

This One Photo Proves Fetuses Aren't 'Blobs of Tissue' in Early Stages of Pregnancy

In the last 40 years, the advent of the ultrasound, electronic fetal heart monitoring, and a host of other medical technologies have greatly helped the prolife movement change hearts and minds when it comes to abortion. And while we would like to think the “blob of tissue” argument is nothing more than a relic of the 70s, sadly, it’s still used today to convince women that abortion is no big deal since it’s not really a baby yet.

Now, thanks to one mother’s decision to post a photo of her 7-week-old baby that she miscarried, we have one more photo to help convince women otherwise.

“I wanted to share this beautiful image and story with you,” writes Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director turned pro-life advocate, on her Facebook page. “We are indeed created in His image. Thank you to this beautiful mother for courageously sharing her story with all of us.”

"I had a miscarriage on Palm Sunday last year,” the mother begins her story. “We think he was a boy and named him David Raphael. My only prayer when the doctor told me at 11 weeks that my baby had died a month earlier (at 7 weeks gestation), was that I would have something to bury. The doctor said he would either be too small to find or that his fragile body would be crushed in the miscarriage process and there wouldn't be anything left. On Palm Sunday afternoon he came out. The entire sac was in tact and there he was still floating in the amniotic water. I took a picture so I wouldn't forget that moment and how God answered my prayer. I think it would be an amazing photo to show people contemplating abortion. Even though he was only 7 weeks when he died, you can see his little arms and legs forming. My 4 year old was looking through my phone when I wasn't looking one day and found the picture. He came up to me with it and asked me whose baby it was. Even a child can tell that at 7 weeks, the fetus is a little person."

At the time of this writing the photo has been “liked” more than 517,000 times and shared by more than 173,000 others. A number of commenters prayed the photo would help others.

Of course, there were pro-choice advocates that took issue with the post, saying it was “gross” and “disgusting.” Johnson took the time to respond to her critics, and let's just say she didn't mince any words in doing so. 

“Abortion supporters have been up in arms because of the picture I posted of a 7 week old miscarried baby. They have said it's "gross" and "disgusting" and that no one should have to look at something like that,” she wrote on Monday.

“Well abortion supporters, here's something you need to know. Inside of every abortion facility across this country, aborted babies are reassembled by a POC technician (products of conception).

“So if you don't support people looking at these images, then maybe you shouldn't support abortion. If it's not okay for you to look at, then you should also be concerned for the abortion facility workers who look at this every day.

“If you work in an abortion facility and want to get out, we can help. www.abortionworker.com.” 

'He Can Go Home': Dems Decry Netanyahu Speech

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a nonpartisan speech today in Washington, DC, asking for Congress’s support in preventing a nuclear Iran. He pledged his desire to protect his people, while thanking America for her unrelenting support of his state – from Presidents Harry Truman to Barack Obama. Nevertheless, congressional Democrats decided it would be appropriate to bash the prime minister’s appearance during a press conference directly following his passionate address.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) decried the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech as ‘condescending’ and was offended that Netanyahu was ‘telling us how to operate.’ He even invoked the name of Dick Cheney, “This is right out of the Dick Cheney playbook” and bluntly told the prime minister, “He can go home.”

Congressman David Price (D-NC) then dared to say that House Speaker John Boehner should ‘never’ have invited Netanyahu to speak in front of Congress at this time.

The Fox News "Outnumbered" cast was shocked and outraged by the Democrats’ response. Andrea Tantaros called them ‘arrogant’ for such comments and Harris Faulkner likened their words to ‘vocal flame throwing.’

In all, 57 Democrats boycotted Netanyahu’s speech – with reports that number could have been even higher. Their decision to skip the speech was largely due to claims that Netanyahu’s timing in Washington was too close to Israeli elections. Netanyahu has repeatedly pledged, however, that visiting DC for political purposes was ‘never his intention.’

As for President Obama and Vice President Biden, they were no shows as well.

Netanyahu’s speech was apolitical, focusing instead on the threat of a nuclear Iran. He urged the White House to ditch an arms deal with Iran, which he warned would only pave the way to a more dangerous country.

“Its rapid appetite for aggression grows more every year…This deal will not change Iran for the better, it will change the Middle East for the worse.”

Shame on Democrats for ignoring Netanyahu’s important warnings and for turning their backs on Israel at this fragile time.

Little Doubt Remains: Ben Carson Is Running for President

Dr. Ben Carson announced today that he has formed an “exploratory committee” to test the 2016 presidential waters. As part of that process, he has also released an accompanying video delineating the reasons why he is seriously thinking about taking the plunge:

“If I run it will be because it is not acceptable for us to be dismissed and ignored by Washington politicians who we entrusted to lead this country. While I don’t claim to have all the answers to every question that plagues us, I do have a passion to reach out, listen, and build common sense solutions.”

In other words, if Carson goes through with this, he will seek to win over voters as the anti-establishment, anti-politician, non-traditional candidate in the race. As a distinguished neurosurgeon and public speaker, he has already amassed a strong and devoted following. But he is making the right decision?

After all, now that longtime Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) will give up her seat in 2016, one wonders if he is. Jonah Goldberg, for his part, suggests Carson might have a greater impact on the direction of the nation as a senatorial candidate. He writes,

If he ran, I doubt he would get a majority of the black vote in Maryland. But I also suspect he’d do quite well in that regard. Certainly many black voters might just opt to stay home rather than vote against him. And I’d expect Carson to do fantastically well in western Maryland and other more conservative parts of the state. He could raise money nationally (maybe even roll over his presidential campaign money?), not just on his star status but also on the promise of flipping a safe Democratic seat in what will be a tough election year for Republicans. Virtually every Republican star in the country would happily campaign for him.

But there’s just one problem: he's not interested. His announcement today all but confirms this. It seems as though running for Senate hasn’t even crossed his mind.

Parting thought: Dr. Carson has never held political office before, and therefore it is very unlikely that he will win the nomination in 2016. This is just simple math and political reality. On the other hand, many candidates have run for a U.S. Senate without ever serving in government—and won. Elizabeth Warren is but one recent example. Just three years after she defeated incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), she’s already considered by progressives to be a serious presidential contender in 2016.

Perhaps this is something the good doctor should at least bear in mind.

Netanyahu Slams White House Deal With Iran: “Even If Israel Has to Stand Alone, Israel Will Stand”

Capitol Hill - Despite rumblings of boycotts ahead of his speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was met with roaring applause and standing room only attendance as he entered the U.S. Senate Chamber.

Before addressing the threat of a nuclear Iran, Netanyahu tried to clear up the misconception his visit was political after the White House condemned his invitation from House Speaker John Boehner, which was extended without President Obama’s consent. He also thanked Congress for their support of Israel’s Iron Dome.

“My friends, I am deeply humbled by the opportunity to speak for a third time before the most important legislative body in the world, the US Congress,” Netanyahu said. “Some perceived my being here as political, that was never my intention.”

“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for your support for Israel, year after year, decade after decade,” he continued, saying the relationship has always been above politics and should remain there. “I know that no matter which side of the aisle you sit, you stand with Israel.”

During his address, Netanyahu described the failure to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon as a “countdown to a nuclear nightmare,” and said he has a “profound obligation” to warn against the current deal the White House is working on with the Iranian regime.

“This is a bad deal, it’s a very bad deal, we’re better off without it,” he said. “We’re told that the alternative to this deal is war. That’s just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.”

Netanyahu said he does not believe the current deal being negotiated will do anything to change Iran’s long held violent behavior and called on Congress and the White House to demand Iran stop its aggression against it’s neighbors in the Middle East, stop supporting terrorism around the world and to stop threatening the annihilation of Israel. He also reminded lawmakers of Iran’s responsibility in maiming and killing thousands of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country,” he said, arguing Iran’s nuclear program can be rolled back more significantly than what’s being proposed in the current deal between the White House and the regime.

“I don’t believe Iran’s radical regime will change for the better after this deal,” Netanyahu said. “Its rapid appetite for aggression grows more every year…This deal will not change Iran for the better, it will change the Middle East for the worse.”

Just as he did in his speech to AIPAC yesterday in Washington D.C., Netanyahu hinted that Israel will take on Iran by itself, if necessary, to prevent the regime’s nuclear program from moving forward, but expressed hope America wouldn’t force the Jewish State to do it alone.

“The days of the Jewish people remaining passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over,” Netanyahu said. “Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”

“I know that Israel does not stand alone, I know that America stands with Israel,” he added.

How Obama Will Bypass Congress On His Iranian Nuclear Arms Deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave up trying to change President Obama's mind about a nuclear deal with Iran long ago. He knows Obama is determined cut a deal with Iran on nuclear weapons, at any price, on the belief that Tehran will then become a reliable ally in the region

That is why Netanyahu chose to speak to Congress personally Tuesday. He know Congress is the only institution in America that has a chance of stopping Obama's Iranian plans. But, as The New York Times' David Sanger first reported in October, Obama has already decided to bypass Congress on his Iranian arms deal entirely.

But doesn't Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution read, "The President ... shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur."

How can Obama sign a nuclear arms deal with Iran without submitting that agreement to the Senate?

The same way that Obama has rewritten federal immigration and education law without Congress: by expanding executive power.

Obama will claim that his deal with Iran is not a treaty but a "sole executive agreement" that requires no approval from Congress. Sole executive agreements have been used by presidents since the early 1800s, but the exact scope of this power has long been in question. The Supreme Court has allowed many such agreements to stand (e.g. Dames & Moore v. Regan or American Insurance Ass'n v. Garamendi), but the Court has always required at least some evidence that Congress at least acquiesced to those policies.

The sole executive agreement power has also been used to end formal arms treaties, most recently by President Bush in 2001 when he unilaterally exited the Anti-Balistic Missile Treaty with Russia. However, new arms deals have almost always been submitted to the Senate for approval, including Bush's 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty with Russia. 

Obama's nuclear arms deal with Iran would be an unprecedented expansion of this sole executive agreement power.

But the Treaty Clause of the U.S. Constitution is not the only congressional hurdle Obama must clear. There are also existing sanctions regimes that have been passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by the president. One was even signed by Obama himself.

But each of those laws also contains generous waiver provisions that allow Obama to suspend enforcement of the sanctions for up to six months at a time.

Also, remember that Obama's agreement will not only be with Iran, but many other countries that are currently enforcing sanctions against Iran as well. Those countries could lift their sanctions up front, while the U.S. sanctions would not be scheduled to be lifted till then end of the agreement, which is rumored to be up to ten years. Here is how White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained how the deal would work Monday:

What we envision is an agreement that puts in place a series of steps where Iran takes some steps to demonstrate their compliance with the agreement, and a little bit of sanctions relief is offered, and that that is the process that continues until we can have a lot of confidence in Iran’s willingness to live up to their end of the bargain. And once they do, then we will ultimately get to a place where we want to start to make changes to the statutory sanctions regime that was passed by Congress.

And, yes, removing those sanctions, as passed by Congress, would require an act of Congress and I do think could plausibly be interpreted as Congress signing off on the deal. ... And it’s why as we move forward in this process -- ultimately it’s closer to the end than the beginning -- that we're going to need Congress to weigh in on this. And again, the reason for that is that the administration does not envision a scenario where substantial sanctions relief is offered right away.

(emphasis added) So what Obama will do is announce his agreement, let other countries lift their sanctions for the first few years of the agreement, and then, years from now, long after Obama has left office, the next president will have to deal with Iran's nuclear program.

New Yorkers Propose New Amendments to ‘Chip Away’ at Anti-Gun SAFE Act

Gun-toting New Yorkers who feel burdened by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-NY) anti-gun New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, have introduced new amendments to get rid of some of the law’s most unpopular provisions.

As opposed to repealing the entire law, which has proved to be unfruitful, Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) are launching a bipartisan effort to bid farewell to a few of the most ‘onerous parts’ of the SAFE Act. Here are the specifics of their three proposed amendments:

· Allow gun owners to load 10 cartridges into 10-round magazines. The Safe Act put that maximum at seven cartridges in some circumstances, at 10 in others. A federal judge in Western New York in late 2013 struck down the number as arbitrary; the state is appealing that decision. The proposed legislation would make it clear that shooters could legally fill 10-round magazines.

· Make it easier for owners of long guns to gift those guns to family members or people who hold a pistol permit.

· Cancel the requirement for background checks for all ammunition sales. New York State Police have not yet created a system, Superintendent Joseph D'Amico told lawmakers late last month.

Gov. Cuomo signed the SAFE Act into law a month after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2013. Although the liberal governor claimed the bill would help keep New Yorkers out of danger, the law was unpopular from the moment Cuomo set down his pen. Among other heavy regulations, it banned the use of “assault weapons” – this was the state’s definition of guns such as AR-15 semi-automatic rifles – and demanded stricter registration requirements. These rules created an environment in which almost 1,200 felonies were documented against gun owners in just one year after the law was enforced.

New Yorkers who cherish their Second Amendment rights have refused to let the state turn them into criminals, organizing large scale protests to give Cuomo a piece of their minds. Unfortunately, however, their demands have not carried far past Albany. The SAFE Act is still very much reality.

While protesters and legislators have failed to get rid of the entire law, this new baby step strategy just might work.

WH: Why Yes, Obama is Looking into Raising Taxes by Executive Order

I'm re-upping Conn's report from yesterday because it deserves amplification. We already knew that President Obama was happy to continue waging war in Libya even after his lawyers told him he needed Congressional approval. We already knew that he was willing to alter and delay major portions of Obamacare, regardless of the statutory language. And we already knew that he was eager to indefinitely suspend deportations for millions of illegal immigrant adults -- and proactively give them legal work papers, making them eligible for billions in tax credits -- despite years of explicitly arguing that he didn't have the authority to do so.  In an effort to illustrate the consequences of this lawlessness for liberals, some conservatives have argued that the "Obama precedent" may well be exploited by future Republican chief executives to justify highly dubious end-runs around the Constitution's separation of powers to achieve conservative goals.  Many liberals don't seem too bothered this, alas, secure in the knowledge that such an attempt would be treated by the press as full-blown national crisis, as opposed to an interesting Beltway process fight. One idea that's been floated is that a GOP president could issue an executive action ordering the IRS to cease enforcing all tax collection over a certain percentage of income, thus implementing a flat tax by fiat. If the media rules were equal for both sides, Congressional Democrats would complain bitterly, file lawsuits, and try to use the power of the purse to defund or reverse their nemesis' actions. Republicans would respond by calling Democrats unhinged and hyperbolic, the lawsuits would drag on, and Congressional push-back would be filibustered or vetoed.  It now looks like the Obama administration is looking into to beating hypothetical future power abusers to the punch:

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed Monday that President Obama is "very interested" in the idea of raising taxes through unilateral executive action. "The president certainly has not indicated any reticence in using his executive authority to try and advance an agenda that benefits middle class Americans," Earnest said in response to a question about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling on Obama to raise more than $100 billion in taxes through IRS executive action. "Now I don't want to leave you with the impression that there is some imminent announcement, there is not, at least that I know of," Earnest continued. "But the president has asked his team to examine the array of executive authorities that are available to him to try to make progress on his goals..."

In the new season of Netflix's House of Cards (no spoilers), one of the major plot conflicts revolves around President Underwood's illegal decision to direct federal appropriations for purposes that suit his political interests, but for which Congress did not approve them.  What's cute about the fictionalized depiction of this Constitutional power struggle is that Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill angrily push back against Underwood's overreach, uniting in an effort to block his designs.  On principle.  Back in the real world, Congressional Democrats are writing letters to Obama imploring him to arrogate more power.  Since the Republican Congress is opposed to tax increases, they say, Obama must use executive orders to find ways to increase the tax burden on corporations, which would help pay for other initiatives Obama wants.  This anti-Constitutional cheerleading isn't just coming from a self-described Socialist outlier from Vermont; a top member of the party's leadership, and the Left's current Senate darling are also on board.  Senators Durbin and Warren must believe that if our current president decides he has the power to increase taxes through executive order, future presidents surely can use "enforcement discretion" and other such fig leaves to justify cutting taxes by decree, yes?  This is the path President Obama is establishing as acceptable, with minions in Congress egging him on.  As for Congress' specifically enumerated spending powers, surely this administration isn't quite brazen enough (yet) to simply appropriate funds that weren't approved by Congress, right?  Wrong. Sometimes the ends just justify the means:

The U.S. Treasury Department has rebuffed a request by House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., to explain $3 billion in payments that were made to health insurers even though Congress never authorized the spending through annual appropriations. At issue are payments to insurers known as cost-sharing subsidies. These payments come about because President Obama’s healthcare law forces insurers to limit out-of-pocket costs for certain low income individuals by capping consumer expenses, such as deductibles and co-payments, in insurance policies. In exchange for capping these charges, insurers are supposed to receive compensation. What’s tricky is that Congress never authorized any money to make such payments to insurers in its annual appropriations, but the Department of Health and Human Services, with the cooperation of the U.S. Treasury, made them anyway.

And before you ask, yes, this is part of Congressional Republicans' Obamacare lawsuit, which Democrats are amusingly decrying as a waste of taxpayer money. I'll leave you with a golden oldie of our Constitutionalist-in-Chief diagnosing America's biggest Bush-era problem:

Surprise: Hillary Clinton Went Around Federal Law, Used Her Personal Email Account For Official Business as Secretary of State

What difference does it make if you conduct your entire State Department career as secretary on personal email? A huge difference. 

According to a new report in the New York Times, (yes, the New York Times), Hillary Clinton used her personal email account to conduct pretty much all of her official government business during her time at the State Department. 

Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.

Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.

It was only two months ago, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, that Mrs. Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. All told, 55,000 pages of emails were given to the department. Mrs. Clinton stepped down from the secretary’s post in early 2013.

Her expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.

This isn't the first time the Obama administration has been caught evading federal records laws by using personal email, which ultimately allows officials to escape scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act and Congressional investigation. During Operation Fast and Furious, former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer got caught fowarding and editing official information about the scandal to his personal email account. Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claimed she didn't have an email account. IRS officials caught up in the targeting of conservatives, including Lois Lerner, used a personal email account to conduct official government business. Former DOJ Civil Rights attorney and current Labor Secretary Tom Perez used his personal email account during his time at DOJ for official business. Just yesterday, a federal judge ruled the EPA lied about transparency in response to FOIA requests, and in the past, EPA officials have been caught violating federal records laws by using personal email to conduct government business. 

But back to Hillary. Here's another interesting and very telling nugget.

The existence of Mrs. Clinton’s personal email account was discovered as a House committee investigating the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi sought correspondence between Mrs. Clinton and her aides about the attack.

The Benghazi Select Committee, headed by Congressman Trey Gowdy, is continuing its investigation. In the meantime, Clinton will certainly have to answer for her non-transparency and years of federal law violation should she announce a run for the White House in April. 

House Judiciary Chairman: ATF Attempt to Ban AR-15 Ammo By Executive Order is "Preposterous"

Last week on behalf of the bipartisan House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Bob Goodlatte sent a letter to ATF Director B. Todd Jones demanding answers about a pending ban on commonly used AR-15 ammunition, better known as 5.56 M855 ball ammunition. ATF recently proposed the ban and broadly cited law enforcement officer safety as its justification, saying the ammunition is "armor piercing," but provided zero evidence to back up their endangerment claim. 

In the letter, Goodlatte points out ATF's efforts to broadly claim legal jurisdiction over commonly used sporting ammunition. Here's some legal background from the letter about ATF's conclusion: 

As you know, the ban on “armor piercing” ammunition was created by the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act (LEOPA) of 1986. The Act was conceived to protect police officers from the hazards presented by so-called "armor piercing" projectiles–originally designed for law enforcement and military use—that can be fired from handguns and penetrate the sort of soft body armor typically worn by police officers.

To do this, LEOPA bans various sorts of non-lead projectiles or projectile “cores” that “may be” used in handguns. As LEOPA’s authors realized, however, bullets fired from most common rifle cartridges can penetrate soft body armor, and some rifle bullets can be loaded into ammunition for handguns. Congress therefore incorporated an exemption into LEOPA for projectiles “which the Attorney General finds [are] primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes” to protect ordinary rifle ammunition from being swept up in the ban.

The “Framework” is intended to answer the question of how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) will make “sporting purposes” determinations. It creates a two-prong test. First, ATF will exempt a “.22 caliber projectile … if the projectile weighs 40 grains or less AND is loaded into a rimfire cartridge.” Second, ATF will exempt other projectiles if they are “loaded into a cartridge for which the only handgun that is readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade is a single shot handgun.” Even then, ATF –under this supposedly “objective” test – “retains the discretion to deny any application for a ‘sporting purposes’ exemption if substantial evidence exists that the ammunition is not primarily intended for such purposes.”

"The proposed “Framework” purports to establish an “objective” test for determining whether certain projectiles otherwise considered “armor piercing” under federal law qualify for an exemption allowing them to be lawfully manufactured, imported, and sold on the civilian market in the United States. The 'Framework,' however, establishes an unduly restrictive standard, does not comport with the letter or spirit of the law, and will interfere with Second Amendment rights by disrupting the market for ammunition that law abiding Americans use for sporting and other legitimate purposes," Goodlatte wrote in the letter. "The effects of these restrictive interpretations are untenable. For example, since 1986 ATF has considered the M855 5.56 x 45mm cartridge to be “exempt” under the sporting purposes test (although its core contains a substantial amount of lead, raising questions about its classification as “armor piercing” in the first place). ATF has now rescinded that exemption because repeating handguns that fire the M855 round are commercially available. Yet this round is amongst the most commonly used in the most popular rifle design in America, the AR-15. Millions upon millions of M855 rounds have been sold and used in the U.S., yet ATF has not even alleged – much less offered evidence – that even one such round has ever been fired from a handgun at a police officer. The idea that Congress intended LEOPA to ban one of the preeminent rifle cartridges in use by Americans for legitimate purposes is preposterous."

"The “Framework” does not comport with LEOPA’s meaning and intent and should be abandoned. ATF should refocus its efforts on serious threats to law enforcement officers from specially designed armor piercing projectiles that are intended for use in the sort of handguns commonly carried and concealed by criminals. Under no circumstances should ATF adopt a standard that will ban ammunition that is overwhelmingly used by law-abiding Americans for legitimate purposes," Goodlatte concluded.

ATF is taking public comments through March 16, 2015 about the proposed ban through email at APAComments@atf.gov and by fax at (202) 648-9741. Comments can also be sent through the mail to: 

  • Denise Brown, Mailstop 6N-602, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Enforcement Programs and Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 99 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20226: ATTN: AP Ammo Comments

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has requested ATF extend the commenting period for an additional 60 days. 

"Given the breadth of the impact this new framework will have on the industry and the number of calibers in question, we believe the 30 days allotted by the ATF is not sufficient for companies in the industry and the general public to provide meaningful comments and suggestions," NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Larry Keane wrote in a separate letter to ATF Director Jones last week.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are decrying ATF's efforts.

The bottom line: This is a backdoor attempt by the Obama administration to make AR-15 sporting rifles, which the President and gun control zealots in Congress have tried to ban for a decade, inoperable. Guns are no good without ammunition and you can bet the Obama administration is fully aware of that fact.

Hillary Clinton's Private Email: Possibly a Security Breach

While at the State Department, former U.S. senator and possible 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton did not use a government email address, corresponding almost entirely via a personal email account - a blatant violation of government rules and possibly a dangerous security breach.

As the New York times reports:

Her expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.

“It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario — short of nuclear winter — where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level-head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business,” said Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle and Reath who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Under federal law, however, letters and emails written and received by federal officials, such as the secretary of state, are considered government records and are supposed to be retained so that congressional committees, historians and members of the news media can find them. There are exceptions to the law for certain classified and sensitive materials.

This would be a major breach of protocol and a good way to put government information in dangerous hands - how secure are emails available to the general public, after all? - but it was a long time ago. Clinton left the State Department two whole years ago. What difference, at this point, does it make?

As the New York Times documents further:

Regulations from the National Archives and Records Administration at the time required that any emails sent or received from personal accounts be preserved as part of the agency’s records.

But Mrs. Clinton and her aides failed to do so.

Mr. Blanton said high-level officials should operate as President Obama does, emailing from a secure government account, with every record preserved for historical purposes.

“Personal emails are not secure,” he said. “Senior officials should not be using them.”

Sharknado 3 To Feature Ann Coulter as Vice President

It was announced today that political commentator Ann Coulter will play the role of vice president in SyFy's Sharknado 3. The movie, which is the third in SyFy's "so-bad-it's-good" Sharknado franchise about a tornado that sparks a series of shark attacks, is set to debut on the network on July 1.

Coulter will be joined by Mark Cuban, who has been cast as president.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Launching in July, Sharknado 3 will be set in Washington, D.C., this time and, per Syfy, will "cause mass destruction in the nation's capital" before it roars down the Eastern Seaboard.

Entrepreneur/Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban of Shark Tank will play the president, while conservative commentator/author Coulter will play the vp.

Per IMDB, Coulter's other movie credits include a few documentaries and Fox's short-lived 1/2 Hour News Hour. This appears to be her first scripted role playing someone other than a parodied version of herself.

WaPo: Four Pinnocchios for Obama on Keystone Spin

In case you'd forgotten -- perhaps thanks to this fiasco sucking up political oxygen last week -- President Obama has taken the dramatic, out-of-the-mainstream step of vetoing Congress' overwhelming and bipartisan approval of the Keystone Pipeline.  All told, 332 members of Congress voted to green light the job-creating infrastructure project, including dozens of Democrats.  Keystone has the strong backing of our Canadian allies, would help North American energy production, has passed environmental and legal muster over years of study, and would cost taxpayers nothing.  Approving the pipeline merely involves getting government out of the way, and letting the private sector take things from there.  It's a political and policy no-brainer, which is why it consistently attracts lopsided support from the American people in public polling. But the president has an extreme agenda to protect, and self-interested "green" billionaire donors and special interests to reward.  So he wielded his veto pen, laughably citing separation of powers concerns as a pretext to nix the plan.  This from a man who's unilaterally rewriting immigration laws without Congressional input, and who's apparently eyeing similar power grabs in order to raise taxes on his own.  In an effort to justify his extreme veto, Obama is relying on dishonest arguments, eliciting a 'Four Pinocchios' ruling from the Washington Post's fact-checker:

President Obama, seeking to explain his veto of a bill that would have leapfrogged the approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline, in an interview with a North Dakota station repeated some false claims that had previously earned him Pinocchios. Yet he managed to make his statement even more misleading than before, suggesting the pipeline would have no benefit for American producers at all...The president’s latest remarks pushes this assertion into the Four Pinocchios column. If he disagrees with the State Department’s findings, he should begin to make the case why it is wrong, rather than assert the opposite, without any factual basis. Moreover, by telling North Dakota listeners that the pipeline has no benefit for Americans, he is again being misleading, given that producers in the region have signed contracts to transport some of their production through the pipeline.

The Post notes that Keystone pipeline absolutely would benefit American producers and consumers, despite the president's factually inaccurate insistence that it "bypasses" the US completely.  The fact-checker quotes an independent study, which happens to be reinforced by the Obama State Department's own findings on the matter.  Obama "appears to be purposely ignoring the findings of the lead Cabinet agency on the issue," the piece concludes.  That's because the evidence -- the "science" -- doesn't comport with Obama's political agenda, so he's simply ignoring it, and celebrating his intentional ignorance in public pronouncements.  USA Today's editorial board is joining many others in urging Congress to override the president's veto:

Obama has sent conflicting signals about whether he'll ultimately approve or reject Keystone. Last November, he gave pipeline critics hope by buying into the argument that the oil Keystone would deliver to U.S. refineries will simply be exported, rather than be used domestically. Politifact.com rated that claim "mostly false," and The Washington Post's Fact Checker gave it three out of four Pinocchios for inaccuracy, noting that the best evidence is that "at least half" the oil would remain here. Congress ought to end this drama by overriding Obama's veto, just the third of his presidency and his first since 2010. If the votes can't be mustered on Capitol Hill, the president has more than enough information to bring down the curtain. It is long past time to just say yes.

Saying "yes" to a privately-funded, job-creating, environmentally-sound infrastructure project shouldn't be difficult for a president who pays much lip service to "getting things done," and demanding "bipartisanship."  But it's a problem for Obama because he's a hardened ideologue.  His pragmatism persona is, and has always been, a fraud.  Incidentally, you may have noticed that the above USA Today house editorial mentions WaPo's previous 'Three Pinocchios' assessment, which has since been upped due to bonus presidential mendacity.  The Post also points out that Obama sneers at the several hundred permanent jobs Keystone would create, effectively dismissing tens of thousands of construction jobs as a non-factor in the cost/benefit analysis.  Most Americans don't believe our leaders are in aposition to turn up their noses at any jobs in the midst of a tepid and frustrating economic recovery.  Senate Democrats, for their part, are bizarrely planning to filibuster Mitch McConnell's effort to proceed to a veto-override vote. Superseding the president's veto requires 67 votes -- seven more than the filibuster threshold. Why launch a doomed filibuster against something that will almost certainly fail anyway?  Perhaps because Reid and company have quickly become the very nihilistic obstructionists they've so often accused Republicans of being in recent years.  Proponents of the Keystone Pipeline appear to be four votes shy of overcoming Obama's veto in the US Senate.  I'll leave you with Majority Leader McConnell marveling at the idiocy of Reid's redundant, pointless filibuster plot:

Are We Really Surprised Democrats Who Booed Jerusalem Will Boycott Netanyahu's Speech?

On Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fulfill his invitation from House Speaker John Boehner to warn the world about the grave threat Iran poses to the Jewish State and the United States.

Because Boehner didn't consult the White House about the invitation, Democrats are throwing a fit about Netanyahu's planned address to a joint session of Congress. The Congressional Black Caucus has loudly proclaimed its members will not attend Netanyahu's speech, citing a perceived disrespect from the Prime Minister toward President Obama. Dozens of other Democrats also plan to skip out. Vice President Joe Biden will be jetting off to another country at the exact same time Netanyahu will start speaking and Secretary of State John Kerry will also be overseas. 

Surprising? It shouldn't be. During the 2012 DNC convention in Charlotte, Democrats in attendance loudly booed after God and Jerusalem were placed back into the Party platform after being deliberately left out. I remember because I was there. 

Just two weeks ago, President Obama referred to Jews murdered in Paris by an Islamic terrorist as some "folks in a deli."

Are we really surprised Democrats are boycotting Netanyahu's speech because Obama didn't approve it? Hardly. After all, they're part of the Party that booed God and Jerusalem as Israel's capitol city.

It's Here! Clinton To Announce Presidential Bid Next Month

So, the official announcement is here (well … sort of). Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her presidential bid, according to close advisers. As Christine wrote last September, the former New York Senator said she would make up her mind about mounting another national campaign for the White House by the first of next year; a date that has long passed by.

There were some disagreements within the Clinton camp regarding when to announce her probable 2016 bid. Some were arguing for a summer rollout, while others said the former First Lady should announce in the spring. As Politico noted, a spring launch would give Clinton an infrastructure to plant a defense against attacks from a growing Republican 2016 field. Whereas, the advisers who wanted a summer announcement said it gives Clinton more time to organize, fundraise, refine herself on policy, and keeps a target off her back. It seems the spring faction has won (via WSJ):

Hillary Clinton and her close advisers are telling Democratic donors that she will enter the presidential race sooner than expected, likely in April, a move that would allay uncertainties within her party and allow her to rev up fundraising.

Clinton aides have spoken of the earlier timetable in private meetings, according to people engaged in recent discussions about the presumed Democratic front-runner’s emerging 2016 campaign. Many within her camp have advocated her staying out of the fray until the summer.

Jumping in sooner would help the Democratic field take shape, reassuring party leaders and donors that the former first lady, senator and secretary of state is running. A super PAC loyal to Mrs. Clinton has faced hesitation from donors who don’t want to make big pledges until she is a candidate. Such concerns would evaporate after she announces.

But Mrs. Clinton would become an even larger target for Republicans when she enters the race. She also would be pressed to opine on a raft of thorny issues in the news, including how to combat the military advances of Islamic State militants in the Middle East.

Clinton is already being questioned by some in the media regarding the Middle East. The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf wrote that Hillary’s “hawkishness” could cost her the presidency. She voted for the Iraq War, an act that the anti-war left (who are growing in number) has pretty much viewed as unforgivable. As Friedersdorf noted, the Russia reset is almost laughable at this point–and the Libya intervention, that occurred during her tenure as Secretary of State, is devolving into a total disaster [bold text indicates NYT]:

In 2016, Hillary Clinton will be a formidable candidate, and experience is once again her biggest asset. Voters are warily eyeing ISIS, Vladimir Putin, Al Qaeda, and Iran. And she has added a stint as Secretary of State to her impressive resume.

But her claim to possess sound judgment for tough decision-making is once again vulnerable to attack.

I don't mean her Iraq vote, though it could certainly come up again (especially if she ultimately meets Rand Paul, the one Republican who could exploit it). When Obama showed that he didn't really believe the Iraq War to be a decisive judgment test by elevating Iraq hawks to numerous, prominent national-security positions throughout his administration, he all but guaranteed that Democratic Iraq hawks would be embraced rather than discredited going forward. (Even erstwhile anti-war candidate Howard Dean has joined the bandwagon.)

On Libya, however, I strongly suspect that Clinton will be attacked by Democrats in the primary and most Republican opponents in a general election (if she makes it that far). Her rivals can hardly resist.


How bad is Libya? In the summer of 2012, it was clear that Western intervention helped to destabilize Mali. Last year, The New York Times reported this about Libya itself:

The country is coming undone.

Relentless factional fighting in Tripoli and in the eastern city of Benghazi has left dozens of people dead. Well-known political activists have been killed, diplomats have been kidnapped, and ordinary citizens fear bandits on the roads. Water and electricity shutdowns have become more frequent than at any time since the chaos after Colonel Qaddafi’s fall, and fuel has disappeared from Tripoli’s gas stations.

With all that in mind, the Libya intervention will be extremely hard to defend, especially given that the Obama Administration ordered it without Congressional permission and in violation of the War Powers Resolution. Clinton will have no good answer for a Democratic rival who says, "I'd forgive your Iraq vote if you'd learned your lesson. But with that debacle fresh in mind, you urged the overthrow another dictator without any idea what would happen afterward. Once again, that empowered Islamist terrorists who now thrive in that country."

Let’s see how she does once April is upon us. At the same time, I don't think "hawkishness" in itself is a disqualifying factor. Americans are wary about ISIS; it's one of the issues that turned the tide of some the elections in 2014, specifically in North Carolina's Senate race. I get a sense that Republicans want to tap back into the foreign policy realm and reengage with those national security bona fides that helped them steamroll Democrats during the mid-2000s.  After all, Barack Obama's model for counterterrorism operations–Yemen–has collapsed. Along with ISIS controlling huge swaths of land, and the collapse of Libya, Jeffrey Goldberg aptly noted that by 2017, hundreds of thousands of square miles could potentially be in the control of terrorists. That's a huge problem. Then again, the GOP should keep in mind that nation-building probably isn't going to resonate well with the 2016 electorate.  A self-awareness about the shortfalls in the occupation after the Iraq War is probably in order since, despite the revelation that Saddam did have WMDs, the post-war reconstruction wasn't necessarily the smoothest of operations.  

A robust national security is a constitutional obligation, but both sides would do well to walk slowly when processing future interventionist policy on the stump regarding countries where there are deep tribal or sectarian ties.  We've gone into three countries–Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq–which have such elements woven into their socioeconomic fabric–and we haven't been all that successful in eliminating the very terrorist elements due to that lack of understanding.    

Obama "Very Interested" In Raising Taxes Through Executive Action

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed Monday that President Obama is "very interested" in the idea of raising taxes through unilateral executive action.

"The president certainly has not indicated any reticence in using his executive authority to try and advance an agenda that benefits middle class Americans," Earnest said in response to a question about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling on Obama to raise more than $100 billion in taxes through IRS executive action.

"Now I don't want to leave you with the impression that there is some imminent announcement, there is not, at least that I know of," Earnest continued. "But the president has asked his team to examine the array of executive authorities that are available to him to try to make progress on his goals. So I am not in a position to talk in any detail at this point, but the president is very interested in this avenue generally," Earnest finished.

Sanders sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Friday identifying a number of executive actions he believes the IRS could take, without any input from Congress, that would close loopholes currently used by corporations. In the past, IRS lawyers have been hesitant to use executive actions to raise significant amounts of revenue, but that same calculation has change in other federal agencies since Obama became president.

Obama's preferred option would be for Congress to pass a corporate tax hike that would fund liberal infrastructure projects like mass transit. But if Congress fails to do as Obama wishes, just as Congress has failed to pass the immigration reforms that Obama prefers, Obama could take actions unilaterally instead. This past November, for example, Obama gave work permits, Social Security Numbers, and drivers licenses to approximately 4 million illegal immigrants.

Those immigration actions, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will raise federal deficits by $8.8 billion over the next ten years.

He Wants YOU, Ladies! The Psychology of Guys Checking Out Girls.

On this week's Prager University:

Men look at pretty women. That goes for men who are married, men who are dating, and men who are single. That's their nature. But is this built-in attraction with the female body a threat to their spouse, girlfriend, or partner?

Why Did ISIS Release 19 Christian Hostages?

By now, the Islamic State’s brutality has become as predictable as the noonday sun. Rarely, if ever, have we seen the group show mercy toward captives—until now.

On Sunday, 19 Christian hostages were released, according to multiple reports. All but one were part of a group of 220 Assyrians that were captured last week.

The news provided a modicum of relief to a Christian Assyrian community that has been devastated by the abductions, which saw Islamic State fighters haul off entire families from a string of villages along the Khabur River in Hassakeh province. But fears remain over the fate of the hundreds still held captive.

Bashir Saedi, a senior official in the Assyrian Democratic Organization, said the 16 men and three women arrived safely Sunday at the Church of the Virgin Mary in the city of Hassakeh. He said the 19 -- all of them from the village of Tal Ghoran -- had traveled by bus from the Islamic State-held town of Shaddadeh south of Hassakeh.

While this is certainly welcome news, many are wondering why they released them. Some speculate that age played a role in the decision, as those released were middle aged and older. Others, however, point to the Islamic State’s justice system.

According to the Assyrian Human Rights Network, the 19 Christians were released because a Shariah court ordered they be freed after paying a tax for being non-Muslims.

"ISIS has claimed for a long time to follow rules, and it claims that these Sharia courts will impose limits," Graeme Wood, author of the recent hit piece in The Atlantic on ISIS, told CNN. "They can attempt to get credibility by showing that they follow rules and that they have some kind of transparent process that follows their particular implementation of Sharia law."

Even in the strictest interpretation of Islam, there is a provision for sparing Christians, Wood wrote.

Social media posts indicate that ISIS carries out mass killings regularly, but "exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government." They are required to pay a special tax and acknowledge the new ruling power.

That's exactly what the judge ruled, Edward said.

The released Assyrian Christians agreed to acknowledge ISIS as their new masters and to pay the tax.

ISIS is still holding two of Tal Goran's Christian villagers, Edward said. They should be released as soon as the taxes are paid.

Meanwhile, there are still 200 Christians in captivity whose fate is uncertain. The release of the others, however, has sparked a sense of hope among Assyrian leaders and Sunni tribal sheikhs that the Islamic State may be more willing to negotiate a deal to release the remaining captives.