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Former DHS Official: Admin Should Have ‘Put Significant Amount of Priority’ on Benghazi Security



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A former Obama-administration official said he would have “put significant amount of priority” on requests for increased security for the American facility in Benghazi prior to the September 11, 2012, attack, but that the State Department didn’t do so. 

During Wednesday’s inaugural hearing before the committee tasked with investigating the events, Todd Keil, former assistant Homeland Security secretary for infrastructure protection, confirmed that those on the ground in Benghazi were repeatedly denied increased security. Security was even reduced at one point, and had he been in Benghazi at the time, Keil said he would have been arguing for more security given the intelligence.

“I would probably be doing more than lobbying [for more security] — I’d be extremely frustrated, and trying to push every button I could possibly push,” he told Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio).

Ninth Circuit Guts Student Free Speech, Upholds ‘Heckler’s Veto’ of the American Flag



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This morning the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declined a request for an en banc hearing in a case holding that school officials could censor students who peacefully wore American flag clothing because those students were violently threatened by anti-American classmates. In other words, the court upheld a classic “heckler’s veto,” and in so doing empowered violent bullies and undermined decades of free-speech jurisprudence.

The facts of Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District are relatively simple: On Cinco de Mayo, anti-American students threatened a small group of their fellow students who chose to wear American flag–themed clothing. Rather than discipline the bullies, the school gave the kids who wore the flags a choice, turn their shirts inside-out, or go home. Two students chose to go home. 

Under traditional constitutional principles, this is an easy case. Your free-speech rights do not depend on a listeners’ subjective response, and they are certainly not conditioned on a listeners’ willingness to break the law. Otherwise, free speech means nothing — bullies would be empowered to shut down speech whenever and wherever they wish.

Even in the academic setting, the traditional prohibitions against heckler’s vetoes prevail, for the same, obvious reasons. While the Supreme Court has held that free speech is broadly protected in public schools unless the speech causes a “substantial disruption” to the academic environment, the “substantial disruption” refers to the nature of the speech itself, not to the listeners’ reaction. 

The dissent, by Judge O’Scannlain, gets these concepts exactly right:

The freedom of speech guaranteed by our Constitution is in greatest peril when the government may suppress speech simply because it is unpopular. For that reason, it is a foundational tenet of First Amendment law that the government cannot silence a speaker because of how an audience might react to the speech. It is this bedrock principle—known as the heckler’s veto doctrine—that the panel overlooks, condoning the suppression of free speech by some students because other students might have reacted violently.

But the case went beyond a heckler’s veto (as bad as that is) and veered into outright viewpoint discrimination. By banning the American flag displays while permitting other flag displays, the Court didn’t just censor one view, it privileged others. As we stated in our ACLJ amicus brief:

In the public school context, while school officials possess authority to prevent substantial disruption of their school’s functions, that authority has its constitutional limits. This case, in fact, precisely demonstrates why schools cannot escape constitutional scrutiny even in the face of substantial disruption. The school officials’ actions in this case represent a perfect storm of unconstitutional action—by empowering a heckler’s veto through the use of viewpoint discrimination. School officials should not be permitted to single out and silence one side of a debate, while permitting the other side’s expression to continue without restriction, solely because the latter group of speakers threatened violence in reaction to the speech of the former. Such a decision empowers violence, incentivizes further disruption, and targets disfavored speech for punishment.

Judge O’Scannlain noted that the Ninth Circuit’s decision places it at odds with the Seventh and Eleventh Circuits “and permits the will of the mob to rule our schools.” The case is now ripe for Supreme Court review. One hopes the Supreme Court would grant certiorari, re-affirm its commitment to core First Amendment values, and reverse the Ninth Circuit.

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Sotloff Family: Obama White House ‘Bullied and Hectored’ Us



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The spokesman for the family of beheaded journalist Steven Sotloff charged that the Obama administration “bullied and hectored” Sotloff’s parents as they sought to free their son from Islamic State terrorists.

Barak Barfi appeared Wednesday on CBS This Morning to discuss the U.S. government’s cooperation — or lack thereof — with Sotloff’s parents during attempted negotiations with jihadists based in Iraq and Syria.

“Did you feel like the U.S. government gave the Sotloff family the help that they wanted?” Norah O’Donnell asked. 

“Not at all,” Barfi said. “We never really believed that the administration was doing anything to help us. We had very, very limited contact with senior officials. It was basically limited to two FBI agents, and when I tried to ask for a senior point of contact, all the administration said is, ‘You can speak to the counselor of bureau affairs at the State Department.’”

Barfi said that the Sotloff family wanted constant contact with the White House to exchange updates on Steven’s conditions and the terrorists’ demands. 

But instead, he explained, the administration sought to intimidate the family into withdrawing from the negotiation process. “We had meetings with the administration, the family sat with this National Security Council official, and basically he bullied and hectored them,” Barfi alleged. “And they were scared.”

“He’s a Marine,” he continued. “He is not a Justice Department lawyer, he’s not an official from the Organization of Foreign Asset Control — the Treasury. He shouldn’t be telling them what the law is. He’s a counter-terrorism specialist. That is what he should be talking about.”

Barfi claimed the White House “shot down every opportunity” for a possible ransom and threatened the family if they tried to negotiate on their own. “I’m hearing Denis McDonough saying they weren’t threatened. He wasn’t in the meeting,” he said. “John Kerry wasn’t in the meetings. The family was in the meetings, and then I was in a subsequent meeting. And I know what I heard.”

Via Mediaite.

Web Briefing: September 18, 2014

NRA to Inject $11.4 Million into Senate Elections



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Nate Silver suggested on Monday that the Democratic party’s prospects are looking better by the day. Why? Perhaps, he proposes, it’s the money:

Money could be a more important factor. Consider the states with the largest polling movement: In North Carolina, Hagan had $8.7 million in cash on hand as of June 30 as compared with just $1.5 million for her Republican opponent, Thom Tillis. In Colorado, Udall had $5.7 million as compared with $3.4 million for Republican Cory Gardner.

These totals do not account for outside spending. But in stark contrast to 2010, liberal and Democratic “super PACs” have spent slightly more money so far than conservative and Republican ones, according to the the Center for Responsive Politics. (One caveat for Democrats is that when money is spent on advertising, it can sometimes have short-lived effects.)

Whatever the reason, the GOP’s path to a Senate majority is less robust than before.

I’m generally skeptical about the effect that cash has on elections. Still, whether it works or not, Republican candidates in key states are about to receive a boost. Per Politico:

The National Rifle Association has reserved $11.4 million for its initial fall advertising campaign and will begin airing its first TV commercials Wednesday in three Senate races crucial to determining which party controls the chamber next year.

The gun rights group, which outlined its fall priorities exclusively for POLITICO Campaign Pro, said it plans to spend much more than the initial outlay during the final weeks before the midterm elections.

The first ads will begin airing in the Arkansas, Colorado and North Carolina Senate races. They will be followed in the next few days with a mix of TV, radio and digital ads to help out the GOP Senate candidates in Georgia, Kentucky, Iowa and Louisiana.

The NRA also plans to invest heavily in helping the reelection of Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Both Republicans are locked in tight races.

The full story here.

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Senator Looks to Revoke NFL’s Tax-Exempt Status (Over Redskins Name)



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The NFL may be facing scrutiny for the recent spate of domestic abuse by its players, but the catalyst for moving to strip the NFL of its nonprofit status is the name of one of its teams, according to at least one United States senator.

Senator Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) announced she will be introducing legislation to revoke the league’s tax exemption status alongside members of the “Change the Mascot” group looking to change the Washington Redskins name.

“The NFL needs to join the rest of America in the 21st century,” she said, as reported by the Hill. “We can no longer tolerate this attitude towards Native Americans. This is not about team tradition. It is about right and wrong.”

Earlier this year, Cantwell sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with the signatures of 50 senators calling for the name-change on grounds that it is a “racial slur.”

Efforts to repeal the NFL’s tax-exempt status, which it receives as a 501(c)(6) trade association, has been a bipartisan affair in recent years, but Cantwell is the first one to suggest the move over the Redskins’ name.

The Media’s Love for Condi as NFL Commish Would Disappear Immediately If It Really Happened



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Controversy, like politics, can make strange bedfellows, and the ongoing NFL domestic-assault coverage has some unlikely voices suddenly rooting for Condoleezza Rice​ and eagerly pushing to have her under center as the league’s next commissioner.

The same commentators who think cut-blocking is just a term for Senate Democrats’ rejecting Paul Ryan’s budget are now suddenly experts on the NFL and who should run it. Critics claim current commissioner Roger Goodell is too controversial to lead the league, and the time has come to replace him with someone more esteemed and popular.

So who is the only name that has been floated by the Left to take some heat off the league, to help quell an increasingly politicized outrage, to be a welcomed presence and a non-contentious figure? Just a little-known, inconspicuous former secretary of state that carries no baggage with her whatsoever.

The voices on the left now toying with the notion are the same ones that would eagerly take her down from her first opening kick-off. Rice can’t even set foot on a college campus without setting off an onslaught of sit-ins, protests, and boycotts; now, the same media figures who condone these demonstrations, if not personally hurl the “war criminal” invectives with Matthew Stafford–esque zip at Rice, are going to welcome her with open arms? Come on. You can already imagine the Salon thinkpieces linking the NFL’s handling of head trauma to Rice’s treatment of Abu Zubaydah.

We already have evidence of this eventual outcome. SB Nation’s Spencer Hall quickly brought up torture and Rice’s violations of “of human decency, the Geneva Convention, and every tenet of even the loosest definition of human rights” when she was added to the College Football Playoff selection committee last fall.

Listening to political pundits talk about sports over these past few months has been insufferable enough, and sportswriters taking self-righteous positions is equally tedious. The idea of a Rice commissionership tickles these commentators’ fancy because it gives them the opportunity to link the Rice/Peterson controversy to an area they actually know something about. Ultimately, they don’t want Rice as commissioner — they want to be able to talk about her as commissioner.

Democrats Grasping At Straws in Iowa Senate Race



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Iowa has turned into an unexpected pickup opportunity for Senate Republicans, so much so that Democrats supporting Representative Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) have to cite a poll showing him in a dead heat with Joni Ernst to bolster his candidacy.

The Washington Post surveyed the race from the Democratic perspective. “Ernst’s effort to project a more moderate image reflects what Democrats say is a shift in the dynamic in one of the closest and most contentious midterm campaigns in the country,” according to the Post. “The question is whether Iowa is part of a broader political shift in other competitive states that would allow Democrats to maintain their Senate majority, even if by the slimmest of margins.”

The polling data cited in the story suggests not. “A CNN-ORC poll released Tuesday shows Braley leading Ernst by 49 percent to 48 percent among likely voters, within the margin of error,” the Post notes. “Among registered voters, Braley leads by 50 percent to 42 percent.”

As a rule, the likely-voters data is more telling than the registered voters. For the registered voters to be a major factor, the election would have to see higher turnout than pollsters expect; midterms aren’t known for their high turnout. 

President Obama was very good at motivating people who didn’t vote very often to go to the polls, but Democrats shouldn’t count on that working in Iowa this year. He’s not on the ballot, for one thing. Furthermore, just 39 percent of likely voters in Iowa approve of Obama’s job performance, according to the CNN-ORC poll, while 58 percent disapprove.

Registered voters are even more displeased with Obama. Just 37 percent approve, while 57 percent disapprove. Among all respondents, he’s at 37–57.

Quinnipiac has a new survey out showing that Ernst leads Braley 50–44, largely because she has a seven-point lead among independents and voters dislike Obama.

“Almost three in 10 voters say theirs is mainly a vote against the president, a troubling number for Democrats,” Quinnipiac’s Peter A. Brown said. “Only 12 percent say they are voting to back the president.  If these results show up in other states, it could produce the kind of wave for which Republicans are hoping.” 

Democrats have spent a lot of money to keep this race competitive, while Ernst’s campaign transitioned from the primary to the general and wasn’t even on television for about ten days. It’s a close race, but given the advantages Democrats had going in, it’s telling that the best they can say now is that they might be tied.

Clinton ‘Correct the Record’ Site Lies About the Record on Benghazi



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We all know many politicians lie and play games with the truth. But when supporters of an American politician find it necessary to set up an elaborate website devoted to “correcting the record” on that politician’s statements and actions, we’re talking about a champion prevaricator. That is, we’re talking about a Clinton.

This site, CorrectRecord.org, is a slick operation run by American Bridge 21st Century, a group founded by David Brock that conducts opposition research for Democratic candidates. The site is aimed at promoting Hillary Clinton’s possible presidential run and particularly geared to defend her against the many growing controversies stemming from her tenure as secretary of state, especially how she handled the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi.  

One of these controversies is whether Secretary Clinton and her staff engaged in a cover-up of the Obama administration’s statements and policies related to the Benghazi terrorist attacks.  New life was breathed into this issue this week due to a report by journalist Sharyl Attkisson that Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to a State Department Accountability Review Board formed to investigate the Benghazi attacks. 

After a quick review of the Benghazi area of the Correct the Record site, I quickly found a false statement.  In a box that begins with “COVER UP FALSE,” there is this language:

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence bipartisan report concluded there “were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities” to cover-up facts or make alterations to talking points for political purposes. Former CIA Director David Petraeus confirmed the Benghazi talking points process was normal.

But the citation in this box is not from the bipartisan body of the January 2014 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the Benghazi attacks – it’s partisan language taken from pages 4 and 5 of an appendix containing the additional views of the committee’s Democratic members. 

It’s fine for Correct the Record to cite this language, but it only reflects views of the Democratic members of the committee. Republican members held very different views. 

In fact, six of the committee’s seven Republican members were harshly critical of the Obama administration’s truthfulness about the Benghazi attacks and said the following in their own additional views to the report:

Rather than provide Congress with the best intelligence and on-the-ground assessments, the Administration chose to try to frame the story in a way that minimized any connection to terrorism.  Before the Benghazi attacks—in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election, the administration continued to script the narrative that al-Qaeda had been decimated and on the run.  The Benghazi terrorist attacks inconveniently, and overwhelmingly, interfered with this fictitious and false narrative.

The additional views by the six Republicans also rejected the charge that the CIA was at fault for erroneous language in the Benghazi talking points, noting that e-mails reluctantly released to the committee clearly show the White House was asked to coordinate on the talking points from the earliest moments and had the final say in approving them.  The six Republican members noted that this does not comport with what Acting CIA Director Morell told the intelligence committees in November 2012.

. . . in spite of his [CIA Director Petraeus] own misgivings, the final content of the talking points was the ‘[National Security Staff’s] call, to be sure.’  In contrast, the Acting Director’s testimony perpetuated the myth that the White House played no part in the drafting or editing of the talking points.

So a pro-Clinton group is trying to discredit allegations that Hillary Clinton was involved in a cover-up of how the Obama administration handled the terrorist attacks on the Benghazi consulate by falsely claiming a bipartisan Senate report exonerates her. 

How Clintonian.

— Fred Fleitz is a former CIA analyst and senior staff member with the House Intelligence Committee.  He is currently a senior fellow with the Center for Security Policy and chief analyst with LIGNET.com.

Forgetting Stem-Cell History



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The New York Times reports: “In 2001, President George W. Bush prohibited the creation of new embryonic stem cell lines.” False. He didn’t have the legal authority to do that, and Congress wasn’t about to give it to him. Bush did, however, have the power to keep federal funding from encouraging the destruction of human embryos for the purpose of stem-cell research, and that is what he did. The private sector remained free to finance research on new lines. Democrats spent the rest of his time in office claiming he had imposed a “ban” on embryonic stem-cell research, and apparently that message is still influencing coverage.

Gowdy Opening Statement at Benghazi Select Committee Hearing



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A somber select committee chairman Trey Gowdy was right to begin his panel’s first hearing this morning by identifying the principal culprit in Benghazi: the ideology of our enemies. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and four other Americans, Sean Smith, Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, he asserted, were killed because people held a “deep-seated animus” toward Americans because of who we are.

Under circumstances where the select committee has been attacked by Democrats as a partisan witch hunt, this was clearly, as Gowdy put it, an effort “to rise above politics.” The committee must get to the bottom of what happened and must hold officials accountable. But we must remain mindful that the threat comes from America’s enemies. It is a continuing threat, which is why accountability is so important – to prevent such atrocities from happening again, to make sure Americans risking their lives for our national security have adequate security themselves, and to honor the memory of those killed on September 11, 2012.

Gowdy had a firm but respectful admonition for Democrats who have dissented from the decision to pursue the investigation of the Benghazi Massacre. The “mark of character,” he said, is to do a good job even if you don’t think task should have been assigned.

Moreover, the task is a worthy one. As he pointed out, there are still documents that have not been produced and witnesses who have not been examined. And even witnesses who have been examined were not questioned on facts that have only recently been uncovered.

Gowdy is obviously mindful of simmering, though muted, criticism from select committee supporters regarding his granting of the Democrats’ request to make the first hearing a showcase of how the administration has implemented recommendations by the State Department’s highly flawed “Accountability Review Board.” He pointed out that the government’s primary responsibilities in the diplomatic service context were to protect and defend Americans, move heaven and earth when they are attacked, and tell the American people the truth about what happened. These, of course, are the major failures in the Benghazi debacle.

The making of security recommendations after an attack has occurred is all well and good, Gowdy observed, but we do not lack for recommendations. Attacks occur again and again and again, from Beirut to the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania to Benghazi – with many others in between. What is remarkable, the chairman noted, is how similar the post-mortem recommendations are every time … and yet the attacks keep happening.

To those who say it is time to move on because we now have recommendations being implemented, Gowdy asserted that we’ve heard that story before. We have enough recommendations and experience from past attacks that the crucial question is why adequate protective measures were not taken before the attack. Why are we constantly doing post-atrocity evaluations rather than anticipating and preventing attacks – especially when they are so foreseeable?

In closing, Gowdy returned to the theme of non-partisanship, hoping the select committee could approach its work not as Republicans or Democrats but just as Americans – like the four brave men who were killed. It is a worthy aspiration, however unlikely it seems.

Alaska Senate Dem Under Fire for Obamacare Rate Hikes



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With insurance rates set to spike in Alaska, a new ad faults Senator Mark Begich, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country, for supporting Obamacare and missing votes.

“When Mark Begich promised Obamacare would reduce costs, we believed him,” the narrator says. “Now, some Alaskans could see their rates increase by thousands of dollars each year.”

The ad, released by the Koch-backed Freedom Partners Action Fund cites a recent report on Obamacare rate hikes from Alaska Public Media.

“The [Alaska] Division of Insurance says consumers can expect to pay an increase of more than 30 percent on average for coverage,” the September 5 report says. “[An insurance company executive] says the way the individual market is structured under the Affordable Care Act is not sustainable in a small population state like Alaska.”

The new Obamacare ad opens by noting that “character is important.” Though the ad doesn’t mention it, it comes after Begich tried to blame his Republican opponent, former state attorney general Dan Sullivan, for a brutal crime. The victims’ family attacked Begich for politicizing the tragedy.

“You[r] campaign is playing pure politics at the expense of my clients, and frankly has done only what is in the best interests of ‘Mark Begich’ rather than protecting the victims of the most serious crime in Alaska history,” attorney Bryon Collins wrote, after suggesting that Begich had “lied to” him.

 

Geraghty: ‘Much Higher Consequences’ for Not Having Clear Plan on ISIS Than on Domestic Issues



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GOP Candidate Takes 10-Point Lead in Colorado Governor’s Race



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National media types have gone into overdrive to focus on the Kansas governor’s race where GOP incumbent Sam Brownback is struggling to win re-election after enacting a conservative agenda. But Brownback is within the margin of error in recent polls. That might not be the case about another governor in a larger state who is trouble for enacting a liberal agenda. The latest Quinnipiac University Poll finds Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper trailing his opponent, former GOP congressman Bob Beauprez, by 10 points.

“Pundits were predicting that Gov. Hickenlooper faced a close race for re-election,” said Tim Malloy, an assistant poll director. “Instead, he’s got a mad dash to make up a double-digit deficit.” To be fair, other polls have shown the race closer, including an NBC News/Marist poll that found Beauprez with a four-point lead.

Hickenlooper’s troubles include his signing a controversial package of gun-control measures that led to the recall of two Democratic state senators and a general sense that, as a former mayor of Denver, he has ignored or downplayed the concerns of more rural voters.

Democrats have fought back by highlighting Beauprez’s “radical record” which they claim includes a 2010 speech in which he anticipated a comment by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Beauprez claimed that “47 percent of all Americans pay no federal income tax. I submit to you that there is a political strategy to get slightly over half and have a permanent ruling majority by keeping over half of the population dependent on the largesse of government that somebody else is paying for.”

But liberal attempts to make Beauprez’s views toxic haven’t worked. A July Quinnipiac poll found that 52 percent of Coloradans agreed with his remarks versus only 40 percent who disagreed. The poll also found that 52 percent of those surveyed agreed poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return while only 37 percent felt poor people have it hard because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently.

Colorado voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by five points in 2012. There may be a sea change going on in the state this year.

Monica Wehby’s Health Plan



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When I said it was too poll-oriented, I didn’t know the half of it. And I see that her campaign still has the deft touch with the press that I experienced.

Grenade Launchers, Undisclosed Locations



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And you thought high-school detention was tough:

Los Angeles Unified School District police officials are considering whether they need the armored vehicle and grenade launchers they received from the U.S. military.

The military hardware at the disposal of LAUSD police officers includes a 20-foot-long, 14-ton armored transport vehicles, much like the ones used to move Marines in Iraq combat zones. The armored vehicle is worth $733,000, and the school district’s police force got it from the government for free.

How would LAUSD use such a vehicle?

“For us? That vehicle would be used for extraordinary circumstances,” LAUSD police Chief Steve Zipperman said.

The armored vehicle, which is stored at a secret location, has been in the department’s possession since July.

Chief Zipperman went on to say that the grenade launchers are “not essential for our mission,” and would not be kept.

Grenade launchers: Not essential to the mission of educating children in Los Angeles.

A question for my conservative friends who say we cannot cut military spending: How is it that we have so many surplus $733,000 armored vehicles sitting around that our national adopt-an-MRAP program has has armor and grenade launchers going to the school districts in Los Angeles and San Diego? It is just possible that we have too much gear because we are spending too much money on gear? 

Wednesday links



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Video: The Narcoleptic Squirrel Song, with lots of bonus squirrel links.

General Washington and the Body-Snatchers.

Funeral home offers drive-thru visitation.

One minute science video lesson of the day: How A Bean Becomes A Fart.

How Do Fictional Poisons Stack Up To Real-Life Ones?

The story behind the rarely seen 9/11 Budweiser commercial that only aired once.

ICYMIMonday’s links are here, and include a time lapse video of an Amish barn raising, a Rube Goldberg machine that runs on light, and If Superheroes Did Commercials.

Join the National Review Wine Club Today and Save $100 on Twelve World-Class Wines!



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You enjoy fine wine, right? So why not get amazing wines delivered right to your door by joining the National Review Wine Club. Enjoy wines selected by a wine-sourcing team with over 70 years of wine-buying experience and credentialed with the Court of Master Sommeliers. And if you join right now, you’ll not only save $100 on 12 world-class wines, but you will also be supporting National Review’s critical mission! To take advantage, click here.

How About Just Paying Them More?



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Maria Shriver is helping Marriott hotels avoid raising the pay for its housekeepers.

Perhaps fearing that the minimum-wage campaign directed at fast-food restaurants will turn its red and fiery eye toward hotels, Marriott has teamed up with Shriver and her group A Woman’s Nation, to launch a campaign dubbed “The Envelope Please.” It will ”put envelopes in hotel rooms to encourage tipping” at Marriott’s various brands, including Courtyard, Residence Inn, J.W. Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Renaissance hotels. The hotel chain is even suggesting how much to tip: “Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson says $1 to $5 per night, depending on room rate, with more for a high-priced suite.”

If the housekeepers’ exertions warrant that money — and I’m sure they do — why doesn’t Marriott just raise their pay by $1 to $5 per room per night? The company’s press release has the gall to describe “Gratitude Envelopes,” as though women making beds and cleaning bathrooms to make ends meet are engaged in a charitable activity. It’s not even likely this would increase the real wages for housekeepers in the long run in any case; the federal minimum wage for employees who receive at least $30 a month in tips is just $2.13 an hour (something I was chagrined to discover when I waited tables lo these many years ago). If tipping housekeepers became universal, hotels would stop raising their pay and eventually start hiring new ones at the tipping minimum wage, at which point you’d kind of have to tip, as with waiters, since that would be their main source of income. Hotels would thus be able to emulate restaurants, whose advertised menu prices are artificially low and do not reflect the actual cost customers have to pay.

The whole concept of tipping is a distortion of what should be a normal, transparent business transaction. I don’t tip Marriott’s laundry service or its food wholesaler — those costs are figured into the price I pay for a room. If you want someone to carry your bags, that’s optional and you should have to pay extra. But the bed being made is no different from having running water or working lights — it’s part of the standard package you’re paying for.

Do you tip your dental hygienist? The checkout lady at Walmart? The bank teller? As Rick Moranis told Steve Martin in My Blue Heaven, “This is my job. I get paid. You don’t tip FBI men.” If we’re supposed to tip housekeepers, why not bank tellers and FBI men?

The whole effort smells of Marriott paying protection money to Shriver, like Jesse Jackson’s various shakedown schemes. (None of the reporters covering this seem to have asked how large Marriott’s donation to Shriver’s organization was.)

The Census Bureau reports that about half of “maids and housekeeping cleaners” are immigrants (both legal and illegal). You know how to raise the wages of these poor, less-educated women spending their days cleaning hotel rooms? Cut immigration and tighten the labor market. You’ll see how fast hotel chains start competing with each other to attract staff by offering more money and better benefits. (Tightening up welfare rules wouldn’t hurt either.)

Instead, Marriott has lobbied to double legal immigration, in hopes of paying its housekeepers even less than it does now.

GAO Says Abortion Coverage ‘Inconsistent with Federal Requirements’ in Obamacare Exchanges



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Sadly, and at last, a new report by the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) has revealed that the Obama administration has utterly failed to keep its promises to prevent taxpayer funds from being used to pay for abortions in insurance plans offered through exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And the administration accepts no responsibility for this failure.  

Given the ACA’s extensive list of shortcomings and controversies, the GAO report may elicit little more than a yawn from the media. Yet, the report is stunning in that it documents how the Obama administration has abandoned and even undermined the very promises that enabled the health-care legislation to pass the U.S. House of Representatives.

When objections to taxpayer funding for abortion or abortion coverage nearly brought down the bill, it took an eleventh hour “compromise” — statutory language provided by Senator Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) and a promised executive order — to save the ACA. Now, over four years later, the GAO report confirms that the abortion deal was effectively meaningless.

We hate to say we told you so, but here goes: We told you so.

At the heart of Senator Nelson’s language is an accounting mechanism intended to ensure that federal funds are not used to directly pay for abortions. Issuers of insurance plans that cover abortions in state exchanges are supposed to collect from enrollees a “separate payment” for abortion coverage (i.e., the abortion premium) and a “separate payment” for everything else. Federal funds should only be comingled with the second pot of money.  

The language in the law is unambiguous — “separate payments” are required. Yet, insurance issuers are not collecting separate payments. In fact, the Obama administration is telling issuers that they do not need to collect two checks. When issuers seek guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), they are told that they can merely itemize the amount of a premium that will be used to pay for abortions. 

However, insurance issuers are not doing even this — the GAO found that insurance issuers are not itemizing the abortion premiums nor sending a separate bill for the premiums. 

Keep reading this post . . .

Krauthammer’s Take: Obama, Military ‘Making It Up as They Go Along’



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With the president and his military leaders differing on the subject of ground troops, Charles Krauthammer says the likeliest explanation is that the Obama administration is “making it up as they go along.”

“That does not inspire confidence,” he said.

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Joint Chiefs chairman General Martin Dempsey suggested that American ground troops may have to engage in combat against the Islamic State — this after President Obama’s repeated assurances that there will be no American “boots on the ground.” On Special Report, Krauthammer proposed three possibilities for the apparent contradictions:

Either the president wants not to do it, which appears to be the impression. . . . and the military wants to go ahead and do it, because it knows it’s going to need to at some point. Or, Obama is very cleverly the one giving the good news, and he’s having the generals go out and talk about the inevitable bad news, the ground troops. Or the third possibility is, these guys have no idea what they’re saying or doing, and they can’t agree on what’s going on.

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