McCain ends suspense; says he’ll run again in 2016

The conservative vigil over Sen. John McCain’s political intentions for 2016 appears to be at an end. The former GOP presidential nominee and political moderate has indicated he’ll seek a sixth Senate term, despite a stiff headwind from ideological conservatives in his home state of Arizona.

McCain told MSNBC he’s “absolutely” making plans to run again, but acknowledged he’ll face stronger opposition — particularly in the party primary phase — than he’s yet seen in his long political career.

“You have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I definitely think that I would have to absolutely anticipate a Tea Party candidate or two or three… everybody tells me that I’m the number one target of the tea partiers,” McCain said.

“We’ve already talked with finance people in the state, we’ve already talked to different groups and organizations ranging from the Arizona Chamber to the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance to build the coalitions we need to build.”

A raft full of Tea Party challengers, rather than a single widely supported challenger from the right, may offer McCain his sole means of political salvation. He’s polled terribly in Arizona against other potential candidates, he’s lost the formal support of his partisan base at home, and political pundits are questioning his chances like never before. McCain will be 80 years old in 2016.

Post-election polling shows Democrats’ popularity continuing downward slide

For the first time in a long time, Democrats fare worse than Republicans in nationwide political polling — a striking phenomenon that suggests the midterm elections may have been a mere harbinger of worse things to come for Democrats, rather than the momentary nadir of their popularity during the waning years of a troubled presidency.

Gallup revealed Wednesday that Democrats are perceived favorably by only 36 percent of Americans, compared with a (not impressive) 42 percent favorability rating for Republicans.

From Gallup’s synopsis:

After the 2012 election, many political analysts focused on the GOP’s “image problem.” Now, it is the Democrats who appear to have the more battered image. Their favorability rating has never been lower, and they are reeling from defeats that cost them control of the U.S. Senate and strengthened the Republican House majority to levels likely not seen in 90 years.

On the other hand, the American public does not admire Republicans more, their numerous election victories notwithstanding. Neither party can say it is making significant progress in improving its image among the U.S. population, but undoubtedly the 2014 elections augmented the GOP’s ability to shape the agenda in Washington and in state capitals across the country. This newfound power could pose its own problems for the GOP.

The 36 percent approval rating for Democrats marks a record low, according to Gallup. Democrats have polled higher than their GOP foes in every Gallup survey since Sept. 2011. Whether that advantage broadens in coming months will largely depend on how the new Republican majority in both houses of Congress carries out the will of the voters who sent GOP candidates to Washington, D.C., predicts Gallup.

“The [Republican] party could be on the verge of winning over a greater segment of the country or, not unlike the Democrats this year, could see its brand go into a free fall,” the survey states. “This will depend on what Republican leaders do in the coming two years.”

That video of the Obamacare architect deriding ‘stupid’ American voters wasn’t just a one-time thing

Jonathan Gruber, the ideas man who consulted with the Department of Health and Human Services to help craft the theoretical underpinnings of Obamacare, has spent the past couple of days explaining why he described American voters as “stupid” in a video that recently surfaced on the Internet.

But, as it turns out, that one video was only the beginning. Two others have since surfaced — thanks largely to the efforts of a nonplussed investment adviser who began digging into the origins of the Affordable Care Act, after he reportedly lost his insurance when Obamacare was implemented in 2013.

Gruber told Fox News on Tuesday that he regretted having made the comments in the controversial video and that he was simply speaking “off the cuff” at an academic conference. Then Fox’s Megyn Kelly tossed out a second video in which Gruber essentially made the exact same point, including his “too stupid to understand” refrain.

Then, lo: a third video of Gruber dissing the hoi polloi began drawing attention Wednesday, after The Daily Caller published a story calling attention to its existence (the video has lingered on YouTube since November of 2012).

Speaking at a forum at the University of Rhode Island, Gruber stood for a full hour to delve into the thinking behind the Obama administration’s restructuring of health insurance policy. He spoke rapidly, but his statements were anything but “off the cuff.”

“It’s a very clever, you know, basically an exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter,” Gruber helpfully explained.

Gruber also helped develop an Obamacare comic book to sell the Affordable Care Act to people who best understand complex information when there are few words and many pictures. Sounds like those people and “stupid” American voters might be one and the same.

Government’s dalliance with social media monitoring comes under scrutiny in House Committee

The House committee in charge of things technological has asked the National Science Foundation (NSF) for an explanation of its support of Truthy, the social media-monitoring experiment that’s been criticized for insinuating a relationship between online conservatism and hate speech.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology wrote the NSF this week to inquire why the government awarded the Indiana-based data-mining project a grant of approximately $1 million in public funds.

“I am concerned that a National Science Foundation (NSF)-approved grant… was intended to create standards for online political discussion,” Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) wrote Monday.

“… While some have argued that Truthy could be used to better understand things like disaster communication or to assist law enforcement, instead it appears Truthy focused on examples of ‘false and misleading ideas, hate speech, and subversive propaganda’ communicated by conservative groups. Whether by amazing coincidence or on purpose, it appears that several social media accounts that were highlighted by Truthy were subsequently terminated by the owners of the social media platforms, effectively muzzling the political free speech of the targeted individuals and groups.”

Truthy received the NSF grant after pitching its research in terms of its potential to track “suspicious memes” and “misleading ideas” that Internet users share and discuss. The project’s backers have also suggested a link between “hate speech” and the massive popularity of Twitter has tags, such as #tcot, geared to appeal to political conservatives.

The researchers behind the Truthy project have been mum since late October, when The Washington Free Beacon updated its running series of stories to note the group’s apparent removal of several online features from public view in the wake of unfavorable media reports.

Obamacare 2.0 may implode if enrollment projections come to pass

After its first-year iteration ran through an enrollment season plagued with problems both systemic and technical, Obamacare in its second-year enrollment period may encounter a long-predicted road block: too few enrollments to keep the entire program financially sound.

The Department of Health and Human Services is forecasting approximately 9 million new enrollments in state and federal healthcare exchange markets this year, a total that falls 4 million enrollments short of the 13 million signups the Congressional Budget Office has said will be necessary to keep the program from collapsing on itself (or, alternately, to require a bailout).

Some healthcare industry analysts warn the Obama administration will be hard pressed to recruit enough enrollees to make up the expected gap.

“There aren’t too many products that have more ads telling people they shouldn’t buy it than saying they should,” law professor and healthcare law specialist Timothy Jost told The Washington Times. “All of the low-hanging fruit has been picked already.”

If Obamacare’s year-two enrollment period results in such a dramatic shortfall, expect an accelerated response from the GOP-dominated 114th Congress to modify portions of the Affordable Care Act.

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.) are readying an Obamacare alternative, according to the Tampa Bay Times. It’s not yet clear how comprehensive an overhaul to the ACA their new legislation may offer.

“Republicans don’t have the ability for a full repeal — lacking the votes to override a presidential veto — but are determined to make changes, and the Rubio-Ryan legislation is likely to be joined by other proposals,” the Times reported Monday. “President Obama said last week that he’s open to hearing ideas but made clear he’s not willing to do anything dramatic, such as removing the individual mandate.”

Other potential problems with the 2014-2015 enrollment period may lurk. Those tasked with ensuring a stable registration period this year are “scrambling,” according to The Washington Post, to secure “contingency plans in case the information technology or other aspects [of the federal online marketplace] prove less sturdy than the administration predicts.”

Trend: Violent crime falls as gun sales rise

The FBI released its annual Crime in the United States report this week, and the new report implies an inverse relationship between the rate of gun ownership and the incidence of violent crime.

Violent crime continued an overall downward trend, with a reported 1,163,146 such incidents in 2013. The FBI considers “violent crime” to encompass “murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.” Here’s a graph demonstrating the five-year fall in violent crime:

violent crime graphic

“[T]he estimated number of violent crimes in 2013 decreased 4.4 percent when compared with 2012 figures, and the estimated number of property crimes decreased 4.1 percent,” the FBI observed.

Breitbart took note of the FBI report, comparing last year’s drop in violent crime with previously released data on the upward tick in background checks for gun sales in 2013.

“On January 6, Breitbart News reported there were 21,093,273 background checks for firearm purchasers conducted in America in 2013. And while this number of background checks represented a record, we explained then that the number of guns sold could be many times higher. That is because background checks are done on gun purchasers, not on the number of guns being purchased,” Breitbart wrote.

“… These record gun sales and the subsequent reduction in crime square perfectly with a Congressional Research Service report covered by Breitbart News on December 4, 2013. That study showed that the number of privately owned firearms in America increased from 192 million in 1994 to 310 million in 2009.”

Another green energy bailout incoming?

One of history’s most ambitious and costly solar utility projects, already in debt $1.6 billion to the federal government, is returning to the trough, hat in hand, for another half-billion government dollars to help pay off the borrowed money.

Principal investors in the Ivanpah solar energy array in California’s Mojave Desert initially obtained a $1.6 billion loan to jump-start construction. The Obama administration blessed the project (and the loan); the president pledged the project would put “1,000 people to work.”

Google, Inc. and NRG Energy are the project’s two chief investors. The Ivanpah solar array offers an impressive spectacle: thousands of giant upturned mirrors configured in concentric circular rings around their focal points: a set of three massive towers that channel the mirrors’ reflected heat energy into the production of steam power.

The plant “was unveiled in February with great fanfare. Dr. Ernest Moniz, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, justified taxpayers’ investment at the time, saying, ‘We want to be technology leaders. It’s good for our economy and it’s also good for helping stimulate the global transition to low carbon,'” according to Fox News.

“But since then the plant has not lived up to its clean energy promise,” that story continues. “According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the plant produced only about a quarter of the power it’s supposed to, a disappointing 254,263 megawatt-hours of electricity from January through August, not the million megawatt-hours it promised.”

Even as Ivanpah was under construction, some critics from the scientific community predicted the plant wouldn’t produce enough energy to justify its cost.

“My reasoning is that the 392 megawatt (nominally 400 megawatt) power station will cost 3 billion dollars to build, per the press release of [energy company] Southern California Edison,” chemical engineer and green energy blogger Lindsay Leveen wrote for Breitbart in 2012. “… The level of wasted investment in Ivanpah is three times the amount of wasted taxpayer money we gave to Solyndra. That is why Ivanpah equals Solyndra times three.”

Obamacare ideas man: Law wouldn’t have succeeded without ‘stupidity of the American voter’

One of the pivotal players in the creation of the Affordable Care Act said the law could never have happened without one crucial ingredient: “the stupidity of the American voter.”

Conservative nonprofit American Commitment unearthed a year-old video of Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber speaking at what appears to be a policy panel.

In the clip, Gruber defends the law’s essential goodness, but points out that progress requires breaking a few eggs:

This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as “taxes.” If CBO scores the mandate as “Taxes,” the bill dies. Okay? So it’s written to do that. In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law that… made it explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed. OK?

… Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically… call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically, that was really, really critical to get anything to pass. And that’s the second-best argument.

… Yeah, there’s things I wish I could change, but I’d rather have this law than not.

Gruber, an economics professor at MIT, served as a White House consultant during the crafting of the Affordable Care Act. He wasn’t simply a random consultant, though. His contract with the Department of Health and Human Services described his expertise as “a sole sources basis for technical assistance in evaluating options for national healthcare reform.”

As the fallout from Obamacare’s rocky launch began to lay some of the blame for legal challenges to the law at Gruber’s feet, the law’s Democratic supporters began to distance themselves from him.

Now they have one more reason.

Harry Reid vows to keep hammering the Koch brothers

From the do-what-works department: Senate Majority Leader (for now) Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the Democratic caucus aren’t done with the Koch brothers — not by a long sight. Vowing to continue a strategy that did the Democrats no favors in the midterm elections, Reid and other party leaders have indicated they’ll redouble their efforts to turn the American people against the pair of wealthy conservative political donors.

“[D]espite Republicans — and some Democrats — publicly decrying the [Koch-bashing] strategy after Tuesday’s GOP wave as an ineffective waste of money, Reid told allies on election night that he planned to continue hammering the brothers, according to an operative close to him,” POLITICO reported Friday.

Reid isn’t the only one pledging to remain dogged in the anti-Koch rhetoric. “[B]ig-money liberal groups ranging from the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm and House super PAC to the outfits run by billionaire Tom Steyer and conservative-turned-liberal enforcer David Brock all signaled that they intended to pursue anti-Koch spending and oppo [ad hominem] tactics headed into the 2016 election,” the story continues.

Brock’s progressive group issued a post-election memo to fellow Democratic leaders that suggests the midterms, somehow, may actually have improved the effectiveness of the party’s strategy of demonizing the Kochs.

“This will be easier now that they [Republicans] are in power,” the memo intoned, according to POLITICO.

But not all Democratic operatives agree that sustaining the anti-Koch campaign will produce better results than it has to date.

“It’s utterly ineffective,” one operative said, lamenting that the anti-Koch campaign has all the optics of insider politics — instead of the populism that Reid and others have been banking on. “[T]his strategy is more about the candidates. It says, ‘Look at me! Help me — they are spending money against me.’ There’s no connection between that and voters,” said Democratic strategist Thomas Mills.

Black Americans continue to languish in the Obama economy

Who isn’t benefiting from the Obama economy? Black people who want to work, that’s who. The latest round of employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) continues to indicate that black Americans are among the big losers in the president’s hollow economic “turnaround.”

As the labor force posted its first real net gains in many months, October’s employment data shows that black people in the workforce continue to fare poorly. Last month, 114,000 blacks dropped out of the labor force. The number of blacks with jobs in the U.S. as a whole also fell by 41,000.

Those numbers came in the same report that showed increases in net employment numbers for the general population.

“[T]he employment picture for all Americans aged 16 and older improved from September to October, as the overall unemployment rate declined from 5.9 percent to 5.8 percent, the number of employed increased from 146,600,000 to 147,283,000, and the number of unemployed decreased from 9,262,000 to 8,995,000,” CNS News reported Friday.

The labor participation rate — the same metric that found 114,000 black people had stopped looking for work — also improved for the general population, according to the BLS.

“Those not in the labor force, which are those who not only did not have a job, but they did not actively seek one in the last four weeks, declined from 92,584,000 to 92,378,000,” CNS News reported.

The October unemployment rate for black Americans came in at 10.9 percent, compared with 5.8 percent for the population as a whole.

Pelosi wants to fight on as House minority leader

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has indicated she isn’t ready to cede her party’s leadership to a younger generation just yet. Following a midterm bloodbath for congressional Democrats, Pelosi said she wants to stay on as minority leader because she still has unfinished business to check off her agenda.

According to The Hill, Pelosi sent a letter to House Democrats beseeching her caucus to keep her as minority leader — evidently because she’s passionate about strengthening voting rights before she walks away from her leadership position.

“To succeed, we must inspire, educate and remove obstacles to participation,” wrote Pelosi. “Only by changing our political environment and broadening the universe of the electorate can we build a strong sense of community and an economy that works for everyone.

“This basic and even non-partisan challenge, which many of you told me you share, has convinced me to place my name in nomination for leader when our Caucus meets… I respectfully request your support, your comments and your participation.”

Pelosi is joined by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in the effort to keep current party leaders in top congressional roles. All three have indicated they wish to remain in their leadership roles (in Reid’s case, as Senate minority leader) in the 114th Congress.

The new Congress convenes on Jan. 3.

Condoleezza Rice hits Democratic race baiters hard in post-midterm comments

Now that her most visible public role involves selecting worthy contenders for a college football playoff, you might think Condoleezza Rice would stifle her impulse to speak plainly about partisan political squabbles.

Hardly. Rice unloaded on Democrats for one of their pet midterm campaign strategies Thursday, telling Fox News that racial fearmongering is an insulting, ineffective and reality-blind tactic that has no place in modern America — a country she described as “the best place on Earth to be a minority.”

“The idea that you would play such a ‘card,’ and try fearmongering among minorities just because you disagree with Republicans — that they are somehow all racists — I find it appalling. I find it insulting,” she said.

“Of course we still have racial tensions in this country. But the United States of America has made enormous progress in race relations, and it is still the best place on Earth to be a minority.”

The former secretary of state under President Georges W. Bush drove her point home in overt fashion.

“As a Republican black woman from the South, I would say to them, ‘really?’ Is that really the argument you’re going to make in 2014? … I’ve been black all my life — I don’t need anyone to tell me how to be black,” she scolded.

Rice’s comments come two days after voters handed the U.S. Senate majority to Republican candidates and further cemented the GOP’s firm majority in the House of Representatives. One GOP victory that upended the Democrats’ race-baiting narrative was that of South Carolina Republican Tim Scott, who won an overwhelming victory in his Senate race.

Scott became the first elected black Senator from the Palmetto State (or anywhere else in the South) since 1881.

Predictably, the progressive side of the political landscape had no congratulations to offer. Perhaps they were taking their cues from the NAACP, which gave Scott one of the lowest ratings of any member of Congress — using qualifiers that align closely with the agenda of the Obama administration — in its civil rights “report card.”

Berkeley’s soda tax a small win for the nanny state in Tuesday midterms

The midterm sweep may have signaled a strong nationwide lean away from the progressive left Tuesday, but at least one bastion of progressivism managed to advance the nanny state.

Residents of Berkeley, California, approved a ballot measure making the city the first in the U.S. to institute a true sin tax on high-calorie sodas and sweetened drinks. The new tax is set to take effect at the start of 2015.

The idea that government has an obligation to protect beverage consumers from themselves was most infamously popularized by former Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose efforts to penalize residents for buying large sugary drinks was ultimately repudiated by the courts.

Berkeley’s measure, known to voters as ballot measure D, will impose a 1-cent tax on every ounce of each beverage included under the law. Those include not only sodas, but also sweetened energy drinks, teas and coffee drinks. The measure passed by a simple majority vote.

Supporters of the local measure were emboldened by the victory, pledging to carry the sugar tax campaign to other parts of the U.S.

“We fully expect other communities to take on the soda industry and succeed,” said Dr. Vicki Alexander, who represents the “Yes on D” movement, in a release Tuesday.

DOJ dumps Fast and Furious docs as midterms take over the news cycle

The U.S. Department of Justice unloaded tens of thousands of pages of documents it had previously withheld under a claim of presidential privilege late Monday, just as the mainstream news cycle ramped up its wall-to-wall coverage of the midterm elections.

DOJ dumped more than 64,280 pages of Fast and Furious documents Attorney General Eric Holder had, until Monday, refused to share with government watchdogs and congressional overseers under a claim that the information the documents contain was protected after President Obama asserted a claim of executive privilege.

The documents will remain closed for public scrutiny as the House Oversight Committee and other members of Congress review them for any security-sensitive information.

The document dump represented “a move Republicans said was an admission by President Obama that he overstepped his legal bounds,” according to The Washington Times.

“Investigators had sought the documents for years, with the House even suing in federal court to force their release,” The Times’ Stephen Dinan wrote Tuesday.

“Mr. Obama had asserted executive privilege, claiming the documents were part of the ‘deliberative process’ of White House decision-making and therefore didn’t need to be divulged, but the court rejected those claims.”

Government watchdog Judicial Watch has also sued for the release of the documents, sparking a months-long slow burn of periodic court orders and deadlines that saw the DOJ lose ground in its effort to keep the information concealed.

Holder, already in contempt of Congress for refusing to release the documents, was ordered by a federal judge in August to release the information to the Oversight Committee.

The Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), interpreted the prodigious document dump as indirect evidence that Obama and Holder have been spuriously invoking executive privilege all along.

“The sheer volume of last night’s document production — which consists entirely of documents that the Justice Department itself acknowledges are not covered by Executive Privilege — shows that the President and the Attorney General attempted to extend the scope of the Executive Privilege well beyond its historical boundaries to avoid disclosing documents that embarrass or otherwise implicate senior Obama Administration officials,” the Committee stated in a Tuesday release.

DOJ wants lawsuit against EPA’s carbon rule to go away

By now, you’re probably familiar with the EPA’s proposed cap-in-trade rules change, a flexing of the agency’s regulatory power that has given campaign fodder to GOP candidates in states whose economies rely heavily on the coal industry.

The proposal, part of the Obama administration’s larger effort to introduce new EPA regulations that heavily politicize government’s role in environmental advocacy, was immediately targeted with a lawsuit filed by Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp.

Murray argues that the EPA is (of course) attempting to assert powers it has never claimed before and that the agency is attempting to reimagine the Clean Water Act in ways that aren’t merely unconstitutional, but also are harmful to an entire sector of the U.S. economy.

But the DOJ has stepped in, filing a motion on Monday requesting that the court dismiss the company’s lawsuit. DOJ argues — with legal precedent seemingly on its side — that an entity like Murray cannot have standing to sue over the rule while it is still in the proposal stage. In other words, no one can sue over the rule until it is, in fact, a rule.

According to The Hill, Murray’s representatives acknowledge that the lawsuit’s timing is unusual. But, the company claims, the EPA is putting businesses in unusual positions by taking extraordinary measures.

“The plain language of the Clean Air Act clearly prohibits the Obama administration’s radical Environmental Protection Agency from promulgation of these unlawful and very damaging rules, and the EPA’s motion to dismiss does not change this fact,” a Murray spokesman said in response to DOJ’s motion to dismiss.

Judge slams Obama’s activist Department of Housing and Urban Development

A U.S. District Court judge has reversed a rules change published last year by President Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), repudiating the department’s attempt at wielding policy measures to legislate outcomes that Congress never intended when it passed the Fair Housing Act.

Judge Richard Leon, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, scolded HUD in his ruling Monday for attempting to speak where Congress — the legislative body from which the department’s regulatory powers flow — had plainly remained silent.

In particular, Leon admonished HUD for attempting to change its rules so that its application of fair housing policy would achieve equal outcomes — instead of equal opportunity to obtain housing under the law, as Congress intended.

HUD strayed beyond its powers last winter, according to a Weekly Standard report, when it “published a regulation pursuant to the Fair Housing Act that defines discrimination as actions or policies that while neutral and nondiscriminatory in their intent have a disparate impact, shown through statistics, on a group of persons defined in terms of race (and other protected groups):

The legality of the new rule was challenged almost a year ago by two of the largest among the trade associations representing homeowner’s insurers, the pith of their argument being that in passing the Fair Housing Act Congress defined discrimination as disparate treatment — the different treatment of individuals on account of race — and not as disparate impact. The agency thus lacked the authority to make the new rule.

Leon agreed, siding with the plaintiffs who brought the suit, arguing that Congress only intended the Fair Housing Act to provide a level playing field — not to forcibly reconstruct social demographics by using policy as a social engineering tool.

“In the FHA, Congress has included no such effects-based language,” Leon wrote in his 32-page ruling. “… It takes hutzpah (bordering on desperation) to argue” that the FHA is meant to produce equal outcomes.

“This is, yet another example of an Administrative Agency trying desperately to write into law that which Congress never intended to sanction,” Leon surmised.

Tea Party terrorists, Texas edition

Desperate hours heading into the midterm election brought out the worst in Texas this past week, with the Bexar County Democratic Party placing a last-minute Spanish-language attack ad that flatly calls Tea Party conservatives “radical terrorists.”

Bexar County encompasses San Antonio. The ad has appeared on the Univision Network in the local market ad space. The video is embedded below, but here’s how the San Antonio Express-News describes it:

The Univision ad begins by showing the United States and Mexican flags waving next to each other, with a narrator saying, “These two flags represent friendship, liberty, opportunity and justice.”

That image is quickly replaced by the tea party’s “Don’t Tread on Me” banner.

This flag, the narrator warns us, is “muy peligrosa” (very dangerous).

“It’s the flag of the tea party Republicans. They are radical terrorists and they want to take matters into their own hands, affecting our children and families with violence and firearms on the border and in our cities.”

That accusation is accompanied by photos of Texas militia members in camouflage uniforms and a worried woman holding tight to her child.

“[A]ny Democrat who resented hearing about how Barack Obama ‘palled around’ with terrorists, simply because former Weather Underground radical William Ayers hosted a fundraiser for him in the 1990s, should appreciate” that the attack ad blatantly conflates border militia groups in particular with the Tea Party movement as a whole, the Express-News’ Gilbert Garcia criticized.

That’s true, but he doesn’t go far enough. It’s a race-baiting ad, plain and simple, for the Latino media market. Aaron Peña, a former Democratic state representative who later switched to the GOP, told Breitbart News the ad demonstrates the “race-baiting and fear-mongering that Democrats are doing all over the country.”

“This is a complete embarrassment to Democrats all across the state, that the modern Democrat party would stoop to the lowest of the low,” he said. “It’s dirty, despicable, and desperate.”

The Republican Party reportedly plans to target Univision with a protest, according to Raw Story.

Weapon hysteria of the day

An Ohio high school student is being punished for taking an assignment seriously enough to come to class prepared with all the tools he needed to fulfill it. One of those tools included a knife, so the adults naturally freaked out.

Da’von Shaw, a sophomore at Bedford High School in Bedford, Ohio, was tasked with a healthy-eating demonstration for class. “I put in the slogan, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away,'” Shaw told WOIO News.

That meant he had to bring an apple or two to school and demonstrate his understanding of how to prepare a healthy breakfast. “He intended to show how he prepares his food,” the news report explained. “He brought apples, Craisins and a knife to cut the apples with; but the demonstration never happened.”

That’s because as soon as he produced the knife, the teacher intervened. “When I took out the knife the teacher then told me that I couldn’t use it, so I didn’t hesitate I just gave it to her,” he said.

Shaw thought that was the end of it. But, of course, it wasn’t. Later that same day, he was informed that the school had decided to suspend him for five days for bringing a knife to school. Zero tolerance and all.

“You can’t take a person with no intentions to harm and put them as a criminal,” his incensed mother, Shakila Wilson, told the local news.

WOIO tried to talk with the superintendent of the school system for their new report, and this happened:

At school district offices Superintendent Sherman Micsak entered a room where we waited and told us to turn off the camera, and he wouldn’t talk about any student on camera.

That is proper, but he brusquely told us he wouldn’t discuss general district policy on camera, telling reporter Paul Orlousky, “You can come on upstairs,” while telling cameraman Marty DeChant “you can stay here.”

He was told, “Well we’re here to interview you on camera.”

Micsak replied, “Well, I’m not gonna be on camera.”

The school district Micsak administers isn’t privately held; it’s the Bedford City School District.

How likely is Obama to enter lame-duck policy dump mode after this week’s midterms?

With the midterms only one day away, the possibility of a decisive power shift in Congress continues to read as a fait accompli for most political pundits. But what about the president’s power? His pen and phone haven’t gone anywhere.

Writing for The Wall Street Journal last week, University of Chicago political science professor Charles Lipson said executive amnesty isn’t the only controversial unilateral action President Obama may have in mind once the post-election smoke clears.

“[A]s soon as the voting is done (perhaps after runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia), several big shoes will drop,” Lipson predicts. From immigration policy to foreign policy, Obama may use the post-election months as a clearing house for unpopular, imprudent or even illegal agenda markers.

Here are some highlights:

On immigration: “The Department of Homeland Security recently ordered more than four million green cards and visas for next year and says it might order another 29 million for future years.”

On the Keystone XL pipeline: “Given his druthers, the president almost certainly would prefer to kill this project and appease his environmentalist supporters. But he won’t do that before the final votes are tallied for Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is running for re-election. She is in favor of the project, and her campaign hinges on the perception that, as chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, she actually affects policy.”

On ISIS: “[I]t is now virtually impossible to tell who our ‘friends’ are since America’s opposition to ISIS, a Sunni group, makes the U.S. effectively a partner of its Shiite opponents in Tehran and Damascus… Everyone wonders what the president’s strategy really is and whether he will stick to it after the election.”

On Iran: “If the president cuts a major deal on Iran’s nuclear-weapons program—which will surely include major concessions on U.S. economic sanctions, he will face a storm of controversy among the public and on Capitol Hill. Worse, Mr. Obama might refuse to submit the deal to Congress, claiming that it is an agreement and not a treaty requiring Senate approval. That could generate a true constitutional crisis.”

Obama may even be waiting to authorize the release of the Department of Defense’s report on the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap — a signal that the report may contain some upsetting conclusions about whether the former Taliban hostage was an alleged deserter. If it turns out that Bergdahl indeed forsook his post, the optics for Obama will be awful. “People will ask why the president gave up so much for a turncoat and why the president held a Rose Garden celebration to mark Sgt. Bergdahl’s return,” Lipson notes.

Short-term health insurance plans could accelerate Obamacare’s financial problems

For paying customers, there’s an increasingly popular way to opt out of a commitment to an Obamacare plan without running afoul of the law: Buy cheaper, short-term coverage that can be renewed on an annual basis.

It appears to be a low-risk — if not necessarily high-reward — solution to the problem of complying with the Affordable Care Act, one that saves customers money and offers them the flexibility to re-evaluate their decisions on a yearly basis. But it also may signal a quickening of the structural problem inherent in Obamacare’s financial philosophy.

That’s because as more people of a certain demographic go for short-term insurance, fewer are available to pay the lion’s share of Obamacare’s shared costs.

Fox News posits such a phenomenon could “put the government-subsidized plan into a death spiral,” as young, generally healthy people buy year-long “maintenance” insurance plans and stay away from more expensive Obamacare plans that offer too much coverage in exchange for too much money:

The plans, the only ones allowed for sale outside of ObamaCare exchanges, generally cost less than half of what similar ObamaCare policies cost, and are increasing in popularity as uninsured Americans learn they are required to get health coverage.

… As long as customers stay healthy, they can renew the short-term plans. If patients get sick while covered, the plans provide for their care until the end of the term, when customers can be declined. But such plans can work well with ObamaCare, because if stricken policyholders can still buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act, where insurers must charge sick and healthy people the same rate.

… In theory, if enough young and healthy people switch to short-term, non-ObamaCare plans, it could cause a “death spiral” for ObamaCare plans where prices soar and healthy customers look elsewhere.

Supporters of the Obamacare exchange system maintain that, although a short-term plan can cost half as much as an exchange-based policy, they won’t steal the market away from the exchanges because people buying their own short-term insurance don’t qualify for a government subsidy to help them pay their premiums.

That’s a difficult line of thinking to follow, since people who are willing to pay out of pocket for cheaper insurance are effectively voting against a subsidy with their wallets.

But the short-term plans do have a couple of potential drawbacks, according to Fox. For one thing, even though a short-term policyholder is technically in compliance with the law, he still has to pay a penalty for opting out of Obamacare. In addition, the policies function on a traditional model that excludes potential customers who have pre-existing conditions.

“Basically, people making $37,000 or less should go on ObamaCare,” one short-term provider told Fox. “People with serious pre-existing conditions — they should go on ObamaCare.

“But for everyone else, including the penalties and including the subsidies [for ObamaCare plans], we cost 30-50 percent less and have that freedom of choice with providers.”

What became of a year-old ethics complaint against Harry Reid?

A year ago, watchdog group Cause of Action filed an ethics complaint against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), alleging he inappropriately intervened in the visa approval process for foreign investors attached to a Las Vegas casino hotel that was getting its legal counsel from his son’s law firm.

Now, Cause of Action is refiling that same complaint, because the original one, according to Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard, “has mysteriously disappeared.”

Cause of Action filed its original complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee in October of 2013, and received a signed receipt two months later — a definitive indication the committee knew of, and was in possession of, the complaint.

Fast forward to this month, when Cause of Action received a communication from the committee’s chief counsel alleging the panel “never received” the original filing. Cause of Action sent a letter (viewable here) last week to Ethics Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) inquiring about the strange disappearance; here’s how Cause of Action describes what happened:

On October 22, 2014, after media reports of the determination request, John C. Sassaman, the Committee’s Chief Counsel and Staff Director, called Cause of Action and indicated the Committee had “never received” the complaint. In light of the National Journal’s findings regarding the Committee’s ineffectiveness, the notion that Committee staff may have lost or otherwise misplaced Cause of Action’s complaint against the Majority Leader is plausible. However, the available evidence contradicts the Committee’s claim.

To begin with, the complaint was sent certified mail and Cause of Action received a signed return receipt from the Senate dated December 20, 2013.3 But even if the Senate mails failed in this case, and the complaint was lost by Senate employees, the evidence is that the Committee learned of the complaint’s filing and allegations from direct press inquiries and likely obtained it directly from Cause of Action’s website in January, 2014.

The story made a lot of news at the time, and it’s hard to imagine it never reached the committee’s attention — even if an innocent mix-up offers a plausible excuse for the original filing’s misplacement. Nevada journalist Jon Ralston kept the issue alive in Reid’s home state, and it’s unlikely, anyway, that the majority leader (or his partisan ally heading the Ethics Committee) would neglect any story that complicates a $300 million investment deal guided, in part, by Reid’s own son.

Cause of Action is a conservative watchdog — one that “has ties to Koch Industries, a Reid critic,” Bedard wrote Tuesday.

Ah. “Mystery” solved?