Shutdown Roundup – Day 3

President Barack Obama waited ‘til the third day of the government “shutdown” to play the senior citizen card, telling a Maryland audience that, if the partisan standoff over a continuing resolution to fund the government escalates into a stalemate over the debt limit, people won’t get their Social Security checks.

“In a government shutdown, Social Security checks still go out on time. In an economic shutdown — if we don’t raise the debt ceiling — they don’t go out on time,” he said. “In a government shutdown, disability benefits still arrive on time. In an economic shutdown, they don’t.”

Well, that would certainly be devastating to the millions of people who depend on the returns they paid into Social Security in their working lives. But it’s pretty audacious of the President to play to affected seniors and disabled people as though they’re his political ace in the hole.

Whose fault is it really, Mr. President? There’s plenty of evidence out there that public opinion doesn’t favor your role in this whole mess. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was caught on a hot mic Thursday telling Senate colleague Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) he didn’t think Obama had “poll tested” his “we won’t negotiate” strategy, and that it’s damaging Obama’s to Obama’s case, in the court of public opinion, to keep bleating that as a mantra. Hope he’s right.

And a Harvard Law professor even got on NPR (of all places) Thursday to caution that Obama’s brinksmanship is likely to damage the President and his Congressional Democratic support, in the long run, more than it will the vilified Tea Party leaders in the GOP.

A CBS poll released Thursday indeed revealed that 76 percent of voters want Obama to negotiate with Congressional Republicans to end the shutdown, and 78 percent want the GOP to do the same.

More insanity from Day Three:

The New York Times saw no reason to let a good crisis go to waste, jumping on Twitter moments after Thursday’s bizarre Washington, D.C. car chase/shooting to announce an implicit connection between the incident and the ongoing shutdown standoff. Here’s the link.

There’s been a surprising amount of violent rhetoric coming from the Obama camp over the GOP opposition since the shutdown began. Obama himself said the GOP has a “gun to the American people’s head.” Congressman George Miller (D-Calif.) went with “jihad.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN last week that GOP holdouts were “legislative arsonists.” White House Aide Dan Pfeiffer said Republicans are acting like they have a “bomb strapped to their chest.”

“Less than three years ago, on the heels of the deadly shooting in Tucson, Ariz., Mr. Obama now famously called on Americans to use ‘words that heal, not wound,’” noted The Washington Times in a related story. So much for that.

Win or lose, the conservative opposition to Obama’s demand for a “clean” resolution has galvanized the conservative base. That could mean big gains in the 2014 elections for Republicans more likely to stand with Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) than John McCain (R-Ariz.) Here’s a good read from Rare on the topic.

The “shutdown” of government websites has mimicked the White House’s “Washington Monument” strategy of artificially maximizing the effects of the stalemate by needlessly limiting access to government monuments.

Speaking of monuments, the Feds went after Mt. Vernon – George Washington’s home – this morning. The government doesn’t even own that – well, they do half-own the parking lots. The Park Service relented later in the day. Strategic backfires starting to sink in, maybe?

We’re creeping up on a full week – Day Four’s just around the corner.

Will All The Real John Boehners Please Step Forward?

There’s weepy John Boehner. Then there’s tough-guy conservative John Boehner. Then there’s White House operative, behind-the-scenes John Boehner. Which of these is the real John Boehner (R-Ohio), Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives?

Another leaked set of emails this week suggests the last of those, Boehner the RINO appeaser, is the right answer.

David Krone, chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), leaked to the media a series of emails involving Boehner and Reid, who’ve evidently been putting their heads together behind the scenes to concoct a Congressional exemption for Obamacare enrollment — all while Boehner continues to pretend to lead House Republicans’ get-tough opposition to the law.

The emails indicate Boehner and Reid aren’t nearly so far apart on exempting members of Congress from the mandates of the Affordable Care Act as Boehner would have Americans believe.

The Blaze has published portions of the leaked emails, which were first reported on (but not extensively quoted) by POLITICO.  They contain passages like this:

“We can’t let it get out there that this is for [Boehner] and [Reid] to ask the President to carve us out of the requirement of Obamacare,” Boehner chief of staff Mike Sommers wrote on July 17.

“This is a little bit more difficult because it isn’t a routing meeting because [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell won’t be there,” he wrote. “I am even ok if it is the President hauling us down to talk about the next steps on immigration.”

Of course, Boehner and his supporters say there’s a context to all this that easily spins his intent in a more benign direction.

But not a month has passed since Boehner was caught making similar behind-the-scenes moves with President Barack Obama on the Syria debacle, secretly serving as Obama’s GOP informant in an effort to develop a strategy that would force Congressional Republicans’ political hand.

Sources near Boehner said at the time that his staff had fallen in with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough to craft a Syria speech for Obama that would help the President in his ill-conceived attempt to drum up support for a military strike against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

So which John Boehner will emerge going forward? For conservatives exasperated with RINO leadership in Congress, the best Boehner may the one that decides to allow new leadership to take over his Speaker’s role in 2014. Dare to dream…

Opting Out Of Obamacare: Need To Know

So what if you don’t want to have anything to do with the government-managed insurance being sold under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? Or what if you simply don’t even know how to tell whether you’re a candidate to enroll in insurance under the Obamacare exchanges, or whether you’d be eligible for an entitlement (er, subsidy) if you do?

There are exemptions that, under the law, prevent you from having to enroll:

Having your own insurance policy either through an employer or direct coverage is one; Medicare/Medicaid is another. Veterans Healthcare, children’s State-funded programs and others also exempt you from having to either buy a policy or pay a penalty.

But those are exemptions for people who already are covered. What if you just want to opt out and claim an exemption that prevents you from having to pay the penalty? Well, there are a number of ways (H/T: The Christian Science Monitor for the compilation):

  • Being without insurance for less than three months of the year.
  • Being an illegal alien.
  • Being in jail.
  • Being a member of a recognized Indian tribe.
  • Being too poor, as determined by your tax filing (or your eligibility not to file).
  • Being unable to acquire coverage that’s more than 8 percent of your household income (though, if early anecdotal reports are true, that would seem to include a very great number of people).
  • Being a member of a “recognized” religious group that objects to insurance coverage in principle. An entire article could be written about what a joke it is to have the government validate your religious beliefs with a “recognition,” but that’s the law as it stands.

There are also a number of hardship exemptions at the healthcare.gov exemptions page.

If you don’t meet one of these qualifications and you don’t have outside insurance, expect to pay a penalty that starts relatively small (as “little” as $95 per person in 2014) and increases in succeeding years ($695 per person by 2016).

The penalty will be determined based on new healthcare information you’re required to submit to the government on your 2014 Federal tax form. You’ll then either have to submit the penalty as a part of your tax payment or, if you’re in line for a sufficiently sizable return, it will simply be deducted from the amount the government “owes” you.

Despite all the early “glitches,” the open Obamacare signup period for 2014 remains fixed, with a cutoff date of March 1, 2014.

In other words, you have until March 1 of next year to figure out the least-costly path through this new era of socialized health coverage — or hope Congressional conservatives figure out a way to derail the whole mess.

Shutdown Roundup – Day 2

Let’s start with this:

The PJ Tatler’s Patrick Poole captured this video today at the same WWII Memorial that provided the backdrop Monday – Day One of the Federal government shutdown – to the Obama Administration’s petty reversal of fortune.

You know that story: veterans and GOP House members disregarded the shuttering of the memorial, moving barricades (the conservative blogosphere has taken to calling them “Barrycades”) and touring the memorial that was meant for them. President Barack Obama had to be gritting his teeth at a PR failure that subverted his Administration’s whole “make ‘em hurt” approach to this shutdown. Who antagonizes veterans?

The more we learn about the extent to which the White House has attempted to get vindictive against the American people over the government shutdown, the more bizarre the whole things gets.

Like the rest of the grounds of the National Mall, the memorial is public space that is never, at any time, physically separated from the public by barricades or is otherwise “closed” for visitation, so closing it due to an alleged lack of funds is a conceptual non-starter. The memorial itself “was funded almost entirely by private contributions,” so the White House’s financial stake in its accessibility is both morally and fiscally miniscule. The Park Service has indicated the Obama Administration, via the White House Office of Management and Budget, did indeed order that the site be closed.

With all that as context, now we have today’s “protest” of more veterans and their mostly-GOP supporters at the same scene by “Federal” employees. Park Service employees (hey, don’t they know there’s a shutdown going on?!) were out in force in the morning, putting up yellow tape and aligning more barricades with those specially-made “government shutdown” signs.

Despite a call-ahead warning they would be arrested for defying the barricades a second day, vets from Ohio, Missouri and Chicago forged past the blockade once again and toured the memorial.

There were no reports of arrests, but, according to Poole (who shot the video and whose voice can be heard asking protestors to show their Federal IDs):

After about an hour, about 20 SEIU [Service Employees International Union] protesters arrived on the scene chanting “Boehner, get us back to work” and claiming they were federal employees furloughed because of the shutdown.

…I was asking them to show their federal IDs to prove they were in fact federal workers. No one wore their federal ID and none would provide it to prove their claim.

Then, remarkably, a guy carrying a sign passed by wearing a McDonald’s employee shirt, which I noted. I then began asking them how much they had been paid to protest, at which point the guy wearing the McDonald’s shirt came back and admitted he had been paid $15 to attend the protest.

About a minute later a SEIU organizer ran up to me telling me that the man in question is a contractor working at the McDonald’s in a Smithsonian Museum — a claim she made no effort to prove. The same story was told to Jake Tapper at CNN who was on the scene and made the same inquiry.

And yet that doesn’t explain why he was paid $15 to attend a protest targeting our nation’s honored military veterans.

No, it sure as hell doesn’t. But it’s easy to connect the dots.

Meanwhile, the Park Service ordered the closure of the Claude Moore Colonial Farm, a park in Virginia that, while situated on Federal land, receives no funding whatsoever from the Federal government for its operations.

The Washington Free Beacon reports:

According to Anna Eberly, managing director of the farm, NPS [National Park Service] sent law enforcement agents to the park on Tuesday evening to remove staff and volunteers from the property.

“You do have to wonder about the wisdom of an organization that would use staff they don’t have the money to pay to evict visitors from a park site that operates without costing them any money,” she said.

The park withstood prior government shutdowns, noting in a news release that the farm will be closed to the public for the first time in 40 years.

“In previous budget dramas, the Farm has always been exempted since the NPS provides no staff or resources to operate the Farm,” Eberly explained in an emailed statement.

“In all the years I have worked with the National Park Service … I have never worked with a more arrogant, arbitrary and vindictive group [that’s you, Obama Administration] representing the NPS,” Eberly said.

 

In other related hijinks from Day Two:

This is excerpted from a February sequestration article in The Washington Post, but if it was applicable then, it’s only more relevant now:

Does everyone know what a “Washington Monument” strategy is? We should expect to see government agencies employ that strategy against the sequester — because it works.

A Washington Monument strategy involves fighting against budget cuts by focusing, and if possible shifting cuts, to the most popular and visible services an agency provides — thus the Park Service would react to a budget cut by threatening to close the Washington Monument, figuring that disappointed tourists would flood their Member of Congress’s office complaining about it.

…What this means is that whatever the level of damage across-the-board would impose, we can expect the affected agencies will try to make the damage look as high as possible.

The collective opinion of political pundits is that this “shutdown” is likely to be a long-haul sport.

Rand Paul pointed out the fallacy of calling this whole flap a “shutdown,” noting on Fox News that “85 percent of government is being funded. Two thirds of the government is Social Security, Medicare – all of that is going on. And then we agreed yesterday, Harry Reid did come forward when we asked him to, and he finally agreed to pay the soldiers. So now we’re up to that, 85 percent of the government.”

There’s a little 143 year-old law called the Antideficiency Act that is intended to prevent the Executive Branch from obligating funds that Congress hasn’t appropriated. There are exemptions written into the law for “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property,” and during a government shutdown, guess who gets to interpret that? The White House Office of Management and Budget.

Judicial Watch has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get to the bottom of the National Park Service’s actions at the World War II Memorial in Washington this week, the PJ Tatler reports.

Late in the day, The Hill reported Congressional Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, were dipping their toes in the compromise waters :

[Reid] offered to open negotiations on tax reform Wednesday if Republicans agree to a clean resolution to reopen the government. Reid sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pledging to appoint negotiators to a budget conference if House Republicans relent on a six-week funding stopgap.

The budget conference is something Democrats have long sought, however, and the proposal was quickly shot down by Boehner’s office.

Reid offered to include tax reform, which has bogged down in partisan politics this year, on the agenda. The letter suggested that Democrats would be willing to negotiate changes to ObamaCare as part of budget talks as well.

Finally, from the fair-and-balanced department: The Media Research Center (MRC) finds that the news divisions at ABC, NBC and CBS are interested in framing the shutdown as anything but a product of Democrats’ obstinacy. In 39 stories leading up to the shutdown, the three networks “blamed” Republicans on the gridlock 21 times, both parties four times, neither party 14 times, and Democrats zero times.

Day Three, here we come.

DNC Nearly Broke; RNC Has Cash To Spare

The Democratic National Committee (DNC), which sets the party’s National platform, plots out election strategy and sits atop its fundraising hierarchy, is nearly broke. In fact, the DNC is so deep in the hole that it’s having to negotiate delinquent vendor payments on a case-by-case basis.

Some of those disgruntled vendors broke the DNC story Monday by anonymously complaining to CNN that the DNC was seriously overdue on payments.

From the CNN/Fortune report:

It is a highly unusual state of affairs for a national party – especially one that can deploy the President as its fundraiser-in-chief – and it speaks to the quiet but serious organizational problems the party has yet to address since the last election, obscured in part by the much messier spectacle of GOP infighting.

The Democrats’ numbers speak for themselves: Through August, 10 months after helping President Obama secure a second term, the DNC owed its various creditors a total of $18.1 million, compared to the $12.5 million cash cushion the Republican National Committee is holding.

It’s not as though Barack Obama has not been pounding the pavement on the fundraising circuit; he’s done 15 engagements so far this year. But much of the grass-roots effectiveness of the Obama money machine owes not to the DNC’s organizational structure, but to Organizing for Action (formerly Organizing for America, then Obama for America), the metamorphosed community organizing group that, under the DNC’s leadership, helped Obama win the White House in 2008 and 2012. OFA has used its extensive mailing list and stronger leadership to effectively cannibalize the DNC’s donor base.

In addition, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, despite her party leadership position, has reportedly faced tough sledding as an aloof political outsider with no strong ties to the Administration of Obama, the Democrats’ chief fundraiser.

“The [OFA] group can raise unlimited sums from deep-pocketed donors, and there is some evidence it is siphoning resources from the DNC,” reported CNN. “All of the top-tier OFA donors this year have been prolific supporters of the DNC in past years. But of the 13 who cut six-figure checks to OFA in the first half of this year, only three gave to the DNC over the same period, according to a review of records from the Center for Responsive Politics.”

So the DNC owes $18.1 million and the Republican National Committee (RNC) is sitting on $12.5 million. Does that ironic disparity reflect any underlying truths about the two parties’ differing fiscal philosophies? Or is the RINO-dominated RNC money just better at coordinating its donors’ political “investments?”

Shutdown Roundup – Day One

All the money and effort that went into the creation of propagandist signs informing visitors to the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon, D.C. monuments and other Federal properties that the big, bad government shutdown has crippled the U.S. Parks Service thankfully won’t go to waste.

President Barack Obama quickly rejected a proposal by House Republicans Tuesday that would have included Federal parks, veterans’ programs and Washington, D.C. government services and amenities in the approved list of “essential” services protected from the government shutdown.

“We are asking Democrats to come to the table,” said Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) Instead, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney ridiculed the Republicans’ proposal for its “utter lack of seriousness.”

There’s much for Democrats and the White House to gain from maximizing the pain of a shutdown – just as they had attempted to do over the much-balleyhooed budget sequestration, which they also blamed on the GOP and emphasized with orchestrated photo-op instances of crying and sadness. The White House needs America’s sacred cows to stay defiled, so long as it’s the fault of the Republicans. What great theater.

In a rehash of those same tired methods, Obama himself patronized Federal employees (a.k.a. political pawns for both parties) Tuesday, telling them in a letter they’d been treated like a “punching bag” by the Republican-controlled House even though all 800,000 of the furloughed government workers are “driven, patriotic, idealistic Americans.”

You do all this [work] in a political climate that, too often in recent years, has treated you like a punching bag. You have endured three years of a Federal pay freeze, harmful sequester cuts, and now, a shutdown of our Government. And yet, you persevere, continuing to serve the American people with passion, professionalism, and skill.

None of this is fair to you. And should it continue, it will make it more difficult to keep attracting the kind of driven, patriotic, idealistic Americans to public service that our citizens deserve and that our system of self-government demands.

For a minute there, we thought he was describing the Tea Party.

Other lowlights from the first day of the shutdown:

  • Starting this weekend, service academies may not be able to play football. Real shame, y’ know, ‘cuz everyone loves football!
  • The ever-vigilant NSA won’t be able to protect us (though we’re pretty sure they’re still full sail on the domestic spying). “The Intelligence Community’s ability to identify threats and provide information for a broad set of national security decisions will be diminished for the duration,” said Shawn Turner, a spokesman for James Clapper, the always-truthful Director of National Intelligence. “The immediate and significant reduction in employees on the job means that we will assume greater risk and our ability to support emerging intelligence requirements will be curtailed.”
  • Having already squandered on sequestration the poignant spectacle of closing the White House to public tours, the Obama Administration is having to identify new locations where capital city visitors must blame Republicans for not being able to visit. Now it’s the whole National Mall. Wonder if it’s open to liberal rallies, still?
  • A Gallup poll released Tuesday found there really doesn’t seem to be much to be gained or lost by all the political players on either side of the argument. “Gallup’s historical data surrounding a similar 1995/1996 government shutdown reveal that the current battle may have little impact on Americans’ views of today’s political leaders – at least through the next several months,” the poll finds. “Additionally, Americans already view Congress itself – and the Republicans and Democrats who are part of it – very poorly, meaning there is not much room for their perceptions of the legislative branch to worsen further.”
  • As a fare-thee-well, here’s how RTT News reported on the stock market’s first-day reaction to the shutdown:

After moving moderately higher in early trading on Tuesday, stocks have seen some further upside over the course of the trading session. With the gains on the day, the tech-heavy Nasdaq has reached a new thirteen-year high.

The major averages are currently posting strong gains, near their highs for the session. The Dow is up 70.74 points or 0.5 percent at 15,200.41, the Nasdaq is up 39.57 points or 1.1 percent at 3,811.05 and the S&P 500 is up 13.78 points or 0.8 percent at 1,695.33.

The strength on Wall Street comes despite news that lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on a temporary spending bill, resulting in a government shutdown.

See you back here Wednesday for Day Two.

Al-Qaida’s ‘Standards Of Friendship And Enmity In Islam’ Spells Out Jihad Against The West

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has made public a translation of a recent al-Qaida broadcast in which a militant Pakistani cleric spells out who the enemies of Islam are — and how faithful Muslims should treat them.

It’s a translation of a lecture entitled “Standards of Friendship and Enmity in Islam” delivered by an Urdu-speaking cleric named Abdul Samad. Samad uses scripture and hadiths to cement the point that Muslims have no business associating with infidels, and that they should wage jihad against anything that isn’t Islamic to its very core until the world is populated only by Muslims.

From the MEMRI website:

i) The most powerful and binding relation is Islam.

ii) The believers, who do not disassociate themselves from nonbelievers and do not distinguish their ranks from people who have interest in worldly things, can never serve Islam effectively.

iii) Our friendship and enmity should only be for Allah’s cause.

iv) Our friendship, relationship and love should only be with the people who believe in Islam and Allah as the ruler.

v) The people, who do not accept Allah as the ruler and do not believe in Islam are our enemy and we should disassociate ourselves from them even if they are our close relatives and from our tribe.

vi) The infidels, whether they are the Jews or Christians, atheists and polytheists, are the real infidels and are the enemies of Allah’s faith (Islam).

vii) The Koran has termed friendship with Kuffar (infidels) as a sign of disunity and unbelief, as it is associated with the foundations of belief.

viii) The people declared by Allah as our enemy can never be our friends.

ix) The non-believers are the enemies of our elderly people, women and children. They kill the Muslims with bombs either in Kashmir, Iraq, or Palestine. There is hardly a day when a Muslim escapes their cruelty.

x) They open several fronts (against Muslims) after entering a region. One of their fronts is education. They used it in the Egypt and Turkey; and they currently use it in Pakistan against the Muslims.

xi) Our enmity towards Hindus is not due to the Kashmir issue; our enmity towards America is not due to Iraq and Afghanistan; the enmity between us and the Jews is not due to the Palestine; the real cause is that they do not accept our system and Islam.

xii) Our enmity towards them (the non-believers) will continue even if they renounce all their crimes.

xiii) Enmity towards infidels is a must. It is part of our faith. Islam says the Muslims should stay away from the infidels and their countries.

xiv) The best way to get rid of them (infidels) is to continue jihad until the Allah’s faith (Islam) is completely enforced all over the world.

In theory, there is no reason why Christians, Muslims, pagans and everybody else must actively pursue the obliteration of other belief systems. Regardless of what the religious books tell Christians and Muslims to do or not do to each other, it is mankind who decides doctrine and who chooses whether to follow the religious texts closely or with a wide interpretive berth.

There are places in this world where Christians and Muslims have lived together in peace for centuries. But those places are becoming scarcer, because we are living in a time when the local and regional prestige of Islamists who wish for a literal enactment of the Quran on Earth is strong. And the appeal of religious absolutism is on the rise in those impoverished, destabilized parts of the world where the population — and fundamentalist Islam with it — is burgeoning.

The United States needs leaders who will be clear about the threat to free society that fundamental Islamists pose. The “Standards of Friendship and Enmity in Islam” shows that the Islamists intend to speak and act with conviction when it comes to interacting with the “infidel” world. President Barack Obama and his successors should drop America’s temerity over discriminating against Islam as a religion or abstraction and hew to a policy that shows America isn’t afraid to identify our very human enemies.

A religion is benign until evil men wield it to serve a political agenda. And that’s a battle that’s continually unfolding, with frightening outcome, in the restless Islamic world. “The Allah’s faith” cannot be “completely enforced all over the world” without politics, without theocracy. Fundamentalist Islam is a political problem for the rest of the world, and there can be no solution until Western leaders will embrace that plain truth with unwavering confidence.

Al-Qaida and other legalistic Islamist groups are growing. And in many regions, their brand of fundamentalism isn’t the isolated, wing-nut, fringe social influence that our liberal leaders would have us believe.

Al-Qaida is telling us how and why it’s taking the fight to the West. Should the liberal West, whose leaders have become so open-minded that their brains are falling out, not start listening?

Will The Federal Government ‘Shut Down’ At Midnight? And If It Does, Will It Affect You?

The answer to the first question is looking more and more like a “yes” with each hour that passes. President Barack Obama said nothing new (and took no questions) at a press conference today, reiterating the harm a shutdown would do to the U.S. economy and to “our neighbors” who work for the Federal government – the Nation’s largest employer – who’d be furloughed.

Obama also repeated his rhetorical device Monday of marginalizing recalcitrant House Republicans (despite their representative majority), claiming that “one faction of one part in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the government just to re-fight results of the last election.”

The House GOP spent Monday criticizing the Senate for taking Sunday off in the face of a government shutdown, as well as to repurpose a continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government with a proviso that would require a one-year delay in Obamacare’s individual-coverage mandate. That bill also seeks to strip members of Congress, White House officials and political appointees of any Obamacare subsidies, effectively forcing lawmakers to live with the same legislation they’ve passed on to the public.

Democratic leaders from Obama to Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) uniformly vowed any bill that attempts to attach Obamacare restrictions to the Federal budget would get no traction.

In short: last-minute deals can always happen, but there’s been nothing in the rhetoric to indicate either side of the argument is approaching a compromise that will avert a shutdown with only hours left on the deadline clock.

As for the second question? Well, if you aren’t a Federal employee in a “nonessential” role (more on that in a moment), history would indicate that a shutdown is more likely either to help you a little, or to have no effect on you at all, than to cause you financial harm – despite Obama’s dire talk of an imploding economy.

Russell Price of Ameriprise Financial wrote Monday:

The most notable government shutdown of recent memory was the closure of government offices during the budget battle of 1995. Similar to the current circumstances, then-President Clinton battled with the Republican-led House of Representatives over the fiscal 1996 federal budget.

… How did the economy and markets react? Quite well, actually. Stock prices moved steadily higher throughout the period, likely on the perceived prospect of deficit reduction. The S&P 500 was 5.4 percent higher on a price-only basis from the end of October through the end of January.

Meanwhile, consumer spending was also fairly unaffected through the period, although consumer confidence did drop significantly. Confidence levels had improved in early November with the Conference Board’s index rising to 101.6 from 96.3 in October. But by the time of the January reading, the index had dropped more than 13 points to 88.4.

Ultimately, the U.S. economy surged in 1996 with Real GDP growing by 3.7% versus 2.5% in 1995.

In addition, Democrats’ claims that a shutdown will harm soldiers, mailmen, people on Social Security, unemployment and people who eat meat that someone from the FDA hasn’t inspected – to name only a few nightmare scenarios – are either exaggerated or completely false. National Review sets the record straight here.

A separate NR article also points out what many small-government conservatives have maintained all along: that a “shutdown” as defined by Congress isn’t really a shutdown at all. Rather, it’s a paring back of government bloat that leaves intact, in some form, those functions of Federal government that crucially serve the interests of all Americans, as opposed to specialized entitlements and regulations that benefit (or harm) only the few.

NR’s Hans A. von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, writes:

The truth from the experience of prior shutdowns, applicable federal laws, Justice Department legal opinions, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directives, is that crucial government services and benefits would continue without interruption even if Congress fails to agree on a continuing resolution (CR) or President Obama vetoes it. That includes all services essential for national security and public safety — such as the military and law enforcement — as well as mandatory government payments such as Social Security and veterans’ benefits.

In fact, as the Justice Department said in a legal opinion in 1995, “the federal government will not be truly ‘shut down’ . . . because Congress has itself provided that some activities of Government should continue.” Any claim that not passing a CR would result in a “shutting down” of the government “is an entirely inaccurate description,” according to the Justice Department.

Such a lapse in funding would be neither catastrophic nor unprecedented. There have been 17 funding gaps just since 1977, ranging in duration from one to 21 days. Under applicable federal law, operations and services would continue for those essential for “the safety of human life or the protection of property” as well as those programs funded through multiyear or permanent appropriations such as Social Security.

Even furloughed employees are likely to receive their back pay, and some are already using the union apparatus to clamor for it. That kind of collateral expense points out the self-perpetuating fallacy of big government. Democrats’ urgent criticisms that a shutdown will ultimately be costly to the government are true – from Democrats’ point of view. That’s because Obama and his followers invoke the lost opportunity cost of unpaid wages and unspent Federal funds as a harbinger of economic loss for average Americans.

But that’s a very progressive way to approach the “problem” of paring back Federal spending. As Reason’s Scott Shackford writes:

To my perpetual annoyance, the president – like any government official defending employee spending – invoked the concept of economic multipliers, the notion that wages generate and grow a local economy as the money is spent in the community, thereby creating wealth. It’s frustrating when government officials invoke economic multipliers because the money they spend is forcibly taken from the community in the first place. These are not voluntary exchanges where the consumer receives something of value in exchange for the producer receiving more than the cost to create that thing (in fact, ithe exact opposite often happens given the lack of incentives for efficiency). When a government official invokes economic multipliers, he or she inevitably doesn’t consider what might have been done with that money if the government never collected it in the first place.

So here’s an idea: stop calling it a “shutdown” and make it permanent. Let dollars stay in the hands of people who earn them instead of being handed over to the Federal government to propagate a never-ending bait-and-switch game of “taxpayer-funded” entitlements that are actually funded on wave after wave of limitless, currency-debasing money printing.

Of course that won’t happen anytime soon. But if the government does “shut down” after midnight, it will be interesting to see whether the private sector responds as it did during the Clinton years.

Rand Paul Argues Democrats ‘Should Not Escape’ Pain Obamacare Will Cause Everyday Americans

After Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) delivered his marathon talk last Tuesday to galvanize GOP opposition to Obamacare, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) published an opinion piece in The Washington Times, excoriating the hypocrisy of Congressional leaders who continue to support the Affordable Care Act while exempting themselves from its mandates.

What should infuriate you the most is the fact that the same elected officials who implemented this mandate have recently declared themselves exempt from it. That is to say, these officials are forcing you to partake in something that they themselves are refusing. If Obamacare is so great, why then are federal employees and elected officials getting special treatment and opting out?

If President Obama, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Harry Reid and Chief Justice Roberts love Obamacare so much, they should live under it. Their actions speak louder than words, and it is erroneous for these leaders to even attempt to claim that Obamacare is a step forward for Americans.

Not a difficult concept to understand, is it?

One thread that runs through all of the conservative opposition to Obamacare has been the simplicity of the conservatives’ moral message. Despite the sophistication of Cruz’s Ivy League mind or of Paul’s Hippocratic training, conservative lawmakers have had no need to fall back on complexity, obfuscation or patronizing, “it’s-complicated” justification for why they have taken this particular stand on the healthcare law. Rather, their message is manifestly simple and just plain correct: It’s wrong for Congress to stand apart from the laws it has created.

Similarly, Democrats and RINO proponents of Obamacare have feebly argued in favor of the law from a smug high ground of intricate, systemic and complicated explanations. Their attempt at intellectual abstraction to defend the indefensible — such as when President Barack Obama last week urged America to wait patiently for the law to begin reverberating through society, or when Senator John McCain criticized Cruz and Co. for failing to appreciate his fatalistic “compromise” justification for siding with the Democrats — is both stupidly transparent and intellectually dishonest.

People often see through such condescension if they’re paying attention.

Here’s more unfiltered logic from Paul:

I find it absolutely despicable that Mr. Obama, his administration and the elected officials who shoved this mandate down the throat of Americans are now giving themselves waivers. The president is also giving his friends waivers. Mr. Obama’s behavior mirrors that of a captain jumping overboard, abandoning his own sinking ship.

I have a proposal. I have offered an amendment that would outlaw any special exemptions for government employees. This amendment requires all federal workers to purchase health insurance from the new Obamacare exchanges, instead of receiving taxpayer-funded subsidies.

I am also introducing a more broad constitutional amendment, which states that Congress shall make no law that treats citizens differently from the elites in the federal government.

… My legislation and constitutional amendment will remind all elected officials that they are not above the law, and they are certainly not above the American people.

Hopefully, by 2014, a great many elected officials will learn that same lesson at the polls.

Seymour Hersh: Obama Administration Narrative Of Bin Laden Death ‘One Big Lie’

Pulitzer journalist Seymour Hersh, who first earned recognition for breaking the My Lai massacre scandal, doesn’t buy the Obama Administration’s narrative of how Osama bin Laden was taken down. In fact, he thinks American media is mostly garbage and coddles President Barack Obama instead of hitting the streets to suss out the truth behind sanctioned press releases.

Hersh told The Guardian American media – and The New York Times, in particular – spends most of its energies “carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would.”

From the interview:

Do you think Obama’s been judged by any rational standards? Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying any attention to Iraq? Is he seriously talking about going into Syria? We are not doing so well in the 80 wars we are in right now, what the hell does he want to go into another one for. What’s going on [with journalists]?

…Why do newspapers constantly cite the two or three groups that monitor drone killings. Why don’t we do our own work?

Our job is to find out ourselves, our job is not just to say – here’s a debate’ our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who’s right and who’s wrong about issues. That doesn’t happen enough. It costs money, it costs time, it jeopardises, it raises risks.

As for the bin Laden narrative?

“Nothing’s been done about that story, it’s one big lie, not one word of it is true,” he said. “The Pakistanis put out a report, don’t get me going on it. Let’s put it this way, it was done with considerable American input. It’s a bullsh*t report.”

Hersh said his solution to the lapdog media problem would involve firing 90 percent of America’s newspaper editors and replacing them with “editors that you can’t control;” people “who look you in the eye and say, ‘I don’t care what you say.’”

Then he’d shut down the major television news networks and “start all over, tabula rasa.”

Who wants to go first?

U.N. Panel Will Need Literary License To Spin Climate Change Myth

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations committee that has been pushing the urgency of manmade global warming on its member nations for decades, is set to deliver its latest findings today when it releases its assessment report before the media.

Since the IPCC is responsible for creating and developing a significant chunk of the plot in the human drama of global warming, it’s in no position to kill off Climate Change, the story’s main character. But how it will avoid doing that as it attempts to explain its own findings — that “global warming” has been in abeyance since 1998 — should be entertaining enough.

Critics of the climate change agenda don’t expect the ICPP to come clean. Writing for The Telegraph Thursday, James Delingpole explained that global warming careerists have… well, an inconvenient truth on their hands.

Though the details are a secret, one thing is clear: the version of events you will see and hear in much of the media, especially from partis pris organisations like the BBC, will be the opposite of what the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report actually says.

… In truth, though, the new report offers scant consolation to those many alarmists whose careers depend on talking up the threat. It says not that they are winning the war to persuade the world of the case for catastrophic anthropogenic climate change – but that the battle is all but lost.

… [This year’s report is] the first in its history to admit what its critics have said for years: global warming did “pause” unexpectedly in 1998 and shows no sign of resuming. And, other than an ad hoc new theory about the missing heat having been absorbed by the deep ocean, it cannot come up with a convincing explanation why. Coming from a sceptical blog none of this would be surprising. But from the IPCC, it’s dynamite: the equivalent of the Soviet politburo announcing that command economies may not after all be the most efficient way of allocating resources.

… Al Gore’s “consensus” is about to be holed below the water-line – and those still aboard the SS Global Warming are adjusting their positions.

The IPCC’s assessment report is viewed as “the gospel of climate change” by policymakers and elected officials who employ its findings as the moral basis for tinkering with fees, fines, incentives and taxes.

As the member nations involved in compiling this year’s report are fretting over how to spin a dead narrative, there’s one option they should — but won’t — consider: walking manmade climate change back to theory status, and letting it stay there until it demonstrate by reason, and not emotion, that it is fact or fraud.

They’re Kidding, Right? Official Senate Web Page Trashes 2nd Amendment In Novel Interpretation

The host website is www.senate.gov, the official Web presence for the U.S. Senate. If you visit the page and click on the “Reference” tab in the top right-hand corner, you’re taken to a second page that links to a number of jumping-off points for learning about the Nation’s founding documents.

One of those links connects you with a full text copy of the U.S. Constitution, which is presented, in columnar form, alongside an “Explanation” commentary that purports to offer insight on the meaning of each Article and Section, as well as each amendment. Here’s a direct link.

Remember, this is hosted on an official publication of the U.S. Senate, with all the probity that implies.

So scroll down to the “Amendments” section (or simply click on the “Amendments” link at the top of the page to jump directly to the Bill of Rights.

There it is: “Amendment II (1791).” By heart, you know what it says. So what does the Senate’s “explanation” have to say?

“Whether this provision protects the individual’s right to own firearms or whether it deals only with the collective right of the people to arm and maintain a militia has long been debated.”

Makes you want to read through the entire “explanation” column, to see what else the Senate wishes to tell Americans about how government reinterprets its own charter, does it not?

You don’t have to read very far. The very next “explanation,” for the 3rd Amendment, glibly calls the amendment “virtually obsolete” and insinuates it had only transitory value because it arose out of a specific set of circumstances. Does that mean it doesn’t function in 2013, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, in “extending the ground of public confidence in the Government,” as the preamble states?

Perhaps it does to the U.S. Senate — or to whoever has been designated to reimagine the Constitution on its behalf.

420 Million Cigarettes Went ‘Missing’ Following Unauthorized ATF Raids

An internal audit at the U.S. Department of Justice has found that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) lost track of $162 million in profits from unauthorized sting operations and misplaced 420 million cigarettes (that’s 21 million packs of smokes.)

The audit finds that ATF agents, on multiple occasions, took it upon themselves to initiate investigations without approval, illegally confiscating cigarettes to perpetuate sting operations by having them resold to unsuspecting targets through informants.

In one instance, “approximately $15 million of cigarettes were sold in an 18-month period, and a confidential informant for the investigation was allowed to keep more than $4.9 million of the $5.2 million of gross profit generated without submitting adequate documentation supporting his expenses,” according to a DOJ spokesman.

In reality, the overall numbers are likely much higher. The DOJ audited only specific time periods and focused only on specific ATF investigations that took place between 2006 and 2011.

New ATF director B. Todd Jones has said the agency has adjusted it internal guidelines since the 2006-2011 period covered by the audit. But, as Time’s Alexander Aciman points out, that “raises the question of why nobody was curious about what the ATF was doing for 5 years.”

According to the Washington Post, an operation comically named “Fast and Furious” that was meant to track gun traffickers selling arms to Mexican drug cartels ended with the ATF having no clue where 2,000 weapons went.  The report managed to pinpoint some of the ATF’s expenses, which included a quarter of a million dollars used to rent a fleet [of] vehicles for which there was no documented justifiable excuse or purpose.

It’s puzzling to see these scandals come to light through internal audits. One has to wonder how corrupt Federal agencies really are, when they come forward with disclosures that only invite questions about how much more they’re getting away with.

The Digital President: Obama, King Of The Phony Twitterverse

Need a little comic relief?

How about the fact that more than half of President Barack Obama’s 37 million Twitter followers don’t exist? According to a recent analysis, Obama stands at the top of a short list of high-profile American politicians (and hangers-on) in having the highest percentage of nonexistent Twitter “followers.”

The top four spots on the Daily Mail’s list of politicians with inflated Twitter stats are all occupied by White House Democrats, but Obama himself holds the only account with a following that’s more than 50 percent fake.

Vice President Joe Biden comes in second to Obama; 46 percent of his half-million Twitter disciples don’t exist. “The White House” is third, at 37 percent, and Michelle Obama is fourth, with 36 percent of her Twitter audience not existing. Organizing For Action runs the Michelle Obama account; the First Lady also has a separate, smaller-scale account as “FLOTUS.” That account fares a bit better, with a fake following of “only” 25 percent.

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) occupies the fifth-place spot on the phony list, with a 33-percent-fake following.

It’s not until the sixth spot, occupied by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), that the percentage of nonexistent followers is eclipsed, for the first time on the list, by “good” (aka “real”) ones. Rubio’s fake following stands at 29 percent of his total audience, while his real followers make up 35 percent. A third category that tallies inactive followers makes up the remaining 36 percent (a figure that varies little for all the other politicians on the list).

Quite a bit farther down come Senate conservatives Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Each has a fake audience that comprises 19 percent of his total Twitter following. Each also has a “real” following that stands at 48 percent.

To be fair to all concerned (including the President), not all the phony Twitter followers can be accounted for by the phenomenon of “buying up” batches of nonexistent user accounts to intentionally pad the numbers.

“There are several reasons why so many followers of a given Twitter account might be considered ‘fake,’” notes the Daily Mail. “In some cases, direct marketers and other spammers follow influential accounts en masse, hoping to be followed in return.”

But:

There is also the possibility that prominent politicians are buying blocks of Twitter followers. Such an accusation was leveled at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

The digital security company Baccardua Labs told The Guardian that Romney’s surge of new followers at the time were ‘not from a general Twitter population but most likely from a paid Twitter follower service.’

‘Romney’s newest followers could have been paid for by himself, his associates or by his opponents. So far, there is not a feasible way to confirm who is responsible,’ said the report’s author, Jason Ding.

No such report about Obama’s social media accounts was published.

Is it too far-fetched to guess that no report on Obama’s Twitter army ever will reveal how many of his digital foot soldiers are bunko?

Is Lois Lerner Striking An IRS Testimony Deal With Congressional Investigators?

Nothing had been set in stone as of late Wednesday, but it looks as though Lois Lerner, the Washington, D.C.-based Internal Revenue Service official who retired this week in disgrace over the Tea Party discrimination scandal, is attempting through her lawyers to negotiate an immunity deal with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as it pursues its investigation into the scandal’s origins.

Even though Lerner retired Monday after learning an internal review board was poised to recommend she be fired for negligence, she remains under subpoena from the Oversight Committee. Lerner, the former head of the Exempt Organizations division of the IRS, had earlier attempted to invoke her Constitutional right not to incriminate herself before a committee hearing, even as she maintained she had nothing to hide.

A bevy of internal emails, released earlier this month by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), reveal some of Lerner’s 2011 communications with other officials over what to do about Tea Party groups seeking tax exemptions.

You may not have seen or heard about the emails; it’s been 62 days since any of the Big Three TV news networks ran an IRS scandal story. But the fresh batch of Lerner communications completely contradicts her ardent assertions, shortly after the scandal broke, that rogue IRS employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office had taken it upon themselves to bog down the nonprofit exemptions process for the conservative groups.

From a Sept. 12 story in The Daily Caller:

“Tea Party Matter very dangerous… Counsel and Judy Kindell [Lerner’s technical adviser] need to be in on this one… Cincy should probably NOT have these cases,” Lerner said in a February 2011 email, despite the fact that IRS officials initially claimed that the agency’s Cincinnati office was solely responsible for the improper targeting of tea party and conservative groups.

“Perhaps the FEC will save the day,” Lerner said in an email, responding to a complaint the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee registered with the Federal Elections Commission. The IRS and FEC reportedly collaborated on conservative targeting.

“There is increasing and overwhelming evidence that Lois Lerner and high-level IRS employees in Washington were abusing their power to prevent conservative groups from organizing and carrying out their missions. There are still mountains of documents to go through, but it is clear the IRS is out of control and there will be consequences,” Camp said.

Representative Sander Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking minority member on the Ways and Means Committee, has interpreted Lerner’s involvement as bungling but benign. Levin told Tax Analysts Lerner appeared to have been “incompetent in her management of the IRS tax-exempt division and unprofessional in her conduct” and that Republicans’ efforts to selectively leak only a few incriminating emails out of tens of thousands of documents represent a partisan witch hunt.

Why, then, would Lerner (or her wealthy Barack Obama-supporting husband) be paying very good money to top-flight attorneys to strike an immunity deal? Immunity has been on Lerner’s mind from the beginning; she made it clear at the time of her May testimony that Congress could easily hear everything she had to say by simply granting her request to go free, come what may.

No one with a conduit to the public has come forward to divulge Lerner’s present motives for seeking the deal. But it appears Lerner is either:

A) Possessed of a grimly wicked sense of humor; a disgraced and fed-up bureaucrat about to punk the indefatigably dedicated Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chairs the Oversight
committee, with a whole bunch of garbage testimony that will make a farce of the entire investigation and leave Issa embarrassed and bewildered.Or…

B) One very frightened ex-loyalist who realizes she’s become a fall guy; a jilted liberal who’d love to salvage her reputation and deliver Congressional Republicans the magic smoking gun they’ve been seeking that would tie the scandal directly to the Obama Administration.

If Issa strikes a deal, you can bet he’s got his money on the latter. Here are nine reasons why he’s probably right.

Is A NorCal Secessionist Movement Gaining Momentum?

Three weeks ago, the conservative rural county of Siskiyou took a step toward seceding from the State of California. The Board of Supervisors for the county, which lies in extreme Northern California along the Oregon border, voted to secede, saying their residents’ interests were being stifled and even exploited in Sacramento in favor of the State’s major urban centers.

Now a neighboring county has voted to split from California. Modoc County, home to fewer than 10,000 residents, now joins Siskiyou in seeking to establish a 51st State that, if ever it should be approved by Congress, would be called the State of Jefferson.

It’s not likely to happen, of course. But then again, there seems to be significant momentum behind the latest push – chiefly because there aren’t a lot of leaders and residents in neighboring Northern California counties, this time, who are rushing forward to say that the whole idea is insane.

According to the Redding Record Searchlight, a newspaper based in nearby Shasta County, at least two counties are considering similar secession votes:

…[M]ost of the more populated counties in Northern California have yet to lend their support, though a number are considering it, including Shasta County and Redding, the most populous city north of Sacramento.

Siskiyou County has a population of just over 44,100, while Modoc has about 9,300 residents, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.

Supervisors in Butte County, the most populated municipality to consider joining the movement, have scheduled a vote for Oct. 22.

The Redding City Council has yet to set a date for a discussion on the topic, which is being sought by Vice Mayor Patrick Jones.

A representative for the secessionist Jefferson Declaration Committee told the newspaper California is “essentially ungovernable in its present size” and that the committee would like to have 12 Northern California counties on board before attempting to form a new State – “though we can certainly do it with less.”

Modoc County forms California’s northeastern corner, lying along Oregon’s southern border and sharing a border with Nevada to the East.

State-By-State Obamacare Rate Table Offers A Great Incentive To Stay Healthy (Forever)

What is it gonna take for President Barack Obama to get you to drive away in a brand new Obamacare policy next week?

Double… Triple… Sextuple. How much are you willing to pay, particularly if you’re single and not too advanced in years, to swap your current health plan for an Obamacare plan?

The Wall Street Journal published a table Wednesday of State-by-State data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that contrasts the current lowest price of a single-coverage policy for a 27 year-old with the lowest price that same 27 year-old can expect to pay if he ditches his insurance (or, more likely, if his Obamacare-escaping employer cuts his hours back to 29 per week) in favor of an Obamacare plan.

Not being arithmeticians, and gently pressured by working deadlines, we only had a chance to crunch a few of the numbers. But it appears at a glance that the best Obamacare deal lies in the great State of New Hampshire, where the cheapest privately-held coverage plan of $149 per month can be supplanted for a relative steal of only $37 more per month.

What a bargain – New Hampshire residents could be the envy of everyone else. The contrast between cheap coverage now and “cheap” coverage under the Affordable Care Act gets downright loony in places like Little Rock ($31 monthly premiums versus $190 under Obamacare), all of Delaware ($51 versus $203), New Orleans ($39 versus $170) and Omaha ($26 versus $162 – a whopping 623 percent increase).

Sure, $26 is dirt cheap by absolutely any measure. But being told you’re going to have to pony up six times that amount for a revamped version of what you already have is basically the grown-up, government equivalent of watching a toddler make-believe demand that his baby sister pay a kajillion bajillion dollars before he’ll hand back her princess wand.

The table represents only those States where the Federal government is setting up and managing the mandatory insurance “exchanges” (a.k.a. virtual marketplace). Elsewhere, the health care exchanges will be managed by the States themselves.

As the table notes, some people may be eligible for subsidies to defray the hike in policy prices. But guess who pays for that? All the poor saps in Omaha who sign up to pay the $162 per month (and so on, in each State). And, if young and healthy people opt for the Obamacare penalty instead of buying coverage – as many industry pundits predict – that $162 a month will climb higher to make up the difference.

So what, exactly, is Ted Cruz on about? The conservative Texas Senator’s Obamacare-attacking filibuster gag was just a bunch of self-serving grandstanding borrowed from the McCarthy era…

Wasn’t it?

Lerner’s Retreat: IRS Chief Who Pleaded The 5th Retires As Tea Party Scandal Closes In

The former Internal Revenue Service official who attempted to testify on her own behalf before invoking her 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination resigned from her position Monday, even as a review board prepared to recommend that she be fired for her alleged role in wielding the tax agency’s power to illegally discriminate against conservative nonprofit groups.

Lois Lerner, the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division, had been on administrative leave since admitting in May that the IRS had bogged down conservative groups’ applications for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election. She is expected to receive a full pension after retiring from her $177,000-per-year post.

Multiple news outlets reported that an IRS review board was posed to recommend that Lerner be fired for neglect of duty. Lerner, who allegedly had been made aware of the imminent embarrassment, avoided all that simply by quitting.

Congressional Republicans serving on various investigative panels said the resignation doesn’t affect Lerner’s susceptibility to a current subpoena by the House Oversight Committee, which doesn’t expire until the 113th Congress adjourns.

“We still don’t know why Lois Lerner, as a senior IRS official, had such a personal interest in directing scrutiny and why she denied improper conduct to Congress,” said Congressman Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.) who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Her departure does not answer these questions or diminish the committee’s interest in hearing her testimony.”

The only testimony the committee has heard from Lerner thus far came shortly after the Tea Party scandal broke in late May, when Lerner infamously attempted to sway Congressional investigators with a brief self-acquittal before clamming up.

“I have done nothing wrong,” she had said at a committee hearing on May 22. “I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations and I have not provided false information to this or any other committee.” Lerner then said she wished to invoke the 5th Amendment, a recourse that had outraged Republican committee members who said she waived her claim against self-incrimination by offering testimony, however brief.

The IRS review panel that planned to recommend Lerner’s firing did not find her controversial actions to be politically motivated, a claim that conservatives who’ve followed the case have disputed. Internal emails released by The Wall Street Journal earlier this month reveal Lerner’s public claim that “rogue” IRS employees had perpetrated the Tea Party scandal doesn’t gibe with Lerner’s in-house communication, in which she described Tea Party groups as “dangerous.” Lerner’s own words, the story states, “raise doubts about IRS claims that the targeting wasn’t politically motivated.”

‘It’s Like Prohibition’ As Maryland Gun Buyers Hoard Firearms Ahead Of Next Week’s Ban

With only a week to go before new gun laws that limit “assault weapons” and require fingerprints and licenses for handguns take effect, Maryland residents are buying firearms at an unprecedented rate.

The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday that the last-minute rush to beat the gun grab has resulted in residents snapping up weapons at a rate of more than 1,000 per day, outpacing the same sales figures for the same period a year ago by a 7-to-1 margin.

“It’s like Prohibition. People want to get their guns before the law takes effect,” one gun owner told the newspaper.

“Everything that’s been banned, we’ve been buying,” said Daniel Brantley, another gun owner who’s been involved in protesting the new laws. Brantley and his wife have bought half a dozen guns over the past six weeks, including the maligned AR-15 rifle, as well as a number of handguns.

The last-minute push intensifies what has already been an extremely active retail market for firearms in Maryland ever since the new laws were passed. From The Sun:

Demand for guns overwhelmed the state’s background check system months ago, leading half of the state’s 314 dealers to release weapons to buyers without waiting for them to be checked out.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Martin O’Malley pledged all the resources necessary to help plow through that backlog of background checks before the new law takes effect Oct. 1. But the onslaught of purchase applications has virtually wiped out the progress made by an all-hands-on-deck effort launched earlier this month.

Starting Oct. 1, prospective handgun buyers in Maryland will be required to submit their fingerprints for a State-managed database, complete a mandatory safety course and obtain a license. The handgun registry makes Maryland the fifth U.S. State that tracks lawful gun owners. In addition, residents won’t be able to legally purchase ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The sale of AR-15s, along with more than 40 other so-called “assault” weapons, will also be outlawed.

The Maryland Legislature passed the “Firearm Safety Act of 2013” in May amid a series of heavy debates in both legislative chambers that stretched late into the night. Governor Martin O’Malley, who had pledged gun control as one of his key objectives for this year’s legislative session, signed the law on May 16.

BREAKING: Cruz Pulls The Trigger On Obamacare Semi-Filibuster; Vows To Talk ‘Until I Am No Longer Able to Stand’

Per Senate rules, what Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is doing on the Senate floor right now isn’t technically a filibuster.

But it’s a principled stand against something Cruz and the majority of his constituents believe is wrong. If his pledged talk-a-thon accomplishes nothing else, it will hopefully galvanize latent support for the repudiation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – even as it separates Senate conservatives willing to stand with Cruz in his opposition to Obamacare from everybody else. As of 3:45 p.m. Eastern time, Cruz had been joined on the Senate floor by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Let’s see who else comes forward.

The critics came out of the woodwork almost as soon as Cruz was up and running, with The Washington Post insinuating that the Senator doesn’t understand the functional distinction between the House of  Representatives and the Senate, and The Atlantic panning Cruz’ early remarks as “vacuous, feel-good nonsense speech.”

It could be a long night, so here’s hoping that Cruz donned his ostrich-skinned “argument boots,” as he described his favorite footwear in a recent, lengthy GQ feature article. If you want to read up on Cruz but are hankering for something a bit more…substantive, check out Rare’s enlightening interview, published in late July.

C-SPAN is streaming Cruz’ comments live from the Senate floor.

Cruz’ Twitter account is being manned by an assistant, who’s updating the feed with one-liners that summarize the Senator’s talking points in real time. The Twitter feed is here.

Paul Amendment Would Put Supreme Court (And The Rest Of The Federal Payroll) Under Obamacare

If Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has his way, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts — who sided with the liberal wing of the High Court in upholding Obamacare as a “tax” on individuals back in June 2012 — will join the rest of Washington, and the country, in signing up for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Questioned by The Daily Caller about his proposal to outlaw any healthcare coverage exemptions for Federal employees, Paul — an advocate of fair play rather than the Obamacare plan itself — said he believes all government employees ought to buy their coverage in the same manner as the rest of the American people.

From the story:

Paul’s proposal — outlawing any special exemptions for government employees — would mean all federal workers would have to purchase health insurance on the new Obamacare exchanges instead of getting taxpayer-funded subsidies. Some critics say those subsidies amount to special treatment. The Obamacare health insurance exchange opens Oct 1.

“My amendment says basically that everybody including Justice Roberts — who seems to be such a fan of Obamacare — gets it too,” Paul explained. “See, right now, Justice Roberts is still continuing to have federal employee health insurance subsidized by the taxpayer. And if he likes Obamacare so much, I’m going to give him an amendment that gives Obamacare to Justice Roberts.”

Fearing a Washington, D.C. “brain drain” — a potential mass exodus of well-compensated intelligentsia working both within and on the periphery of government — if Congressional staffers and other Federal employees had to pony up the same money as everyone else to receive the same quality of coverage as everyone else, the Office of Personnel Management said last month the government would subsidize about 75 percent of the cost of premiums for member of Congress and Congressional staff.