Congressional Incumbents On Both Sides Should Fear 2014

The summary for a poll released last week by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal sums up the Nation’s disgust with Congress as a whole, as well as President Barack Obama:

Throw the bums out.

What other message can Washington hear from the results of recent polls? It’s fun to dismiss polls as meaningless, but there’s no dismissing the general Zeitgeist of utter disgust with Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the President revealed by poll after poll after poll after poll.

The NBC/WSJ poll provides perhaps the clearest synopsis of all the many post-shutdown attempts to gauge the extent of Americans’ frustrations because, along with the usual ad hominem questions about Barack Obama and Harry Reid and John Boehner and Ted Cruz, it asked people to think abstractly about Congress as a functioning entity.

“If there were a place on your ballot that allowed you to vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including your own representative, would you do this, or not?” the poll inquired.

Sixty percent said “yes.” Only 35 percent said “no.”

Articles appeared Friday warning that Republicans had the most to fear from the latest batch of polls’ dire approval numbers.

“A new poll… highlighted public disgust with Congress over the government shutdown and debt deal fight, with Republicans taking much of the blame,” wrote The Hill’s Martin Trujillo. “Six in 10 people said they would defeat and replace every member of Congress if they could, including their own, a warning to members of both parties just a year before the midterm elections. But the news was the worst for Republicans.”

That may be true. And if it is, it’s richly deserved.

Voters as a bloc typically have the long-term memory of a cat, often forgetting or forgiving unpopular legislative acts less than a year before national elections. Does anyone remember that Obama had a 43 percent job approval rating only one year before getting re-elected? But in the present ineffectual climate that envelops Capitol Hill, incumbency is casting a pall around politicians from both parties. No member of Congress whose term is up for grabs in 2014 is safe from the volatility of the poison political atmosphere they themselves have helped to create.

Whether they skew left or right, media outlets that attempt (as MSNBC pathetically did last Thursday) to spin these bad-all-over polls as having a perceived benefit for one political party are fooling their readers. There’s a bounty of voter anger to go around, and 2014 can’t come soon enough.

Patriot Act Author Sponsors Bill To Rein In Patriot Act

Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the man who helped usher in the Patriot Act era as a co-author of the post-Sept. 11 bill, has turned against the broad surveillance powers, loophole abuses and 4th Amendment-shredding licentiousness the law introduced under President George W. Bush and the expansion of Federal police powers under Barack Obama.

Sensenbrenner is working on a new bill — the Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-Collection and Online Monitoring Act — that purports to outlaw the Patriot Act’s unConstitutional unleashing of police powers against citizens who aren’t specific targets of terror investigations.

The new bill, also called the U.S.A. Freedom Act, arose from Sensenbrenner’s confessed dismay over how far afield the Patriot Act led the Nation’s law enforcement effort from the Act’s intent.

In a synopsis of the U.S.A. Freedom Act published by The Guardian, which previewed a draft of the bill, Sensenbrenner has targeted four key areas of the Patriot Act for abolition or reform:

[The U.S.A. Freedom Act] seeks to limit the collection of phone records to known terrorist suspects; to end “secret laws” by making courts disclose surveillance policies; to create a special court advocate to represent privacy interests; and to allow companies to disclose how many requests for users’ information they receive from the USA. The bill also tightens up language governing overseas surveillance to remove a loophole which it has been abused to target internet and email activities of Americans.

Despite the narrow defeat of a House measure over the summer that sought to defund the National Security Agency (NSA), Sensenbrenner told the newspaper he believes public opinion, coupled with the manifest NSA abuses brought to light by Edward Snowden, have put Congress on the spot to reverse the government’s usurpation of citizens’ Constitutional powers.

“Opinions have hardened with the revelations over the summer, particularly the inspector general’s report that there were thousands of violations of regulations, and the disclosure that NSA employees were spying on their spouses or significant others, which was very chilling,” he said.

Sensenbrenner has bipartisan support from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. But he also expects strong opposition from Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is floating a bill that tweaks the Patriot Act instead of banning the warrantless bulk collection of electronic data from American citizens. Sensenbrenner even went so far as to condemn Feinstein’s leadership, as well as that of disgraced (but not disciplined) National Intelligence director James Clapper, who lied to Congress about how far the NSA dragnet had cast its net.

“I do not want to see Congress pass a fig leaf because that would allow the NSA to say ‘Well, we’ve cleaned up our act’ until the next scandal breaks. [Party leaders] are going to have to review what kind of people they put on the intelligence committee. Oversight is as good as the desire of the chairman to do it,” said Sensenbrenner. “… If they use a law like Senator Feinstein is proposing, it will just allow them to do business as usual with a little bit of a change in the optics.”

As for Clapper?

“Oversight only works when the agency that oversight is directed at tells the truth, and having Mr. Clapper say he gave the least untruthful answer should, in my opinion, have resulted in a firing and a prosecution.”

Read The Guardian’s assessment of the U.S.A. Freedom Act here. Anything can happen, and talk among Congressmen has never been cheaper. But if this bill survives intact to become law, it at least promises to make the NSA, the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and a host of other Federal agencies subject to prosecution if they continue to perpetrate the unConstitutional surveillance methods Snowden laid bare earlier this year.

Oklahoma Has A Major Point In Ongoing Lawsuit To Bring Down Obamacare

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s year-old lawsuit to bring down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is beginning to receive more attention now that Obamacare has endured the first week of its square-wheeled rollout.

Taking a different approach than that employed by the 28 States that lost a Constitutional argument before the Supreme Court, Oklahoma is arguing that the law stands against itself by following separate tracks for those States which create their own insurance exchanges (and agree to fund the attendant expansion of Medicaid), and those States that have Federally-managed exchanges imposed because they refused to participate in implementing the law (or the Medicaid expansion).

The Act specifies that only low-income residents in States that have agreed to expand Medicaid and institute their own health care exchange programs are eligible to receive the promised insurance premium subsidies. Residents of States that don’t participate in Obamacare, by contrast, are not eligible to receive those subsidies – even if they buy Obamacare insurance plans through the Federal exchange program.

Merrill Matthews at Forbes explained back in July how Oklahoma is arguing that dichotomy knocks part of the Obamacare law out of step with its own requirements:

The liberals writing the law assumed the vast majority of states would create their own exchange.  But just to make sure, they included a “carrot” that clearly says that the federal subsidies are available ONLY in the state-created exchanges, not in the federal-state partnerships or the federally created exchanges.

However, 34 states have decided not to play the ObamaCare game and opted for a federally created exchange or the partnership, which means the federal subsidies will not be available to millions of middle- and lower-income workers in those states.

And without the subsidies, insurance would become “unaffordable” under ObamaCare for the vast majority of those families.  They would thus be exempted from the mandate to have coverage, and their employers would be exempted from the penalty for not providing it.

In other words, the most draconian part of ObamaCare would essentially be defunded.  Bingo!

Oklahoma is suing the feds to establish this point.

There are other aspects to the lawsuit, involving the IRS’ punitive enforcement measures against large employers, which National Review has nicely summarized.

A Federal judge overruled the government’s contention that Pruitt lacked standing to proceed with the suit in August.

Will Oklahoma continue to fight this battle alone?

Cave In: House Republicans Stand Down With Proposal To End Standoff

Republican leaders submitted a proposal Friday to temporarily raise the Federal debt limit for six weeks and fund the government through mid-December, consenting to President Barack Obama’s demand that the current $16.7 trillion Federal debt rise further while preserving funding for Obamacare.

The Obamacare medical device tax would be repealed under the House GOP agreement, and there’s some language that strengthens the income verification process for Obamacare recipients who want health care subsidies.

The Republicans also managed to wrest some unspecified sequestration tweaks from the deal, but the agreement is a total capitulation to the no-compromise positions of Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who from the beginning have maintained unconditionally that the debt limit must rise and Obamacare must be funded before Senate Democrats would vote to approve any bill the House sends over that attempts to end the shutdown.

The fact that Republicans in the House and Senate aren’t communicating over variations in the proposals they’ve developed this week has only solidified Obama’s negotiating position. The Hill compared the President’s leverage Friday afternoon to that of an “aloof shopper,” following a meeting with GOP Senators that revealed to Obama that most of them had virtually no idea what their partisan colleagues in the House were proposing.

The eminent GOP surrender leaves Republicans with little political leverage heading into future long-term funding talks as the six-week temporary measure counts down. Late Friday, Obama and Democratic leaders hadn’t agreed to a hard deal, even with all the concessions – a sign that Democrats smell blood and believe they can “no compromise” even further, all the way up to the point of getting exactly what they demanded, free from any concessions whatsoever, from the very first day of the shutdown.

If that happens, the GOP will have squandered whatever credibility it has established throughout this debt fight, because Obama’s speechwriters will have only to say, “Republicans just wasted two weeks of Washington’s time, closed down vital government services and attacked our health plan – and now they don’t have anything to show for it.”

And, lacking meaningful solutions from the GOP to curb the government’s credit-card problem or the disastrous rollout of a regressive socialist state-backed insurance law, most Americans will agree with him.

Graphic: Illinois Woman Sues Local Police For Excessive Force After Cops Refuse To Discipline Their Own

Cassandra Feuerstein of Chicago admits she did it: She was driving under the influence, so she pulled over to the side of the road and attempted to sleep it off. The police encountered her asleep behind the wheel and took her in, charging her with a DUI. Feuerstein didn’t contest the charges and pleaded guilty.

But she’s suing the Skokie, Ill., Police Department for what officer Michael Hart did to her while she was in custody. A caveat: portions of the video below are not pleasant to watch.

Surveillance video inside the police station’s booking area shows Feuerstein, cooperating fully as police ushered her into a cell. According to NBC Chicago, she asked the officers if she could call her husband, and Hart summoned her out of the cell. Then, less than a minute later, the video shows Hart throwing the 47-year-old, 110-pound Feuerstein headfirst into the cell with such force that she wasn’t able to prevent her face from slamming into the concrete bench lining the small room’s opposite wall.

Scroll to the 1:50 mark in the video above if you want to be disgusted. As Feuerstein lies in a growing pool of blood on the cell floor, officers and paramedics return to attend to her in an ordeal that drags on, inside the cell, for several more minutes. A semi-censored, shortened video synopsis of the incident and its bloody aftermath was reported by CBS Chicago.

The NBC Chicago report also has some gruesome pictures of how Feuerstein’s face looked as she recovered. Feuerstein suffered several broken bones in her skull. She now has a permanent titanium plate in her face after enduring reconstructive surgery.

The incident occurred March 10, but Feuerstein’s attorney released video of her jail nightmare this week after filing a Federal lawsuit against the department for police brutality, as well as for Hart allegedly making false statements that led to the writing of a misleading police report.

That report had originally led to an additional charge against Feuerstein for resisting arrest, but prosecutors dropped that charge after reviewing the video evidence.

Since the incident, department officials have given Feuerstein’s case all the moral high ground it needs. Local authorities have declined to discipline officer Hart, and he is still on the job for the Skokie police.

Want To Start A Business? Go West

An annual report that ranks U.S. States according to how business-friendly their tax structures are indicates that people looking for a place to start a new enterprise will do best if they go West.

According to the 2014 iteration of the Tax Foundation’s “State Business Tax Climate Index,” Wyoming tops a top-10 list of business-friendly States rounded out by Florida, Indiana, New Hampshire and a handful of mostly rural western States.

2014 State Business Tax Climate Index

Coming in at the bottom are heavily urban States along the Nation’s East and West coasts, as well as Minnesota and Wisconsin. New York ranked dead last, followed by New Jersey and California.

Texas, in many ways the poster State for low government interference and a (relatively) business-friendly tax structure, fell one spot to No. 11 this year — thanks in large part to aggressive moves from other States seeking to recruit new business, as well as Texas’ margin tax, which the report describes as “problematic” for some corporations.

The Tax Foundation emphasizes that ranking each State against the others provides an important tool to individual business owners, as well as larger companies considering their options as they seek to start up or branch out. “It is important to remember that even in our global economy, states’ stiffest and most direct competition often comes from other states,” write Scott Drenkard and Joseph Henchman in the report’s introduction:

The Department of Labor reports that most mass job relocations are from one U.S. state to another, rather than to a foreign location. Certainly job creation is rapid overseas, as previously underdeveloped nations enter the world economy without facing the highest corporate tax rate in the world, as U.S. businesses do. State lawmakers are right to be concerned about how their states rank in the global competition for jobs and capital, but they need to be more concerned with companies moving from Detroit, MI, to Dayton, OH, rather than from Detroit to New Delhi. This means that state lawmakers must be aware of how their states’ business climates match up to their immediate neighbors and to other states within their regions.

Access the full report here.

House Pitches Sweet Debt Limit Deal To Obama As Senate GOP Readies Tougher, Competing Offer

House Majority Leader John Boehner is set to wave the olive branch at the White House, with an offer to raise the Federal debt ceiling for a six-week period while still keeping the government shut down until a lasting agreement on spending limitations can be struck.

President Barack Obama reportedly “would sign” such an agreement, according to White House press secretary Jay Carney.

The House offer seems to play into the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who (again) said Thursday that Senate Democrats will “negotiate” only if the House first sends over a naked bill that raises the debt limit and omits any new spending limitations.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are organizing a tougher counter-proposal that, if first approved by the House, would authorize a temporary increase in the debt limit while level-funding the Federal government for a year.

That offer also provides for the repeal of the Obamacare medical device tax and strengthens the verification requirements for anyone seeking a Federal subsidy to pay for an Obamacare insurance plan. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is reportedly behind the new Senate talks.

The President was scheduled to meet with some House Republicans late Thursday to discuss the new House offer. A House vote could follow if later in the day if both sides leave the talks with an agreement in principle.

Boehner called the House plan a “good-faith effort on our part to move halfway” in the long-running standoff over negotiating a bipartisan agreement to fund the government while stanching what conservatives view as unnecessary spending initiatives – including Obamacare.

You may be frustrated with your Congressman – but don’t dare treat him or her the way Congressman Gary Miller (R-Calif.) treated this reporter when asked about his stance on the House proposal:

Hey, who says membership doesn’t have its perks?

Reid Seeks $1 Trillion Debt Limit Hike Until After 2014 Midterm Elections

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is supporting a new effort led by Congressional Democrats that would increase the Federal debt limit by an additional $1.1 trillion, while pushing the expiration of the new debt limit to December 2014. Midterm elections will be held on Nov. 4, 2014.

Reid’s tactic, if successful, would delay another Congressional fight over the Federal debt limit until after the 2014 midterms, kicking down the road one of the most divisive and, obviously, revealing debates that distinguishes Representatives and Senators for their stances on fiscal policy.

In keeping with Reid’s sine qua non rejection of other attempted spending measures sent over from the House, his new proposal would demand a so-called “clean” resolution that would not address spending reform as it resets the debt ceiling just south of $18 trillion. The debt limit stood at $11.3 trillion when Barack Obama was first sworn in, which means the two-term President is on track to nearly double the Federal debt limit during his eight year in office, just as the debt limit had doubled during George W. Bush’s two Presidential terms.

The Hill, which first reported the Reid proposal Tuesday, observed:

In 2011, President Obama insisted the debt limit be pushed until after the 2012 election so that he would not have to deal with it again before Election Day.

Now it is Senate Democrats who don’t want to face double jeopardy before voters decide whether they get to keep their majority.

Only it’s not double jeopardy. Those who aspire to public service accept the responsibilities that come with the public’s vote of confidence even before they’re elected to office.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the absence of any semblance of spending reform in Reid’s proposal, saying Reid wants to “raise the debt limit by $1 trillion but not do anything about the debt.”

But fellow Republican Lindsey Graham is among a group of Senate RINOs that have indicated they would be open to supporting short-term debt ceiling extensions, even if those proposals are “clean” of any provisions that would rein in future Federal spending.

Breitbart’s Mike Flynn pointed out a revealing truth that subverts Democrats’ “blame the GOP” mantra during the current funding stalemate:

Reid’s move runs against the conventional wisdom that debt ceiling fights are damaging for Republicans. The media and pundits have been saying that the GOP is on a “suicide mission” for wanting negotiations over a debt ceiling hike. The GOP brand was supposedly badly damaged as a result of the last debt ceiling debate, in 2011.

If that’s true, wouldn’t Reid want to have the debt debate just before the midterm elections? If the debate is so damaging for Republicans, it seems Reid and Senate Democrats would be eager to have the debate in the weeks ahead of voters going to the polls.

The truth is, the public sees the debate over the debt ceiling as a consequence of out-of-control spending in Washington. A strong majority of Americans, 61%, think significant spending cuts have to be part of any package to increase the debt.

That is a debate Reid doesn’t want to have in an election year. The GOP should embrace that debate.

He’s almost right on that last point. But an election-year debate over Federal spending could be the kind of public discussion that brings into focus, for voters, exactly where incumbents from both parties stand on government profligacy. And there are plenty of GOP incumbents who, like their Democratic colleagues, would fear a debate like that — unless it occurs after they’ve won the midterms.

Numbers Discredit Obama’s Attempt To Link Debt Limit Fight With ‘Extremist’ Few

Even as President Barack Obama attempted at a Tuesday press conference to exile Congressional conservatives to some imaginary, relegated minority backwater of public opinion for their tough stance against raising the Federal debt limit, FOX News released a poll that shows it’s the President who’s actually in the minority — by a wide margin.

The poll, which measured responses from 952 registered voters, found that 58 percent would vote against raising the Federal debt ceiling if they were in Congress, while only 37 would vote in favor of the hike.

Continuing two weeks of aggravated, violent rhetoric from Democrats angry that the House GOP refuses to pass a so-called “clean” continuing resolution to fund the government, Obama said Republicans are using an “extortion routine” that forces him and future Presidents to “pay a ransom…for Congress to do its basic job [of approving government spending].”

Obama’s speech was a reiteration of previous talking points, as he again pledged not to negotiate with House conservatives over possible piecemeal funding measures ahead of an Oct. 17 debt limit deadline.

Rather, said the President, he would negotiate with the House — which holds the Constitutional power of the purse — only after it approves the standalone increase in the debt ceiling he’s requesting.

Juxtapose Obama’s dogged commitment to a no-strings-attached debt limit increase with this from the FOX News poll:

More than half of Democrats would vote in favor of increasing the debt ceiling (57 percent), while 38 percent would vote against doing so.

At the same time, 62 percent of voters want Congress to raise the limit only after agreeing on “major cuts in government spending.”  Far fewer – 27 percent – believe the limit must be increased and that is it “reckless” to even debate not doing so.

Even Democrats, by a 48-42 percent margin, are more likely to say spending cuts must accompany an increase in the debt limit.

More than half of Democrats would vote in favor of increasing the debt ceiling (57 percent), while 38 percent would vote against doing so.

A wider topical poll by the Pew Research Center asked slightly different questions, but similarly found that Obama shares an equal measure of blame, in the public eye, for his refusal to discuss actual spending cuts as part of a debt limit increase.

The polls, as always, operate in a vacuum of their sponsors’ own making, but they do reveal that the current fight isn’t the simple case of a few conservative “extremists” holding the circumspect majority hostage to their ideology — as the President and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have repeatedly said.

‘Gestapo Tactics’ — Park Service Rounds Up, Detains Yellowstone Tourists At Gunpoint

One wonders how long it will be before we start reading stories about people getting arrested merely for coming within eyesight or snapping photos at the entrance gate at one of these off-limits public lands the Administration of President Barack Obama is punitively closing down during the phony Federal government shutdown.

A Massachusetts newspaper reported Tuesday on the “Gestapo” treatment locals received at the hands of Federal officers on a vacation trip out to Yellowstone National Park. Unlike earlier reports from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where veterans seemed able to exercise their collective will to thwart Park Service officials who were “guarding” barricaded monuments, these people were actually rounded up and held at gunpoint in a Yellowstone park hotel.

“Pat Vaillancourt went on a trip last week that was intended to showcase some of America’s greatest treasures,” John Macone of the Merrimack Valley-area Eagle-Tribune newspaper wrote Tuesday. “Instead, the Salisbury resident said she and others on her tour bus witnessed an ugly spectacle that made her embarrassed, angry and heartbroken for her country.”

From the Eagle-Tribune report:

Vaillancourt was one of thousands of people who found themselves in a national park as the federal government shutdown went into effect on Oct. 1. For many hours her tour group, which included senior citizen visitors from Japan, Australia, Canada and the United States, were locked in a Yellowstone National Park hotel under armed guard.

The tourists were treated harshly by armed park employees, she said, so much so that some of the foreign tourists with limited English skills thought they were under arrest.

Well, practically speaking, weren’t they?

Even before the roundup and detainment, Vaillancourt said Yellowstone park rangers showed clear signs that they’d been authorized to act swiftly in response to the Federal government shutdown. In the two days she was able to move about inside the park, a ranger accused senior citizens in her bus tour group of “recreating” for piling out of a bus to snap photos of bison.

Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn’t “recreate.” The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren’t “recreating,” just taking photos.

“She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt said.

… “Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt like they were criminals.”

Gordon Hodgson, the tour guide, later said the Park Service had employed “Gestapo tactics” against civilians, both American and foreign, who left the incident with a dark view that the American notion of individual liberty is quickly unraveling.

The Long List Of Needless Closures In Barack Obama’s Shutdown Offensive

It’s finally happened: Someone has started a running list of all the unnecessary closures, barricades and service suspensions the Obama White House is perpetrating as part of the President’s deceitful, backwards campaign to convince America that the House of Representatives is holding hostage the political process – and 300 million citizens with it.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Breitbart had tallied 41 instances of the Administration’s punitive tactics since the Oct. 1 government “shutdown” kicked in. Some are more egregious, in their effects, than others – but all betray a commitment to waste more resources punishing people than would be required to simply let them be.

From Breitbart, here are a few lowlights:

… 3. Furloughed Military Chaplains Not Allowed to Work for Free – Furloughed military chaplains willing to celebrate Mass and baptisms for free have been told they will be punished for doing so.

 

… 10. Obama Tries to Close State-Run Parks in Wisconsin – “The park service ordered state officials to close the northern unit of the Kettle Moraine, Devil’s Lake, and Interstate state parks and the state-owned portion of the Horicon Marsh, but state authorities rebuffed the request because the lion’s share of the funding came from state, not federal coffers.”

 

… 5. Arizona Offers to Fund Grand Canyon, Obama Says ‘Drop Dead’ – “Obama has ordered the Grand Canyon to stay closed, even after the state of Arizona and local businesses have offered to cover the costs necessary to keep it open. In other words, the shutdown isn’t about the money — it’s about hurting the American people just because he can.”

 

… 31. Although Privately Funded, Historic Ford’s Theater Closed – “Ford’s Theatre, which is a private non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, does not use any federal funding or federal employees for its performances. During previous government shutdowns, the theatre has continued performances.”

 

… 39. Iwo Jima Memorial Closed, Barricades Erected – “Another open-air memorial in the Washington area is closed and barricaded off: the Iwo Jima Memorial, just across the bridge from D.C. in Rosslyn, Virginia. A source sends along this picture of the barricade set-up at the memorial, which is also called the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial.”

 

… 41. Shutdown Denies Death Benefits to Families of Fallen Soldiers – “The families of five U.S. service members who were killed over the weekend in Afghanistan have been notified that they won’t be receiving the $100,000 benefit normally wired to relatives within 36 hours of the death. The ‘death gratuity’ is intended to help cover funeral costs and help with immediate living expenses until survivor benefits typically begin.”

 

It cannot be overstated that Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are relying on Americans’ ignorance about the legislative process to lie about who’s responsible for the government shutdown, as well as the threat of defaulting on our debts if the House doesn’t agree to raise the debt limit.

That’s because the House, which reserves the exclusive Constitutional authority to initiate spending legislation, has repeatedly agreed to temporarily fund the government and raise the Federal debt limit, with the exception of the Affordable Care Act. It is the sole prerogative of the U.S. House of representatives to do that, and the President’s only recourse is to urge the Senate Democrat majority to reject that plan and vilify the House for holding government hostage.

It’s unlikely that anyone has expressed this more clearly than Thomas Sowell. In a column last week, Sowell wrote:

There is really nothing complicated about the facts. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted all the money required to keep all government activities going — except for ObamaCare.

This is not a matter of opinion. You can check the congressional record.

As for the House of Representatives’ right to grant or withhold money, that is not a matter of opinion either. You can check the Constitution of the United States. All spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives, which means that congressmen there have a right to decide whether they want to spend money on a particular government activity.

Whether ObamaCare is good, bad or indifferent is a matter of opinion. But it is a matter of fact that members of the House of Representatives have a right to make spending decisions based on their opinion.

ObamaCare is indeed “the law of the land,” as its supporters keep saying, and the Supreme Court has upheld its constitutionality.

But the whole point of having a division of powers within the federal government is that each branch can decide independently what it wants to do or not do, regardless of what the other branches do, when exercising the powers specifically granted to that branch by the Constitution.

…Since we cannot read minds, we cannot say who — if anybody — “wants to shut down the government.” But we do know who had the option to keep the government running and chose not to. The money voted by the House of Representatives covered everything that the government does, except for ObamaCare.

The Senate chose not to vote to authorize that money to be spent, because it did not include money for ObamaCare. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he wants a “clean” bill from the House of Representatives, and some in the media keep repeating the word “clean” like a mantra. But what is unclean about not giving Harry Reid everything he wants?

If Senator Reid and President Obama refuse to accept the money required to run the government, because it leaves out the money they want to run ObamaCare, that is their right. But that is also their responsibility.

You cannot blame other people for not giving you everything you want. And it is a fraud to blame them when you refuse to use the money they did vote, even when it is ample to pay for everything else in the government.

When Barack Obama keeps claiming that it is some new outrage for those who control the money to try to change government policy by granting or withholding money, that is simply a bald-faced lie. You can check the history of other examples of “legislation by appropriation” as it used to be called.

Whether legislation by appropriation is a good idea or a bad idea is a matter of opinion. But whether it is both legal and not unprecedented is a matter of fact.

You can read the rest of that devastating piece over at Rare.

And the full Breitbart list of Obama closures can be found here.

NYPD Cop Allegedly Stood By As Bikers Cornered, Beat Man In Front Of Wife And Child

An off-duty New York City police officer has been placed on modified duty after being forced to turn in his gun and badge — all thanks to his alleged role in a sensational chase last week in which a biker gang pursued a family, cornered their SUV, dragged the father from the vehicle and beat him as his wife and toddler watched.

The NYPD officer, whose name has not been released by the department, is allegedly one of several cops who ride with the “Front Line Soldiers” motorcycle gang — a unit known in the area for its members’ distinctive, shiny chrome helmets.

His alleged culpability in last week’s chase and beating stems from his admitting, three days after the event made national news, that he was present during the entire rolling incident and that he stood by and took no action as other gang members dragged Alexian Lien from his Range Rover, beat him in front of his family and left him lying bloody on the ground.

According to the New York Post, NYPD Internal Affairs is investigating whether other cops were also riding among the Front Line Soldiers group that participated in the violence. The unnamed officer who’s already been implicated was allegedly working undercover — although not, evidently, among the bikers:

“It does not appear that he got involved at the scene,” one law-enforcement source said of the undercover, who has hired a lawyer. “He didn’t want to blow his cover,” said the source — though the cop was not investigating the group of bikers.

Cops have uncovered new photo and video evidence showing that Lien was attacked by as many as five bikers, sources said.

One of those bikers was allegedly Robert Sims, 35, of Brooklyn. He was taken into custody Friday afternoon and charged with gang assault, assault, criminal possession of a weapon, attempted assault and attempted gang assault, a source said.

… Reginald Chance, 38, of Brooklyn — depicted in video using his chrome-colored helmet to bash in Lien’s driver’s-side window — was also in custody Friday awaiting charges. Police plan to do lineups Saturday morning.

The chase did injure one of the bikers: a 32-year-old rider whom the frightened Lien ran over in a desperate effort to escape the group as the bikers attempted to surround his SUV. That man, Edwin Mieses, had been riding without a valid driver’s license since 1999 and had never even applied for a motorcycle license, the Post reported. He’s now threatening to sue Lien for injuries that, according to his lawyer, may end up paralyzing him for life.

‘Truckers To Shut Down America’ Protest To Shut Down Beltway In Washington, D.C.

If you’re on the East Coast this week and happen to see a car with “T2SDA” chalked across its windows, you’re looking at someone who supports a planned three-day grass-roots event, organized by frustrated conservative truck drivers across the Nation, that’s designed to protest Congress and President Barack Obama by effectively shutting down highways around Washington, D.C.

Scheduled to begin this Friday (Oct. 11), the “Truckers Ride For the Constitution” protest is targeted at sending a message to national leaders by clogging Interstate 495, the inner beltway loop around the capital city. Organizers hope to accomplish that by orchestrating “gas-roots” convoys originating from every corner of the country ahead of time before converging Friday morning in Washington, D.C.

And that “T2SDA” acronym? It means “Truckers to Shut Down America.” Motorists who show their support by tagging their windows with the abbreviation will be allowed past the convoy once it starts clogging the D.C. freeways.

Logistics organizer Earl Conlon told U.S. News that truckers plan to adhere to the 55-mph speed limit and to keep the left lane open for emergency vehicles, but “everybody that doesn’t have a supporter sticker on their window, good luck: Nobody in, nobody out.”

Conlon, who believes Obama has committed treason by arming Syrian rebels, also said the truckers are serious about holding Obama and member of Congress, as public servants, accountable for abusing their obligations to the people who elected them.

“We are coming whether they like it or not. We’re not asking for impeachment, we’re asking for arrest of everyone in government who has violated their oath of office… We want these people arrested, and we’re coming in with the grand jury to do it. We are going to ask the law enforcement to uphold their constitutional oath and make these arrests. If they refuse to do it, by the power of the people of the United States and the people’s grand jury, they don’t want to do it, we will. … We the people will find a way.”

Of course the only potential arrests the event will effect will involve the truckers themselves. But it will be interesting to see the scale of the protest, as well as whether the mainstream media will acknowledge that anything is happening at all.

The event’s Facebook page can be found here.

TruthRevolt Takes Dead Aim At Mainstream Media And Its Sponsors

TruthRevolt, a new website / project born of a collaboration between Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro and the David Horowitz Freedom Center, launched today. It’s an ambitious, self-styled foil to progressive media watchdog Media Matters, and it’s taking aim not only at the mainstream media, but the sponsors who support their programming and celebrity pundits.

From TruthRevolt’s mission statement:

The media win elections for the left. It’s not the left’s competence in office; leftists have demonstrated none. It’s not the left’s ideas; leftist ideas have failed everywhere they have been tried. The left wins for one simple reason: leftists control the information distribution system in the United States. And they use that system to pillory conservatives as heartless bigots intent on harming the poor and targeting minorities.

The media must be destroyed where they stand. That is our mission at Truth Revolt. The goal of TruthRevolt is simple: unmask leftists in the media for who they are, destroy their credibility with the American public, and devastate their funding bases.

TruthRevolt focuses on high-profile media members, and holding them accountable. But TruthRevolt does not stop there. TruthRevolt understands that all politics is local, and therefore looks to fight leftist propaganda at the local level, monitoring local newspapers, television and radio. TruthRevolt also seeks to stop the left dead in its tracks when it comes to training the next generation, our college campuses.

TruthRevolt works to make advertisers and funders aware of the leftist propaganda they sponsor – and bringing social consequences to bear to create pressure on such advertisers and funders.

Fresh out of the gate, the group took aim at Al Sharpton and his MSNBC sponsor Mondelez (owner of Ritz crackers), calling Sharpton “one of the greatest race hoaxers and divisive demagogues of the last half-century.” TruthRevolt established its M.O. by launching a petition against Mondelez, setting an attainable signature threshold (1,000 names) and directing traffic to the petition by featuring a lead story about Sharpton on the TruthRevolt website’s landing page.

That petition had attracted 1,791 signatures by early Monday afternoon, making the project’s initial effort a success – though what a success entails, so far, seems to be collecting signatures instead of pressuring advertisers into actual capitulation.

Still, it’s an interesting idea that may buck typically-unsuccessful small-scale boycott efforts by effectively crowdsourcing the implicit threat of boycotts without actually uttering the B-word. Nowhere does TruthRevolt claim to be a boycotting outfit; rather, it seeks to focus concern in a concentrated fashion so that corporate sponsors understand there’s a wider market for media out there than one-sided liberal swill they’ve been subsidizing.

Visit TruthRevolt at truthrevolt.org.

Gun Scare: Arizona Police Officer Told Not To Pick Up Daughter From School When He’s In Uniform

Scott Urkov is a municipal police officer for the small town of Coolidge, Ariz., a bedroom community in rural Pinal County that’s roughly midway between Phoenix and Tucson on Interstate 10. His daughter attends Entz Elementary School in the huge Phoenix suburb of Mesa. Urkov does a lot of driving and, like many people living in the car culture of Southern Arizona, his schedule can be pretty tight.

But now he has to decide whether he’ll carve out a little extra time before picking up his daughter from school to comply with a bizarre request from school administrators. The essence of that request is: “Don’t wear your uniform or bring your service weapon when you come; you’re scaring us.”

Urkov received a phone call from school officials after someone saw him drop his daughter off at school while wearing his uniform, according to KSAZ-TV. The school asked him to stop showing up looking like a cop.

That didn’t sit well with Urkov, who took to Facebook to vent his frustration.

“Nothing like your kids school calling and asking if I could not come to pick up my daughter in uniform cause parents were concerned when their kids came home telling them there was a man at school with a gun,” he wrote. “Are you freaking kidding me?”

A spokesperson for the Mesa Unified School District told a reporter that “some parents” had voiced concern to the principal after seeing a uniformed and armed officer on campus.

Predictably, the publicity has favored  Urkov instead of the school. Just look through the recent posts visitors have been leaving on the school system’s Facebook page.

The district’s idea of damage control is to turn their blunder into a “teachable moment” — not for school officials and terrified parents (if there really are any), but for students. The school hopes to invite Urkov to come to speak to students in a special assembly about what police officers do for the community.

That could open a whole other can of worms, but that’s also another story.

The Coolidge Police Department has reportedly advised Urkov not to comment further.

NYT: Racist Southern Republican Governors To Blame For Uninsured Poor Blacks, Single Moms

What a facile strategy to shore up the benefits of Obamacare: Paint its political opponents as racist, while bolstering the emotional weight of your argument, by suggestively alluding to past racial conflicts that have nothing in common with the present situation, save their GPS coordinates.

The New York Times’ Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff went for the full Walker Evans effect last week in a lengthy story highlighting the no-man’s land of health insurance limbo for poor people in States where lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid coverage, leaving the implementation of Obamacare up to the Feds.

“Because they live in states largely controlled by Republicans that have declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid, the medical insurance program for the poor, they are among the eight million Americans who are impoverished, uninsured and ineligible for help,” the story states.

“… The disproportionate impact on poor blacks introduces the prickly issue of race into the already politically charged atmosphere around the health care law. Race was rarely, if ever, mentioned in the state-level debates about the Medicaid expansion. But the issue courses just below the surface, civil rights leaders say, pointing to the pattern of exclusion.”

Never mind that more than half those “Southern” States saying “no thanks” to a crippling expansion of Medicaid happened to be on Abraham Lincoln’s side (or hadn’t come along) during the Civil War: Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Maine, Alaska and so on.

The Times’ reporters hang their argument on the census statistic that 68 percent of uninsured poor blacks in the United States live in the 26 States that are choosing not to expand Medicaid. But governors in these largely rural States have seen past the short-lived incentive the Feds are offering in exchange for a permanent expansion. Sure, the Federal government has pledged to fully subsidize the increased cost of a swollen Medicaid register for “opt-in” States for the next three years. But then what? Even when 2020 rolls around and States are having to pay “only” 10 percent of the new costs, where is the money going to come from in rural States with low populations and comparatively small tax bases? Most rural States (which historically have allowed their governments to become more and more financially beholden to the Feds) have struggled in recent years to level-fund their mandatory expenditures such as schools and courts.

Now the few Republican-led Southern States that have declined to effectively take on yet another unfunded Federal mandate (in the form of the 10 percent they’d have to chip in to receive the Federal Medicaid subsidy) are again being singled out by the liberal media as bastions of racism.

Governors and legislatures in all the non-Medicaid States might instead agree that, whether Southern or not, any State where leaders are resisting the bloat of Obamacare is simply a bastion of common sense.

Shutdown Roundup – Day Four

If you’re still alive and carrying on as you were before, congratulations on living through an entire workweek of government shutdown.

Both sides in the shutdown fight dug in today, with the only real sign of capitulation being Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) non-apology for talking nasty about Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

“I’ll work harder and I hope my senators will work to their best to maintain these habits of civility and decorum,” Reid said Friday from the Senate floor.

Elsewhere, though, the shrill tone President Barack Obama’s Administration established Thursday, with bogus park closures and disingenuous threats against retirees, only grew more piercing. The Daily Caller got its hands on an email circulating within the Social Security Administration Friday, in which employees are specifically instructed to scare people who call with questions about how the coming debt ceiling deadline could affect their monthly Social Security checks. An excerpt from the actual email:

If a member of the public asks whether their Social Security payment will be affected if the federal debt ceiling is not raised, you may give the following response:

‘Unlike a federal shutdown which has no impact on the payment of Social Security benefits, failure to raise the debt ceiling puts Social Security benefits at risk.’

Direct all program–related and technical questions to your supervisor.

You mean, this whole time, all these beneficiaries were thinking they were simply drawing money out of a system they’d already paid into? Guess again – turns out that debt’s got everything to do with it.

On the park side of things, the Obama Administration, through the White House Office of Management and Budget, continues its punitive and irrelevant campaign to ensure the pain from the “shutdown” itself is visible from sea to shining sea.

It’s an antiquated strategy in this Internet era. Thirty years ago, media was a one-way sieve of information that could convey tear-jerking images of people not getting to tour the Statue of Liberty or Mt. Vernon (privately owned, remember?) into American homes – without having to worry that viewers could connect the dots on blogs, social media sites and by consuming alternative reports that would tell them the rest of the story.

Today, the Obama Administration is happy to blame the Tea Party – his political nemesis uber alles—for polarizing Americans on topics from Obamacare to the shutdown to immigration to gun control. But the President is sorely underestimating the Tea Party if he continues to fail to consider how accurate a barometer it is of what a great many Americans think of his policies in real time. The fact that the White House website is soliciting shutdown sob stories (here’s one: my grandpa can’t tour all the monuments you’ve arbitrarily shut down and he’s pretty pissed at you) indicates the President still thinks that community organizing on the Internet is a one-way street.

To marginalize conservatism when its influence and popularity are evident in the world that exists outside Obama’s sphere of mainstream media control is to play a defeatist political game. Tea Party conservatives don’t represent a clear majority in grass-roots American political culture – but right now, neither does anyone else. The chorus of conservative voices isn’t weak, nor is it small. If it were, Harry Reid and Barack Obama would be railing against some other political force by name. But they’re not. They’re trying to kick this bothersome eruption of true conservatism all the way back into the George W. Bush era.

Congressional RINOs are already learning this the hard way. Will Obama show any sign of playing catch-up in Week Two?

Obamascare: Insurance Exchange Accidentally Sends 2,400 Social Security Numbers To Minnesota Man

Critics of the Affordable Care Act have long contended that Obamacare asks too many personal questions of would-be enrollees and is rife with the potential for fraud, abuse and privacy breaches.

Now those criticisms have been proven correct. A Minnesota insurance broker told the Star Tribune last month that he had received a document in his email that contained a trove of confidential information on more than 2,400 insurance agents, including things like names, Social Security numbers and business addresses.

The source? An unnamed staffer at MNsure, Minnesota’s new Obamacare health exchange online marketplace. The MNsure employee had accidentally sent the email to the wrong person (although it begs the question — who’s the right person to receive that much info about that many people?).

The Star Tribune reported:

An official at MNsure, the state’s new online health insurance exchange, acknowledged it had mishandled private data. A MNsure security manager called the broker, Jim Koester, and walked him and his assistant through a process of deleting the file from their computer hard drives.

Koester said he willingly complied, but was unnerved.

“The more I thought about it, the more troubled I was,” he said. “What if this had fallen into the wrong hands? It’s scary. If this is happening now, how can clients of MNsure be confident their data is safe?”

Good thing the email landed in an honest guy’s inbox, huh?

Exchange enrollees throughout the Nation are required to provide a lot of personal data, which is run through a Federal database for verification and to sort out candidates who are eligible for Obamacare subsidies from those who aren’t eligible. As everyone by now knows, that information also must be passed along to Obamacare’s enforcement arm: the Internal Revenue Service.

The hurried rollout of Obamacare for individuals has a slap-shot quality of reckless haste that finance and healthcare experts had cautioned against in testimony before lawmakers.

University of Minnesota Finance Professor Steve Parente, who this week testified in Washington about the potential pitfalls associated with the needlessly urgent rollout schedule, told the newspaper it’s impossible to implement even basic security and functionality in a system as complex as the healthcare exchanges if the schedule is dictated by political motives.

“The people who believe in this are so driven that there’s a subcontext of ‘Just let us do our job and get as many people signed up as possible, and we’ll pick up the debris later,’” he said.

Who’s The Criminal? Illinois Police Strip DUI Suspect, Leave Her Naked In Cell

A Chicago woman busted on suspicion of driving under the influence in LaSalle County, Ill., is suing the sheriff’s office for an incident recorded by a surveillance camera: Four cops (three men and one woman) forcibly stripped her naked, threw her to the ground and then tossed her into a padded cell, where they left her without clothing — not even underwear.

The victim, 33-year-old Dana Holmes, shows no sign of resisting police at any time during the video, although the police indicated in the incident report that she had attempted to kick them.

While being held against the wall, the still-clothed Holmes underwent a pat-down search with her arms and legs spread. The melee began (around 4:10 in the video) as the female deputy conducting the search inspected Holmes’ feet. Holmes moved her leg ever so slightly as the officer search her lower body, and that motion apparently set off the four deputies.

“I did not kick,” Holmes told the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t know if I lost my balance or what happened, but I wasn’t being combative at all.”

Holmes, whose blood alcohol level was reportedly far above the legal limit when she was arrested by a municipal police patrol, said her infraction doesn’t justify the actions of the county deputies who booked her into the jail, and that the way the cops had treated her made her fear they would return to the cell where she was being held and sexually abuse her.

“I was actually afraid they might come in and try to rape me. I wasn’t sure. I just had all kinds of things going on in my head,” she said. “…There’s a lot of people that get DUIs, a lot of people that just make mistakes in life. That still doesn’t give them a reason to do what they did. My dignity is worth more than that, and other people’s too.”

The incident happened in May, but the release of the video has brought national attention to the case. Holmes has never contested the DUI charge; she pleaded guilty in July and has no prior criminal record in her home county. She is suing the sheriff’s office for violating her civil rights and causing emotional distress. Her attorney, Terry Ekl, is also hoping the deputies involved will be charged with official misconduct. “It’s not only a violation of her civil rights. It’s also a crime,” he told the Tribune.

The municipal police who arrested Holmes had already searched her once. When they handed her over to the county, the deputies threatened to remove her belly button ring with pliers, according to Ekl.

Illinois law permits a strip search only if police have a “reasonable belief” that a suspect is concealing a weapon or contraband on their person, and the law doesn’t allow anyone who isn’t conducting the search to watch. An officer of the opposite sex cannot participate in a strip search.

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.