Unwrapping the $1.1 Trillion Budget

President Barack Obama signed the 1,603 page Omnibus Appropriations Bill on Tuesday. The 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill ensures that the federal government will be up and running through Sept. 30, 2015.

New to this year’s budget is a 25 million dollar Ebola emergency preparedness and response fund. Money has also been allocated to fight the terrorist organization ISIS, “including $3.4 billion to continue the air campaign and replenish weapons and $1.6 billion to train and equip our Iraqi allies.”

The Internal Revenue Service saw a $345.6 million cut, and vice-president Joe Biden will not be getting a raise. 

So where exactly is the money going? After all, 1.1 trillion dollars is an almost incomprehensible sum for the average person. To help put that number into perspective think of it this way — you could go shopping with 10 million dollars every day for 273 years and still have a million left over to buy a vacation home.

Here is how the breakdown of the government plans to spend $1.1 trillion in 2015:

1. Agriculture: $20.6 billion — $305 million decrease from 2013

2. Commerce/Justice/Science: $50.1 billion — $1.5 billion decrease

3. Defense: $490.2 billion — $3.3 billion increase

4. Energy and Water: $34.2 billion — $142 million increase

5. Financial Services: $21.8 billion — $246 million decrease

6. Interior and Environment: $30.4 billion — $300 million increase

7. Labor/Health and Human Services/Education: $156.8 billion —  unchanged

8. Legislative Branch: $4.3 billion — $100 million increase

9. Military Construction/Veterans Affairs: $71.8 billion — $1.5 billion decrease

10. State/Foreign Operations: $49 billion —  unchanged

11. Transportation/Housing and Urban Development: $53.8 billion — $2.9 billion increase

Obama Has Issued Record Number of Presidential Memos

From overhauling the immigration system to imposing economic sanctions, President Obama has issued more presidential memoranda than any other president in history, according to a USA Today review.

Why is this significant? Well, because they’re nearly identical to executive orders in what they can accomplish and how they impact everyday Americans.

Like executive orders, presidential memoranda don't require action by Congress. They have the same force of law as executive orders and often have consequences just as far-reaching. And some of the most significant actions of the Obama presidency have come not by executive order but by presidential memoranda.

Obama has made prolific use of memoranda despite his own claims that he's used his executive power less than other presidents. "The truth is, even with all the actions I've taken this year, I'm issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years," Obama said in a speech in Austin last July. "So it's not clear how it is that Republicans didn't seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did."

Obama has issued 195 executive orders as of Tuesday. Published alongside them in the Federal Register are 198 presidential memoranda — all of which carry the same legal force as executive orders.

The difference, of course, is the messaging.

“Executive order immediately evokes potentially damaging questions of ‘imperial overreach,’” Kenneth Lowande, a political science doctoral student at UVA, told USA Today. Memorandum, on the other hand, does not.

If there’s one thing this administration is good at, it’s deceiving the American people.

Out Of The Ashes: Ferguson Rebuilds After Summer Of Unrest

Small businesses irreparably destroyed, lives ruined, and abject chaos engulfed Ferguson over the past few months. The shooting death of Michael Brown by former Officer Darren Wilson threw the small city outside St. Louis into turmoil.

Now, as some of the residents begin rebuilding their lives, the community finds donations, gofundme.org pages, and the “I Love Ferguson Campaign” representing the point of the lance in their effort (via CNSNews):

Abandoned by its destroyers, now forgotten by the cameras, this is Ferguson--still suffering the fallout from the rash of riots, looting, and vandalism the community endured in November after a grand jury chose not to indict Darren Wilson, a while police officer, in the shooting death of 18-year old black teenager Michael Brown in August.

But for the 52,000 citizens of the small St. Louis suburb, many retain hope that their city can and will recover, and dozens are already pitching in to help save their town.

Bryan Fletcher, chairman of the newly created I Love Ferguson Campaign, said he clings to that hope every day. A 30-year resident of Ferguson, Fletcher said it breaks his heart to see the town he loves so scarred and struggling--so much so that he decided to do something about it.

“The image that was being portrayed around the world of Ferguson being a so-called suburban ghetto was an inaccurate portrayal of our beloved city, and several of the residents, including myself, got together and we wanted to grab the media’s attention,” Fletcher told CNSNews.com in Ferguson. “So what we did was grab, collected money at the local coffee house, and within 24 hours we raised $8,000. And we bought 3,000 of the ‘I Love Ferguson’ yard signs.”

Already, dozens of businesses have set up pages on the fundraising website gofundme.org, which currently has an entire category of entries dedicated to raising funds for Ferguson businesses. So far, nearly $575,000 has been raised from donors across the nation to help the small community get back on its feet.

Kurt Barks, owner of the Complete Auto Body and Repair in Ferguson, said his company has had to lay off four workers since the riots decimated his store on W. Florissant St., located a few blocks from where Michael Brown was shot. Business continues to be far slower than normal, and employees who work on commission are struggling to earn money with so few customers.

Even still, Barks said his business will help in whatever way possible to give back to their hurting community, even as they work to repair thousands in damages to their own building and thousands more in lost business.

“We do a lot of fundraisers for local charities,” Barks said. “We’ve always focused on North County, and now we will truly focus on the businesses that are no longer here. More so the families and the employees of those businesses.”

Even though the business owners that CNSNews.com interviewed incurred massive amounts of damage, they're still helping fellow members of their community get back on their feet. I certainly hope this community becomes stronger than ever–and that everyone can move on from this horrible event.

Sony Cancels "The Interview" After North Korean Threats

Following terrorist threats and the hacking of Sony's computers by North Korea in response to the film "The Interview, which is about an attempt to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, Sony Pictures has canceled the theatrical release of the movie. The film was due to be released on Christmas Day.

Earlier today, five major movie theater chains announced that they would not show the film in their theaters.

In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.

The Department of Homeland Security said there is no credible threat regarding the movie or any theaters that would have shown the movie.

Freedom-loving Americans took to Twitter to express their disbelief and outrage that Hollywood would cave to the demands of a murderous dictator:

Just absolute madness.

Ex-Cuban Prisoner: 'It’s Good to be Home'

Alan Gross was imprisoned in Cuba for half a decade. He’s a free man now and spoke to the public today from the nation's capital about his deliverance.

“Today is the first day of Hanukkah,” he said. “And I guess so far it’s the best Hanukkah I’ll be celebrating for a long time. What a blessing it is to be a citizen of this country and thank you President Obama for everything you have done today and leading up to today.”

He also especially thanked his wife and lawyer who worked tirelessly to bring him home.

“They have my endless gratitude, love, and respect,” he emphasized.

“I want to thank all of the members of Congress from all sides of the aisle…who spoke up or visited me, subjected themselves to my ranting, and helped me regain some of my weight,” he continued. “Even in Cuba, M&Ms melts in your mouth and not in your hand.”

He also thanked Muslim, Christian and especially Jewish organizations and individuals who never gave up on him.

“It was crucial to my survival knowing that I was not forgotten,” he said. “Your prayers and your actions have been comforting, reassuring, and sustaining.”

Not surprisingly, perhaps, he also effusively praised President Obama.

“Ultimately, the decision to arrange for and secure my release was made in the Oval Office,” he said. “To President Obama and [his] staff, thank you.”

“I’m incredibly blessed finally to have the freedom to resume a positive and constructive life,” he continued. “But for now I’ll close with a quote from one of Nelson Demille’s characters: ‘It’s good to be home.’”

Cruz: Obama's Cuba Decision Will Be Remembered as a Tragic Mistake

Florida Senator Marco Rubio responded to President Obama's announcement earlier today to "normalize relations" with Cuba and now it's Texas Senator Ted Cruz' turn.

"This announcement today will be remembered as a tragic mistake," Cruz, whose father Rafael Cruz escaped Castro's Cuba in 1957 after beatings and torture, said during an interview with Fox News Wednesday afternoon. "There is no doubt this is a unilateral president."

During the interview, conducted by Neil Cavuto, Cruz reminded viewers that the Castro brothers are allies of North Korea, Russia and Venezuela. 

"Cuba is an avowed enemy of this country," Cruz said. "They are a leading state sponsor of terrorism." 

Cruz slammed President Obama for negotiating from a position of weakness with enemies of the United States while turning on allies like Israel and Poland.

"He [Obama] does not understand the difference between our friends and our enemies," Cruz said. 

Cruz also released the following statement in response to President Obama's annoucement: 

“We rejoice that Alan Gross’ wrongful imprisonment by the brutal Castro regime has finally come to an end, and that he will be able to spend the holidays with his loved ones. But make no mistake, although we are glad Alan is now free, the agreement the Obama Administration has entered into with the Castro regime has done nothing to resolve the underlying problem. Indeed, it has made it worse.

“Fidel and Raul Castro have just received both international legitimacy and a badly-needed economic lifeline from President Obama. But they remain in control of a totalitarian police state modeled on their old state sponsor, the Soviet Union. Their government can continue to detain individuals like Alan Gross indefinitely without process—as the many political prisoners still languishing in the Castros’ prisons can attest. They retain their close, long-standing ties with hostile nations, notably Russia, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. They will continue their support for terrorist organizations from FARC to Hezbollah and Hamas.

“The President spoke today about a new era for relations between American and the Cuban people, but these circumstances do not bode well for either. We have seen how previous Obama administration attempts at rapprochement with rogue regimes like Russia and Iran have worked out, with our influence diminished and our enemies emboldened. Now they are revisiting this same disastrous policy with the Castros, blind to the fact that they are being played by brutal dictators whose only goal is maintaining power. And if history be our guide, the Castros will exploit that power to undermine America and oppress the Cuban people. First Russia, then Iran, now Cuba – this is one more very, very bad deal brokered by the Obama Administration.”
Cruz and Rubio are not alone in their criticism of President Obama's decision on Cuba. Democrat Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey strongly condemned the move earlier today and warned about the direct impact on Americans.

"It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips. I fear that today’s actions will put at risk the thousands of Americans that work overseas to support civil society, advocate for access to information, provide humanitarian services, and promote democratic reforms," Menendez said in a statement. “President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government."

White House Claims They Don't Need Money For Embassy In Cuba

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest dismissed Republican threats to defund President Obama's unilateral Cuban normalization policy today, claiming that the government already has all the money it needs to implement Obama's plan.

"It's not clear to me that additional appropriations will be necessary to establish an embassy in Cuba, principally because there is already a significant diplomatic presence in Cuba," Earnest said. "There is an Interest Section there that represents the United States. So I don't know of any specific appropriations request that has been made. There may be one in the future, we'll see."

Earlier in the day, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) gave an impassioned speech promising to do all he could stop Obama's "New Course on Cuba." “We are going to have interesting discussions about how they are going to get an ambassador nominated and an embassy funded,” Rubio said. 

Rubio's parents fled Cuba in the 1950s and he has been a consistent voice for maintaining a hard line against the rule of the Castro brothers over the island. 

“Time and again, the Cuban government has manipulated every single concession this country has made to its advantage,” Rubio claimed. “The Cuban government will never allow changes on the island that threaten their grip on power.”

The United States does, in fact, operate a United States Interests Section in Havana. It is in the same building that housed the U.S. Embassy in Cuba before the communist revolution and the U.S. has been operating in the building since the 1970s. You can see a picture of the building here

If Rubio and other Republicans want to stop Obama from turning the US Interest Section, Havana into the US Embassy, Havana, they will have to attach defunding language to separate must pass legislation, just like they will have to do if they want to stop Obama's amnesty.

Asked by Fox News's Ed Henry if Obama was considering normalizing relations with North Korea on the same theory that "opening it up" would put more pressure on the regime to change their behavior, Earnest curtly said, "no."

Another Poll: Americans Say Tough CIA Interrogations After 9/11 Were Appropriate

After days of brow-furrowed, self-righteousness analysis from much of the national media over Senate Democrats' tendentious and dishonest "torture report," poll after poll has shown that the American people aren't eager to join the anti-CIA mob. The latest, from NBC/WSJ:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 9.39.29 AM

Fewer than three in ten Americans are willing to second-guess the intelligence community's use of harsh techniques in questioning captured terrorists in the wake of 9/11's deadly attacks.  Most people's memories of the fear and chaos of that time are fresh enough to give the CIA the benefit of the doubt.  Plus, Dianne Feinstein's squad did themselves no favors by refusing to interview a single person at the CIA who oversaw or carried out the EIT program, an indefensible shortcoming exposed in this op/ed by a group of former high-ranking officials at the agency.  Among those they declined to consult is Jose Rodriguez, a 31-year CIA veteran who ran the agency's clandestine operations at the peak of his career, and who assumed a major counterterrorism role shortly after the devastating attacks of 2001.  Rodriguez will appear on my radio program this weekend, for the full hour.  I will post a partial transcript of our discussion here at Townhall next week.  Other highlights from the NBC/WSJ poll:

(1) President Obama's approval rating has rebounded over to (45/50), much better than other recent polls have shown.  His approval on the economy is slightly underwater, while he remains in deep trouble on foreign policy and immigration.

(2) "[T]he nation shows weariness of President Barack Obama , with more than 70% saying the next president should take a different approach from the current one," the WSJ writes, noting that Republicans now hold a very slight (40/38) edge on 'next president' preferences.

(3) Seventy-one percent of respondents agreed that voters sent Obama a message in November, but a 55 percent majority believes he hasn't received, or has actively ignored, that message.  Only 16 percent say he's changing his policies and behavior in response to Democrats' electoral beating.

I'll leave you with this data point from a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, revealing a significant GOP bounce following the party's resounding midterm victory:

Republican victories in the midterm elections have translated into an immediate boost in the party’s image, putting the GOP at its highest point in eight years, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The spike in the party’s standing comes after Republicans picked up nine seats to take control of the Senate, raised their numbers in the House to the highest level in more than half a century and added new governorships to its already clear majority. In the new poll, 47 percent say they have a favorable impression of the Republican Party, compared with 33 percent in the month before the midterm elections. An equal percentage have an unfavorable view, which marks the first time in six years that fewer than half of Americans said they saw Republicans negatively. The improved standing reverses a lengthy period in which the public had given Republicans declining and, ultimately, historically low ratings.

Bloomberg has picked up on this trend as well.

WaPo/ABC News Poll: GOP Favorability Rises After Midterms

As Christine wrote today, Republican Martha McSally has won former Rep. Gabby Giffords’ congressional seat. Republicans now have 247 House seats; their largest majority since 1929. With the 2014 midterms now officially over, the GOP has another thing to be happy about–and their approval rating has gone up (via WaPo):

Republican victories in the midterm elections have translated into an immediate boost in the party’s image, putting the GOP at its highest point in eight years, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

In the new poll, 47 percent say they have a favorable impression of the Republican Party, compared with 33 percent in the month before the midterm elections. An equal percentage have an unfavorable view, which marks the first time in six years that fewer than half of Americans said they saw Republicans negatively.

The improved standing reverses a lengthy period in which the public had given Republicans declining and, ultimately, historically low ratings. Successful elections often give political parties or candidates a boost, though sometimes those improved ratings prove to be a bounce rather than a sustained change.

Public impressions of the Democrats are now a bit worse than those of the Republicans and overall more negative than positive. More people gave the Democrats favorable ratings than they did just before the midterm elections — 44 percent compared with 39 percent. But the percentage rating the Democrats negatively was essentially unchanged at 50 percent, compared with 51 percent earlier.

As for trust in handling the major issues facing the nation, the economy, and immigration, Republicans are more trusted 43/39 on the “main problems;” 47/38 over Obama on the economy, and 48/39 on immigration.

If you break those questions down along gender lines, women trust Republicans more on immigration by a 49/40 margin. On the economy, women trust Republicans by a 48/39 margin–and handling the “main problems” facing our nation; women trust Republicans 45/38.

Women trust Republicans more on the key issues facing the nation. I think I hear the heads of the feminist left exploding.

Men also trust the GOP more on these issues, though only by a slim 40/39 margin on the vague “main problems” crosstab.

So, in the end, the GOP favorability ratings are up, the Democrats are down, and the "War on Women" appears to be dead as female voters are trusting Republicans more on these issues.

Oh, and Obama’s approval rating is at a dismal 41 percent.

"A Concession to a Tyranny": Marco Rubio Absolutely Blasts Obama's New Cuba Policy

Shortly after the news broke, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) had some tough words for the president about his unilateral action to relax diplomatic relations with Cuba.

“No commitment was made to allowing the establishment of political parties or to even begin the semblance of a transition to democracy,” he said about the announcement. “In exchange for all of these concessions, the only thing the Cuban government agreed to do is free 53 political prisoners – who could wind up in jail tomorrow morning if they once again take up the cause of freedom – and to allow the United Nations and the Red Cross to monitor conditions on the island.”

“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie,” he continued. “The lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people. All this is going to do is give the Castro regime – which controls every aspect of Cuban life – the opportunity to manipulate these changes to perpetuate its sovereign power.”

He also argued this unilateral approach is a kind of capitulation to human rights abusers, a lopsided bargain that will ultimately make it harder to topple the regime.

“These changes will lead to legitimacy for a government that shamelessly, continuously abuses human rights,” he said. “But it will not lead to assistance for those whose rights are being abused. It is just another concession to a tyranny by the Obama administration rather than a defense of every universal and inalienable right that our country was founded on and stands for. In short, what these changes are going to do is they will tighten this regime’s grip on power for decades to come.”

Sen. Rubio, however, acknowledged he was “overjoyed” Alan Gross was a free man and back in United States safely after five years in captivity. Nonetheless, he called the new policy “willfully ignorant.”

“This president is the single worst negotiator we’ve had in the White House in my lifetime,” he said. “[H]e has basically given the Cuban government everything it asked for and received no assurances of any advances in democracy and freedom in return."

"Today by conceding to the oppressors, this president and this administration have let the people of Cuba down,” he added.

McSally (R) Wins Recount in Arizona CD-2, Officially Declared Winner

Martha McSally (R) has been officially declared the winner in Arizona's second congressional district by a razor-thin 167-vote margin over incumbent Rep. Ron Barber (D). This was the final race of the 2014 election that was yet to be decided, as Arizona law mandates a recount if an election is decided by fewer than 200 votes.

Member-elect McSally released the following statement thanking everyone who worked on her campaign and the people of southern Arizona:

"We're grateful to everyone who devoted their time and resources, especially during the extended vote and recount processes, to get us over the finish line," said McSally. "With the results of the recount now official, we can move forward as one community to bring Southern Arizonans the strong representation they deserve."

"There's no getting around that this was an incredibly close and hard-fought race. After what's been a long campaign season, it's time to come together and heal our community. That's why my focus will be on what unites us, not what divides us, such as providing better economic opportunity for our families and ensuring our country and community are kept safe."

"I sincerely thank Congressman Barber for his service over many years to Southern Arizona. I'll be seeking his input to continue strong constituent services and help ensure a smooth transition. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I know that we're a community dedicated and united in our love for Southern Arizona - And, together, we can make a positive difference."

McSally is a retired colonel who served in the Air Force. She was the first female fighter pilot to fly a combat mission and was the first female in U.S. history to command a fighter squadron in combat. Her victory puts the Republican majority in the House of Representatives at 247 to 188, a gain of 13 seats.

Editor's note: this post has been updated with the correct number of seats the Democrats have in the House of Representatives. They have 188, not 118.

So, Joe Biden Might Run For President In 2016

Joe Biden does not have the best track record when it comes to mounting presidential campaigns. He ran in the 1988 campaign, but dropped out after it was discovered that portions of his speech were similar to those given by UK Labour Leader Neil Kinnock. In 2007, he managed to clinch a whopping 1 percent in the Iowa Caucuses, but he’s now the Vice President of the United States; a role he reportedly revels in at the Obama White House.

Regardless, Politico reported back in October that there are some on his staff who are convinced he would run after 2012–and there are some who think otherwise. As for presidential ambitions regarding his various trips across the country, it’s very hard to read the tea leaves there as well:

He’s made appearances in Florida, South Carolina and New Hampshire, but they’ve been brief. Three days after Clinton headlined Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry last month, Biden jumped on a plane to Des Moines to join a dozen sisters kicking off their “Nuns on the Bus” cross-country voter registration and social-justice tour. His office said the trip was an official event, nothing to do with politics or Clinton’s visit. In Washington and in Iowa both, he came across as not wanting to leave Clinton unanswered in Iowa.

He’s worked with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic National Committee to coordinate some of his travel. Sometimes, people don’t know what he’s up to at all. When Biden arrived two weeks ago in Columbia, South Carolina, for a get-out-the-vote rally and state Democratic Party fundraiser — catching up with an old commitment to the DNC to do some voting rights events in the South — a number of key Washington operatives learned about the stop from news reports once he was already there.

Or Biden stops come together like this: Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley is friends with his son Beau from their work together as AGs, so her campaign calls Biden’s office directly to work out the campaign schedule that generated a fundraiser at the Banshee Pub in Cambridge. Or he’s in Los Angeles with one candidate for a House seat and another for California secretary of state, and jumps up to Portland for a walk through town with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that was most memorable for the unplanned but instantly viral photo of him with an ice cream cone, those aviator glasses and a fistful of $10 bills.

Biden’s not the kind of person to think much about things like a field director when making his decisions, and he appears to be working under the assumption that he’d be able to put together another late-breaking staff, like he did in 1987 and 2007. He toyed with the idea of a leadership PAC, but that never came together in large part due to concerns it would play too much into the prospective presidential narrative.

Biden tells a story he’s told before, a lesson he says he learned in his earliest days in the Senate, when candidates kept asking him his secret to winning.

Simple, Biden remembers saying.

“You have to figure out what’s worth losing over.”

Biden will be close to his mid-70s if he mounts another bid for the White House in 2016. He’s the vice president, a former U.S. Senator, and oodles of experience in public life. After his VP stint, Biden will probably slip into political and historical obscurity–along with the vast majority of U.S. Vice Presidents–after he leaves office. So, what does he have to lose? Nothing.

If he wins, he wins. If not, it’s one last hurrah in public life before retiring after decades of service. Whether you agree with his political positions in that regard is a different story. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of you haven’t taken too kindly to his liberalism; you’re not alone.

If he does run and challenges Hillary’s potential campaign to a debate, she would have to oblige him. While former Sen. Jim Webb thinks he can beat her, she could ignore him and starve him of oxygen, forcing Webb to drop out. With a former Vice President of the United States, that’s not an option.

Then, you get two candidates whose gaffes have been widely reported in the media on the same stage together. That’s quite the popcorn moment.

Biden, who’s seen as a good surrogate, could tap into the neo-populist mood with this pro-middle class messages, but the GOP actually won or was competitive with those voters. Another thing going against him is that Clinton is trouncing him in the polls. Yet, that didn’t stop Barack Obama, but Obama was also young; Biden is not.

At Politico’s recent Women Rule event, the vice president said he really has not made up his mind on the issue of running for the presidency (via the Hill):

"I honest to God haven't made up my mind,” Biden said…

The one thing that moves me — I think that I have the ability to bring the sides together,” he added.

Biden’s daughter Ashley appeared on stage with him at the event, and called his potential presidential aspirations a “family decision.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is far and away the Democratic presidential frontrunner, leading her rivals by more than 50 percentage points, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.

Obama To Unilaterally Normalize Relations With Cuba

President Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba today, including opening an embassy in Cuba.

"We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests," Obama claimed, "And instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."

Specifically, the White House took three major steps today as part of their "New Course on Cuba":

  1. Initiating discussions to reestablish diplomatic relations, including a U.S. embassy in Havana, and a Cuban embassy in the United States.
  2. A review, by the State Department, of Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
  3. Relaxing of regulations to facilitate the flow of travel, commerce, and information between the United States and Cuba.

In conjunction with the "new direction for U.S. policy," the White House also announced the release of United States Agency for International Development subcontractor Alan Gross who had been imprisoned in Cuba since 2009. The White House insisted that Gross's release was not related to the release of three Cuban spies held by the United States. Senior Administration Officials insisted that those three Cuban spies were traded for a "U.S. intelligence asset" that had been imprisoned in Cuba for 20 years.

Asked if the White House was planning on working with Congress to remove the embargo on Cuba, Senior Administration Officials stressed that was not the focus of today's announcement.

"Again, we're not focussed today on legislative action. We are focussed on what the president can do so he's not sought to initiate any process with respect to the lifting of the embargo," a Senior Administration Official said. "We're not focused today on calling on Congress to take any particular action, we're focussed on communicating this new direction for U.S. policy."

Obama's unilateral actions on Cuba today are just the latest in a series of unilateral actions he has taken without consent of Congress. Just last month Obama announced he would grant temporary amnesty to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States and he announced a deal to cut U.S. carbon emissions with China. His administration has also signaled he will not seek any input from Congress as Obama tries to broker a nuclear weapons deal with Iran.

Unless Republicans in Congress show they are willing to stop Obama's actions through the appropriations process, Americans can expect many many more unilateral executive actions over the nest two years.

"Senators should also make clear that they will not allow the appointment of an ambassador to Cuba to proceed until there have been changes on the island," The Heritage Foundation's Michael Gonzales advises. "And look into the possibility of using policy riders in the upcoming Department of Homeland Security appropriations debate in February and the fiscal year 2016 appropriations process to deny the president funds for setting up relations."

Surprise: Insurers Extend Another Obamacare Deadline, Costs to Spike in 2016

The law. It's working, you guys. It's working so well that one entire year into its full implementation, insurers feel compelled to extend yet another alleged deadline because the so-called 'back end' of the program's website is still a hot mess.  That big "re-branding" campaign can't come soon enough, in order to allow supporters to keep on highlighting Obamacare's unparalleled success:

Trying to head off a new round of consumer headaches with President Barack Obama's health care law, the insurance industry said Tuesday it will give customers more time to pay their premiums for January. America's Health Insurance Plans, the main industry trade group, says the voluntary steps include a commitment to promptly refund any overpayments by consumers who switched plans and may have gotten double-billed by mistake. Though the HealthCare.gov website is working far better this year, the industry announcement highlights behind-the-scenes technical issues between the government and insurers that have proven difficult to resolve. Last year's enrollment files were riddled with errors, and fixing those has been a painstaking process. As a result, renewing millions of current customers is not as easy as it might seem.

Renewals and logistics:

Renewing coverage each year is standard operating procedure for the industry, but 2015 is the first renewal year for the health law. The process involves a massive electronic data transfer from the government to insurers, happening right around the holidays. Insurers then have to use that data to generate new cards for their customers. Normally, premiums for January would be due by Dec. 31. The industry's grace period for 2015 could vary among different carriers, so consumers should check with their plan...Making matters more confusing, open enrollment actually runs for another two months, until Feb. 15. People enrolling by that date will get coverage starting March 1. Current customers can still make plan changes through Feb. 15. Based on early numbers, it's looking like the majority of the roughly 6.7 million current customers have opted to stay with the plans they have now and be automatically renewed Jan. 1.

The good news about automatic renewals from the administration's perspective is that the process puts a lot of coverage on autopilot.  At least in theory.  The problem for them is that with Healthcare.gov's back end still under construction, the 'autopilot' reconciliation machinery still isn't working properly. Those bugs and flaws have resulted in improper subsidy payments for an untold number of consumers, which could lead to a nightmarish tax season for those victims of federal incompetence. Another problem that will impact even more Americans results from "benchmark" plans changing in 2015, meaning that auto-re-enrollment will, in many cases, result in unexpected rate increases for unsuspecting customers.  Most new consumers selected these "baseline" plans last year, based on cost considerations -- but many of the most popular 2014 plans will experience double-digit premium increases in the new year, and are being supplanted by fresh, less-expensive 2015 baseline plans.  People who simply stick with their existing plan to avoid hassle will get slapped with higher bills; avoiding that unpleasantness requires switching plans again, which comes will all of the access/network headaches that have dogged many Obamacare customers.  Meanwhile, even as many Americans are experiencing higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs, some average rate increases aren't as steep as critics predicted.  That will change next year, argues economist Stephen Parente:

Americans visiting Healthcare.gov to purchase 2015 health-insurance plans are finding a nice surprise: Average premiums for the cheap “bronze” plans have increased only by 3.4% and premiums for the middle-of-the-road “silver” plans are rising by 5.8%, according to the American Action Forum. Where are the double-digit premium increases that so many predicted? Check back around this time in 2016. That’s when you’ll see the real spikes. The Affordable Care Act includes two temporary programs that make compliant health-care plans temporarily appear far cheaper than they are: Risk corridors and reinsurance. Both programs will expire on Jan. 1, 2017. By November 2016, consumers will know how that sunset will affect their plan’s premium. Risk corridors and reinsurance are simple concepts: They subsidize insurance companies with taxpayer money. With the former, the taxpayer is covering the difference when patients spend more on health care than insurance companies predicted...The taxpayer’s generosity allows insurance companies to hide the true costs of the plans. But this will likely end when both programs expire in two years. At the same time, the exemptions issued by the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services—including the exemptions that allowed millions of consumers to keep noncompliant plans that would have been canceled—will also expire on New Year’s Day, 2017.

Millions of Americans are already feeling stymied by Obamacare's lack of affordability.  As rough as it's been for some, many experts predict things will only get worse as the law's pain-masking gimmicks expire.  How do you think these folks will feel upon discovering the "good" news that their costs are "only" going up by, say, six percent over last year's rates?

As Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber has admitted, Obamacare's "cost containment" promises were all about telling people "what they want to hear."  In reality, he explained, the law is an expensive wealth redistribution scheme, which "would not have passed" if advertised honestly.

At Community Forum, Buffalo Police Explain Patrols Are not Racist, They’re ‘Data-Driven’

Buffalo, NY is a more than 6-hour drive to New York City, where Eric Garner died at the hands of the New York Police Department. Yet, community members felt compelled to attend a local forum with police officers to try and bridge the relationship between authority and citizens.

This line pretty much sums up how it went:

“While the forum's setup was meant to avoid chaos, it didn't take long for things to deteriorate in to a shouting match.”

At one heated moment, an attendee asked Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda why it seemed like the police were most often present in African-American communities.

"It's not stereotyping, it's where we respond to complaints," Derenda said. "It's data-driven. Every day we look at where the crime is occurring, and where the reported crime is occurring. It's not White or Black, it's not anything, it's data. If you're reporting a crime or robbery in your neighborhood, or shootings are happening in your neighborhood, people want to see us in those neighborhoods."

However, that explanation didn’t stop some attendees from shouting, “I can’t breathe!” before leaving the forum, echoing the last words Garner uttered before dying in a police choke hold earlier this year.

I have a suggestion: Enough with the forums, enough with the protests. Let the police do their job. Fatal cases like Eric Garner and Michael Brown are tragic, but they are rare. The majority of the time, our authority figures are doing their darnedest to keep us safe, putting themselves in harm’s way so we can get home safely at night.

My friend told me she was at a dinner in downtown Washington, D.C. last week, when a group of "police brutality" protesters starting shouting at the diners inside. Can anyone tell me what this accomplishes? Whether blocking I-395 traffic or, in the most egregious examples, looting stores and committing arson, these loud and sometimes violent and dangerous disruptions do more harm than good. Even Michael Brown’s parents have asked for peace after a grand jury decided not to acquit the officer who killed their son in Ferguson, Missouri.

Chants of “F*** the police” do not honor anyone.

Bombshell Report: US, Cuba to "Normalize" Relations

This is an historic diplomatic breakthrough, or so it would seem:

American officials say the U.S. and Cuba will start talks to normalize full diplomatic relations as part of the most significant shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island in decades.

Officials say the U.S. is also looking to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months. The moves are part of an agreement between the U.S. and Cuba that also includes the release of American Alan Gross and three Cubans jailed in Florida for spying.

This is happening:

No doubt this is some kind of quid pro quo agreement:

Sit tight for updates.

UPDATE: President Obama is going to make the announcement official at 12:00 EST. We will cover his remarks.

UPDATE: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) weighs in:

UPDATE: Very interesting:

UPDATE: At least one Democratic Senator is not happy about the news:

UPDATE: This is what "full diplomatic relations" looks like:

UPDATE: I might end my post on this note -- but we'll see:

UPDATE: I spoke too soon. This is worth noting:

UPDATE: As is this:


UPDATE: He's returned safely.

New Poll: Romney, Clinton Lead for 2016

Get ready folks, 2016 is here. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush officially announced yesterday that he is actively exploring the possibility of running for the White House and Florida Senator Marco Rubio is meeting with mega-donors.

But a new Fox News poll shows former Massachusetts governor and two time presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former presidential candidate and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are the top choices of Republicans and Democrats for the next election.

First, the Republican side: 

Romney dominates the field for the 2016 Republican nomination. He comes in at 19 percent among self-identified Republicans, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 10 percent. No other candidates garner double-digit backing.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul each receive eight percent. Next, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker captures seven percent, followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan each at six percent and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at five percent.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (four percent), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (two percent), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (two percent), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (one percent) and former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum (one percent) each receive the backing of less than five percent of Republicans.

Voters who consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement are most likely to back Paul (13 percent), Cruz (12 percent), Romney (11 percent) and Carson (10 percent).

The top choices among white evangelical Christians include Romney (14 percent), Paul (10 percent), Bush (9 percent) and Carson (9 percent).
And over to the Democrats:
On the Democratic side, Clinton is still 50 points ahead of her nearest rival -- even though support for her is down somewhat from previous polls. Clinton receives the backing of 62 percent of self-identified Democrats. That’s down from 64 percent in July and a high of 69 percent in April.

The support Clinton has lost since April appears to be going to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who captures 12 percent. That’s up from 9 percent in July -- and double the 6 percent she received in April. Vice President Joe Biden comes in close behind at 10 percent. All other possible Democratic candidates tested garner three percent or less.

While the Republican side is somewhat close in terms of decisions on candidates, Democrats aren't even forcing a competition between potential candidates. It becomes more clear every day that Clinton will be the nominee on the left side of the political aisle. That being said, if Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren decides to run (she has said repeatedly she won't), Clinton could be in trouble next year. 

Federal Judge on Obama's Illegal Immigration Executive Action: It's Unconstitutional

U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Schwab has issued an opinion classifying President Obama's executive action on illegal immigration as unconstitutional based on a list of violations, including the separation of powers. 

The opinion was issued in United States vs Juarez-Escobar, a case in which an illegal immigrant was sentenced for deportation after being arrested for driving under the influence in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The immigrant did not ask for relief through Obama's amnesty program since illegal immigrants with drunk driving convictions were not eligible for Obama's first amnesty, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and are not eligible for Obama's most recent amnesty either.

Schwab, not the defendant, sought guidance from the federal government to see if Juarez-Escobar qualified for Obama's latest amnesty. The government said no. 

Schwab then opined on Obama's latest amnesty anyway, writing, "On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced an Executive Action on immigration, which will affect approximately four million undocumented immigrants who are unlawfully present in the United States of America. This Executive Action raises concerns about the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government. This core constitutional issue necessitates judicial review to ensure that executive power is governed by and answerable to the law such that “the sword that executeth the law is in it, and not above it," Schwab wrote.

"President Obama contended that although legislation is the most appropriate course of action to solve the immigration debate, his Executive Action was necessary because of Congress’s failure to pass legislation, acceptable to him, in this regard," Schwab continued. "This proposition is arbitrary and does not negate the requirement that the November 20, 2014 Executive Action be lawfully within the President’s executive authority. It is not."

"This Executive Action “cross[es] the line,” constitutes “legislation,” and effectively changes the United States’ immigration policy. The President may only “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed . . . ”; he may not take any Executive Action that creates laws," he continued. "President Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution as well as the Take Care Clause, and therefore, is

Since the government never claimed the defendant qualified for Obama's amnesty, Schwab's opinion is not binding on the government in anyway.

Separately, twenty-four states have filed lawsuits against President Obama's executive action and a variety of polls show the majority of Americans are against the move.

Conn Carroll contributed to this report.

RNC Debuts "Hillary Clinton's Letter to Santa"

In a few hours, the Republican National Committee (RNC) is going to publish -- and blast out to all its supporters -- a rare document never before seen and intercepted on its way to the North Pole: The Christmas letter Hillary Clinton "wrote" to Santa Claus this year.

Townhall, we’re pleased to announce, got our hands on it first.

For those interested, the entire (satirical) missive is below, which among other things not-so-subtly touches on Hillary Clinton’s greatly diminished heir apparent status, her breathtakingly absurd demands and requests on the speaking circuit, and her refusal to state her positions clearly and openly on controversial issues. We hope you get a kick out of it. We sure as heck did.


Dear Santa:

I have only one wish this year: no primary opponents. Please, I don’t want any competition for the Democrat nomination. We all know I should be inevitable, but some people in my own party are starting to say I’m too out-of-touch, too cozy with Wall Street, too closely tied to Barack. They even say I’ve been in politics too long. Can you believe that? When you think new beginnings, you think Hillary!

I know a lot of Democrats like Elizabeth Warren more than they like me. MoveOn.org is trying to recruit her to run against me. Excuse me? MoveOn should move over. It’s my turn, but even Biden is starting to look better to some people. Biden?!

So, can you please make sure Warren doesn’t run? And Biden and O’Malley and Webb and Bernie Sanders and…well, anyone. I don’t want Democrats to think they have a choice. That didn’t work out so well for me last time. On second thought, Bernie can run. He’ll make me look moderate for the general election, and he won’t force me to answer tough questions like Warren would.

(By the way, I have always regretted not writing you before that campaign. I’m a believer now. Did Barack write you before ’08? I mean, how else would someone so inexperienced beat me?)

By the way, I do want to say “thank you” for what you got me last year: the lucrative speaker’s gigs. Even cash-strapped public universities shelled out a quarter million dollars to hear me speak about nothing in particular! On top of the speaker’s fees, people give into all my demands—from the private planes to the crudités backstage. I know you had something to do with it: no one in their right mind would throw away that kind of money for speeches in which I don’t even take positions on important issues.

That reminds me. There’s one more thing on my list. Can you help me get away with not taking positions on issues like Keystone and the CIA report for at least another year? That would be a big help. I find people like me more when they don’t remember what I stand for.

I’m ready for…Santa!



P.S. Is Bill still on the naughty list?

Check out the whole thing here:


Retribution: Pakistan Hammers Perpetrators With Air Strikes

The horror of this morning can hardly be overstated. In an act of pure evil, several Taliban cowards ascended the walls of a Pakistani army school and indiscriminately murdered an unconscionable number of children. It took several hours to suppress the intruders, but in the end, Pakistani military personnel finally sent these barbarians to their maker.

Nevertheless, the state government is not letting such a despicable act go unpunished. In fact, it’s already taken military action. The Guardian reports:

The Pakistan military has launched massive air strikes in its remote border region against the Taliban in retaliation for the massacre in a Peshawar school on Tuesday morning that left at least 141 dead, 132 of them children.

The attack in Peshawar was one of the most horrific incidents in the country’s troubled history of the last decade, prompting an outcry at home and abroad – mainly because so many children were killed.

The assault began on Tuesday morning when seven attackers dressed in army uniform and wearing suicide vests stormed the school, which is attended almost exclusively by the children of army personnel.

Witnesses described the attackers shooting students at random and taking others hostage. Firefights with Pakistan commandos continued for four to five hours before the school was cleared and the last of the attackers killed. Pakistan’s major general, Asim Salim, said 960 students and staff were rescued.

Quite rightly, the killings have been condemned by political and moral leaders everywhere, from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to President Obama to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Targeting children for slaughter is self-evidently immoral, indefensible and abhorrent.

Let's hope these terrorist get what's coming to them.

All Apologies: NY Mag And Rolling Stone End 2014 With Botched Stories

Rolling Stone wasn’t the only magazine that needed to apologize its readers over discrepancies in their reporting. New York Magazine offered its readers an apology after their story about a whiz kid investor turned out to be a complete fabrication (via NY Observer):

Monday’s edition of New York magazine includes an irresistible story about a Stuyvesant High senior named Mohammed Islam who had made a fortune investing in the stock market. Reporter Jessica Pressler wrote regarding the precise number, “Though he is shy about the $72 million number, he confirmed his net worth is in the “’high eight figures.’” The New York Post followed up with a story of its own, with the fat figure playing a key role in the headline: “High school student scores $72M playing the stock market.”

And now it turns out, the real number is … zero.

In an exclusive interview with Mr. Islam and his friend Damir Tulemaganbetov, who also featured heavily in the New York story, the baby faced boys who dress in suits with tie clips came clean. Swept up in a tide of media adulation, they made the whole thing up.

The Observer contacted Islam who said that he has no idea where Pressler got the $72 million figure. “The number’s a rumor,” he said.

When the story’s integrity began to disintegrate, it seems that Pressler tried to take credit for debunking her own story. Yet, her tweets, which are now protected, show that she insisted her story was true and that she saw a bank statement confirming the figure. “I'm comfortable with what's in the piece,” she tweeted on December 15.

Well, we now know this story is false. Here’s their apology:

In the most recent edition of New York, its annual Reasons to Love New York issue, the magazine published a story about a Stuyvesant High School senior named Mohammed Islam, who was rumored to have made $72 million trading stocks. Islam said his net worth was in the "high eight figures." As part of the research process, the magazine sent a fact-checker to Stuyvesant, where Islam produced a document that appeared to be a Chase bank statement attesting to an eight-figure bank account.

After the story's publication, people questioned the $72 million figure in the headline, which was written by editors based on the rumored figure. The headline was amended. But in an interview with the New York Observer last night, Islam now says his entire story was made up. A source close to the Islam family told the Washington Post that the statements were falsified. We were duped. Our fact-checking process was obviously inadequate; we take full responsibility and we should have known better. New York apologizes to our readers.

Yet, this isn’t the latest version of the apology. Apparently, there was a little doubling down on behalf of NY Mag saying that she saw the statement–and that Islam confirmed it on the record.

 What’s the harm in admitting you’re wrong? We’re human we make mistakes; I’ve made a few of them in my blogging career. The best thing is to do is own it, move on, and learn from it. It’s what our parents teach us when we make mistakes as kids for heaven’s sake.

Additionally, you damage your own credibility by refusing to immediately apologize for a story that’s ends up being something akin to one’s imagination.  In this case, the price tag was $72 million...in Monopoly money.

As for Rolling Stone, it’s a different story; it’s a story about a brutal gang rape that has since been eviscerated for its shoddy journalism and multiple inconsistencies in the accuser’s recollection of events; things that could’ve been addressed if they, you know, dug around a little more.

It’s rational to be more cautious in a sensitive case like this, but not contacting the alleged attackers for a statement, or the three friends that saw Jackie–the alleged victim–on the night of the attack? Just. Wow.

Oh, and as for botching apologies, Rolling Stone wins this month; they actually tried to pass the blame onto Jackie in their initial note to their readers, citing “misplaced” trust. The buck stops with you, Rolling Stone.

Families Of The Victims Of Newtown Sue Bushmaster

The families of nine victims of the horrific Newtown shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary are suing Bushmaster, the gun manufacturer whose AR-15 model rifle was used by Adam Lanza to murder more than 20 people in December of 2012, most of them children.

The lawsuit, which is frivolous to say the least, citing negligence and wrongful death, was filed yesterday–the day after the two-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting (via Associated Press):

The complaint says the gun allows shooters to inflict "unparalleled civilian carnage."

"In order to continue profiting from the sale of AR-15s, defendants chose to disregard the unreasonable risks the rifle posed outside of specialized, highly regulated institutions like the armed forces and law enforcement," the plaintiffs wrote in the complaint.

The so-called AR-15 rifle was first built by Armalite for military use, but the design was later acquired by Colt, which in the early 1960s began marketing the semi-automatic AR-15 rifle as the civilian version of its fully automatic M-16.

Many other companies have since begun manufacturing and selling AR-15-type rifles. The weapons are popular in shooting competitions due to the light weight of the gun and ammunition and the weapon's accuracy.

Bill Sherlach, whose wife, Mary, was killed in the shooting, said he believes in the Second Amendment but also that the gun industry needs to be held to "standard business practices" when it comes to assuming the risk for producing, making and selling a product.

"These companies assume no responsibility for marketing and selling a product to the general population who are not trained to use it nor even understand the power of it," he said.

Jacob Sullum of Reason wrote that the victims’ families are dodging the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) by trying to stretching the “negligent entrustment” clause of the law:

[T]he plaintiffs argue that they are guilty of "negligent entrustment" because they made a gun with no legitimate civilian uses available to the general public. Joshua Koskoff, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told The Wall Street Journal "there is so much ample evidence of the inability of the civilian world to control these weapons that [it] is no longer reasonable to entrust them to [civilians]."

Over at Bearing Arms, Bob Owens points out why this lawsuit will fail, but also documenting a brief history of the AR-15–“AR” standing for Armalite– which been manufactured since 1957. As for the reloading mechanism, it’s no different from a handgun; both are semi-automatics. Points that pretty much undercut Mr. Koskoff’s claim that the super spooky AR-15 cannot be entrusted in civilian hands:

The claim of the Sandy Hook families that the AR-15 design is “is a military weapon unsuited for civilian use” is an unsolicited and uneducated opinion, nothing more.

Purely as a matter of fact, the American gun purchasing public has found the platform to be incredibly well-suited for civilian use, and because of this fact, the AR-15 is the most common centerfire rifle sold in the United States year in and year out.

It has become so popular because the AR-15 is a mature technology that is lightweight, is reasonably powerful, has good ergonomics, and has great aftermarket support.

Purchasers of AR-15s like the fact that they can be fired by people of any size, are accurate and easy to modify for specific kinds of shooting using a wide range of aftermarket products. They are required or optional firearms in many target shooting disciplines, are increasingly used (in various calibers) as hunting firearms for most game animals in the United States. Many firearms experts also hold the opinion that the AR-15 is arguably the best self-defense firearm platform that a civilian may readily own in the United States.

Put bluntly, the Sandy Hook parents don’t have a viable case. They are acting on powerful emotions, but not on logic, and not on the law.

Expect for a judge to toss this case as being without merit almost immediately.

Let’s hope so!

As the AP noted, the PLCAA protects gun manufacturers from these sorts of lawsuits–and rightfully so. Overall, the law prevents litigation by individuals against gun manufacturers whose product was unknowingly used in a criminal act.

As Walter Olson over at Cato wrote that even liberal justices agreed it was constitutional. It also should be noted that Bushmaster and the gun dealer where the late Mrs. Lanza purchased her AR-15 did not break any laws.

Sullum, who’s written about objections to the PLCAA on federalist grounds, added that the law:

Does include an exception for “an action brought against a seller for negligent entrustment.” But in this case the plaintiffs are stretching that concept to cover an entire segment of the firearms industry, without regard to the individual characteristics of gun buyers or the seller's knowledge of those characteristics (except for the fact that they are neither soldiers nor police officers).

To give you a sense of how far-fetched that claim is, the Journal reports that Dennis Henigan, former director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "said the lawsuit would test the limits of the negligent-entrustment legal theory." Henigan, a leading advocate of the litigation that provoked the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, explained that "the issue in this case will be whether courts are willing to construe the doctrine of negligent entrustment so broadly as to encompass a theory of liability that is based on the sale of a particular gun to the general public instead of to a potentially particular dangerous individual."

So, we shall see how this plays out, although it’s more than likely that a judge will toss this suit.

Olson also wrote “the PLCAA for the most part codified the common law treatment of gun liability as it had stood for centuries, thus advancing both a constitutional liberty and the legitimate freedom of interstate commerce against efforts to obtain a radical change in doctrine.”

He also noted that litigation is part of the strategy by anti-gun liberals to squeeze gun-related businesses that cannot afford long-term legal fees.

“We may hope that the courts are alive to the ongoing importance of PLCAA, and willing, as appropriate, to apply the tool of sanctions against legal strategists and campaigners who would seek to circumvent its provisions in the name of ideological grandstanding, profit, or revenge,” he added.

Amen to that, sir.

As a nation, we should grieve with these parents, but that all comes to an end when you begin a campaign to infringe on the civil rights of others. As Katie wrote, two years after Sandy Hook more Americans support gun rights that gun control. Gun-related homicides are down 39 percent according to Bureau of Justice Statistics; violent crime continues to go down. In 2013, Pew compared 1993 (the peak in U.S. gun homicides) to 2010 and found such crimes were down 49 percent. Additionally, the “victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm—assaults, robberies and sex crimes—was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993.”

Despite the tragic shooting near Philadelphia recently, there is no gun violence epidemic; it’s just media feeding into the hysteria that there is one.

This lawsuit is more far-reaching on our freedom tat the surrounding areas of Newtown; any freedom-loving American should hope it’s tossed in the days to come.

Sandy Hook Complaint

Fmr. CIA Counterterrorism Director on "Torture": "We Were CRUSHING al Qaeda!"

"Hell Yeah!"

70 Years Later: The Battle of the Bulge

Perhaps like most people my age, I first became aware of the Battle of the Bulge when I saw the award-winning, HBO miniseries Band of Brothers as a teenager. As it happens, my late grandfather (a World War II veteran himself) was given a copy of the show from his son (my uncle) for Christmas. After some unsolicited pleading, he eventually let me borrow it. In many ways, watching this show was almost certainly when my interest in military history first began.

For those who haven’t seen it -- why haven’t you? -- the show follows "Easy Company" all the way from Camp Toccoa, GA to Hitler's Eagle’s Nest -- and beyond. Most memorably, perhaps, the show gives a dramatic retelling of their struggle in the Ardennes Forest towards the end of the war. Trench foot, illness, fatigue, lack of medicine, and despair are only some of the challenges American GIs faced that bone-chilling winter, to say nothing of the moribund yet-still-unrelenting enemy they were tasked with defeating. For many soldiers, it was perhaps the darkest period of the war.

Some background on the battle:

Starting on Dec. 16, 1944, and for nearly six weeks, more than 600,000 American soldiers, fighting in freezing conditions and often hungry and dog-tired, took part in desperate efforts to contain, then throw back, a surprise German counteroffensive masterminded by Adolf Hitler himself.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill hailed the ultimate result as "an ever-famous American victory." But it came at a high cost: 80,987 U.S. casualties, including 10,276 dead, 47,493 wounded and 23,218 missing, according to the U.S. Army's official history.

Total German casualties are estimated at 81,834, including 12,652 dead and 30,582 missing.

After the end of the battle, on Jan. 28, 1945, Allied forces attacked Germany in unison, eventually leading to the Nazi surrender and the end of World War II in Europe.

Today is the 70th anniversary of this storied battle. For obvious reasons, it is important -- and incumbent upon all of us -- to remember it and all the soldiers who fought there. I'll leave you with this:

Obama is Not Going to Get His Wish This Christmas

Another Obamacare deadline has passed. Yesterday marked the final day that individuals could re-enroll for coverage starting on Jan. 1.

“It's a good Christmas present for people,” President Obama said when he spoke On Air With Ryan Seacrest Monday.

Obama claimed that the website, “which now works flawlessly,” offers a cache of “good deals” for the American people. Seacrest (yet another Hollywood actor who promotes, but will never use, Obamacare) and the president even closed the segment with a cute holiday jingle remix: 

“All I want for Christmas is you to sign up for healthcare on Healthcare.gov.”

But the odds are not in their favor.

According to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll, 78 percent of likely U.S. voters are very happy with their health insurance. Considering only 6.7 million people are currently covered through the Affordable Care Act, it is safe to say that they are enjoying quality care outside of the president’s utopian system. They likely will not be switching over anytime soon either.

Fifty-three percent expect the national health care system to get worse under Obamacare. This number is essentially the same as last year’s results (52 percent).

Additionally, a mere 29 percent believe the system will improve via the new law, a three-percentage point drop from 2013.