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My newest piece at Fox News: "The Zimmerman trial is already over"

I have a hard time even seeing why the defense needs to present its own case here.  From Fox News:
Prosecutors in the George Zimmerman second degree murder trial have pushed hard on two points as they seek to make their case against him: that the injuries to Zimmerman on the night Trayvon Martin died were “insignificant” and that he had studied Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in a college class in 2010. 
To win conviction on second-degree murder, the prosecution has to show that the death was caused by a criminal act “demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life.”   
That’s why the prosecutor keeps pushing the claim that Zimmerman profiled Martin because he was black. Meanwhile, the lesser charge of manslaughter generally is a crime that's been committed in the heat of passion, where there is no premeditation. The jury would have to believe Zimmerman lost his temper in shooting Martin. . . .
My piece is the most read piece on the Fox News website.

Even over a day later the piece was still ranked within the top 5 pieces.

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Philadelphia Inquirer piece with Brad Thor on the loss of Freedom in the US

My piece with Brad Thor starts this way:
July Fourth might be the day we celebrate freedom, but can America still truly be called the land of the free? Even for something as basic as our health care, we need government approval. We can't buy 75-watt or above incandescent bulbs. Our children face disciplinary action for playing with imaginary guns. Don't think we're drowning in regulations and government overreach? Try setting up a small business.  
But as crazy as these examples are, the list goes on:  
As our government collects data on whom we call, how long we talk, and where we are when we do our talking, can America still be classified as free? How about when our government collects all of our e-mails, texts, and credit-card transactions without a warrant or reasonable suspicion - despite the protections of the Fourth Amendment? . . .


A couple pieces that I have in the Columbus Dispatch and the New Hampshire Union Leader on Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly's gun control campaign

Former Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, are on a tour this week to attack Senators who voted against the Senate gun control law in April.  Here are two pieces that I have written on their claims about polling and the claimed benefits from background checks.  Here is part of the piece that I had in the Columbus Dispatch:
While deserving our greatest sympathy for the tragedy they have personally suffered, Giffords and Kelly are plain wrong about the “common-sense gun-control proposals” they advocate. 
The couple’s message emphasizes polling data, which they claim finds that 80 percent to 90 percent of Americans are in favor of expanded background-checks legislation. They argue that Portman doesn’t care about what his constituents want or whether laws will save lives but simply whether the NRA will give him money. As Kelly puts it, “How do you balance what your constituents want with how much money is going to be spent against you in your next election?” 
The polls showing such overwhelming support really ask little more than whether people want to stop criminals from obtaining guns, not whether voters actually favor the legislation that Giffords and Kelly support. 
For example, a mid-April poll by the Pew Research Center provides one such illustration when it asks voters whether they were happy that the Senate bill had been defeated. While 67 percent of Democrats were “disappointed” or “angry” about the defeat, more Republicans and independents were “ very happy” or “relieved” than upset by the defeat. 
Kelly often points out how the approval rating for some of the senators who voted against gun control has dropped over the past six months or so. Most of this polling is from the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling. Rasmussen Reports finds President Barack Obama’s own disapproval rating on guns also rose by 13 percentage points from February to early June. In April, a Quinnipiac University poll found only 41 percent of Americans approved of Obama's stand on gun control. . . .
Here is part of what I had in the New Hampshire Union Leader:
Consider “background checks.” According to Kelly: “40 percent of all Americans who buy a gun buy it without a background check.” That is simply false. You can only get a number even close by counting within-family gifts and inheritances as sales. 
How we buy guns is already quite different than it was during the early 1990s. Prior to the Brady Act going into effect on Feb. 28, 1994, half the states required background checks, but federal law only required that people sign a statement saying under threat of perjury that they did not have a criminal record or a history of mental problems. Today, federally licensed dealers check whether potential gun buyers have not committed a felony or many types of misdemeanor convictions, have not been dishonorably discharged from the military, and have not been involuntarily committed for mental illness. 
The 40 percent figure rounds up a claim that 36 percent of transfers were done without a background check, and that number came from a small, 251-person survey conducted two decades ago, from November 1991 to December 1994. That is the only study done, and most of the survey covered sales before the Brady Act instituted mandatory federal background checks, telling us nothing about background checks after the law. . . . 
Some information on Kelly's views.

MARK KELLY: I think any bill that does not include a universal background check is a mistake. It's the most common sense thing that we can do to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from having access to weapons.
I mean, the system that we have right now, we have 40 percent of all Americans who buy a gun buy it without a background check, and that's probably where most of the criminals and the mentally ill are going. I mean, we know from a poll that has been done with criminals in prison that over 80 percent of them get them through that loophole.
So, it would be a mistake not to address the thing that 92 percent of American households support and 74 percent of NRA members support, which is the universal background check. . . .
KELLY: Well, you know, we went in there, my executive director and ours, the executive of our organization, and in five minutes and 36 seconds is the time it took to fill out one piece of paper. You only have to fill out one side and for it to be submitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and get an answer. Five minutes and 36 seconds.
So, what it shows you is that it is not the burden that the NRA leadership says, what a background check is. I mean, it's a simple, common sense thing we can do to make sure the criminals and the mentally ill can't have access to firearms. . . .
WALLACE: Well, let's talk about that, because in Gabby's tragic case, the shooter, Jared Loughner, had been suspended from college because he was deemed to be a threat to himself and to others. He went to a gun store, he got a gun, passed a background check. And, yet he was able then of course to go out and shoot Gabby and 18 other people.
And, the NRA says the problem, the problem with the background check is that -- the kind of mental health information, for instance in Loughner's case, doesn't get passed on, so it doesn't get to be part of the background check. . . . 
Mark Kelly's claim about 1.7 million prohibited people being stopped from buying guns because of background checks is available here.  Kelly's op-ed in Politico, CNN, and the Houston Chronicle contains many similar claims.  Information on their trips to these states to put pressure on the Senators is available here.

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10 Obamacare Fumbles

There have been a lot of justifications offered for delaying the employer mandate.  In particular, supporters point out that it helps the administration focus on getting other parts of the program right.  But two points: 1) the administration really didn't have the right to delay implementation and 2) they have already delayed a lot of the law.  The list is from The Hill newspaper (though I have added a couple reasons that they forgot):
1. The CLASS Act - long term care act could not be implemented as written 
2. The federal insurance exchange - no budget whatsoever for the federally run exchanges 
3. The employer mandate - delayed for a year 
4. The small-business exchange - delayed for a year 
5. Waivers - HHS approved more than 1,200 waivers, let Republicans point out that the law was unworkable, and waivers given out to Obama's friends 
6. 1099 - first ObamaCare provision to be repealed, mandate compelled businesses to report nearly all transactions worth more than $600 to the IRS 
7. Child-only plans - insurers quit writing new policies just for children rather than bear the additional costs. 
8. PCIP - the pre-existing conditions program first ran into problems because people weren't joining the program.  The Obama administration dramatically lowered the insurance premiums and was able to bribe people to join the program so as not to make it look like there wasn't a need for it. 
9. The Basic Health Plan - delayed implementation until 2015 for a provision that would let states bargain directly with insurance companies to create a scaled-down plan for people who aren’t eligible for Medicaid but might not be able to afford the more expensive private plans sold through the exchanges.  Not allowing this helped guaranteed higher prices. 
10. ObamaCare for congressional staff
Note some of the collateral problems caused by these delays.  For example, as Rich Lowry notes:
it’s “full steam ahead” with the health-care exchanges this October. Never mind that determining eligibility for the exchanges depends on employers reporting their insurance offerings — reporting that now won’t happen. . . . 



Sequester painful: Obama administration cuts fireworks for Marines and won't allow it even when private company offers to do it for free

The Obama administration sure wants to make sure that these cuts hurt.  From KDKA in Pittsburgh:
Military veterans are upset after the annual Camp Lejeune fireworks show for military members and their families was cut.
What makes it even worse: A Pittsburgh area company offered to do the show for free, but the government said, thanks, but no thanks.
The military says the show meant for more than 47-thousand Marines and Sailors was cancelled due to federal cutbacks. . . .
The Zambelli Family has done the fireworks at Camp Lejeune before, and this year, after hearing they were cancelled due to federal money problems, they promised to do them for free. . . .


Can someone bring a lawsuit to force the Obama administration to actually stay on schedule for Obamacare?

From the WSJ:
. . . Which brings us to the dubious legality of this delay. The Affordable Care Act's Section 1513 states in black-letter law that "(d) Effective Date.—The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013." It does not say the Administration can impose the mandate whenever it feels it is politically convenient. 
This selective enforcement of laws has become an Administration habit. From immigration (the Dream Act by fiat) to easing welfare reform's work requirements to selective waivers for No Child Left Behind, the Obama Administration routinely suspends enforcement of or unilaterally rewrites via regulation the laws it dislikes. Now it is doing it again on health care, without any consultation from, much less the approval of, Congress. President Obama probably figures business and Republicans won't object because they don't like the law anyway. . . .
It is interesting how many reporters are saying that the Obama administration is hoping to get political benefits from pushing off the start of the mandates for companies until after the 2014 elections.

Great, it is nice to know that members of the Obama administration are willing to be so open about their political motives for delaying the damage done by Obamacare until after the next election.

ABC's Rick Klein says that the timing of this comes across as more than coincidental.  He also makes the point about the politics of this change.

Can't someone quickly bring a lawsuit to force the law to be followed.

UPDATE: Even Roll Call has this headline: "Obama Skips Past Congress Again With Health Mandate Delay."

President Barack Obama’s latest legal end run around Congress — delaying enforcement of the employer health mandate — has sparked more questions about whether he’s abusing his executive discretion under the Constitution.
The move announced late Tuesday was the latest in a string of decisions where the president, facing a divided Congress unable to get much done beyond keeping the government running, has taken matters into his own hands.
Where a previous president might have asked for a legislative fix if a mandate was proving too onerous for business, the Obama administration put out a couple of blog posts saying that, in listening to the business community, it decided not to enforce a key part of the 3-year-old health law for another year. . . .
In March, Issa complained in a Washington Examiner op-ed that the Obama administration was interpreting the health care law to provide tax credits in health exchanges even if states refused to set them up — contrary to the law’s text.
The fact that most states refused to set up their own exchanges “does not justify the administration’s effort to ignore the plain language of the law,” Issa wrote.
That dispute is currently the subject of a lawsuit filed by the state of Oklahoma. . . .
Turley cited the president’s decision not to enforce immigration laws with respect to young immigrants as a particularly egregious example — and one that was cheered by top Democrats.
“The president disagreed with Congress on immigration law. His response was to effectively negate the law.  . . .  That rocks our system to the core,” he said. . . .

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Gun control doesn't even reach the top 15 concerns for Americans

With Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly doing their gun control tour this week, it is hard to miss that they have a hard task ahead of them.  The latest Gallup survey shows that the issue of gun control no longer makes the top 15 list -- as late as April gun control was at number 9, though that was still only an important issue to 4 percent of Americans.

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Illinois Gov Quinn's amendatorily veto of the concealed carry bill to make it more restrictive, my commentary on some points

Gov. Quinn's amendatorily veto is going nowhere.  For the additional restrictions that he is proposing requires that the state legislature approve them.  I don't believe that will happen.  Here are some quick comments on Quinn's official statement:
Alcohol: HB 183 allows people to carry guns into establishments serving alcohol, including most family restaurants and other places where large amounts of alcohol are consumed. Mixing alcohol with guns is irresponsible and dangerous. Illinois must keep guns out of any establishment where alcohol is consumed.
Is there any evidence to support Quinn's claim about permit holders representing a threat when they go into "restaurants and other places where large amounts of alcohol are consumed"?  No, indeed, most of the country allows concealed handguns to be carried in places that serve alcohol.
Signage: Under the bill, loaded guns would be allowed in stores, restaurants, churches, children's entertainment venues, movie theaters and other private properties, unless the owner visibly displays a sign prohibiting guns. As a matter of property rights, the legal presumption should always be that a person is not allowed to carry a concealed, loaded gun onto private property unless given express permission.
Again, is there any evidence that posting these signs creates problems for businesses?  More specifically, where concealed handgun permitting is allowed the vast majority of restaurants allow concealed carry.  If you want to minimize the cost on businesses, it would then seem that you would want to do the opposite of what Quinn is proposing.
Employer’s Rights: As currently drafted, this bill infringes on an employer’s ability to enact policies that ensure a safe and secure work environment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shootings are the most frequent cause of workplace fatalities. To best ensure a safe work environment, employers should have the right to enact policies that prohibit employees from carrying guns in the workplace and in the course of performing employment-related duties.
This is a very weak claim.  If one is concerned about workplace shootings, who is responsible for these shootings?  Are any of these shootings by concealed handgun permit holders?  Do you really want to count armed robberies of everything from stores to taxi cab drivers as evidence that concealed handgun permits are bad?
Number of Guns and Ammunition: The bill provides no cap on the number of guns, or on the size or number of ammunition clips that may be carried. Instead, it allows individuals to legally carry multiple guns with unlimited rounds of ammunition, which is a public safety hazard. In the interest of common sense and the common good, it should be clarified so that a license will permit an individual to carry one concealed gun and one ammunition clip that can hold no more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
If you put a limit on magazine size, that will primarily effect law-abiding individuals.  People who carry will generally only have with them the one magazine that is in their gun. On the other hand, criminals such as the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooter will carry many magazines with them.  Even ignoring how easy it is to make magazines and thus the criminals will likely be able to obtain guns, this restriction will put law-abiding citizens at a disadvantage relative to criminals in terms of the number of bullets that they will have with them.
Clarification of “Concealed”: As written, the definition for "concealed firearm" includes the phrase “mostly concealed,” which would allow a licensee to walk around in public with a portion of his or her gun exposed. This is an irresponsible step towards open carry in Illinois. This insufficient provision must be clarified to ensure that when guns are carried, they are completely concealed from public view.
This just makes it more likely that people will unintentionally violate the law and face penalties.  Given at least 43 states allow open carry of handguns (if you count California as banning open carry), it seems difficult to argue that there is any benefit from this additional restriction.

Thanks to Tony Troglio for the link to Quinn's veto statement.

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Obama TSA 'cooked the books' to inflate screening costs, by more than $420,000 in one case alone

From The Hill newspaper:
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said Monday that the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has “cooked the books” to inflate its operations costs.
“It has once again been confirmed that the agency has cooked the books and inflated the cost of private screening under federal supervision as opposed to the cost of operating all federal screening,” Mica said. “TSA has done everything possible to maintain its bloated administrative bureaucracy.”
Mica’s comments were a response to a report Monday from the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general that Mica said showed that the TSA’s cost analysis for the Screening Partnership Program (SPP) is “flawed.”
Mica said the TSA incorrectly inflated the cost of private screening operations, by more than $420,000 in one case. . . .

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So much for Senator Rubio supporting immigration reform, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden would both crush him among Hispanics

I am not sure why this polling doesn't include Ted Cruz for a comparison.  It would be very interesting to see if Cruz did as well a Rubio despite his opposition to the immigration reform plan.  From Politico:
. . . The survey, by Latino Decisions, also revealed Republican candidates continue to significantly trail among Hispanic voters, with even champions of immigration reform like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush significantly behind top Democrats.That deficit could again prove significant in 2016, when the pollsters estimate that the Hispanic vote will approach 12.5 million. In 2012, exit polls suggested 71 percent of Hispanic voters broke for President Obama.
According to the survey, Clinton remains the most popular candidate among the Hispanic electorate, mirroring other recent national surveys. The former first lady is seen positively by 73 percent of likely Hispanic voters, while 17 percent have a negative view. . . .
Rubio, unsurprisingly, would begin with a major deficit in a head-to-head matchup with Clinton. According to the poll, Clinton would win Hispanic voters 66-28 percent, with 6 percent remaining undecided. Biden fares nearly as well, holding a 60-28 percent advantage over Rubio with 12 percent undecided. . . .

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More information on how Obama expanded NSA data collection

The Obama administration not only expanded the collection of data, but it also greatly expanded how long the Federal government could keep that information.  Here is one very simple (if very incomplete) measure of how the data collection has expanded over time from the Washington Post:

More information is available here on how just one change "doubled" what had already been a greatly expanded amount of information obtained by the NSA:
New reports from The Guardian show that a discontinued NSA program which collected vast amounts of foreign and domestic internet data has been replaced by more expansive programs under the Obama administration. The new surveillance capabilities, implemented by the NSA's Special Source Operations (SSO) directorate, have "doubled" the agency's data intake since being installed, according to a top secret memo obtained by The Guardian
The newest program, code name "EvilOlive," was introduced in December of 2012 and is aimed at "broadening the scope" of what the NSA can collect under its authority granted by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Like the program it replaced, EvilOlive and a second program called "ShellTrumpet" capture sensitive internet metadata — such as email logs, web browsing histories, and IP addresses, which can reveal location information — but not the content of email communications. According to the memo, ShellTrumpet "processed its one trillionth metadata record" in December 2012. The document states that "almost half" of those trillion records were processed in 2012 alone. . . . 
The NSA documents also reveal the existence of several other new programs, including a joint surveillance operation with an unnamed partner agency used to "query metadata" which was "turned on in Fall 2012." Two other programs called "MoonLightPath" and "Spinnaret" are also set to go online in September 2013. Another entry indicates that "Transient Thurible," a metadata collection effort from British partner agency GCHQ, has been "flowing into NSA repositories since 13 August 2012." . . .
Here is something from the New York Times about how long the data could be kept:
Indeed, an obscure passage in one of the Snowden documents — rules for collecting Internet data that the Obama administration wrote in secret in 2009 and that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved — suggested that the government was concerned about its ability to process all the data it was collecting. So it got the court to approve an exception allowing the government to hold on to that information if it could not keep up. The rules said that “the communications that may be retained” for up to five years “include electronic communications acquired because of the limitation on the N.S.A.’s ability to filter communications.” 
As one private expert who sometimes advises the N.S.A. on this technology put it: “This means that if you can’t desalinate all the seawater at once, you get to hold on to the ocean until you figure it out.” . . .



Even the New York Times concedes that Zimmerman's defense looks strong after the first week

The New York Times goes out of its way to blame the problems in the case on ineptness by the prosecution, but, with witnesses such as Mr. Good supporting Zimmerman's description of what happened, any prosecution would have faced a very difficult case.

. . . The defense scored a number of points during cross-examination. It showcased Mr. Zimmerman’s injuries, including a “likely” broken nose, as a physician assistant testified. The first police officer to arrive on the scene said that Mr. Zimmerman’s back and jeans were wet and that his jacket had bits of grass, suggesting he was on his back at some point. The officer also said that Mr. Zimmerman told him he had been yelling for help.

In addition, the resident with the best view of the altercation that night said the person “with lighter skin color” in red or white was being straddled on the ground by someone wearing dark colors. (Mr. Zimmerman was wearing a red jacket.) The witness further described a “ground and pound.” The person on the top, he said, was moving his arms in a downward motion (though the witness added he did not see actual punches). . . . .


CNN shows bias in discussion of the Supreme Court decision on DOMA

Remember when you read this passage that this is supposed to be a news story at CNN.
There was little doubt that later that morning, this quietly powerful justice would be having a major say in the legal, political, and social path of gay rights moving forward.  
And at precisely 10 a.m., Kennedy kicked off the public session with his eloquent majority ruling striking down a key part of a federal law that blocks a range of benefits for legally married gay and lesbian couples. . . . 
It was vintage Kennedy -- a mix of sweeping rhetoric mixed with practical legal and social considerations. . . .


Are taxes the secret weapon in the gun control debate?

In a piece earlier this year entitled "Can poor people be trusted with guns?," I wrote about how the common feature of the different gun control bills pushed this year involves their taxes and fees imposed on the purchases of guns or ammo.  Now Fox News recognizes this issue, though they miss out on many of the taxes and fees that are being imposed that I discussed in my article.

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Obama's EPA Regulatory Overreach in One Diagram

Under Obama, the EPA has disapproved state proposals at an astounding rate.   The number of regulatory disapprovals under Obama's first four years is greater than the number during the preceding 12 years combined.  Even more amazing is the number of times that the EPA has taken over state regulatory programs is eight times greater than that during the entire preceding 12 years (including four of those under Clinton).  The information was put together by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The ALEC report documents the huge costs of the EPA's intervention and shows the trivial benefits produced by it.  Because the EPA has more mandates than it can handle, the EPA has replaced state participation with that of environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club.

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