Panic Time: Rubio Edges Bush in New Florida Poll

There are worse weeks to have when announcing a presidential bid.

A new poll conducted in the Sunshine State finds that Marco Rubio has a slight (if statistically insignificant) lead over perhaps his biggest rival in the hunt for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination: Jeb Bush.

Politico reports:

Sen. Marco Rubio’s splashy presidential-campaign announcement and his subsequent media blitz has likely helped him catch up with friend and former mentor Jeb Bush in their home state of Florida, according to a new poll of 400 registered Republican voters.

Rubio garnered 31 percent support from Republicans and essentially tied Bush’s 30 percent, according to a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey conducted Tuesday through Thursday and shared exclusively with POLITICO. The other likely and announced presidential candidates polled in the single digits and 17 percent were undecided.

Rubio’s slight edge is statistically insignificant, in part, because it falls easily within the margin of error. But the poll is instructive nonetheless.

One of the greatest and most pressing concerns for Rubio before taking the plunge, I assume, was whether or not he could secure enough donors and supporters to lock up his home state—a state that he just so happens to share with establishment juggernaut Jeb Bush. If he can't win Florida, so the argument goes, he might as well sit this one out. So, of course, the skeptics urged Rubio stay in the Senate, defer to his mentor, and keep quiet presumably because Bush is unbeatable in Florida, and thus launching a presidential campaign undercutting him would inevitably go down in flames.

Ultimately, however, Rubio refused to back down.

“I've heard some suggest that I should step aside and wait my turn,” Rubio said earlier this week when announcing his presidential bid. “But I cannot. Because I believe our very identity as an exceptional nation is at stake, and I can make a difference as president.”

He has a compelling message that moves people to open their wallets—and their minds, too. Thus, as this poll seems to demonstrate, perhaps Rubio didn’t make a mistake after all giving up his Senate seat.

Perhaps—and this might be news to Team Bush and everyone else watching—the state of Florida is very much up for grabs.

Oh My: Some People Support A $50 Minimum Wage

Dan Joseph is on a mission. Who supports a $50/hour minimum wage? What better place to put forward such a bold initiative than in the free speech zone on the sanctified grounds of George Mason University in Virginia.

Now, while Joseph was able to find a few supporters, some students on campus knew that raising the minimum wage will lead to job losses and increased pricing for some goods. One man called the law racist and he’s not the only one. The late economist Milton Freidman described minimum wage laws as the most anti-African-American law on the books, as he explained in his 1966 op-ed for Newsweek:

Does a merchant increase his sales by raising prices? Does higher pay of domestic servants induce more housewives to hire help? The situation is no different for other employers. The higher wage rate decreed by Congress for low-paid workers will raise the cost of the goods that these workers produce—and must discourage sales. It will also induce employers to replace such workers with other workers—either to do the same work or to produce machinery to do the same work or to produce machinery to do the work.

Some workers who already receive wages well above the legal minimum will benefit—because they will face less competition from the unskilled. That is why many unions are strong supporters of higher minimum-wage rates. Some employers and employees in places where wages are already high will benefit because they will face less competition from businessmen who might otherwise invest capital in areas that have large pools of unskilled labor. That is why Northern manufactures and unions, particularly in New England, are the principal sources of political pressure for higher legal minimum-wage rates.

The groups that will be hurt the most are the low-paid and the unskilled.

Women, teen-agers, Negroes and particularly Negro teen-agers, will be especially hard hit. I am convinced that the minimum-wage law is the most anti-Negro law on our statute books—in its effect not its intent. It is a tragic but undoubted legacy of the past—and one we must try to correct—that on the average Negroes have lower skills than whites. Similarly, teen-agers are less skilled than older workers. Both Negroes and teen-agers are only made worse off by discouraging employers from hiring them. On the-job training—the main route whereby the unskilled have become skilled—is thus denied them.

The shockingly high rate of unemployment among teen-age Negro boys is largely a result of the present Federal minimum-wage rate. And unemployment will be boosted still higher by the rise just enacted. Before 1956, unemployment among Negro boys aged 14 to 19 was around 8 to 11 per cent, about the same as among white boys. Within two years after the legal minimum was raised from 75 cents to $1 an hour in 1956, unemployment among Negro boys shot up to 24 per cent and among white boys to 14 per cent.

Nevertheless, Joseph was able to receive more signatures than any other video in which he tried to get folks to support insanely liberal policy initiatives.

Rubio Running

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

Dennis Prager on Hillary Announcement. Michael Medved on Hillary announcing. Hugh Hewitt with Carly Fiorina on Hillary running. Bill Bennett with Steve Hayes on Rubio running. Hugh Hewitt with presidential candidate, Marco Rubio. Bill Bennett and Pete Wehner on social issues. Prager on Iran. Hewitt with John Bolton on Iran as it relates to Obama and Hillary. Prager on the Pope's climate change agenda.

Feel Good Video Of The Day: Stranger Saves Man In Metro

Let’s take a few moments to appreciate this wonderful act of courage and kindness. Weasel Zippers caught the video:

Have a nice weekend, everyone.

Friday Filibuster: The Battle for the White House Is On

The Friday Filibuster: The one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about this week in politics.

Closing Numbers

83% of Americans say Hillary being a woman "doesn't matter much" in getting their vote for president

20% of Millennials describe themselves as Libertarian

13.6% of likely voters in South Carolina would choose Gov. Scott Walker over all other GOP candidates for president.

70,000—the number of pages in the federal tax code

2- the number of years it’s been since the Boston Marathon Bombings

19—the number of senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who voted unanimously to approve legislation requiring President Obama to send a nuclear deal with Iran to Congress for review

6—the number of months Cuba hasn’t been involved in sponsoring terrorism, thus making it OK by Obama to take the country off the list

70,000—the amount of money MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry owes the IRS

300,000—the number of jobs the EPA could put on the chopping block

57% of Americans say Hillary Clinton will be the 45th president

72% of Democrats and Independents want to see a serious challenger on the left side of the aisle against Hillary

40% of congressional Democrats have already endorsed Hillary Clinton 

On the Left

Hillary Clinton officially jumped in the race on Sunday and it’s been an endless display of campaign fodder ever since, from the Scooby van, which she had in 2000 for her Senate race, to reporters desperately chasing said van,  to her already lying about her grandparents being immigrants, and tipping off the press about her "spontaneous" Chipotle visit. But as Guy points out in his analysis of her entrance into the race, she’s a vulnerable frontrunner. DNC members can’t name a single one of her accomplishments, the Clinton Foundation will continue receiving donations from foreign governments, and she still doesn't even have her positions on significant issues up yet and Not that it will matter, but former Rhode Island governor/former Senator/former Republican/former Independent Lincoln Chafee may also be running for the Democratic nomination.

On the Right

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio officially jumped in the race this week, and already took some shots at Hillary’s campaign launch; Ted Cruz joined in, saying Hillary Clinton is really no different than President Obama. Potential GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina noted that the presidency isn’t about gender, it’s about track records—we’ll see how that plays out in the coming months, however. Ben Carson will make a presidential announcement on May 4, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie proposed significant changes to major entitlement programs, perhaps a political Hail Mary? Unsurprisingly, Democrats are not pleased with the GOP crop of presidential candidates; Sen. Harry Reid thinks they’re all “losers” and DWS appears concerned that Rand Paul will “let women die.” 

The Bookshelf 

Ann Coulter has released the cover and title of her new book this week, which attacks "the immigration issue head-on." Editor of the Conservative Book Club sat down with Salem radio host Hugh Hewitt to talk about his new book "The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code." And Cortney O'Brien caught up with Christy Beam, author of the new book, "Miracles From Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing,” to talk about her daughter's miraculous healing after falling 30 feet inside a hollow tree. 


Reality Check: Yes, Hillary Will Be the Democratic Nominee

Bloomberg's Mark Halperin says Hillary Clinton is "terrified of the Left," which may be partially true. She lost to an upstart Barack Obama who ran to her left in 2008, and the Democratic Party has taken a distinct lurch in that direction ever since. The Clintons are masters of triangulation and appealing to the center, but angering and alienating the lefty base is the only way Hillary could possibly imperil her clear path to the nomination:

This 'base' fear helps explain Hillary's decision to channel Elizabeth Warren in Iowa (coughcoughloud cough), and her brand new position on gay marriage.  Pandering and posturing aside, though, this is a woman who will be her party's nominee, barring an unforeseen political earthquake.  When I said that Hillary's announcement marked the "simultaneous commencement and conclusion" of the Democratic race, that wasn't just snark. She dwarfs the expected (or even potential) field in name recognition, she's unleashing a breathtaking fundraising juggernaut, and her polling lead over other potential candidates (including Joe Biden and Warren, neither of whom are likely to run) is nearly 50 percentage points.  Five-zero.  Team Hillary is so confident that they've reportedly discussed not participating in any primary debates, have begun considering running mates, and park in handicapped spaces with impunity.  Noah Rothman notes that even those Democrats who've dared to challenge Hillary are pulling punches and going nowhere.  I discussed the Hillary coronation on Fox News this afternoon:

Bonus content -- Here's my segment from yesterday, responding to Harry Reid's latest smear job:

Regardless of what happens in the 2016 elections, Harry Reid will no longer sit in the United States Senate when the dust settles.  Since it's almost the weekend, I'll raise a glass to that.

Beretta to Tim McGraw Last Year: No You Can't Use Our Name For Your Movie Character

Country music singer and actor Tim McGraw, who is currently on his "Shotgun Rider" tour, is in hot water and being slammed as a hypocrite this week for headlining an upcoming concert for Sandy Hook Promise, a gun control advocacy group. McGraw is defending his decision to participate but fellow singer Bill Currington, who was scheduled to appear with McGraw at the event, has dropped out.

According to emails sent in 2014 between McGraw's talent representation and firearms company Beretta, an entertainment company working with the singer wanted to use the Beretta name for a character in one of McGraw's upcoming movies.

"Superstar country western singer-actor Tim McGraw's agent Brian Loucks at Creative Artists Agency is working with us to get our action picture set in Macao China in production this November. Tim will portray a former secret agent who teams with his long lost twin who we'd like to name BERETTA," an email to Beretta from Harlequin Entertainment states. "We have several private Chinese investors along with an American real estate developer who are prepared to fund the picture. We have the greatest respect for the Beretta name and company (and) are thrilled to see it move to another state that recognizes and validates the Constitution. The screenplay has been vetted by top agents at International Creative Management and Creative Artists Agency (#1 in the film industry). It is available in PDF format via the internet and it would be a great honor if you will read it before making any decision. This picture could launch Tim as an American James Bond."

Beretta declined the request.

"After careful consideration," an email from Beretta states. "We have decided not to authorize use of our name for this movie."

A Student Wanted A Conversation On Religious Freedom; She Got A Petition Against Her Instead

Nothing says tolerance than being called the C-word for supporting religious freedom, or having a student-led petition started to have your banner removed at your respective school. That’s exactly what happened to Lindsey Kolb, a senior student at Missouri State University in Springfield, after she voiced her opinions in support of religious freedom a few weeks ago. At the time, the city was debating whether to add sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) to its nondiscrimination statutes.  Some, like Lindsey, felt the religious exemption wasn't specific enough.

Yet, before we get into the liberal intolerance that was thrown at Kolb, let’s discuss a little more about the law’s aspects.

As the Springfield News-Leader reported, anyone found guilty of violating the ordinance would be served with a 180-day jail sentence and a $1,000 fine, though the city’s attorney said virtually all of these infractions would only result in a financial penalty. As for existing law, local columnists have come to the same scenario in question: bathrooms:

One thing that does change is that a business owner would not be able to preemptively kick someone out because the owner believes that person is a threat. As it stands now, if a business owner believes a person is in the "wrong" bathroom, the owner would have the right to tell the person to leave the business. With sexual orientation and gender identity protections in place, the person who is asked to leave would have the recourse to file a complaint with the Mayor's Commission on Human Rights.

As for the religious exemption [emphasis mine]:

One ordinance suggested by the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Task Force included a broad religious exemption. Basically, any business owner could deny service if he or she did so on religious terms. However, the version of the ordinance the city adopted only exempts strictly religious organizations.

For example, a church can deny employment to whomever it chooses, for any reason. A religious person, who owns a call center, shoe store, or any other such business, cannot.

And therein lies the controversy; a private business owner who is deeply religious would be forced to go against his own faith and beliefs. It’s the baker and the gay wedding cake scenario.

Kolb wrote an op-ed in the Standard on March 31, one week before the scheduled vote on the bill–in response to a satire piece that mocked Christians. Yet, it’s her final paragraph that struck at heart of the battles now raging over religious freedom laws:

My last point is to call for the entire community to engage in civil discourse regarding this topic. I ask you to consider both sides, read the bill, talk to your friends, talk to your family, do some research and come up with your own decision concerning your vote. Last week in The Standard, the attempt at making an argument for one side attempted to cease the conversation by using name-calling, making light of valuable political conversation and attacking one community with hopes that it will relieve tension on another community. This is not only unprofessional, unproductive and immature, but it is not held to the standards that our university has poured into our lives. Missouri State University is dedicated both to public affairs and creating educated persons. Let’s start having conversations now about important issues rather than turning to insulting tactics.

On April 7, the ordinance failed by a narrow margin.* Nevertheless, the “Get Kolb” campaign was up and running.

Kolb said that the vitriol aimed at her included people telling her that she should commit suicide, along with other attacks laced with profanity and misogynist language.

Kolb is former president of MSU's College Republicans chapter and the State Chairwoman for the Missouri Federation of College Republicans, as well as a university ambassador, which explains one petition urging the school to remove her banner hanging on Carrington Hall–the main administrative building on campus.

From the petition's description on, it says it doesn’t aim to make Kolb a “scapegoat,” though it also says its impetus was grounded in “the things Lindsey has said in the past.” It’s an ideological mess [emphasis mine]:

My goal here is not to make Lindsey a scapegoat for the way the vote turned out yesterday [April 7] or attack her religious rights or right to free speech. The goal is to create dialogue that induces change here on campus and in our city. Yes, last night's vote was disappointing, but the petition was not made because of the way things turned out, it was made because of the things Lindsey has said in the past that include the comments she made last night. I respect Lindsey's right to say what she believes just as much as I ask anyone to respect my right to voice my opinion, however when one is the representative for something larger than themselves, it is important that their opinions and values align with those of the entity they represent. Missouri State claims to value its Public Affairs mission pillars of Ethical Leadership, Cultural Competence, and Community Engagement and each year chooses one pillar to highlight. This year, the chosen pillar is Ethical Leadership. In GEP classes, students are assigned projects to define and identify ethical leaders in our world. At SOAR, new students do group activities that represent our Public Affairs mission and one that I specifically remember is the one in regards to Ethical Leadership. My SOAR [Student Orientation, Advisement and Registration] group found that an ethical leader is one who has their own set of values but can recognize when the greater good requires them to set those values aside.

Whenever Lindsey was approached in 2013 to be on the banner on Missouri State's most recognizable building, she agreed. Through that agreement she also vowed to live our Public Affairs mission and be culturally competent, engage in her community, and be an ethical leader. For Missouri State to continue to endorse her discriminatory views is effectively showing that they do not in fact value ethical leadership. The goal of the petition is not to attack free speech or victimize Lindsey. The goal is to show that there are consequences to one's speech whenever it is inflammatory and supports discrimination against those who the speaker represents.

Lindsey is not to blame for the loss for the LGBT+ community last night, but signing the petition can help change our campus and our city for the better.

This classic American progressivism; we support free speech, just our version of free speech. At least they note that Kolb isn’t to blame for the failure of the ordinance since she has zero skin in the political game in Springfield.

“Personally, I don’t vote in Springfield. I vote in my home district. I advocated for the repeal because I believe in religious freedom. I believe that churches, businesses, and organizations, and people with religious convictions should be able to decide whom they serve,” she said.

Well, she’s in the majority. Overall, while Americans generally support gay marriage rights, a AP/GFK poll found that 57 percent think that a wedding-related business should be allowed to refuse service to a gay couple if it violates their religious beliefs.

In a poll conducted by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research on behalf of the Family Research Council, they found 81 percent of Americans believed government “should leave people free to follow their beliefs about marriage as they live their daily lives at work and in the way they run their businesses.”

Now, the poll’s sample was 800 registered voters. For a more accurate count, a polling sample of at least 1,000 would have been required, but it clearly shows–as does the AP/GFK poll– that Americans think there are certain things government should stay out of regarding how a business conducts itself.

A discussion of these results should happen,though it seems that can't happen without petitions being drafted or insults being hurled.

This is another example of Americans having lost the ability to have a conversation, which is ironically what Kolb was encouraging in her March 31 op-ed. Freedom of speech is a tough principle to honor; it forces you to tolerate opinions that one might find utterly repugnant. If there’s anything worth watching in The American President, it’s actor Michael Douglas nailing that concept.

Luckily, school administrators told Kolb that the banner would not be taken down, and admired her demeanor throughout this whole ordeal. Another petition was started in support of Lindsey as well. Missouri State University President also issued this statement earlier this month, noting that the public affairs mission isn’t a “weapon” to be used against those with contrarian opinions:

Missouri State’s public affairs mission is not a weapon to be wielded when we work or study with those who have different ideas, beliefs or values than our own. In the same way that discrimination will not be permitted at Missouri State, we will also not permit retaliation based on someone’s political or religious beliefs or advocacy efforts on this or any other political issue. Missouri State is committed to maintaining an environment that encourages people to speak openly. We do not behave as ethical leaders when we seek to stifle free expression or punish those who advocate for particular viewpoints. The free exchange of ideas, so long as it occurs civilly, adds to the diversity and depth of the Missouri State experience. That is true whether those ideas are very conservative, very liberal or anywhere in between.

Nevertheless, the #KeepLindseyOffCarrington hashtag and other insances of cyber-bullying have taken a toll on her. “I feel bullied because of this,” Kolb said to the Standard. “The people who started this petition did not personally know me (or) my convictions and completely took my beliefs out of context.”

At least Kolb has found allies in the administration.  Here's MSU's Dean of Students:

*Question 1 is the citywide ordinance.

Correction: It was originally reported that Kolb was the president of MSU's College Republicans and Vice Chair of the Missouri Federation of College Republicans. She's no longer vice chair of the Missouri Federation of College Republicans; she's now the chairwoman. And the election to select a new president for MSU's College Republicans chapter was held three weeks ago.  The post has been updated to reflect the changes.  

Grassley to Holder: Why Is The VA Putting So Many Veterans on Your Federal Gun Ban List?

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing deep concerns over Veterans Affairs evaluations classifying veterans as "mentally defective" and banning them in the federal background check system from purchasing or owning a firearm. 

According to Grassley's office, the VA "reports individuals to the gun ban list if an individual merely needs financial assistance managing VA benefits," keeping them from exercising their Second Amendment rights. (Bolding is mine)

"The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is effectively a national gun ban list and placement on the list precludes the ownership and possession of firearms. According to the Congressional Research Service, as of June 1, 2012, 99.3% of all names reported to the NICS list’s "mental defective” category were provided by the Veterans Administration (VA) even though reporting requirements apply to all federal agencies. And that percentage remained virtually unchanged as of April 2013. Given the numbers, it is essential to ensure that the process by which the VA reports names to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for placement on the NICS list recognizes and protects the fundamental nature of veterans’ rights under the Second Amendment," Grassley wrote in the letter. "Specifically, once the VA determines that a veteran requires a fiduciary to administer benefit payments, the VA reports that veteran to the gun ban list, consequently denying his or her right to possess and own firearms. In the past, the VA has attempted to justify its actions by relying on a single federal regulation, 38 C.F.R. § 3.353, which by its plain language grants limited authority to determine incompetence, but only in the context of financial matters: 'Ratings agencies have sole authority to make official determinations of competency and incompetency for purposes of: insurance and…disbursement of benefits.'"

The VA is placing veterans on the gun ban list without proper legal backing and is certainly engaged in over reach through this practice. 

On top of serious concerns about the infringement of Second Amendment rights, Grassley is raising questions about the lack of due process for veterans classified as "mentally defective," and therefore unfit to purchase a firearm, who simply need help managing VA benefits.

"The VA’s regulation appears to omit important findings and never reaches the question of whether a veteran is a danger to himself, herself, or others. Thus, a VA determination that a veteran is “incompetent” to manage finances is insufficient to conclude that the veteran is “mentally defective” under the ATF’s standard that is codified in federal law," Grassley continued. "Furthermore, when a veteran receives a letter stating that the VA believes he is unable to manage his finances, that veteran now has the burden of proving that he is in fact competent to manage his benefit payments and does not need a fiduciary. However, underlying the hearing is a real possibility that the right to firearms will be infringed. Therefore, in light of the liberty and property interests involved, placing the burden of proof on the veteran is highly suspect. Under similar circumstances, the burden is generally on the government. Further, the hearing that takes place is inside the VA administrative system and composed of VA employees rather than a neutral decision maker. Under the current practice, a VA finding that concludes that a veteran requires a fiduciary to administer benefit payments effectively voids his Second Amendment rights—a consequence which is wholly unrelated to and unsupported by the record developed in the VA process. Accordingly, Congress needs to understand what justifies taking such action without more due process protections for the veteran."

Grassley has asked Holder to respond to the following questions by April 30, 2015: 

1. Is the primary purpose of the NICS list to preclude firearm ownership and possession by individuals who are a danger to themselves and/or others? If not, what is the primary purpose of the NICS list?

2. Is the primary purpose of the VA’s reporting system to report the names of individuals who are appointed a fiduciary?

3. Out of all names on the NICS list, what percentage of them have been referred by the VA?

4. Do you believe that a veteran adjudicated as incompetent to manage finances and appointed a fiduciary is likewise mentally defective under the ATF standard? If so, what is the basis for that conclusion?

5. Does the standard employed by the VA to report names to the DOJ for subsequent placement on the NICS list comply with the protections of the Second Amendment? If so, please explain how, in light of due process concerns described above.

6. Given that the VA adjudication process can result in a complete infringement of a person’s fundamental Second Amendment right, do you believe that the use of the “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard is proper? If so, why?

7. Is the DOJ satisfied that all names reported from the VA for placement on the NICS are, in fact and in law, persons who should not own or possess a firearm because they are dangers to themselves and/or others? If so, what evidence supports that conclusion?

8. Given that 99.3% of all names in the NICS “mental defective” category are reported from the VA, has the DOJ reviewed the VA’s reporting standards and procedure? If so, please provide a copy of the review that took place. If no review took place, please explain why not.

9. What review process does DOJ have in place to ensure that names are properly on the NICS list

10. How many individuals have appealed their placement on the NICS list? How many individuals were successful in their appeal?

11. In light of the fact that the Supreme Court has held the Second Amendment to be a fundamental right, has the DOJ changed any processes and procedures relating to the NICS system which were in existence prior to that holding?

12. Besides the VA, what other federal agencies have reported names to the NICS list since 2005? And how many names were reported by each agency since 2005?

Anti-Semitic Violence Has Risen 40 Percent

Since last year, anti-Semitic violence has risen by 40, mostly in Europe. Some of the countries that saw a surge in anti-Jewish violence were the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Sweden. Yet, France turned out to be the worst offender, prompting many French Jews to consider their futures (via USA Today):

The number of violent anti-Semitic attacks around the world surged nearly 40% last year, according to a report released Wednesday by researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

The report found there were 766 recorded incidents against Jewish people in 2014 — the worst year for attacks since 2009. It was released ahead of Israel commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins Wednesday at sundown.

The attacks were "perpetrated with or without weapons and by arson, vandalism or direct threats against Jewish persons or institutions such as synagogues, community centers, schools, cemeteries and monuments as well as private property," the authors of the report, based at the Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University, said. In 2013, there were 554 registered incidents.

"The overall feeling among many Jewish people is one of living in an intensifying anti-Jewish environment that has become not only insulting and threatening, but outright dangerous, and that they are facing an explosion of hatred towards them as individuals, their communities, and Israel, as a Jewish state," the study said.

There was a sharp rise in the number of incidents seen in the United Kingdom (141 in 2014 compared to 95 in 2013); Australia (30 vs. 11); Germany (76 vs. 36); Austria (9 vs. 4); Italy (23 vs. 12); and Sweden (17 vs. 3).

However, the highest number of violent cases recorded in 2014 was in France, which saw 164 incidences compared to 141 in 2013.

In the wake of the Danish shootings in Copenhagen–one of which involved a synagogue–Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged mass Jewish immigration to Israel. A declaration that was met with criticism from European and Jewish leaders. Regardless, the world’s oldest prejudice hasn’t gone away. In fact, it seems to have intensified. It’s a disturbing and sad statistic.

Shocker: Gwyneth Paltrow Failed the Food Stamp Challenge

In a move that should surprise nobody, actress Gwyneth Paltrow has failed the #FoodBankNYCChallenge just after the halfway mark. The challenge, posed to her by celebrity chef Mario Batali, was to live on a $29 food budget for one week. Before the week began, Paltrow tweeted her $29 grocery haul, which included, among other things, seven limes.

Paltrow was criticized by many on both the left and the right (including yours truly) for her laughably poor meal-planning and budgeting skills. (Seriously, SEVEN limes?! WHO NEEDS SEVEN LIMES?!)

The limes are perhaps the best example of how hilariously out-of-touch Paltrow is with grocery shopping and budgeting. Given that the black beans are from Safeway, and Safeway is currently selling limes at $0.60/each, Paltrow spent $4.20, or nearly 14 percent of her food budget for the week(!) on limes. Limes are not filling, given that they're mostly used to just flavor food. A seven ounce bottle of lime juice, which does the same essential function as seven limes, is sold at Safeway for $1.70. She could have spent the nearly three-dollar savings on something more filling, like oh, I don't know, nearly two pounds of chicken drumsticks, thighs, or quarters, which are sold for $1.69 per pound. Or, if Paltrow were willing to skip the limes entirely, she could have purchased two and a half pounds of chicken, which would have been good for at least six meals.

Paltrow grew up wealthy, and has likely never had to budget or scrimp in order to eat for a week. It makes sense, and I'm not going to fault her for having a privileged background. It is, however, rather ridiculous for her to attempt to score political points by exposing how out-of-touch she is to not only the struggle of people enrolled in SNAP, but also the lives of everyday Americans living above the poverty line.

"Probably Yes": Alan Grayson Likely To Run For Rubio's Seat

Rep. Alan Grayson – the fiery leftist from the great state of Florida – is likely to run for Senate in 2016, he said in a recent interview:

Outspoken U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson will “probably yes” run for U.S. Senate in 2016, leading to an ideological primary battle against the announced candidate Patrick Murphy, a more centrist Democrat.

Grayson, an Orlando Democrat popular in liberal circles, made the comment during an online Democracy Now! video.

A number of factors have ostensibly come together for the progressive firebrand. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz isn’t running for the seat (an apparent precondition for him actually getting into the race) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) isn’t running for re-election (which of course greatly improves his electoral prospects). The seat is now open.

But as I noted a few months back, when Grayson first expressed interest in making the jump from the lower to the upper chamber, the outspoken Democrat is (how to put this?) strikingly uncharitable to his political opponents and purposefully offensive. As far as I know his strange legal woes haven’t entirely gone away, either. So can he really hope to launch a viable, statewide campaign with his ugly past statements (and indeed bigamy court proceedings) hanging over his head? That might be a bit of a problem.

Best of luck, Congressman.

Jeb Bush Tells Congress to Approve Obama Amnesty Supporter Loretta Lynch For Attorney General

Potential GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush is calling on Congress to confirm attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, whose confirmation hearings took place in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January. In February, Lynch was voted out of the committee and approved 12-8. Due to the legislative schedule and fighting over bills already in motion, a full Senate vote on her confirmation has not yet taken place. More from POLITICO

“I think presidents have the right to pick their team,” Bush said, according to reports of his stop at the “Politics and Pie” forum in Concord, New Hampshire, on Thursday night.

A Senate fight over a sex-trafficking bill that includes a controversial abortion provision has held up Lynch’s nomination for 160 days since Obama announced his choice last Nov. 8, but Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is threatening to break protocol and force a vote on the Senate floor.

If someone is supportive of the president’s policies, whether you agree with them or not, there should be some deference to the executive,” Bush told reporters. “It should not always be partisan.”

The attorney general isn't supposed to be "supportive of the president's policies." The attorney general is supposed to advise the president on constitutional matters and is responsible for ensuring the balance between the executive and legislative branches in maintained.

During her confirmation hearings, Lynch expressed support for President Obama's executive amnesty and argued that anybody who is inside the United States, regardless of how they got here or what their legal status is, has a right to work. 

"I think the right and obligation to work is one that is shared by everyone in this country regardless of how they came here and certainly if someone is here, regardless of status, I would prefer that they be participating in the work place than not be participating," Lynch said.

I'll leave you with this:

Finally: Congress is Trying to Abolish The Death Tax

They say there are two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. If you're a Democrat, you can add death taxes to that list. 

The death tax, which was being phased out by President Bush from 2001-2008 but revived by the Obama administration in 2009, currently sits at 40 percent. More background from Heritage

Estate tax (death tax) repeal. The Bush tax cuts phased out the death tax. It was supposed to be completely eliminated after 2009. However, after being dormant for one year in 2009, the 2010 deal between President Obama and Congress brought it back to life at 35 percent with a $5 million exemption. The fiscal cliff deal kept the exemption at $5 million (indexed for inflation) and increased the rate from 35 percent to 40 percent.
Now, Congress is acting to eliminate the death tax altogether. Yesterday the House passed legislation

to do so.

The House has passed a bill that would repeal the federal tax on estates.

Republicans call it the "death tax." They say it prevents small business owners from passing businesses on to their heirs. Democrats say repealing the tax is a giveaway to the rich.

The vote was 240-179.

Republican Senator John Thune and Congressman Bill Flores explained the legislation earlier this week in an op-ed for USA Today

Thankfully, the federal policy that combines the two by taxing estates when a loved one passes away is close to extinction. Enacted nearly 100 years ago, the death tax places a significant burden on families that want to achieve the American dream — securing a better future for their children — by passing down a small business or a family farm from one generation to the next. The policy is also widely unpopular, with nearly 70% of Americans saying they want to see it repealed permanently.

Repealing the death tax restores fairness for American families, and is a step toward a 21st century, pro-growth tax code. Now, with support growing in both the House and Senate, Congress has the opportunity to do just that.

Proponents of the death tax often argue that it only impacts the wealthiest Americans, but this is simply not true. In practice, the death tax hits hardest those families that run small businesses or operate farms, with devastating results. A 2012 report from the Republican staff of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) called the death tax "an overwhelming cause of the dissolution of family businesses" and "a significant hindrance to entrepreneurial activity." This is because families that have spent a lifetime working hard — and paying taxes — to build a successful business may lack the liquid assets to meet the federal government's steep death tax rate. The only way to satisfy the Internal Revenue Service is to break up the business or parcel off the family farm to pay the tax liability. The federal government should not be punishing families for their hard work. Instead, we should promote strong family businesses that contribute to our vibrant economy and withstand the test of time.

Ironically, by discouraging investment, the death tax hurts the U.S. economy and, according to some studies, actually decreases long-term tax revenue.

The White House is slamming the legislation and claiming it gives a break to the "wealthiest Americans," when in reality it gives a break to any American receiving an inheritance over a certain threshold, in particular farms and businesses, that have already been taxed multiple times. President Obama has threatened a veto.

ICYMI: North Korea Grants Permission For Feminist Border Crossing Event Since They've Remained Quiet On Human Rights Abuses

Earlier this month, North Korea gave Gloria Steinem the green light to accomplish absolutely nothing regarding ending the war on the Korean peninsula. Steinem­–and 29 other women–will maneuver their way through the world’s most fortified border in the world, minefields and all, in the hope that their journey will begin discussions on reunification. Yeah, wake me when that happens (via the Hill):

The Associated Press reported that Steinem plans to lead an all-female march called Women Cross DMZ. Organizers now hope South Korea will also approve the journey, tentatively scheduled for May 24.

“I wish I knew how the ultimate decision was made, but at this point I’m just relieved that at least we have Pyongyang’s cooperation and support,” co-organizer Christine Ahn told AP in an email.

Ahn said the walk aims at encouraging reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The landmass has remained divided since the Korean War ended in 1953.

Women Cross DMZ is hoping that Steinem and 29 other women will successfully traverse the world’s most fortified border. Should they pass over the 38th parallel, they will navigate around deadly minefields and hundreds of thousands of tense soldiers.

South Korea is still weighing whether or not to assist the group’s efforts. A similar request to the United Nation’s presence on the Korean Peninsula is also pending.

Two Nobel Peace Prize winners will join Steinem should the walk gain approval.

The first, Mairead Maguire, won her award in 1976 for founding the Northern Ireland peace movement.

The second, Leymah Gbowee, received her prize in 2011 for working to end Liberia’s civil strife.

Reunification is a tricky business. First, it could be incredibly expensive, and South Korea’s more fiscally conservative younger population doesn’t seem too enthused with this massive rebuilding project. Support for reunification has declined over the years. And information critical to any rebuilding/reunification effort remains scarce. North Korea is one of the largest prisons in the world.

Yet, Lizzie Crocker of the Daily Beast wondered if this cadre of women were just propaganda fodder for North Korea, noting that their goals seem to avoid addressing the brutal human rights abuses that have been reported in the North, especially its treatment of women:

[T]hey are calling on the UN to broker a peace treaty between the North and South, and asking the U.S. to lift sanctions against the North.

The group plans to hold symposiums in Pyongyang and Seoul where they will “listen to Korean women and share our experiences and ideas of mobilizing women to bring an end to violent conflict,” according to its website [Women Cross DMZ].

One might expect that Steinem, one of the most vocal feminist advocates in the ‘70s, would call out the regime’s brutal treatment of women.

But so far, her statements about the planned peace walk have been decidedly anodyne. “It’s hard to imagine any more physical symbol of the insanity of dividing human beings,” she said at a press conference last month announcing the walk.

Crocker also noted the plausible pro-North Korean sentiments exhibited from co-organizer Christine Ahn:

She did, however, dismiss charges that she is “pro-North Korea” in an interview with CNN earlier this week. “Basically that is a Cold War mentality, and that kind of framework is what has enabled Korea to remain divided. I am pro-peace. I am pro-engagement. I am pro-dialogue. I am pro-human rights,” she said.

Yet Ahn has long been uncritical of North Korea, a country that has some committed some of the worst human rights abuses on record.

In a 2003 op-ed, “Peace,” Ahn criticized U.S. military intervention in North Korea and slammed then-President George W. Bush’s depiction of North Korean founder Kim Jong Il as “an evil dictator forsaking malnourished children to stockpile nuclear weapons.”

She continued: “But is Kim Jong Il really starving his people or his the fact that the U.S. still technically at war with North Korea driving the persistence of famine?” War and [U.S.] sanctions between the two countries are “the real culprits driving hunger in North Korea,” she wrote.

[T]he UN estimates that the Kim regime squandered billions of dollars during the height of the great famine in the ‘90s, Ahn has never acknowledged the regime’s responsibility.

Yeah, there’s nothing really much to say about this other than it’s a colossal waste of time.  

Honorable Mention*: Code Pink's Medea Benjamin will be there

*I kid ... I kid of course.

IRS Files Tax Lien Against MSNBC Host

Earlier this month the IRS placed a $70,000 tax lien against MSNBC host Melissa Harris Perry, who is perhaps best known for wearing tampon earrings and mocking Mitt Romney’s black grandchild. The lien seems to have come as a surprise to Harris-Perry, who once tweeted that she would pay her taxes “with a smile.”


MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and her husband, James Perry, owe about $70,000 in delinquent taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, the Winston-Salem Journal reported Thursday.

The IRS filed a tax lien on the Perrys on April 6 for the outstanding debt, which is from 2013. In an email to the Winston-Salem Journal, Harris-Perry said she was unaware of the tax lien but knew about the debt and that she and her husband had paid $21,721 toward the total owed. She said personal crises had caused them to pay off the debt slower than expected.

“We were aware that we would continue to need to work to pay off the 2013 debt,” Harris-Perry wrote in the email.

Harris-Perry hosts MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry" show on weekend mornings and is also presidential chair at Wake Forest University, where she attended college.

Harris-Perry is now the second MSNBC anchor to be caught not paying their fair share. Al Sharpton also reportedly owes more than $3 million, according to The New York Times.

EPA Could Put Nearly 300,000 Jobs On The Chopping Block

Combating climate change has been a priority of the Obama administration, and there’s a new regulation to be released this summer that outlines significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It aims to cut them by nearly 30 percent between 2025-2030. Based on the calculations by American Action Forum (AAF), this new regulation would force one-fifth of coal plants to close at an initial cost of 80,000 jobs. Yet, AAF also noted "secondary employment impacts," which could soar to nearly 300,000 jobs lost, which is roughly the population if Cincinnati:

Buried in one of EPA’s technical support documents, among more than 1,600 other supporting documents for the proposed rule, the administration detailed the economic implications of complying with building blocks one (heat rate improvements at coal plants) and two (increased natural gas dispatch rates and decreased coal usage).

AAF used the 49 GW figure [the estimated amount of power lost with this new regulation] and EPA’s eGRID data to find the least efficient affected power plants, as measured by heat rate and pounds of CO2 emitted per megawatt hour (CO2/MWh). Anticipating that the least efficient coal facilities are most at risk for closure, AAF identified the 93 least efficient power plants that produced about 50 GW of power.

PA predicts that if states adopt only options one and two of the administration’s plan for power plants, 80,000 energy industry jobs will be lost to EPA climate regulations.

For perspective, 80,000 jobs is larger than the population of Napa, CA. But this is only the first part of the story. EPA never quantifies the secondary employment effects of these lost jobs. A 2009 PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that one energy job supports 3.7 additional jobs. Using a jobs multiplier of 3.7, applied to the 80,000 lost jobs that EPA concedes, yields about 296,000 lost jobs across the U.S.

To put the figure of 296,000 lost jobs in context, the average annual pay in the “fossil fuel electric power generation” industry is $103,645 and the average coal mining salary is $82,068. This means that by 2030, the economy could lose $27.7 billion in wages, larger than the GDP of Jamaica. However, nowhere in EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) do they monetize the loss of these jobs or wages.

The spread of the job loss won’t be equal either. Virginia could potentially see over 7,000 jobs lost due to this new regulation.

“While coal extraction in the Appalachian Basin is far more labor-intensive than coal extraction in the western U.S., western states account for a greater percentage of coal generation. The result is job losses distributed across centers of production,” according to AAF.

So far, West Virginia and Texas have shouldered the bulk of the job losses from existing EPA regulations on power plants. The facts, figures, and costs can also be found on their Regulation Rodeo portion of their site. Since 2008, the total number of new finalized regulations is 2,597, the cost amounts to $733 billion dollars, and that adds up to 500,787,395 in paperwork hours. You can go through a line-by-line account of the red tape coming out of Washington.

As I've written previously, we’ve experienced the calmest Hurricane season in 30 years, the quietest tornado season in 60 years; the creation of 19,000 Manhattan islands worth of sea ice, and the Arctic Ice Cap has grown by 533,000 square miles. In 2007, the BBC warned the cap could vanish by 2013. Oh, and we’re at the most industrialized point in human history–and air quality couldn’t be better, according to the EPA. It’s hard to justify the potential cannibalization of nearly 300,000 jobs with such figures.

Oh, and Americans really don’t care about climate change; they care about jobs and the economy.

As for the EPA, well, they seem to be wasting taxpayer funds on research equipment that they haven't used in years (via Citizens Against Government Waste):

A March 16, 2015 EPA Inspector General (IG) report found that $2.95 million of sampled EPA research equipment went unused for two to 14 years in the Office of Research and Development (ORD). The IG reviewed “capital equipment,” defined as a piece that costs more than $75,000, at three of ORD’s 14 research facilities nationwide.

The IG “determined the date the equipment was last utilized,” and found that 30 of the 99 pieces of capital equipment reviewed, or 30 percent, hadn’t been utilized for between two and 14 years. The report provided a harsh assessment of the agency’s cost-controls, concluding, “The EPA does not manage its scientific equipment as a business unit or enterprise. ORD managers and staff are not aware of federal property management requirements.” This latest review followed previous reports from the IG, the Government Accountability Office, and the National Academy of Sciences on unused EPA equipment since 2011.

So Lincoln Chafee is Running for President, Maybe

Former Rhode Island Governor/U.S. Senator/Republican/Independent Lincoln Chafee announced (sort of) earlier today on CNN that he will be running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. Last week, he announced that he had formed an exploratory committee. Chafee was a Senator from 1999 to 2007 (as a Republican) and was governor of Rhode Island from 2011 to 2015.

Despite Chafee's claims of "I'm running," his spokesperson disputes this.

"Yes, that's why I'm running. Because I feel strong about where we're going as a country," Chafee told CNN's "New Day" on Thursday, when asked why he's been so critical of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Chafee was asked by CNN's John Berman in the context of having not formally declared his presidential campaign.

Chafee spokeswoman Debbie Rich said Chafee did not declare himself as a candidate for president Thursday, despite saying "that's why I'm running."

"We are still in the exploratory committee phase," she told CNN in a phone interview, adding, "We will file the proper papers to be an official candidate, but that has not happened yet."

Chafee admits that he's certainly got an uphill battle to win the nomination, but noted that "America loves an underdog."

Hillary: 'All My Grandparents' Were Immigrants, You Know. Facts: No, They Weren't

This isn't quite as bad as repeating baseless family folklore as established fact for years in order to professionally benefit from academia's "diversity" festish, but it's still a lazy, sloppy pander. Here's Hillary Clinton making things up in Iowa:

"All my grandparents, you know, came over here [to America]," Hillary Clinton claimed, reinforcing her immigration reform bona fides.  Except, it's not true. Three of her four grandparents were born in the United States. Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski reports:

Speaking in Iowa Wednesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that all her grandparents had immigrated to the United States, a story that conflicts with public census and other records related to her maternal and paternal grandparents. The story of her grandmother specifically immigrating is one Clinton has told before. Clinton’s sole foreign-born grandparent, Hugh Rodham Sr., immigrated as a child. “Her grandparents always spoke about the immigrant experience and, as a result she has always thought of them as immigrants,” a Clinton spokesman told BuzzFeed News. “As has been correctly pointed out, while her grandfather was an immigrant, it appears that Hillary’s grandmother was born shortly after her parents and siblings arrived in the U.S. in the early 1880s.”

Oh, okay.  She sort of remembers them talking about the immigrant experience, even though they weren't immigrants themselves, so she has "thought of them" as immigrants.  Got it.  Granted, this isn't exactly an earth-shattering mistake, but it reminds us of Hillary's tendency to invent stories for her own political benefit (the infamous "Tuzla dash" being the most embarrassing). It also speaks to a sloppiness that isn't impressive coming from such an experienced political operator.  I'm not entirely sure how many of my grandparents were born in the US -- I believe three of them were, but I wouldn't swear to it.  And I certainly wouldn't state that definitively if I were running for office.  Yet here she is, effortlessly fabricating family history because she perceives an opportunity to "connect."  In fairness, it's entirely possible that at some point along the way, big portions of Clinton's family tree got deleted and wiped clean.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton is still ducking reporters, even as major questions about her email scandal and suspect foreign donations to her Foundation (which they will continue to accept as she runs for president, just as they did when she was at State) continue to percolate.  This cocktail of decisions may strike some as arrogant, brazen and unaccountable, but she conducts her business this way for one simple reason:

The answer as to how Clinton could do such a thing is simple: She does it because she gets away with it. That’s how she allowed foreign donations in the first place, even when secretary of state. That’s how the foundation took money from donors she promoted. (Somewhere former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell is wondering why he has been prosecuted for somewhat trivial “official acts” on behalf of a donor.) That’s how Clinton set up a private e-mail server and then destroyed e-mails. She does these things because the media, Democratic insiders and, ultimately, Democratic voters never hold her responsible and withdraw support. No elected Democrat has called for her to get out of the race. No liberal pundit has said she is unfit for office. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has not denounced this behavior and declared she is getting into the race to stop these things. MSNBC hosts have not pounded Clinton night after night as they did with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was never proved to be involved in the bridge scandal. Part of the explanation for this stunning toleration of utterly unconscionable conduct is the remarkable discipline with which the left circles the wagons when attacked. And part of is it that Clinton has the party over a barrel. Democrats think she is the only candidate who can run and win, so no one can challenge her.

I'll leave you with one last tidbit from the ridiculous Chipotle saga:

But by all means, please tell us more about fightin' for "everyday Americans," income inequality, and the minimum wage, Hillary.

IRS Commissioner: Yeah, Obamacare is Turning Taxes Into a Bigger Headache

Yesterday was tax day 2015, did you get your return in on time? Did Obamacare make filing your return even more confusing and frustrating? IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is admitting that it probably did.

As Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte points out in the exchange above, Koskinen's claims budget cuts are harming the agency and causing longer wait times for taxpayers is disingenuous at best. The agency has used increases in funding to implement Obamacare, not to shorten wait times for hard working taxpayers doing their best to follow 70,000 pages of tax code. Further, while frustrated taxpayers wait to talk to bureaucrats, the agency has somehow found the time and resources to purchase millions of dollars in new office furniture and toys.

Speaking of increases, Koskinen, like millions of Americans, isn't quite sure how much the individual mandate in Obamacare will increase tax bills in coming years.

Keep working America.

Poll: Most Americans Say Hillary Clinton Will Be The 45th President

Clearly, as many pundits and politicians have already noted, authenticity is not Hillary Clinton's strong suit.

Coordinated and scripted campaign stops, gross pandering, and breathless statements about how she was once “dead broke” after leaving the White House have all contributed to the perception that the former first lady is profoundly unrelatable, and an insincere spokeswoman for the working class.

Appearing fresh and dynamic, however, is an admittedly difficult task for any presidential contender, especially one who has been on the national stage for decades. But given her universal name recognition and heir apparent status, her path to the nomination seems preordained. Hence, her campaign is likely to continue following a scripted regiment of avoiding the media, shunning debates, and embracing the popular zeitgeist of our time that, after losing the Democratic nomination eight years ago to a truly exceptional campaigner, nothing can now stand in her way.

Indeed, more than half the country already thinks she’s going to win the 2016 election outright, according to a new poll—even though more than one-third of Democrats think that the party “needs a fresh face" in 2016. But to whom, I wonder, will they look? If a certain progressive senator continues to brush aside the suggestion that she's entering the ring, who will emerge as a credible and viable Democratic alternative? Joe Biden? Martin O’Malley?

Please. Hillary Clinton, it seems reasonably safe to conclude, will face little or no opposition during the primary. Barring an amendment to the US Constitution allowing presidents to serve three executive terms, the Democrats are putting all their eggs into the Hillary Clinton basket.

But can she deliver? Can she overcome the scandals and the controversies? That remains to be seen. But Hillary Clinton’s most acute weakness, I think, is that she does not appear to be genuine, approachable, or even trustworthy. Perhaps, as one writer recently put it, she really is the “Mitt Romney of the Democrats.”

We'll see.

Wall Street: Hillary Can Bash Us, But It's All Good; We Know She Doesn't Mean It

The astroturf is allegedly being planted at coffee houses, spontaneous Chipotle stops being tipped off to the media, and the Clinton Foundation, who stopped disclosing their donors five years ago ­despite a promise from Clinton to do so in 2008–will not stop taking donations from foreign governments. Yeah, it hasn’t been the best week for Clinton in terms of authenticity and transparency. Questions remain over her private email system, in which she wiped the server clean, that she used when serving as our secretary of state.

Yet, there’s another angle that cuts into her working class hero narrative she’s trying to establish for herself; her populist rhetoric isn’t being taken as serious among those in her top donor base–that being Wall Street and the financial sector.  Nevertheless, some of the more progressive elements in the party are waiting to be convinced of her authenticity (via Politico) [emphasis mine]:

It’s “just politics,” said one major Democratic donor on Wall Street, explaining that some of her Wall Street supporters doubt she would push hard for closing the carried interest loophole as president, a policy she promoted when she last ran in 2008.

“The question is not going to be whether or not hedge fund managers or CEOs make too much money,” said a separate Clinton supporter who manages a hedge fund. “The question is how do you solve the problem of inequality. Nobody takes it like she is going after them personally.”

Indeed, many of the financial sector donors supporting her just-declared presidential campaign say they’ve been expecting the moment when Clinton started calling out hedge fund managers and decrying executive pay all along — right down to the complaints from critics that such arguments are rich coming from someone who recently made north of $200,000 per speech, and who has been close to Wall Street since her days representing it as a senator from New York.

The only surprise, even to those who are apparently the target of the remarks, was that Clinton’s denunciation on the trail in Iowa and in a fundraising emails — widely read as a nod to the wing of the Democratic Party that prefers Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to Clinton — came so soon. Far from creating genuine waves on Wall Street, Clinton’s comments were met with a resounding “meh.”

Still, it didn’t take long for Republicans to accuse her of dishonesty and for liberals to declare that they remain skeptical about her candidacy.

The liberal group MoveOn, which is working to draft Warren, on Wednesday pointed to an earlier statement insisting that it wouldn’t back down on encouraging Warren to run.


Anyway, say senior financiers, any grumbling comes from those who do not understand political reality or who are predisposed to oppose Clinton. They take refuge in the idea that Clinton’s rhetoric is more reflective of political necessity than some deep-seated animosity toward the wealthy.

The publication added that those in the financial sector that may fume over Hillary’s rhetoric on executive pay already didn’t like her, or don’t know their political history. It’s business as usual. So, again, everything from the Scooby Doo van to her policy seems to be nothing new so far, hence why some outlets are saying her campaign has zero substance. So far, Hillary isn't campaigning as if she were facing a strong challenger for the 2016 Democratic nomination, but, of course, that could change. For now, it’s a “wait and see” game regarding areas of policy that many in the progressive wing are eager to read in due time. Nevertheless, it seems some groups, like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, are reportedly satisfied with the “populist” tone set by Clinton.

One just have to look at Clintonomics to see that it was relatively pro-Wall Street during Bill's presidency. Also, it's hard for Hillary to label her self populist when the Clinton Foundation accepted donations from a Canadian financier–Frank Guistra–who's company he help found is allegedly stomping all over workers' rights in Colombia. Guistra founded the oil company Pacific Rubiales, and sits on the foundation's board of directors

Rubio: 'Of Course' I'd Attend a Loved One's Gay Wedding

Mediaite is hyping this exchange as anchor Jorge Ramos "cornering" Rubio with a question about whether he'd attend a friend or family member's same-sex wedding or commitment ceremony.  In fact, Rubio gamely addresses the 'gotcha'-style inquiry with a serious, compassionate answer, then reiterates his position when Ramos presses further, appearing to have missed his entire point:

“If it’s somebody in my life that I love and care for, of course I would. I’m not going to hurt them simply because I disagree with a choice they’ve made, or because I disagree with a decision they’ve made, or whatever it may be. Ultimately, if someone that you care for and is part of your family has decided to move in one direction or another or feels that way because of who they love, you respect that because you love them. But again, as I said, I'm a member of the Catholic faith, that teaches, for example, that divorce is wrong. But if someone gets divorced, I'm not going to stop loving them, or having them [be] a part of our lives..."

Rubio says he absolutely would attend a loved one's gay wedding, out of love for that person.  Disagreements over political questions, personal beliefs and religious doctrine don't prevent him from respecting and supporting people in his life, he explains.  The Senator's point about Catholic teachings on divorce was particularly apt; just because his church frowns upon divorce doesn't mean he'd shun a relative or friend's second wedding.  The Mediaite blogger who wrote up the clip offers this color commentary at the end of the piece:

Does this mean he would “respect” the supposed “decision” of a loved one to marry their same-sex partner, but not the millions of other LGBT Americans he doesn’t know? One has to wonder: If there is a loved one in Rubio’s life who is gay and might want to get married someday, what must they think of his anti-gay marriage rhetoric?

The question Rubio was asked pertained to whether or not he'd boycott the same-sex commitment or marriage ceremony of someone close to him. Of course he wouldn't, he replied. At the same time, he continues to hold a traditional view of marriage as a matter of public policy. That's not a contradiction. The vast majority of Americans who oppose same-sex marriage don't do so out of fear or bigotry toward gay people; Rubio's "anti-gay marriage rhetoric" clearly reflects that. The presidential candidate demonstrates how one can be a kind, loving, inclusive human being who also declines to abandon more traditional values on a controversial issue.  Some gay rights supporters seem intent on denying their fellow citizens this middle ground as an acceptable moral space to occupy.  (Mary Katharine and I expand on this point in End of Discussion, out June 9).  As for the hypothetical question about how a "loved one in Rubio's life" might feel, I'd suspect that person might think, "Marco and I have a disagreement on this question, but he loves and supports me as a person, and if I choose to codify the relationship with the person I love, he'll be there for me."  Ramos' question, by the way, was typical mainstream media fare, ever eager to drag conservatives into hot button tempests.  It's a fact of life for Republican office-seekers.  Rubio handled the question, and its redundant follow-up, graciously -- underscoring a striking dichotomy in the process:

If the press wants to apply their standards evenly (please stifle your laughter), Hillary Clinton will be forced to weigh in on a number of thorny and boutique issues, fraught with cultural cross-currents. For instance, should this woman lose her business for declining to participate in a gay wedding? Hillary's base believes that she should; most Americans do not. Also, please recall that Hillary Clinton only came around to believing that gay marriage is a Constitutionally-protected right, er, this week. Has she "evolved" from a gay marriage opponent to a coercive proponent in a few short years? Also, Secretary Clinton, how many genders are there? Just curious.

Endgame: 40 Percent of Congressional Democrats Already Endorsed Hillary

In fairness, the field lacks an abundance of credible and inspiring candidates. But c’mon.

Game, set, match?

Ninety-three lawmakers have endorsed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run for president, locking down nearly 40 percent of all Democrats in Congress, according to a survey by The Hill.

Sixty-five House lawmakers, more than one-third of the 188 Democrats in the chamber, as well as 28 senators, more than 60 percent of the upper chamber’s 46 Democrats, are in the former secretary of State’s camp.

Fourteen of the 23 current Democratic senators who served alongside Clinton during her tenure in the upper chamber are also backing her bid.

There is nowhere near as much uniformity on the Republican side of the ledger. The field is growing each and every day, and ranges from staunch Tea Party conservatives to more establishment types. Moreover, there is more than one kind of candidate for every ideological bent, or political persuasion, Republican voters may be looking for. GOP primary-goers therefore will have as many as a dozen different candidates to choose from, from all different regions of the country. Needless to say, this is why most Congressional Republicans (although not all) are hedging their bets and aren't serving as surrogates yet. It’s simply too early in the nominating process to start taking sides.

Some have argued—rather persuasively, I might add—that the Democratic primary was effectively over when Hillary announced she was running for president. Watching the Democratic establishment line up like sheep behind her certainly reinforces that belief. I guess we really shouldn’t be surprised.

Of Course: Hillary Campaign Tipped Off Press About 'Spontaneous' Chipotle Visit

Recapping: In case you missed it this week, Hillary Clinton has embarked upon a "spontaneous" road trip to Iowa -- much like the "spontaneous" journey she took as a Senate candidate in 2000. After reaching the Hawkeye State, the presumptive Democratic nominee has attacked CEO pay (ahem), posed for photo ops, spouted bland nothings about the future, and avoided questions from the press.  On her way across the fruited plain, Mrs. Clinton stopped in at an Ohio Chipotle, where she apparently went unrecognized, spoke to nobody, and left.  Mary Katharine Ham tried to make sense of the episode, which had the chattering class buzzing for the better part of a full news cycle.  One of MKH's observations:

Hillary Clinton is such an unnatural and disingenuous campaigner that it did not occur to her to rub elbows with the staff and clientele of Chipotle without a scrum of reporters and cameras reminding her that’s her job. She's no Bill, that's for sure.

It's odd that a candidate for president would swing by an eatery in a major swing state...and say nothing to anybody, aside from "I'll have a chicken burrito bowl with black beans."  What was odder to me was how this became a news story at all.  If nobody knew who she was, and if nothing happened at the restaurant except the ordering of lunch, how did national reporters end up sifting through security footage to find this earth-shattering image?  The New York Times reported on Monday that they'd been tipped off to the red hot scoop:

But nobody took notice of the celebrity in front of the counter. Fellow patrons paid her no more attention than a driver would get from a toll taker. Nor did the restaurant’s staff notice Mrs. Clinton, until this reporter, tipped off that she had dined there, telephoned. The Chipotle manager, Charles Wright, insisted at first that the tip must have been false. But he offered to review his security-camera recordings, and quickly reversed himself. There was Mrs. Clinton, in a bright pink shirt, ordering a chicken burrito bowl — and carrying her own tray.

Carrying her own tray?!  Why, she's just like us!  A relatable "champion of everyday Americans," even. Out of curiosity, where'd that tip come from?

Campaign operatives later phoned the New York Times, according to a journalist familiar with the chain of events, so reporters would know she had been there.

But of course.  This demonstration of anonymous authenticity went unnoticed, so it therefore had to be noticed.  And the campaign made sure that it was.  Peggy Noonan has already seen enough of this stilted pageant, and offers some choice words about the media for good measure:

Hillary Clinton’s announcement followed by her dark-windowed SUV journey into deepest darkest America was the most inept, phony, shallow, slickily-slick and meaningless launch of a presidential candidacy I have ever seen. We have come to quite a pass when the Clintons can’t even do the show business of politics well. The whole extravaganza has the look of profound incompetence and disorganization—no one could have been thinking this through—or profound cynicism, or both. It has yielded only one good thing, and that is a memorable line, as Mrs. Clinton glided by reporters: “We do have a plan. We have a plan for my plan.” That is how the Washington Post quoted her, on ideas on campaign finance reform...One is that in the case of Mrs. Clinton we are going to see the press act either like the press of a great nation—hungry, raucous, alive, demanding—or like a hopelessly sickened organism, a big flailing octopus with no strength in its arms, lying like a greasy blob at the bottom of the sea, dying of ideology poisoning...Mrs. Clinton isn’t grilled, is never forced to submit to anyone’s morning-show impertinence, is never the object of the snotty question or the sharp demand for information. She gets the glide. She waves at the crowds and the press and glides by. No one pushes. No one shouts the rude question or rolls out the carefully scripted set of studio inquiries meant to make the candidate squirm. She is treated like the queen of England, who also isn’t subjected to impertinent questions as she glides into and out of venues. But she is the queen. We are not supposed to have queens.

In fairness, some in the media have been digging into important stories about Hillary Clinton, including yesterday's Times report that the outgoing Secretary of State ignored questions from Congress about her then-unconfirmed use of a private email server to conduct all personal and official business.  This scheme violated "clear cut" rules, likely broke the law, and almost certainly compromised national security.  Her initial excuse for her actions has fallen apart; the obvious truth is that she wanted to exert total political control over communications, perhaps to prevent investigators from getting their hands on documents pertaining to, say, foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and unseemly quid pro quo alleged arrangements.  After the secret server was revealed, Hillary's lawyers reviewed tens of thousands of emails (without any oversight, and offering conflicting accounts regarding methodology), and deleted more than 30,000 of them.  Team Clinton then reportedly saw fit to wipe the server clean.  On the other hand, burrito bowl. Oh, and in case you missed it last night, enjoy this additional morsel of organic Hillary goodness.