Massachusetts GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Has Slim Lead in Polls

Things just got interesting in Massachusetts: A new poll of 605 likely voters has Republican candidate Charlie Baker taking a slim lead over Democrat Martha Coakley for the first time since polling began. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they would vote for Baker, while 37 percent said they would support Coakley.

From the Boston Globe:

The survey found the hypothetical general election race in a statistical dead heat, with 38 percent of respondents saying they would support Baker for governor, a slight edge over the 37 percent who said they favor Coakley. Though Baker’s lead remains well within the margin of error, it shows movement in a race between the two likeliest candidates for the November election.

Coakley still faces two Democratic rivals in the Sept. 9 party primary, but the poll found she maintains a solid lead, claiming the support of 46 percent of likely voters. Comparatively, 24 percent support Steve Grossman, the state treasurer, and 10 percent back health care expert Donald Berwick.

Baker is helped by the fact that a sizable percentage of supporters of Steve Grossman, a candidate challenging Coakley in the Democrat primary, say they would rather vote for Baker than Coakley if Grossman did not win the party's nomination. This may be the tipping point in what is likely to be a very close election come November.

If Grossman loses the primary, 48 percent of his supporters say they would bolt the party and vote for the Republican, rather than Coakley, in the general election. Just 28 percent of Grossman’s supporters would vote for Coakley, Della Volpe said. Conversely, if Coakley loses the primary to Grossman, the majority of her supporters — 56 percent — say they would support Grossman as the Democratic nominee, while 18 percent would turn to Baker, the poll showed.

Massachusetts holds their primary elections on Sept. 9.

Federal Judge Says Texas Abortion Law Is Unconstitutional

Texas' abortion law won't be fully implemented after a federal judge ruled it as unconstitutional. Right now, the Lone Star State has 19 abortion clinics, which is down from a little over 40 a year ago. If this law had gone into effect, it would’ve left 6 to 7 clinics open, mostly in major urban areas. The judge considered that an “undue burden” on Texas women (via Associated Press/ABC News):

Tough new Texas abortion restrictions are on hold after a federal judge found Republican-led efforts to hold abortion clinics to hospital-level operating standards unconstitutional in a ruling that spares more than a dozen clinics from imminent closure.

The state vowed to quickly appeal Friday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin, who cited other rules GOP lawmakers have recently passed in his decision to throw out requirements that clinics meet hospital operating standards.

Those prior abortion restrictions include mandatory sonograms and a 24-hour waiting period after a woman first seeks out an abortion.

"These substantial obstacles have reached a tipping point," Yeakel wrote in a 21-page opinion.

Yeakel sided with clinics that sued over one of the most disputed measures of a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2013. The ruling stops new clinic requirements that would have left seven abortion facilities in Texas come Monday, when the law was set to take effect.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who is the favorite to become governor next year, said he would seek an immediate appeal to try to preserve the new clinic rules.

Under the new restrictions, the only remaining abortion facilities in Texas would have been in major cities, and there would have been none in the entire western half of the nation's second-largest state. For women in El Paso, the closest abortion provider would be in New Mexico — an option the state wanted Yeakel to take into consideration, even though New Mexico's rules for abortion clinics are far less rigorous.

The first wave of regulation that went into effect last November, specifically banning abortions 20 weeks after pregnancy and requiring physicians to have admitting privileges no further than 30 miles from where the abortion is performed, according to the Austin Chronicle.

The story also reiterated how the second wave of regulations would’ve decimated the abortion industry in Texas:

The final part of HB 2 (to take effect Sept. 1) requires clinics to meet building code compliance that match the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, a costly regulation that is estimated to shut down 14 clinics, leaving the state with less than 10 abortion providers. To date, roughly 50% of Texas abortion clinics have shuttered their doors since HB 2.

Yesterday, Wendy Davis, Abbott’s Democratic opponent, criticized him for withdrawing from the televised statewide debate, citing format concerns. Both camps agreed to have a debate on September 30–and Abbott accepted an invitation from another network hours later. Also, the two campaigns are debating on September 19 in the Rio Grande Valley.

It’s safe to assume that a question about this development on HB 2 will be asked during the debate. Davis, who’s hasn’t made abortion a centerpiece of her gubernatorial run, will have to find some way to maneuver around her highly unpopular position on this issue.  Then again, she could just say what she believes and show once again how radical she is on the subject. 

This could be a good thing for Abbott. After all, 60 percent of American women support banning abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy:

A new Quinnipiac poll shows 60 percent of women prefer allowing unrestricted abortions for only the first 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than the Supreme Court-prescribed 24 weeks. Among men, 50 percent support the 20-week law — a 10-point gap.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll showed the gap at seven points, while two other polls (from NBC/Wall Street Journal and National Journal) showed it at six and four, respectively.

And those numbers may actually understate support among women for the new restrictions.

In the Post-ABC poll, rather than choosing between a 20-week ban and the current 24 weeks, 8 percent of women volunteered that abortion should never be legal, and 3 percent volunteered that the window should be smaller than 20 weeks. If you add them to the 60 percent of women who support the 20-week abortion ban, then 71 percent of women would seem to support the effort to increase abortion restrictions.

Oh, and how do Hispanics feel about abortion in Texas? Well, as Politico mentioned in July of last year, “the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 53 percent of Hispanic Catholics say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. That’s a lower percentage than white evangelical Protestants and Mormons, but it’s higher than all other religious voting groups, including white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, black Protestants, and Jews.”

So, who’s ready for this debate this September?

Idiotic: VA Training Manual Depicts Angry Veterans as Sesame Street Character

To paraphrase the economist Thomas Sowell, some ideas are so stupid only a government agency would adopt them.

Speaking of which, this latest scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) couldn’t have come at a worse time. In an attempt to instruct government workers about how to deal effectively with disgruntled veterans unsatisfied with their health care plans, a series of informational slides meant for instruction portrayed said veterans as... this guy. For obvious reasons, it didn’t go so well.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

The beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs depicted dissatisfied veterans as Oscar the Grouch in a recent internal training guide, and some vets and VA staffers said Tuesday that they feel trashed. The cranky Sesame Street character who lives in a garbage can was used in reference to veterans who will attend town-hall events Wednesday in Philadelphia.

"There is no time or place to make light of the current crisis that the VA is in," said Joe Davis, a national spokesman for the VFW. “And especially to insult the VA's primary customer." The 18-page slide show on how to help veterans with their claims, presented to VA employees Friday and obtained by The Inquirer, also says veterans might be demanding and unrealistic and tells VA staffers to apologize for the "perception" of the agency.

Meanwhile, the VA’s statement on the controversy itself was somewhat mystifying:

"The training provided was not intended to equate veterans with this character," spokeswoman Marisa Prugsawan said. "It was intended to remind our employees to conduct themselves as courteously and professionally as possible when dealing with veterans and their concerns."

She said the guide appeared to be an old internal document from which employees at the Philadelphia office pulled information ahead of Friday's training. Prugsawan said she was unsure if the original slide show comparing veterans to Oscar had been created locally or by the national VA office and sent to regional centers.

And yet, the department saw fit to portray veterans as a cantankerous Sesame Street character. That doesn’t strike me as very “courteous.”

For what it’s worth, Concerned Veterans for America spokesman Pete Hegseth vented his frustration to my colleague Ed Morrissey earlier this week about the controversy. He provided some much-needed insight into this wholly preventable -- and ridiculous -- episode:

I reached out to Pete Hegseth of Concerned Veterans for America, who said that this exposes “the dirty little secret about how many VA officials feel about veterans.” They see veterans as the problem, not the clients. “If veterans were seen as customers, they wouldn’t be seen as Oscar the Grouch,” Pete said. “This feeds the fears about how veterans believe they are perceived at the VA.” He assured me that CV4A will not let this slide, either.

They shouldn’t -- and neither should we.

Media On Obama ISIS Remarks: 'Odd' And 'Highly Unorthodox'

As Dan pointed out on Thursday, we have no strategy to fight ISIS. None. Zip. The leader of the free world literally told everyone that it’s a work in progress. This tepidness exuded from the Obama administration is one of the reasons why 54 percent of Americans think he isn’t tough enough on foreign policy and national security.

As Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey wrote yesterday, Politico, the Washington Post, and ABC News, all pretty much said this explicit admission wouldn’t do us any favors [emphasis mine]:

The reason why this gaffe does so much damage is because it’s accurate. Josh Earnest may have tried arguing that “no strategy” really means “we totally have a strategy, but it’s obvious that the White House has nothing but tactical reactions on its collective mind. The President seems not to have heard Hagel’s assessment last week [he called ISIS an imminent threat], as his remarks yesterday contradicted them. It’s become beyond clear that ISIS will continue its genocidal activities until stopped, and yet the message from Obama yesterday was basically to tell people to be patient while he catches up on the news. On top of that, we have the leader of the free world almost literally telling the press that he’s got no plan to deal with the situation, which can’t help but boost the morale of ISIS and encourage others to join them.

Then, there’s the question about optics. Obama hit the golf course after he made a statement about American journalist James Foley getting beheaded by ISIS. Now, he took off on Marine One to fundraise for Democrats in Rhode Island and New York after his “no strategy” remarks.

David Gergen and Barbara Starr of CNN also were floored by the admission, with Gergen saying that while the president may deserve some credit for honesty; this is a “whoa” moment and “highly unorthodox.”

As for mixed messages, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest seems to think Obama has a comprehensive strategy for fighting ISIS. Is it 2016, yet?

Report: ISIS Studying Mexican Border

A new report obtained by Fox News from the Texas Department of Public Safety indicates that elements of ISIS are interested in the U.S.-Mexico border as a means of entry into the United States.

As Fox News' Jana Winter reports:

“A review of ISIS social media messaging during the week ending August 26 shows that militants are expressing an increased interest in the notion that they could clandestinely infiltrate the southwest border of US, for terror attack,” warns the Texas Department of Public Safety "situational awareness" bulletin, obtained by FoxNews.com.

It notes no known credible homeland threats or specific homeland attack plot has been identified. That assertion was underscored by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who said Friday that DHS and the FBI are "unaware of any specific, credible threat to the U.S. homeland" from Islamic State.

The bulletin details numerous “calls for border infiltration” on social media, including one from a militant confirmed to be in Mosul, Iraq who explicitly beckons the “Islamic State to send a special force to America across the border with Mexico.”

This follows numerous posts on social media accounts of purported ISIS activity in the United States.

As Dan reported for Townhall, threats from ISIS on social media have proliferated recently:

The tweet above was presumably blasted out by an ideological adherent of ISIS living in the U.S.: the photo on the left is the Old Republic Building in the Windy City, the one on the right is clearly the White House. So this begs the question: Is this tweet merely propagandist fodder, meant to deal a psychological blow to the American public and thwart U.S. intelligence officials, or should Americans be genuinely concerned?

This new DPS report from Texas indicates that yes, we should be concerned. The insecure nature of the U.S. southern border should always concern terror analysts, and with the rise of a new transnational well-funded terrorist power, its security becomes even more important.

Burger King Wants To Opt Out Of the U.S. Corporate Tax Regime. Good.

Burger King has agreed to purchase Tim Hortons, a Canadian food service chain, and has re-ignited the debate over "tax inversions." If Burger King gets its way, it will relocate its global headquarters to Canada for tax reasons.

But it's not necessarily the reason you might think it is. Danny Vinik at The New Republic writes that "Congress needs to close this absurd tax loophole," and that "Burger King will have opted out of the U.S. corporate tax system."

What isn't said in that piece is that it's not merely Canada's tax rate that has attracted Burger King. Statutorily, Canada does indeed have a much lower rate. But after accounting for local laws and code complexity, Burger King and Tim Horton's have very similar rates and by some estimations Tim Horton's tax rate is higher than Burger King's:

Burger King’s overall effective tax rate was 27.5% in 2013, according to its annual report. Tim Horton is expected to book a tax rate of 29% this year.

The U.S. corporate tax system that Burger King wants to opt out of is its odd system of global taxation. That is, Burger King has to pay the U.S. corporate tax on earnings no matter where they are made. So they must pay the U.S. marginal rate on a Whopper sold in Bahamas, where the corporate tax rate is 0%. If they relocate their global HQ to Canada, they don't have to pay U.S. taxes on Whoppers sold in Bermuda.

The U.S. is quite unique in our system of global taxation. As Megan McArdle says:

he U.S., unlike most developed-world governments, insists on taxing the global income of its citizens and corporations that have U.S. headquarters. And because the U.S. has some of the highest tax rates in the world, especially on corporate income, this amounts to demanding that everyone who got their start here owes us taxes, forever, on anything they earn abroad.

Practically speaking, global taxation is hard to enforce and loaded with bad incentives, which is why our fellow members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have moved away from global taxation of corporate income, and abandoned global taxation of personal income. If anything, the U.S. has gone in the other direction -- by insisting, for instance, that foreign companies report various financial transactions with U.S. citizens to the Internal Revenue Service, and taxing foreign cost of living allowances, which makes it more expensive for companies to employ expats.

Progressives are constantly comparing the U.S. to other countries when it comes to laws and norms. We're the only country that owns guns, for example, and we're the only country with the death penalty. That's used as justification for moving towards what other countries do. Not so for corporate taxes. We're alone in global taxation, yet progressives see no good reason to move in a better direction for it.

This is not to say that other countries' tax regimes is a good reason to move away from a regime of global taxation. We should get rid of our global tax regime because it's a good idea regardless of what other countries do. In an area where the U.S. is an outlier for reasons progressives like though, they don't think the fact that the U.S. hasn't followed a global lead is meaningful.

Video: DWS Struggles to Explain Why She Trusts Charlie Crist as a Democrat


In fairness, Debbie struggles to explain most things, so her stumbling isn't necessarily out of the ordinary here. Still, I figured I'd send you into the holiday weekend with a clip of America's most inept party chairperson lamely embracing America's most pathetic politician:



Allahpundit calls Crist -- a Republican, turned independent, turned Democrat, with all three party switches serving his immediate expedient political needs -- a "soulless careerist." That's being kind.  The dude says and does literally whatever it takes to attain and cling to power.  Politics at its self-interested, power-hungry worst.  Democrats are angry that A Republican organization is using recycled robocalls voiced by...Charlie Crist against Charlie Crist, calling the use of this audio a "dirty trick:"



"Hi, this is Charlie Crist calling to set the record straight. I'm prolife. I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants, I support traditional marriage, and I have never supported a new tax or big spending program. It's sad that in his fourth try for governor my opponent has resorted to distortions and untruths. … Floridians need a consistent, conservative governor that they can trust. I would appreciate your vote on election day. Thank you so much and God bless you, and God bless Florida. Paid for by Charlie Crist, Republican for Governor."

Sorry guys, it's not a dirty trick to use a shameless person's verbatim recorded words against him. The Left can carp (and sue!) all they want; they're the ones who nominated this fraud as their gubernatorial candidate. Polls remain close, but Republican Rick Scott's standing has improved, and primary voting turnout contained some potentially ominous trends for Florida Democrats.

Goodbye, Bro: Democrats Are Hemorrhaging Male Voters

We all know Republicans have a woman problem, but let’s focus on the Democrats’ problem with men, specifically white men. Earlier this month, U.S. News and World Report reported that while women outnumber men and vote more than they do, “in a campaign cycle set to see a handful of margin-of-error races that determine U.S. Senate control, it’s an often overlooked and undervalued element of the election.” The story also says that this male voter deficit with Democrats is “more pronounced” than the Republicans problems with single women voters.

The article noted that in races dependent on turnout, men could be the deciding factor. In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who’s fighting for her political life, has a healthy 8-point lead amongst women, but her Republican opponent, Thom Tillis, is dominating with male voters by a 13-point margin.

But some Democrats are indifferent. Joel Benenson, Obama’s pollster, seems to think that liberal efforts to stop the bleeding amongst male voters is unnecessary since you don’t need them to win. “They won men in the presidential election and they lost,” he says. “They win white voters in the presidential election and they lost. There’s no absolute rule that you have to win this group or that group.”

That pretty much captures how male voters felt in the 1980s, as they felt the Democratic Party abandoned them. Thus, the Reagan Democrats were born. Yet, the bleeding began during the Johnson administration (via NYT) [emphasis mine]:

No Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of white men since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all prevailed with support of the so-called rising electorate of women, especially single women, and minorities. But fewer of those voters typically participate in midterm elections, making the votes of white men more potent and the struggle of Democrats for 2014 clear.

Realistically, winning votes from working-class white men has just been a very tough political challenge for Democrats,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster. With demographic trends favoring Democrats nationally and in many states, strategists say it makes sense to concentrate resources on mobilizing women, young people, Hispanics, blacks and other minority voters.

Democrats generally win the votes of fewer than four in 10 white men. But they win eight of 10 minority voters and a majority of women, who have been a majority of the national electorate since 1984, while white men have shrunk to a third, and are still shrinking.

As the Times noted, Democrats have been able to get some traction with single, gay, nonreligious, and college educated men, whereas the white working class bloc is the hardest to reach, which could spell doom for Democrats this year.

If you look at how the working-class votes over the past decade, you’ll see a trend that’s determined elections consistently in that time period. In a previous post, I mentioned a piece by the Atlantic’s Molly Ball showing how the differences in the the share of the vote Democrats win with Americans making under $50,000 a year has determined where the nation has tilted that year. Given today's political climate, even the AFL-CIO political director is saying that 2014 could be a powerful year for the GOP:

Republicans consistently win voters making $50,000 or more, approximately the U.S. median income. The margin doesn't vary too much: In 2012, Mitt Romney got 53 percent of this group's vote; in 2010, Republican House candidates got 55 percent. And Democrats consistently win voters making less than the median—but the margin varies widely. In fact, whether Democrats win these voters by a 10-point or a 20-point margin tells you who won every national election for the past decade.

In 2004, Democrats won the working-class vote by 11 points; George W. Bush was reelected. In 2006, Democrats won the working-class vote by 22 points and took the House and Senate. In 2008, Democrats won by 22 points again, and President Obama was elected. In 2010, the margin narrowed to 11 points, and Republicans took the House back. In 2012, Obama was reelected—on the strength of another 22-point margin among voters making under $50,000.

In a new Pew survey released Thursday, 45 percent of Republican voters said they were unusually excited to vote this year, compared to 37 percent of Democratic supporters. Gridlock in Washington prevents Congress from doing anything to help those struggling economically, while giving Republicans more to blame Obama and Democrats for. Similarly, chaos around the world obscures Democrats' economic message while dragging down the president's image.

The Pew report didn't include a breakdown based on the $50,000 threshold, so I asked Pew to crunch the numbers for me. The result: 51 percent of voters making less than $50,000 plan to vote for Democrats, while 40 percent plan to vote Republican. (The rest are undecided, and the GOP wins the more-than-$50,000 vote 49-44.) That's exactly the same 11-point margin that has meant Democratic doom in every election since 2004.

There are some silver linings. As Democratic pollster John Anzalone said, “In some ways, men dig in. You see it in the numbers where generically they’re just much more Republican and they dig in.” Women are more open to ideas and exchanges between members from both parties; that means we can be competitive with them if we message our brand correctly. We don’t have to win women, although they should be our mindset, but settling for being competitive is fine with me, as it’ll yield electoral dividends.

Case in point, John Kerry beat George W. Bush amongst women in 2004, but only by 3-points (51/48). Kerry and Bush virtually split down the middle with women who have children (49/50), but 43 dominated, as usual, with married women (55/44) over Kerry. The exit poll lists Kerry and Bush almost virtually tied with “other” women (50/49), I don’t know what other means, but the overall split is something Republicans need to replicate in 2016.

Bush also won a solid 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, but that’s a post for another time.

Democrats have a huge advantage with women voters, who potentially aren’t as reliably Democratic if someone doesn’t come up with something better. Women can become a shiftable voting bloc–we saw this with Bush in 2004–but Republicans need to market themselves without tripping over their shoelaces, which they often do.

With men, they’re not budging towards the Democrats and Republicans have a lock on their votes.  Democrats don't seem to have a strategy for stopping the bleeding other than minimum wage hike proposals which polls well with everyone.  Even left-leaning think tanks, like John Podesta's Center for American Progress, thinks that the white male deficit shouldn't be ignored even if their share of the vote is declining: 

“You can’t just give Republicans a clear field to play for the votes of white working-class men without putting up some sort of a fight because that just allows them to run the table with these voters, thereby potentially offsetting your burgeoning advantage among minorities, single women, millennials,” said Ruy Teixeira, an analyst at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

“I just think Democrats are having a hard time figuring out how to effectively pursue it,” he added.

Demography isn’t destiny. Both sides have talked about permanent majorities in government and got rude awakenings in 2006 and 2010 respectively. Demography isn’t destiny. So, fear not my conservative friends, there are many ways to maneuver through an electorate to win elections.

Hey Obama, David Cameron Has a Strategy

Unlike someone we know, it sounds like United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron has a strategy for defeating Islamic extremists. At a press conference today on the growing threat of ISIS, Cameron offered a passionate speech with plans to disrupt the terror group. Just a glimpse at his comments proves he knows exactly who we’re dealing with:

“The threat we face today comes from the poisonous narrative of Islamist extremism.”

“The terrorist threat was not created by the Iraq war ten years ago. It existed even before the horrific attacks on 9/11." 

“This threat cannot be solved simply by dealing with the perceived grievances over Western foreign policy."

"We cannot appease this ideology. We have to confront it at home and abroad."

Thankfully, Cameron is more than a speech maker. In addition to announcing the UK was raising the terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe," Cameron said they will introduce new laws to fights terrorists and seize passports from terror suspects. He plans to offer more details on the UK's plans in a few days:

The prime minister's comments were a clear contrast from our commander-in-chief’s response to the growing threat of ISIS militants at a Thursday press conference. President Obama acknowledged the threat of the extremist group, yet stated the US does not yet have a strategy to confront it. Numerous lawmakers and analysts criticized his comments as weak. Following Cameron’s speech, however, a number of pundits were clearly impressed:

Personal favorite:

You know it's a good speech when people are talking more about the content of his speech than his tan suit. While Obama seems more interested in golfing, Cameron is taking serious steps to combat this very dangerous organization. 

Photo of the Day: Someone in Ferguson Actually Wore This Shirt

So this shirt was spotted in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this week. 

It’s notable for three reasons:

  • 1) Poor grammar: “I rather get stopped by ISIS terrorist than Ferguson PD.” It hurts to read that, doesn’t it?
  • 2) The message on the shirt shows a profound level of ignorance by suggesting that the Ferguson Police Department is more unjust/brutal (take your pick) than ISIS, the terrorist army that is raping and killing its way through Iraq and Syria, and posting its murdering sprees on YouTube and Twitter.
  • 3) This guy can vote.

Head meet desk. 

H/T: WeaselZippers 

Uh Oh: Mary Landrieu Doesn't Own a Home in Louisiana


This is…not what embattled "Louisiana" Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu wanted to read in the Washington Post -- which, as it turns out, is her hometown paper:


In Washington, Sen. Mary Landrieu lives in a stately, $2.5 million brick manse she and her husband built on Capitol Hill. Here in Louisiana, however, the Democrat does not have a home of her own. She is registered to vote at a large bungalow in New Orleans that her parents have lived in for many decades, according to a Washington Post review of Landrieu’s federal financial disclosures and local property and voting records. On a statement of candidacy Landrieu filed with the Federal Election Commission in January, she listed her Capitol Hill home as her address. But when qualifying for the ballot in Louisiana last week, she listed the family’s raised-basement home here on South Prieur Street. The New Orleans house, which Landrieu claims as her primary residence, is a new flash point in one of the most closely contested Senate races in the country. Republicans are considering taking legal action to question Landrieu’s residency in the state, arguing that since winning her seat in 1996 she has become a creature of Washington. For Landrieu, there are hazardous parallels to other recent cases in which residency questions have dogged incumbents. Former senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) lost reelection in 2012 after reports that he stayed in hotels when he returned to Indiana, while Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is drawing flack this year for not having a home of his own in Kansas and listing a donor’s house as his voting address.


Lugar was dumped by primary voters last cycle (before the GOP frittered away the seat he vacated), and Roberts is only leading by high single digits in the ruby red state of Kansas.  Landrieu is one of the most endangered Senate Democrats in the country, representing a state -- from afar -- that Barack Obama lost by 17 points in 2012.  Landrieu has gone 'full Beltway.'  She lives in her multimillion-dollar DC mansion (remember this tax-related flap?), not in the state she ostensibly serves.  The Senator claims that she lives at her parents' house when she's in town, but neighbors, including some of her supporters, aren't so sure:


“I don’t think she lives there,” said Fontaine Wells, 65, pointing at the Landrieu home. “She might come visit, but come on now — she lives in D.C. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her.” … Michael Fitzgerald, 61, has lived around the corner from the Landrieus for three decades. He said he sees Moon and Verna Landrieu regularly, as well as Mitch Landrieu, Mary’s younger brother and the city’s current mayor, who lives in a home he owns nearby.  “On Election Day, [Mary] is seen at our polling place accompanying her parents.” He added, “I have not seen her lately... She’s been in the Senate for — I’ve lost count — 16 years? 18 years?

Landrieu votes with Barack Obama 97 percent of the time, according to Congressional Quarterly.  The president and his signature legislative item, Obamacare, are hugely unpopular in Louisiana.  Landrieu cast the deciding vote for that law, attacking critics for "lying" about its now-evident effects.  At the time, she pledged to take '100 percent' responsibility for Obamacare's outcomes.  Like these ones.  Whether or not the incumbent Senator faces any serious eligibility issues remains to be seen, but the optics are bad.  The "out of touch" attacks will only intensify, especially in light of the recent revelation that Landrieu inappropriately used taxpayer dollars to fund private jet trips for campaign events.  To that end, I'll leave you with this clever bit of in-person trolling from a Republican group last week:


Benham Brothers Challenge Sen. Kay Hagan at Pro-life Rally

HGTV may have fired the Benham brothers for their religious beliefs, but that’s not stopping them from voicing and standing up for their pro-life ideals. At a "Summer of Life" rally organized in North Carolina on Wednesday, David and Jason Benham spoke outside of Senator Kay Hagan's (D) office to challenge her pro-abortion agenda. In particular, they criticized the senator for opposing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks - the point when unborn babies can feel pain.

In addition to taking Hagan to task for her anti-life behavior, the Christian brothers also shared how their pro-abortion critics often sound irrational, one even calling them "anti-woman":

“I was sitting there thinking and I looked at my wife and said, ‘Anti-women? Well, the last I checked, I really love women. I love my daughters, I love my wife, and I’m willing to stand up and lay my life down for those women that are in a very difficult situation and think that abortion is their only choice.”

The twin brothers were set to host a new show called "Flip it Forward" on HGTV, but in May were let go after the network discovered they were pro-life. As we have witnessed so far, the incident has only made them more outspoken in their fight for life. 

The Benhams may have lost their jobs, but they've gained an important presence in the pro-life movement. Watch more of their passionate speech here:

Have Republicans Already Caved on Obama's Executive Amnesty?

President Obama, The Week's Marc Ambinder reports, is considering announcing a temporary executive amnesty for up to 8 million illegal immigrants sometime around mid-September. The timing, Ambinder reports, is in part designed to provoke Republicans into initiating another government shutdown, which could help Democrats at the polls this November. Ambinder writes:

The Democratic scenario has Republicans underestimating the price of such a move. Indeed, Democratic focus groups consistently show that the most unpopular thing the GOP can do, the one thing that will make people who are too disgusted to vote, vote, or who are capable of changing their vote to change their vote to the other side, is to shut down the government again. It is that unpopular.
...
So: Go big on immigration. Wait for the GOP counter-reaction. Quietly pray for the government to get shut down. Use it like a cattle prod to wake voters up just before the midterms.

That's the last, best hope for Democrats.

But Republicans seem to be on to Obama's game. And they are making it perfectly clear that there will be no government shutdown before the elections. Roll Call reports:

House Republicans won’t repeat that mistake this September, Ryan predicted: “We will pass a clean [continuing resolution], and if for some reason the Democrats don’t take that, then they will clearly have shut the government down … it will be patently obvious … that they are playing politics with this, and trying to trigger a shutdown so they can blame us, but we’re really blameless in this particular situation.”

Ryan’s confidence that his conference will cooperate in passing a stop-gap spending bill free of controversial policy riders — "until Dec. 11 is what we’re thinking,” said Ryan — contradicts Democrats’ cries over the past few days that the GOP is spoiling for another shutdown that could cost them the election in November.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) aide Alex Conant outlined a similar timeline for The Washington Examiner's Byron York:

Rubio's office says there's nothing to it. "We're not going to shut down the government," spokesman Alex Conant told me. "Ultimately, Republicans will need to win control of the Senate to reverse an executive action. We would be interested in having a vote on it in the context of the budget debate, but we are not going to shut down the government."

So does this mean Republicans will just roll over if Obama grants executive amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants? Not at all. Look at the bolded portions of the Ryan and Conant quotes. Both suggest that Republicans are planing to attach specific language forbidding Obama from spending money administering his new amnesty program, just not before the November election. 

And this is the smart strategy to pursue. Republicans have a very good chance of taking control of the Senate this November. And it is much easier to force policy concessions from the White House when you control both the House and Senate as opposed to just the House.

Democrats seem to be realizing that Republicans will not make the same mistake two years in a row, and it is now looking like Obama will wait till after the election before moving on amnesty.

Adult Illegal Immigrants Registering as Minors to Attend Public School

Earlier this month we reported that schools across the nation were bracing for the influx of up to 50,000 unaccompanied minors entering the public education system. Teachers and administrators alike expressed concern over not knowing the educational background of students, operational issues that could arise and increase costs, and new students not speaking English.

Now that school has started, however, there’s also another significant problem. CNS News reports:

The mayor of Lynn, Mass. says that some of the illegal aliens from Guatemala who are enrolled in her city’s public schools are adults with graying hair and “more wrinkles than I have.”

“They are not all children,” Judith Flanagan Kennedy told reporters at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

“One of the things that we did notice when we were processing some of these students coming in was that they were adults,” she said.

Kennedy said that the majority of those from Guatemala who are enrolling in theLynn Public Schoolsclaim to be between 14 and 17 years of age.

“But there were people with graying temples, hair around the temples,” said Kennedy, adding that although she did not see these individuals in person, she saw photographs of them in registration paperwork. “There were people with more wrinkles than I have around their eyes.”

Because of a DOJ directive, however, the school is not allowed to question or verify the ages of students enrolling.

Fort Hood Shooter Wants to Join ISIS From Prison

Former Army psychologist Nidal Hasan, the perpetrator of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting that killed 13 and injured dozens, has written a letter from prison to ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi requesting citizenship in the Islamic state.

"I formally and humbly request to be made a citizen of the Islamic State," Hasan wrote in the letter, according to Fox News.

"It would be an honor for any believers to be an obedient citizen soldier to a people and its leader who don't compromise the religion of All-Mighty Allah to get along with the disbelievers."

Hasan currently resides in the military's death row in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was sentenced to death for the shooting in August 2013. Despite Hasan's stated motivations for the attack, his history of jihadist sympathies, and the fact that he shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) before opening fire, the U.S. has refused to call the shooting an act of terrorism, and instead refers to the event as an act of "workplace violence."

It's clear that Hasan's jihadist sympathies for ISIS have reached a new level. Perhaps now the U.S. will reclassify the Fort Hood attack as what it truly was: an act of terrorism against American soldiers.

The Left-Wing Credo: Poverty Causes Crime. Unemployment Produces Terrorists.

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

Bill Bennett and military historian Max Boot discuss what should be the U.S. plan of action towards Islamic State. Dennis Prager spoke with national security expert Steven Emerson, who explained the details surrounding the Obama-termed "JV" team called Islamic State. Michael Medved on the failure to call Islamic terror "evil". Prager on the massive number of Brits who have joined the fight with the Islamic State. Medved on the Obamacare realization: It will pay for "gender reassignment" surgery. Hugh Hewitt asks Mitt Romney about 2016 and what he would do differently if he were to run--also, what advice he had for the candidate. Prager on Denmark regulating...cinnamon.


Democrats Attack Rand Paul For "Retreat" On Foreign Policy

Yesterday the Democratic National Committee attacked GOP Sen. Rand Paul for holding a "blame America" stance and for a "retreat from the world."

Their statement:

It’s disappointing that Rand Paul, as a Senator and a potential presidential candidate, blames America for all the problems in the world, while offering reckless ideas that would only alienate us from the global community.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new for Paul. Last week he criticized American policy to the president of another country on foreign soil. This week he’s blaming the Obama Administration for another nation’s civil war. That type of “blame America” rhetoric may win Paul accolades at a conference of isolationists but it does nothing to improve our standing in the world.

This is exactly to be expected from the Democratic playbook. In fact, I took a look at what Democrats are planning to do with some of the prominent Republicans when it comes to foreign policy in a recent issue of Townhall Magazine.

What Democrats are going to try to do is portray Republicans, no matter what, with scare words like "isolationist" or "interventionist" or "neocon" or "hawk." From my piece:

It’s unclear if isolationism has been used in a non-pejorative way in the modern political era at all. With the ascendance of the United States to global superpower in the 20th century, very few politicians have advocated America’s removal from international affairs. More likely, advocates of aggressive American involvement tar any skeptics with the isolationist label.

“Democrats would love for the Republican candidate to be the ‘fringe’ candidate. The ‘dangerous’ candidate,” says James Carafano, vice president of national security and foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation. “It could be ‘dangerous-isolationist’ or ‘dangerous neocon.’ Democrats just want to say they’re the prudent alternative.”

Sen. Rand Paul certainly has heterodox views when it comes to foreign policy, and brings a much different vision than Republicans traditionally have. To counter Sen. Paul, the Democrats are resorting to attacks they used to decry as unfair. This is simple politics, but it's still important to counter them.

White House: Ukraine Not Invaded; Russian Incursion Just Violates Its ‘Territorial Integrity’

Yesterday, Dan wrote about the president’s late afternoon press conference on the situation in Iraq and Ukraine. Basically, the leader of the free world said we don’t have a strategy to defeat ISIS and prevaricated in calling the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an “invasion.” We’re back to this again:

“We are, if there was any doubt, convinced that Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine,” he [ President Obama] said. “Russia has deliberately and repeatedly [threatened] the territorial integrity" of that country.

“Russia is already more isolated than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” he continued. “This ongoing Russian incursion into Ukraine will only bring more consequences for Russia.”

He refused to call Russia’s most recent incursion into Ukraine an invasion, defended his right to unilaterally order airstrikes into Iraq -- and Syria -- if necessary, and claimed the White House doesn’t have "a strategy” yet to effectively combat ISIL.

Buzzfeed noted that other foreign leaders are refusing to describe the recent string of events in Ukraine as an invasion, despite hard evidence that this could be one [emphasis mine]:

Russian combat troops are currently inside southeastern Ukraine. NATO released satellite imagery showing this on Thursday. “The satellite images released today provide additional evidence that Russian combat soldiers, equipped with sophisticated heavy weaponry, are operating inside Ukraine’s sovereign territory,” NATO Brigadier General Nico Tak said.

Despite this, no one seems to want to call what is going on in Ukraine an invasion.

Asked by Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC on Thursday why the United States has favored terms like “incursion” and “aggression” instead of “invasion” to characterize the situation in Ukraine, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “I think this is a discussion about terminology” and that it doesn’t change the kind of support the U.S. is giving Ukraine and the discussions U.S. officials are conducting.”

Other Western leaders are mirroring the U.S. rhetoric, including U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who said on Thursday that “I’m extremely concerned by mounting evidence that Russian troops have made large-scale incursions into South Eastern Ukraine, completely disregarding the sovereignty of a neighbor” and warned Russia of “further consequences.”

Yet, the evidence that this is indeed an invasion is mounting.

But, it's not an invasion.

New Al Qaeda Magazine Hints an Attack on US Is Imminent

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s media branch is out with a new English language magazine, Palestine-Betrayal of the Guilty Conscience Al-Malahem. The new publication, a spin-off of Inspire, is calling on fellow Muslims to wage acts of terror in the United States and Britain.

Fox News reports:

A new English-language Al Qaeda magazine features a how-to article on making car bombs and suggests terror targets in the United States, including casinos in Las Vegas, oil tankers and military colleges, and implies that an attack is imminent. […]

“The timeline concludes with the date 201?’ and blank spaces and question marks for the photo and information of the next attack -- implying that it is coming soon,” said MEMRI Executive Director Steve Stalinsky.

There is a suggested list of targets for lone-wolf, or individually executed, terror attacks, including New York's Times Square, casinos and night clubs in Las Vegas, oil tankers and trains, the Georgia Military College, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and General Atomics defense contractor in San Diego.

“This recipe gives you the ability to make a car bomb even in countries with tight security and surveillance,” one article reads, before providing a “shopping list” of supplies needed to make such a bomb, including cooking gas, oxygen gas, a barometer, decoration lamps and matches.

There is also a list of targets in Britain including a military academy and the Marks and Spencers chain of department stores. The magazine calls for the stores to be hit on Friday during prayers so that Muslims won’t be affected. […]

In a nine-page spread entitled, “How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom,” the magazine details a do-it-yourself, illustrated guide on assembling a pressure-cooker bomb similar to the ones used in the Boston Marathon bombings.

“My Muslim brother, before you start reading the instructions, remember that this type of operation if prepared well and an appropriate target is chosen and Allah decrees success for you, history will never forget it. It will be recorded as a crushing defeat on the enemies of Islam,” the article says.

So what are the chances of an attack on the homeland? U.S. intelligence officials are currently investigating the increased likelihood, Fox reports, but ISIS has already issued several threats against America, including taunting tweets that show they’re already here.

An attack on the U.S. and other Western countries “will come probably sooner rather than later,” retired Gen. Michael Hayden said on CNN Sunday morning.

Obama: We Have No Strategy to Fight ISIS; Ukraine Wasn’t Invaded

Speaking from the White House Briefing room on Thursday, President Obama touched on a whole host of foreign challenges facing the nation.

Most significantly, perhaps, he noted that Secretary of State John Kerry will soon be heading to the Middle East to “build a coalition” to help meet the growing threat of ISIL.

“I am confident that we can and we will,” he intoned.

He also noted that he had asked Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel -- and his joint chiefs of staff -- to furnish him with “a range of options” to finally deal with these violent and bloodthirsty terrorists.

“Clearly ISIL had come to represent the very worst elements in the region that we have to deal with collectively,” he said.

He also mentioned that he had been in communication with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the unrest in eastern Ukraine.

“We are, if there was any doubt, convinced that Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine,” he said. “Russia has deliberately and repeatedly [threatened] the territorial integrity" of that country.

“Russia is already more isolated than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” he continued. “This ongoing Russian incursion into Ukraine will only bring more consequences for Russia.”

Turning to Syria, he proclaimed that “Assad’s lost [all] legitimacy” -- and that the US will strive, with our allies, to give the moderate Sunni population a political choice other than ISIL or the regime.

Other highlights: He refused to call Russia’s most recent incursion into Ukraine an invasion, defended his right to unilaterally order airstrikes into Iraq -- and Syria -- if necessary, and claimed the White House doesn’t have "a strategy” yet to effectively combat ISIL.

President Obama will meet with his national security team later today.

Part of Utah's Anti-Polygamy Law Struck Down

In Utah, it is no longer illegal for someone to cohabitate with someone with whom they are not married, following a decision in the lawsuit Brown v. Buhman. The case was filed by Kody Brown, who is the patriarch of the polygamous Brown family featured on the TLC show "Sister Wives." While this technically means living a polygamous lifestyle is now effectively decriminalized in Utah, a person is still prohibited from having multiple marriage licenses.

Federal Judge Clark Waddoups in December struck the section of Utah’s bigamy statute that can be applied when someone "cohabits with another person" to whom they are not legally married. Utah law made such a union a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Waddoups said the ban violated the First and 14th amendments to the Constitution.

Waddoups let stand the portion of the statute that prevents someone from having more than one active marriage license.

In the final portion of his ruling Wednesday, Waddoups found the Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman violated the Browns’ constitutional rights when he oversaw a 2010 investigation into whether the Brown family was committing bigamy. At the time the Browns lived in Lehi. They have since moved to Nevada. Buhman eventually decided not to file criminal charges, but Waddoups said the investigation stifled the Browns’ rights to free speech, religion and equal protection.

While there certainly are legitimate concerns regarding the safety of children in polygamist marriages, particularly those who live in isolated compounds, laws against child abuse already exist. If other crimes are happening (child abuse, neglect, etc.) in these unions, then the perpetrators should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The U.S. has generally leaned toward a "benevolent neutrality" on freedom of religion-based court cases—that is, the government would seek to avoid imposing restrictions on a church that would result in its closure. This decision seems to be in line with that train of thought, as well as with previous Supreme Court rulings concerning privacy rights.

While I personally find the concept of plural marriage to be undesirable, I agree with the judge's ruling that the law prohibiting cohabitation likely overstepped the boundaries of religious freedom. I also find it fair that the portion of the law prohibiting someone from being legally married to more than one person was allowed to stand.

Both sides are planning appeals of the decision.

Journalism Association Demands Apology for...Anti-ISIS Comments


Fox News host Andrea Tantaros is drawing fire for these comments, made on Outnumbered:


[This has been happening] "for hundreds and hundreds of years. If you study the history of Islam…this isn't a surprise. You can't solve it with a dialogue. You can't solve it with a summit. You solve it with a bullet to the head. It's the only thing these people understand."


Two important stipulations: (1) Terrible violence has been inflicted in the name of religion -- and certainly not just Islam -- throughout human history. In the 20th century alone, an explicitly atheist ideology murdered tens of millions, too. (2) An overwhelming majority of the planet's Muslims today are peaceful non-extremists.  I doubt Tantaros would dispute either of those points.  Her remarks were in the context of a conversation about ISIS, the ultra-radical, stupefyingly brutal Islamist supremacist death cult.  She was reacting to the decapitation of an American journalist.  Her point about the history of Islam, including her discussion of the Barbary pirates, was that radicalized Muslims have been slaughtering and visiting violence and oppression upon 'infidels' for centuries.  Her invocation of "these people," as I understood her, was clearly a reference to violent extremists, not all Muslims.  But that's not what the Asian American Journalists Association heard, and they're insisting upon a mea culpa:


What we at the Asian American Journalists Association don’t understand is how the barbaric act of a terrorist group could be used to condemn and to smear an entire faith. Yet that’s precisely what Fox News host Andrea Tantaros did when she suggested in an 'Outnumbered' segment that aired Aug. 20 that all Muslims are like ISIS, the group purportedly behind the execution of Foley. “They’ve been doing this for hundreds and hundreds of years if you study the history of Islam,” she said. More alarmingly, Tantaros goes so far as to advocate violence. 'You can’t solve it with a dialogue. You can’t solve it with a summit,' she said. 'You solve it with a bullet to the head. It’s the only thing these people understand.' AAJA calls for Tantaros and Fox News to apologize for the irresponsible, inflammatory statements. We also call on Fox News to discourage its journalists from making blanket comments that serve to perpetuate hate and Islamophobia.

Perhaps the AAJA should work on its listening skills and review the importance of context when evaluating and repudiating comments.  They've decided that Tantaros' "history of Islam" sentence fragment is the key to understanding her true intent, rather than the subject matter of the entire segment.  Furthermore, it's not "Islamophobia" to draw attention to the terrifying realities of radical Islam.  One could even argue it's more Islamophobic to hear stark denunciations of Islamist violence as an attack on the broader religion.  It's also simply a fact that the large preponderance of faith-hijacking terrorism today is the province of Islam -- from ISIS to Al Qaeda to Boko Haram to Hamas.  It's not bigotry for Westerners to recognize that empirical reality, nor is it beyond the pale to comment on the fact that more Muslims in the West have marched against Israel's military campaign responding to aggression from Hamas terrorists than have taken to the streets to protest ISIS' savagery -- which is being conducted in the name of their religion.  (Which is not to say that no Muslims have done so; some have).  Indeed, pro-ISIS rallies have been held in European cities, and an anti-ISIS march in the Netherlands was disrupted by rock-throwing Muslims.  One need not impute radicalism to most Muslim people to accurately point out that Islam has, and has had for some time, a violence problem that has the tacit or active support of a frighteningly sizable minority of Muslims worldwide.  I'll leave you with these comments from Bill Maher, who got in trouble for making this exact point in a tweet:

Redskins Fans: Screw Political Correctness, We Love Our Team

Earlier this week, MRCTV’s Dan Joseph wanted to know what Redskins fans think about the name. Should it be changed? In the parking lot of the FedEx Field, Joseph found one person, who wore a Redskins shirt featuring a Native American giving the middle finger, thought the name should be changed; she blamed the Europeans. Another woman said the name should be changed, but she doesn’t want the organization to do it.

Another die-hard fan said that a Native American designed the logo, while another man said his family is almost full-blooded Native American and they’re not offended by the name at all.

Overall, most fans don’t want the name changed, they love their team, and won’t adhere to a small segment of the population that tries to make everything in America awful by spreading political correctness. 

Cameron to Scotland: Independence Would Be Your Economic Ruin

As the people of Scotland prepare to vote on their independence Sept. 18, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that the divide would result in a devastating blow to Scotland's economic viability. 

During a speech Thursday to the Confederation of British Industry's (UK's premier business lobbying organization) Cameron urged them to recognize the symbiotic relationship between Scotland and the United Kingdom:

"This is one of the oldest and most successful single markets in the world. Scotland does twice as much trade with the rest of the UK than with the rest of the world put together – trade that helps to support one million Scottish jobs.

For some industries, the proportion of trade with the rest of the UK is even higher – 90% of Scottish financial services' customers are in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Then there's the world-famous gaming industry, cutting-edge subsea technology and life-saving biomedicine – all selling far more outside Scotland than inside.

This success doesn't happen by accident. It happens because of the skill of people in Scotland and the opportunities that come from being part of something bigger, a large domestic market, underpinned by a common currency, common taxes, common rules and regulations, with no borders, no transaction costs, no restrictions on the flow of goods, investment or people. Ours really is an economy of opportunity."

When the Scottish National Party came into power in 2011, it pushed an agenda which included recognizing Scotland as a sovereign nation, according to Daniel Gallagher, Economic Counsellor at the British Embassy in Washington D.C. As the Scottish National Party gained a voice in Parliament it pushed through a referendum which would allow the people of Scotland to vote on their country's independence. 

"The debate has largely been around Scotland's economic future and what position and independent Scotland would have in the world," Gallagher said during a speech at the British Embassy July 17. 

"The government has out a series of fourteen analysis papers which cover aspects such as international security, cultural ties, currency arrangements, government spending, and the fiscal position Scotland would find itself in." 

Britain's final assessment of the situation: 

"Scotland is better off as part of the UK, now and in the future."

While Britain may analyze, inform and plead as much as it likes, only the Scots hold the ultimate power to alter the future of their country. 

UN: ISIS Prefers Maiming, Killing on Fridays

So far, when the media even bothers to cover the rise of ISIS, they’ve generally chosen to focus on the atrocities in northern Iraq, where the Yazidi population and other minority sects have been explicitly hunted. But across the border, in Syria, the bloodletting has been going on for years -- and the carnage there is equally as bad, if not worse.

And yet to their credit, UN investigators have done yeomen’s work exposing ISIS’s atrocities in Syria, especially during the first half of this past year. Their 45-page expose is gruesome yet a must-read.

Ironically, too, the commissioners discovered that the holiest day of the week, Friday, is when ISIS radicals prefer torturing, maiming, and executing their victims. How sick is that?

Public executions, amputations, lashings and mock crucifixion are a regular fixture in jihadist-controlled areas of Syria, a UN probe charged Wednesday, also accusing Damascus of repeatedly using chemical weapons against civilians. "Executions in public spaces have become a common spectacle on Fridays" -- the Muslim holy day -- in parts of Syria under control of the Islamic State (IS), the independent Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Syria said.

In a 45-page report covering the period from January 20 to July 15, the commission also detailed a wide range of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Syrian government and other armed opposition groups. And it accused Damascus of dropping chlorine bombs on civilian areas in April -- the first time the UN has directly blamed the government for the chemical attacks.

The four-member commission detailed a litany of horrors committed by IS, including beheading boys as young as 15 and amputations and lashings in public squares as residents, including children, are forced to watch.

This blood spectacle is appalling. And yet human rights violations are not merely unique to ISIS. The Syrian government, under President Bashar al-Assad, has committed all sorts of atrocities, the commissioners found:

Government forces, which were blamed for the lion's share of abuses and deaths in the early years after the conflict broke out in 2011, had carried out more massacres and committed murder, torture and rape against civilians, the report said. Since January, the government's "indiscriminate firing of missiles and barrel bombs into civilian areas" had killed hundreds of men women and children every week, it said. At the same time, the already staggering number of deaths in Syrian prisons also appeared to be on the rise and many more civilians had disappeared without a trace, said the report.

The administration’s objective in Syria is arming and supporting the “moderate” wing of the opposition. But with so much death and destruction going on, it’s difficult to credibly decipher between friend and foe.

It’s true too that ISIS and Assad’s government forces are killing each other; but if the US intervenes, and alters the balance of power, insulating Assad even more is hardly an ideal outcome.