Religious Freedom Fighters

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the September issue of Townhall Magazine. 

In 2008, the Romeike family had a big decision to make about the future of home schooling their children: stay in Germany, where the practice has been banned since 1918, and risk losing custody of their children, or seek political asylum in the United States.

As many are aware, they chose the latter.

By January 2010, all seemed well for the devoutly Christian family. A U.S. immigration judge made an unprecedented decision to grant the Romeikes asylum on religious freedom grounds, saying that Germany’s policy of persecuting homeschoolers is “repellent to everything we believe in as Americans,” and that the family was being denied “basic human rights that no country has a right to violate.”

But the victory would be short lived. The decision was challenged and overturned by the Obama administration, and by 2014, after years of uphill legal battles in the American court system, it looked as though the family may be deported to Germany.

Thanks in part to significant political and media attention, however, the administration suddenly relented in March and granted the family permission to stay in the country indefinitely.

The outcome of the Romeike family’s case was one of the Home School Legal Defense Association’s greatest successes in recent years, William Estrada, HSL- DA’s director of federal relations, tells Townhall. HSLDA, which represented the family, has been advocating for the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children since 1983.

“It was an incredible victory for the Romeike family and it really showed Germany is out of the mainstream in the way they do not allow any home schooling in their country,” he says, pointing out that even Russia and communist China allow the practice.

Although home schooling may seem like a deep-seated right in America, it was not long ago that HSLDA was fighting for its very survival in this country.

“The first 10-15 years [of HSLDA’s existence] you could say was actually the battle for home schooling’s survival, that was where we were defending families who were in prison; we were fighting to make home schooling legal,” says Estrada, a home-school graduate. “When we were founded in 1983 only a handful of states allowed home schooling. In pretty much all of them, home schooling was a criminal offense because it would be a violation of the truancy laws.”

By the early 1990s when home school- ing was legal in all 50 states, HSLDA transitioned to national work: battling H.R. 6 of 1994, which would have required all teachers, in all types of schools, to be certified in every subject area they teach; trying to keep the federal government from encroaching on home school- ing freedoms; and working to stop U.N. treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Home schooling is very bipartisan. It’s grown and is now recognized by everyone, and what we’re fighting for is more of a long-term defense to protect parental rights, Estrada says.

The numbers alone demonstrate its increased acceptance.

When the U.S. Department of Education first started conducting a quadrennial report in 1999, there were roughly 850,000 home-schooled students. Now, however, there are approximately 1.8 million students, according to its latest report of the 2011-2012 school year.

As the number of home-schooled students has grown, so too has the diversity of the population choosing this education option.

“When home schooling started in the ‘70s and ‘80s it was primarily fundamentalist Christian families who were home schooling because they didn’t like the direction the public school was taking as far as religious issues,” he says. “We are seeing home schooling rising across the board, among secular families, people who are home schooling who think the school is too conservative or too religious, and that has really started to swing the demographic.”

In addition to religious reasons, parents who choose to home-school most often cite concerns about the school environment and the academic content of the public school, the Department of Education has found. There are also sizeable minorities of people who home- school for other reasons, such as military families or families who have a child with a disability.

And Estrada says that anecdotally at least, dissatisfaction with Common Core has contributed to increasing numbers of home-schooled children in the last year or two.

“The good news is that Common Core does not apply to home-schools,” he says, “the bad news is if we’re unable, and I mean public school, private school, and home-school parents, if we’re unable to stop Common Core, we’re very concerned about the future of home schooling. You know, down the road there will be pressure on home schooling to conform.”

College acceptance could become harder for students who have not gone through Common Core, requirements to receive federal student aid could change, and so could standardized testing. For all these reasons, HSLDA remains actively engaged in the fight against Common Core.

There’s no question home schooling- has come of age, but that doesn’t mean HSLDA’s work is over. The association actively promotes home-school-friendly legislation on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures across the nation, and continues to provide invaluable home-schooling-related legal advice and representation to its more than 84,000 member families.

“We have the greatest members and that’s why we’ve continued to be able to fight for home schooling, for parental rights—those freedoms that are so dear to all parents,” he says. • 

NYT: Democrats Using Ferguson Shooting To Mobilize Voters For 2014

Democrats are using the tragic shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month to mobilize black voters ahead of the midterm elections. It could impact the races in Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas, where black voters represent a significant part of the electorate. African-Americans represent thirty percent of eligible voters in Louisiana and Georgia alone. The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin indicated that African-Americans “played a pivotal role” in 1998 elections. Yet, trying to drive up voter turnout will be tricky since the states that will determine if Democrats keep the Senate are in the south, where Obama is deeply unpopular (via NYT):

With their Senate majority imperiled, Democrats are trying to mobilize African-Americans outraged by the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., to help them retain control of at least one chamber of Congress for President Obama’s final two years in office.

In black churches and on black talk radio, African-American civic leaders have begun invoking the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, along with conservative calls to impeach Mr. Obama, as they urge black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, in which minority turnout is typically lower.

“Ferguson has made it crystal clear to the African-American community and others that we’ve got to go to the polls,” said Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia and a civil-rights leader. “You participate and vote, and you can have some control over what happens to your child and your country.”

The push is an attempt to counter Republicans’ many advantages in this year’s races, including polls that show Republican voters are much more engaged in the elections at this point — an important predictor of turnout.

[T]he terrain is tricky [for Democrats]: Many of the states where the black vote could be most crucial are also those where Mr. Obama is deeply unpopular among many white voters. So Democratic senators in places like Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina must distance themselves from the nation’s first African-American president while trying to motivate the black voters who are his most loyal constituents.

While minority turnout traditionally declines in nonpresidential election years, there have been midterm elections in which Southern blacks played a pivotal role. An example occurred in 1998, when President Bill Clinton was, like Mr. Obama, under fire from Republicans and nearing the end of his White House years.

The last point Martin makes is kind of odd. I would agree that it would’ve been pivotal if Democrats took back the Senate in 1998, but they didn't. There was no swing in the Senate composition at the end of the night; Republicans held 55 seats and the Democrats occupied 45. Each party lost and gained three seats.

Democrats took out Republican incumbents in New York, North Carolina, and Indiana, while Republicans booted Democrats in Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky. These elections would usher in Chuck Schumer and John Edwards into the U.S. Senate.

In Arkansas, Democrats were able to keep the seat Democratic with Blanche Lincoln and incumbent Sen. Paul Coverdell was able to hold the line for the Republicans in Georgia.

So, what’s so “pivotal” about a draw? Not only that, but a draw that ended with Republicans keeping their ten seat majority.

Also, are Democrats really so desperate that they need to politicize someone’s death? Then again, we’re talking about the political left; seldom do they exude any form of shame. Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that exploiting death to drive up voter turnout is, well, abhorrent. 

Biden Uses "Take Back America" Phrase--FLASHBACK: Holder Calls It Racist

Or what could be the Democrat mantra: Racism for thee but not for me.

The NRSC Released A Flash Video Game - But Is It Good?

Little flash-based web games have been around for nearly as long as the internet itself, and distraction-like games are common for political causes. The National Republican Senatorial Committee released "Giopi: Mission Majority" this week to wide coverage across the web. But is it any good?

I beat it in one sitting, in about fifteen minutes, and I can tell you: it's a mild disappointment. You play as Giopi the elephant, whose job is to collect keys and turn light switches in order to win back the Senate for the Republicans. Trying to stop you are two kinds of enemies: "taxers," which walk back and forth and injure Giopi on contact; and "mudslingers," large blue-grey blobs. Both can be defeated by jumping on their heads. When you jump on them, they let out little soundbites, like "phoney scandals" or "what difference, at this point, does it make?"


Also, 8-bit Joe Biden shows up

Which brings us to the most problematic part of the game: the controls. Admittedly, I was playing on my work PC, not a high-end gaming machine, so lag might have been a problem, but Giopi controls pretty poorly. You have to get used to a microsecond lag between when you tell Giopi to jump and when he actually does. Additionally, the hit-boxes on both the Taxer and Mudslinger are oddly wide; this caused poor Giopi much more injury in my playthrough than he deserved.


The little papers are "Taxers", and the grayish blob at the bottom is a "Mudslinger"

The music is good, though. Quite good! I might have detected a Mega Man ripoff sound effect when Giopi spawns in each level. There are a few different themes, all of which go very well with an 8-bit style video game. Problems arise here, too, unfortunately. The themes aren't unique to the levels. They cycle through one after another, rather than have a single theme with each new stage.

The stages themselves are pretty indistinguishable. There isn't even a color swap to tell them apart. In the first level, Giopi collects keys and stomps on Taxers. In the second and third levels, he collects keys and stomps on both Taxers and Mudslingers. In the fourth stage, he flicks light switches.

I'll say this: the game is slightly more competent and entertaining than I was expecting. That might be a low bar, though. As Asawin Suebsaeng wrote at the Daily Beast, partisan flash games have a checkered history:

In 2008, John McCain’s presidential campaign launched a Facebook game called Pork Invaders, which spoofed the arcade staple Space Invaders with a pork barrel-spending theme. In 2004, the Republican National Committee launched John Kerry: Tax Invaders and Kerry vs. Kerry, the latter a nod to the Democratic candidate’s reputation for flip-flopping on key political issues.

But look, the point of Giopi is not to make a good game. It's to get your email address or social media information (one of those must be given as a condition for playing the game) so that the NRSC can market and solicit donations from you.

Still, the game is a mild disappointment. It's a shame, because Giopi is an adorable little mascot. There's a lot of character stuffed into those little pixels! His tanktop is awesome!

.
Oh, and you can merchandise featuring the little guy as well

I'm not asking for the Emogame, perhaps the greatest flash game of all time. But even just tightening the screws and a little paint job in a few different places could have turned Giopi: Mission Majority into a hit. Especially with that little mascot.

Geraldo Rivera: Second Amendment is 'Blind and Stupid'

In covering the tragic story of a young girl accidentally killing her range instructor with an Uzi, my colleague Matt Vespa predicted that the anti-gun lobby would exploit this story to promote their agenda. It appears his prediction has been proven true. This past Thursday, Geraldo Rivera, a noted proponent of gun control, posted the following anti-Second Amendment message on his website and Facebook page: (emphasis added)

Like I always say, the 2nd Amendment, the provision that gives every American the right to keep and bear arms, is blind and stupid. In its relentless pimping for the gun industry, the NRA has unleashed an avalanche of deadly weapons on this gun-crazy country. Just as protects access to weapons for cops and hunters, it also protects access to weapons for domestic abusers, mental patients, jerk-offs on the no-fly list, all-around dim bulbs, and now little children.

As the father of a sweet, smart nine year old daughter myself, the latest example of gross excess is the image of that pony-tailed New Jersey girl accidentally killing her gun range instructor. It is obscene and uncivilized to let a third grader shoot a fully automatic Uzi machine gun. What was she training for, revolution? Invasion? Service in the coming post-apocalyptic social disorder? Stupid, but just another of countless examples of how far into insanity we have let the gun nuts push us.

As Matt noted in his article, there's a general consensus that the shooting range behaved negligently in allowing a young child to shoot a fully automatic weapon. 

I actually agree with most of Rivera's second paragraph: it was absolutely irresponsible for a young child to be shooting an Uzi. I disagree, however, with the assertion that it is the "gun nuts" fault that the girl was on the range. It's not uncommon at all for a child to learn to shoot at a young age, whether it be for hunting or sporting purposes. Giving an Uzi to a child, on the other hand, was absolutely ridiculous and this tragedy easily could have been avoided. 

While it's not exactly a shock that someone against guns thinks that the Second Amendment is "stupid," it is somewhat troubling that in Rivera's eyes the amendment being "blind" is also a negative quality. The U.S. Constitution applies to every citizen regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sex and intelligence level. It would be thoroughly anti-American to have a set of Constitutional rights only for people who meet certain intelligence (or other arbitrary) qualifications. 

This incident was a preventable tragedy, no doubt. But it's not an appropriate tool for outrage against the Second Amendment. 

Ted Cruz 2016?

Is Sen. Ted Cruz considering a 2016 presidential bid? Politico insinuated that Sen. Cruz's new hires might have been made with 2016 in mind. But, of course, his staff tried to quell rumors:

Ted Cruz is beefing up his political staff as speculation heats up that the Texas senator may run for president in 2016.

Joel Mowbray, a consultant for a foreign policy think tank, has been volunteering for the political operation and “will end up playing a role” on the paid political staff, the adviser said. Nick Muzin, a former top House Republican Conference aide that now works in Cruz’s congressional office as a deputy chief of staff, will be working on coalitions building and outreach for Cruz’s political operation.

Jason Miller, who’s advised prominent conservatives like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has been brought on to “to put together a more robust communications operation,” the adviser said, while longtime GOP presidential campaign hand and Axiom Strategies founder Jeff Roe has been brought on board to build out the political organization. Lauren Lofstron will work on fundraising. Those three hires were first reported by the Washington Examiner.

Chip Roy, Cruz’s chief of staff, also received $1,100 in July for political consulting for the senator’s leadership PAC — though this is not Roy’s first work on the political side for Cruz, the adviser said. Both GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida have moved their chiefs from their congressional offices to their political operations — but Roy isn’t going anywhere yet.

Several Cruz aides sought to dispel rumors that Roy is stepping away from Cruz’s congressional office to engage in politics full-time. Roy remains Cruz’s chief of staff, they said.

His address at Defending The American Dream Summit over the Labor Day weekend had some on Twitter predicting that he will toss his hat in the ring. It’s about half an hour. Sen. Cruz’s mantra of “retiring” Harry Reid was a hit with the attendees. He said 2014 is about defending our constitutional rights, namely the right to bear arms, defeating Common Core, protecting the First Amendment, ending the IRS targeting of conservatives, and holding the overly-politicized Department of Justice accountable. He called for the impeachment of Attorney General Eric Holder.

He added this election is also about defending the Fourth and Fifth Amendments’ right to privacy. I’ll let you debate if that’s a bit of a stretch. There is no explicit right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution.

Sen. Cruz also eviscerated Obama’s foreign policy and our lack of leadership around the world, specifically with how we’re dealing with ISIS and controlling Russia’s current belligerent state in Eastern Europe.

He gets the base energized. He surely got the freedom fighters attending Defending The American Dream excited, but is this setting the stage for a 2016 campaign? His address was very 2014-centric, but a lot remains to be seen.  Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who's name's been floating around as a potential 2016 candidate could be taken out of the running if he loses re-election this November.  Rep. Paul Ryan will probably want to stay in Congress to be the point person on policy.  Sen. Marco Rubio's immigration stance could be a liability with base voters. Regardless, let's do one election at a time.  We can start to speculate after November 4.

"Emergency Regulations": NY's Latest Attempt to Suppress Free Speech

Remember when President Obama touted the Affordable Care Act by claiming if you "liked your plan you could keep it"? He earned Politifact's 2013 "Lie of the Year" for that whopper. Amazingly, several other Democrats made the same false promise. Knowing what we know now, wouldn't you want to expose any politician who stood behind that misleading statement? Well, if someone uttered those words in the state of New York, you may now be forced to let it slide. A new law in the Empire State, which some are calling the 'shut up rule,' could allow such lofty claims to go unchallenged.

The New York Board of Elections, in an attempt to regulate political spending by special interest groups during campaigns, has enacted "emergency regulations" that would make it much more difficult to challenge political speech:

The new regulations require individuals and groups spending on races -- independently of candidates and political parties -- to register with the state as a political committee and file financial reports that list so-called “independent expenditures.”

If citizens fail to register as a political committees when trying to voice their political opinions, the Board can fine them at least $1,000.

A $1,000 fine. For exercising your First Amendment right.

New York may be trying to reign in campaign spending, but it doesn't justify suppressing New Yorkers' free speech. Critics say that the regulations would even affect someone simply trying to hand out fliers in his or her neighborhood. 

When politicians stretch the truth - either by falsely accusing their opponents of wrongdoing or exaggerating their own accomplishments - they should be held accountable by their constituents. Yet, in New York, it seems like it's about to get a whole lot easier for politicians' to get away with outright falsehoods. Thanks to this new law, I guess we'd have to accept as fact whenever a politician claims they "took the initiative" in creating the internet.

 

The Collapse of Libya and the Failure of 'Smart Power'


When conservatives criticize the Obama administration over the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks, much of the attention is trained on the security failures preceding the raid, the dishonest public spin campaign after the fact, the lack of accountability nearly two years later, and the still-unanswered questions on a host of fronts.  But that lethal event was merely a symptom of the White House's broader, unraveling foreign policy.  The president intervened in Libya in 2011, deploying US military resources to help a rebel fighting force depose and dispatch murderous dictator Muammar Gaddafi.  The Libya conflict was paradigmatic of Obama's approach to war: 'Leading from behind,' aerial bombardment, extremely light footprint.  War from the air.  War without Congressional approval.  And war, in this case, with no clear strategic objective.  The result of that conflict was, in Obama's judgment, an example of how the international "community is supposed to work," as he declared at the time.  Lesson: Libya was a model of how "smart power" leads.  Well, the struggle to fill the power vacuum triggered by Gaddafi's fall has raged ever since the US "won" in Libya.  The victors, it appears, are many of the radical Islamists that America aided in toppling the regime.  The country has been awash in hardcore radical elements, with Benghazi emerging as a Jihadi hotbed.  When terrorists sacked the US compound on 2012's anniversary of 9/11, that massacre was merely the most high-profile evidence of Libya's descent into ungovernable chaos.  Today, several years on, the journey to full-blown failed state status seems to be complete.  Radicals have seized control of much of Libya's capital city, including the international airport, and -- as Matt noted over the weekend -- the abandoned US embassy:



And Benghazi, for those interested, also remains a bubbling cauldron of violence and mayhem.  The terrible status quo in Libya that we helped to uproot has given way to an even worse reality on the ground.  What was the core American national security interest at stake that justified our involvement there?  Yes, Gaddafi was slaughtering elements of his own population, some of whom were Islamist rebels, so perhaps there was some humanitarian interest -- but what was our geopolitical strategy for life in Libya after Gaddafi?  By the looks of it, there wasn't one.  We intervened minimally, then hoped for the best.  We failed to secure our personnel in Benghazi along the way, perhaps in order to keep up those all-important 'light footprint, no boots on the ground' appearances.  There was no strategy.  In Syria, the president drew a red line against the Assad regime, threatened an air campaign when Assad repeatedly defied it, then failed to follow through on his public threats.  Obama's escape hatch was an accidental policy of chemical weapons disarmament, which we're now told has been successful.  Buying that line requires (a) ignoring the fact that multiple deadlines were missed along the way as chemical weapons were used again, and (b) believing that all of Assad's illegal weapons were throughly catalogued and handed over, which seems highly unlikely.  Again, there was no strategy. One year later, the president is weighing military options in Syria, but this time in de facto support of Assad, against his malignant enemies.  In the fight against ISIS -- which quickly metastasized from a JV squad into a "cancer," in Obama's parlance -- the president openly admitted on Thursday that "we don't have a strategy yet."  The White House has been flailing to walk that phrase back ever since it escaped the Commander-in-Chief's lips, but those efforts are in vain.  The candid admission confirmed every stereotype of his foreign policy: Reactive, aloof, dithering, feckless and incoherent.  On that score, click through to this tough Washington Post analysis of Obama's foreign affairs meltdown.  Read the whole thing, or else you'll miss criticism from a prominent Senate Democrat, and an administration source touting Obama's Iran policy -- yes, this Iran policy -- a "perfect example" of "disciplined" and successful diplomacy.  An excerpt: 


As events cascaded, Obama juggled rounds of vacation golf with public statements addressing the conflicts. But his cool demeanor, and the split-screen imagery of a president at play and at work, seemed ill-matched to the moment. Then came a Thursday news conference and a comment that only reinforced criticism of a president neither fully engaged nor truly leaning into world problems. Speaking of the Islamic State, he said, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” The statement may have had the virtue of candor, as Obama weighs the military and diplomatic components of a U.S. response and seeks support from other nations. But it hardly projects an image of presidential resolve or decisiveness at a time of international turmoil….events seem to have spun out of his control, and Obama must react to the actions of others. Putin’s aggression in Ukraine has sparked the greatest East-West crisis since the Cold War. Islamic State advances have swallowed up a large swath of the Middle East and threaten a global upheaval far beyond the shock of al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks.

As the crises mount, so do the excuses:

Jim Lindsay, senior vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Obama’s inability to inspire confidence among critics has more to do with the complexity of the problems than the president’s leadership style. “He has a sort of perfect storm of messy problems, lousy options, ambivalent allies and a skeptical public,” he said….[Historian David Kennedy] said that Obama, in dealing with multiple crises, also is trying to change perceptions of what U.S. leadership and any president can realistically accomplish. “It’s difficult virtually to the point of impossibility to have a grand strategy in a world that is so fluid and in which we no longer yield the power we once had. In a sense that is Obama’s strategy, a recognition of that fact. So that rhetorically as well as in reality, he’s trying to diminish the expectation that we can control events.”

These points have merit to some extent.  But the posture, attitude, leadership, priorities and policies of the President of the United States aren't irrelevancies.  The quote from the foreign policy analyst above wrongly suggests that Obama's actions have had nothing to do with the messiness of the problems, the lousiness of the options, the ambivalence of our allies, or the skepticism of the public.  He's just the victim of events.  Kennedy's assessment that Obama is simply recognizing America's diminished influence for what it is absolves the president of presiding over, if not encouraging, that new reality.  When America abdicates its leadership role in the name of "smart power," people take notice.  When American chooses weakness and rudderlessness, unscrupulous global actors sense an opportunity to step into the resulting void. Obama's apologists are reduced to suggesting that America has become ungovernable on the domestic front, and that the world is hopelessly complex and messy on the geopolitical front.  Obama hasn't failed as a leader, they insist; new realities have failed him.

Follow Your Money: New App Scores Businesses for Conservative Values

What would you do if you found out your money—the money you spend buying coffee at Starbucks, furniture at IKEA, and gas at Exxon Mobile—was being used to fund abortions, advertise for Common Core State Standards, and limit our Second Amendment rights? Would you change your consumer habits to align them with your voting values? A new innovative app called "2nd Vote" gives you the power to decide. 

Launched in October, the free application contains scorecards for more than 450 commonly used stores and companies such as Netflix, Whole Foods, CVS, U.S. Airways, and Ford Motor. The app explains the scoring in its "How to Use" section: 

"Higher score = more conservative. Lower score = more liberal. Scores are based on financial support to third part organization." 

One of the core founders of 2nd Vote helped conceptualize the app after he was told that March of Dimes, a pro-life organization to which he was making donations, actually sent funds to Planned Parenthood. This shocking discovery made him wonder what else his money was unconsciously funding. 

"When we started taking a look and building our database we realized that it's not just March of Dimes; it's Starbucks and Levi's jeans, and Apple, " 2nd Vote Executive Director Chris Walker told Townhall. 

"All of the companies that we shop with on a day-to-day basis typically fund a lot of left-wing causes. What we wanted to do is figure out how we can educate people and show them that 'look, where you're shopping with your second vote is funding causes and issues that you may not support on your own."

The non-profit organization is currently run by a team of individuals who have a background in politics and public policy. They dig to uncover each company's financial support on issues of pro-life, marriage, the second amendment, the environment, and education. The work is often very labor intensive, Walker stated. 

"We look at tax documents, 990 forms for non-profit organizations, we go through a lot of public statements made by the leadership or by the company itself. A lot of times the companies will put right on their website who they support and why."

In the future, 2nd Vote wants to create scorecards for thousands of companies and provide the general public with information they need to actively hold their dollars accountable. So pull out your phones, and here's to snubbing the claim that conservatives are missing the tech wave. 

Happy Labor Day

Why is Labor Day so important to us?

That's a good question. Perhaps it's because Labor Day gives the American worker a chance to spend some additional quality time with friends, family and loved ones. It’s also, supposedly, the last day you’re allowed to wear white, and, as Karl Rove points out, it's “the unofficial start of the fall campaign season.

These are all good things, or at least good things to know. But its true meaning and purpose is actually quite fascinating (via the US Department of Labor):

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

I don't think Labor Day has quite the same pop as other national holidays. But it is a federal holiday nonetheless, one meant to honor and celebrate American individual achievement and accomplishment:

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

So there you have it. That’s why we celebrate Labor Day. It isn’t to honor Big Government or organized labor, as some might believe; it's to "pay tribute" to individuals working for -- and fighting for -- the American Dream.

So, from all of us here at Townhall, we hope you have a safe, relaxing, and work-free holiday.

Enjoy the day off.

Federal Judge Blocks Louisiana's New Abortion Law

A federal judge temporarily blocked the implementation of Louisiana’s new abortion law since it could have led to the closure of Louisiana’s five abortion clinics. The law required doctors to have admitting privileges for hospitals within 30 miles of an abortion clinic (via Associated Press/Huffington Post):

A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of Louisiana's restrictive new abortion law.

District Judge John deGravelles says the law can still take effect Monday but officials cannot penalize doctors or clinics for breaking it while a challenge is heard.

The law would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics. A Center for Reproductive Rights lawsuit claims doctors haven't had enough time to obtain privileges and the law likely would force Louisiana's five abortion clinics to close.

The law would have fined non-compliant doctors $4,000 and the loss of their medical license.  While the law goes into effect without enforcement measures, the judge noted that it's unclear if the regulatory fallout would lead to abortion clinic closures:

However, deGravelles wrote, clinics' lawyers have not proven that enforcing the law would shut down most, if not all, of Louisiana's clinics, eliminating access to legal abortions in Louisiana. Because the doctors' applications haven't all been acted on and the attorneys don't represent two clinics, that's speculative, he said.

"How many patients do these other two facilities treat? How many doctors practice there? How many of these doctors have applied for admitting privileges and what is the status of their applications?" he wrote. He said he needs answers to those and other questions, including how far patients would have to travel for care if the other two clinics stayed open.

Admitting privileges laws have passed across the South.

A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Louisiana, upheld a similar Texas law. But in July, a different panel of the 5th Circuit voted to overturn Mississippi's law, which would have shuttered the state's only abortion clinic, saying every state must guarantee the right to an abortion.

Editor's note: This post has been updated.

For Romney, Is It Third Time's The Charm?

So, should Mitt Romney run again? It’s a question that frustrates conservative since Mr. Romney wasn’t the best candidate to discuss things, like health care, that could have really energized the base in 2012. As Dan wrote last week, Romney’s killing it in the polls. In Iowa, one-third of the respondents would drop support of their current candidates in the 2016 field to back him.  Is this the beginning of Romney 2.0?

I admit that Romney’s “I told you so” platform could play well; Americans like comeback stories.  He's been right about pretty much everything, especially on foreign policy. But then there’s the issue about his stiffness as a candidate and his inability to fully unite the base. 

Also, health care and immigration will continue to plague Romney. On immigration, we have his statements supporting self-deportation, which would be replayed on a loop by Democrats. We could then say goodbye to Hispanic outreach efforts. 

On health care, even if Romney has a more detailed plan to fix Obamacare, he’ll once again be pelted with how Romneycare was the blueprint for Obamacare. Here’s a 2007 clip of him saying how Romneycare should be taken nationwide.

Lastly, the Heartland Institute’s Ben Domenech tore into the narrative that Romneycare’s economic effects were confined to the Bay State. In 2012, while on the Blaze, he listed off numerous figures showing how Romneycare was just bad policy. “Massachusetts spends more per capita on health care than anywhere else in the industrialized world,” he said. “Right now, under its current track–by 2020–health care costs will make up more than 50 percent of the state budget.” He also noted that within a few years Romneycare has gone over budget. Gov. Deval Patrick went down to Washington to ask for more money and got $4.3 billion more than they had asked for from federal taxpayers. Domenech also mentioned that Romney’s own advisers at the time admitted that his health care plan increased the cost of premiums when he was governor. That's not the best track record for the person who would be running against the president’s health care plan...again.

Oh, as for reaching single, urban women, none of us should expect him to perform better with that demographic either.

Nevertheless, there’s the comparison with Ronald Reagan. Reagan was governor and ran for president twice before his successful 1980 campaign. Supporters of Romney think he could do the exact same thing (via Business Insider):

There is precedent for a two-time loser finally winning the presidency on his third try. Ronald Reagan made a last-ditch effort to secure the GOP nomination in 1968. He nearly wrested it from an incumbent president in 1976. But it was only in 1980 that Reagan, at age 69, finally won. Of course, Reagan was famously charismatic, and he had been a conservative folk hero for years by the time he finally won the Republican nomination. The same can’t be said of Romney.

Nevertheless, there is something to the Reagan parallel. Though he commanded the loyalty of conservatives, Reagan was a decidedly pragmatic governor of California who acquiesced to tax increases, the liberalization of the state’s abortion laws, and other measures that should by all rights have scandalized the right.

By the time Reagan ran against Gerald Ford in 1976, however, he presented himself as a conservative purist, devoted to devolving power to state governments and taking a tougher line against the Soviet empire. Between 1976 and 1980, he again underwent another subtle but important shift, smoothing some of his ideological rough edges and offering a more optimistic brand of conservatism tailor-made to appeal to voters who had grown tired of Carter-era malaise.

Could Mitt Romney pull off a similar feat? I wouldn’t rule it out.

All we can do is hope that Ann Romney and the rest of the family shoot down another presidential run with another emphatic "NO" vote. Then again, as Dan mentioned in his post, Romney “left the door kind of open to running again -- but not really” in his interview with Hugh Hewitt.  Maybe it'll all just be a bad dream.

Is Your Food Conservative?

Every major corporation has a leader, and most of them have political views. This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. Many of them also have Political Action Committees that are actively involved in politics. Again, should not be shocking.

A new mobile phone app allows you to scan the barcodes of consumer products to discover whether their leaders donate to political causes - and which ones they do donate to. John Brownlee went to Whole Foods and made a discovery: many products that fill the Whole Foods shelves could be associated with conservatism:

Spoiler: it's almost impossible to buy anything in Whole Foods without, in a roundabout way, supporting the Republican Party.

Checking my list, I noted the missus also wanted me to pick up some cereal. I grabbed a bag of Bob's Red Mill. *Gleeeble-fleep!* 49% Republican, 31% Democrat, 20% Other. Okay, how about Kashi? *Hooble-dee-zlorp!* That's better, I guess: 37.25% Republican to 33.5% Democrat, which means that the Kellogg's-owned Kashi brand bleeds bluer blood than that malevolently cackling, oatmeal-loving oligarch, Bob Moore.

The intense need for people to associate consumer brands with political ideology is so, so tiresome. We as conservatives should know this. Nearly every film that comes out of Hollywood is laden with a liberal message - and let's not get started on rock and pop music. We learn to appreciate these things if we enjoy them - so we can listen to Bruce Springsteen and eat organic granola without considering the political implications of either.

So I happily shop at Costco and buy Progressive insurance and don't really worry about what causes my money is going to support. If the product is good enough, it shouldn't really matter. So while Koch Industries manufactures Brawny paper towels, I usually buy Bounty - or just generic store brands like Target's.

Obsessing over the political leanings of the leaders of companies whose products you buy is a recipe for going crazy and cutting yourself off completely from society. Don't do it.

New Tenants: Islamist Militia Secures A U.S. Embassy Residential Compound In Libya UPDATE: They Had A Pool Party

More than a month after American personnel was evacuated from Tripoli due to ongoing fighting in Libya, Islamist militants report that they’ve “secured” a U.S. Embassy residential compound. The Islamist group now in charge of the compound said they’ve been there a week, and told the Associated Press that a rival militia has also set up shop there before they took over (via Associated Press):

An Islamist-allied militia group "secured" a U.S. Embassy residential compound in Libya's capital, more than a month after American personnel evacuated from the country over ongoing fighting, one of its commanders said Sunday.

An Associated Press journalist walked through the compound Sunday after the Dawn of Libya, an umbrella group for Islamist militias, invited onlookers inside. Some windows at the compound had been broken, but it appeared most of the equipment there remained untouched. The journalist saw treadmills, food, televisions and computers still inside.

A commander for the Dawn of Libya group, Moussa Abu-Zaqia, told the AP that his forces had entered and been in control of the compound since last week, a day after it has seized control of the capital and its strategic airport after weeks of fighting with a rival militia. Abu-Zaqia said the rival militia was in the compound before his troops took it over.

U.S. personnel were evacuated on July 26, but Dawn of Libya has called on all foreign entities to return to Tripoli and resume their embassy operations since fighting has “subsided,” according to AP.  

UPDATE: This video reportedly shows the militants having a good time in the compound's pool.

Labor Daze: Majority of Americans 'Strongly Dissaprove' of Obama's Job Performance

This semi-retired president is not impressing anyone. Americans are more than twice as likely to "strongly disapprove" of President Obama's overall job performance than they are to "strongly approve," according to a recent Gallup poll: 

In the first year of Obama's presidency, the percentages of Americans who had strong views about the job he was doing were essentially tied, but the strongly negative responses now significantly outweigh the strongly positive ones. The largest segment of Americans today, 39%, strongly disapprove of Obama's job performance, while 14% moderately disapprove. Another 27% moderately approve, while 17% strongly approve.

Obama's voter base has been crumbling piece by piece as his term ticks along. Millennials stepped back as Obama created one of the worst economies in history for youth opportunity; super-sizing the national debt and fostering high unemployment rates. Hispanics, Blacks, women and almost every other demographic have also begun distancing their praise from the commander-in-chief. 

So who is left in the waning 17 percent who "strongly approve" of Obama's broken promises, failed foreign policy tactics, and negligent oversight of his administration? A few proud Democrats. Yet the poll's trajectory shows even this demographic is fast dissipating. 

Additionally, whereas Democrats were nearly three times as likely to strongly approve as moderately approve of Obama in 2009, the ratio is now about 1-to-1. 

The honeymoon is long over. Time to retire? 

Oh My: Dems More Afraid of Climate Change Than ISIS

Never mind the fact that they’re beheading captives and videotaping it for the world to see, or that they’re brutally murdering their way through Iraq and Syria, or even that they’re sending taunting tweets showing they’re already here and warning that an attack on the homeland is imminent. Nope, that’s not enough for Democrats, who, in a recent Pew poll, said that climate change is more of a threat to the U.S. than ISIS.

Partisan Differences in Views of Global Threats

The poll shows that 68 percent of Democrats believe that global climate change is a major threat to the United States, compared to just 25 percent of Republicans.

In contrast, 65 percent of Democrats believe that ISIS is a major threat, three points less than climate change. Seventy-eight percent of Republicans cited ISIS as a major threat -+ a partisan difference of 13 points.

Eighty percent of Republicans also cite “Islamic extremist groups like al Qaeda” as a major threat to the United States compared to 69 percent of Democrats.

Somewhere, Al Gore is seen nodding in approval.

U.S. Launched A New Wave Of Airstrikes Against ISIS

While the president ponders a strategy to defeat ISIS, our airstrikes continue; this time striking fighters of the Islamic State near the dam in Mosul to support Kurdish and Iraqi national forces. We’ve conducted over a hundred airstrikes so far (via AFP):

The US military launched fresh attacks on Islamic State forces in Iraq, using fighter aircraft and drones to carry out strikes near the Mosul dam, the Pentagon said on Saturday.

"All aircraft exited the strike areas safely."

The statement put out by US Central Command, based in Tampa, Florida, said the strikes were conducted to support Kurdish and Iraqi troops, "as well as to protect critical infrastructure, US personnel and facilities, and support humanitarian efforts."

The statement said that US Central Command so far has conducted a total of 115 air strikes across Iraq.

The United States earlier this week also used aircraft and drones to strike targets in northern Iraq to try to rein in Islamic State militants, who have seized a large swath of territory in the region.

It’s a start, but some direction from the White House would be nice.

White House Could Delay Immigration Decision Until After The Midterm Elections

Immigration is becoming quite the red meat issue this year. President Obama vowed to take on this matter alone due to congressional gridlock, which had many wondering what executive orders he might issue to address this crisis. Earlier this month, Guy had a great post about Obama using the presidential pardon for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States. But, for now, the president could postpone his decision on what he'll do on immigration until after the elections (via Associated Press):

President Barack Obama's possible delay in taking action on immigration has thrown advocates and lawmakers from both parties a curveball, barely two months before the midterm elections.

Democrats who were bracing for the impact that Obama's long-awaited announcement would have on their campaigns are now rethinking aspects of their strategy for the fall. Republicans who were considering legislative attempts to block Obama must reconsider whether that's the best use of the few remaining work weeks before Election Day.

And immigration advocates, already frustrated by how long it's taken Obama to act, must decide whether to pressure the president publicly to stop stalling or remain hopeful he'll give them a favorable outcome in the end.

Obama in June said that by the end of the summer, he'd announce what steps he had decided to take to fix the nation's immigration system in the absence of a legislative fix from Capitol Hill. But Obama backed away from that deadline on Thursday, and the White House on Friday acknowledged it was possible the decision would slip past the end of summer. It was unclear whether any delay would be a mere matter of weeks or could push the announcement past the November elections.

In some ways, this decision has helped Republicans, some of which were planning not to extend funding the government come September and shutting it down again. At the same time, Colorado was the only race where an announcement on immigration from the Obama administration could’ve helped; Hispanics make up 21 percent of the population there. Then again, most of the senate races are in red states, with lower percentages of Hispanic voters (via Washington Post):

A dramatic move may well produce long-term political benefits with the nation’s fast-growing Latino electorate. But many of the crucial Senate battles this year are being fought in conservative states with small Latino populations where Obama is unpopular.

One state where the issue could pay dividends for Democrats this year is Colorado, where 21 percent of the population is Hispanic and Sen. Mark Udall (D) is in a close race against Rep. Cory Gardner (R). Udall has called on Obama to act.

The two impulses that Republican leaders are eager to tamp down are calls for Obama’s impeachment or another government shutdown.

Rep. Steve King (Iowa), a hard-line tea party conservative, said a shutdown is possible. He has accrued growing influence on the immigration issue this summer, helping to shape the House GOP border security legislation that passed in early August.

King said in an interview that if Obama does move forward with an executive action, many House Republicans will be unwilling to extend funding for the government that is set to expire at the end of September.

“I don’t see how we could reach agreement if he takes that posture,” King said. “It would throw us into a constitutional crisis.”

“No one wants to use the I-word,” King added, when asked about possible calls for impeachment. But he did not rule out the option.

So, given that Rep. King would be a sucker for this trap, if that were what the White House had in mind; then why not set it for the GOP. Impeachment and shutdown talk could torpedo Republican chances of retaking the senate. Mitch McConnell was saddled with a potentially embarrassing development when his campaign manager, Jesse Benton, resigned over a scandal where a Iowa State Senator received money to switch allegiances from Rep. Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul during the 2012 GOP primaries; Benton was chairman of Ron Paul's campaign.

Nevertheless, as Allahpundit wrote last month, immigration has become another situation where Obama is faced with a difficult decision, whose consequences will have one side furious with him no matter what:

With public sentiment moving towards security and away from legalization, he’s going to drop an amnesty atomic bomb for millions of illegals right before the midterms? C’mon. [Rep.] Gutierrez gets asked about that in the first clip and doesn’t even contest that the politics are dodgy. His answer is that we can’t put politics above doing what’s right for migrants, which is precisely what you’d expect a guy whose only loyalty is to “the immigrant community” to say. But what about O? At a minimum, if he’s really thinking about bringing America’s refugee apparatus to Central America to make immigration faster and safer for child migrants, you’d think he’d want to hold off on any political sudden moves for illegals who are already here. Mickey Kaus argues, in fact, that Obama’s painted himself into a corner: If he goes big on executive amnesty now, he might doom red-state Democrats in November. If, despite his promises, he goes small, Gutierrez will be back on MSNBC the next day blubbering about Obama’s final betrayal or whatever.

According to a CNN poll, 51 percent of Americans say that we should be moving towards enforcing the border and curbing the amount of illegals entering the country; that’s a 10-point swing from February of this year. Additionally, support for granting legal status to illegal aliens has dropped 9-points, with 45 percent supporting the idea; it was 54 percent in February.

The New York Times also noted that a delay would enrage immigration groups, while Rep. Gutierrez hopes the president doesn’t screw this up. Yet, Democratic senators have reached out to the White House informing them that a delay is justified, especially with the large numbers of unaccompanied minors heading towards the United States that has exacerbated the problem on the border:

For Mr. Obama, talk of a delay is politically explosive among Hispanics, who are one of his most loyal constituencies and twice helped him win the presidency. Long upset by Mr. Obama’s inability to successfully push comprehensive immigration overhaul in Congress, immigration rights advocates said Friday that a delay would be unconscionable.

Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez, Democrat of Illinois, who has at times been critical of the administration’s approach, said that delay “comes at a tremendous cost in terms of families split up and children placed in foster care.” He said he remained confident that the president would put families and security “ahead of short-term political maneuvers.”

Democratic senators have reached out to top White House officials, including Denis McDonough, the chief of staff, to argue that the recent crisis with unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the United States justifies a delay. Several Democratic officials on Capitol Hill said the angry reaction to that border crisis eroded public support for changing immigration policy, and in some cases, turned the issue into a negative one for them.

The president has a lot on his plate right now; he’s dealing with how to handle Russia in Ukraine, ISIS in the Middle East, and his announcement on what he’ll do about immigration now that vacation is over and he’s put his golf clubs away. What’s it going to be, sir?

How to Make the College Football Playoff Better

At long last, this season will be the first college football season ever with a real playoff system. It is far from perfect, but here is how it will work.

At the end of the regular season, and after the conference championship games, a 13-person committee will pick the nation's top four college football teams. On New Year's Day, two of them will play in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and the other two will play in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. 

Then on January 12th, the winners of those two games will square off in the championship game in Dallas' AT&T Stadium.

While this is a big improvement over the former Bowl Championship Series system, it is still fundamentally flawed. There are five major conferences: the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Southeastern Conference, the Big Ten, the Big 12, and the Pacific 12. That means that every year at least one champion of a major conference will be left out of the playoff. And since the SEC is often dominant, there is a good chance some years will see two SEC teams make the playoffs, and two major conference champions left out.

And the winners of the minor FCS conferences are virtually guaranteed never to be invited.

This needs to be fixed. Here are two possibilities.

Option 1: The Big 4

The five major conferences are already considering adopting their own special rulebook for basketball and football players. They are pretty much a separate division as it is already. Why not go all the way? Why not expand and merge the existing five major conferences into four conferences each divided into 10-team divisions? Here is how the merger might look:

ACC
East: Boston College, Connecticut, Syracuse, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Miami.
South: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Florida State.

This conference combines the traditional ACC schools with what was the Big East, plus Notre Dame and Penn State. The Pitt-West Virginia rivalry would be restored, Maryland would be back in the ACC, and the ACC would maintain all of their current major TV markets.

SEC
East: LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Florida.
West: Arkansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, SMU, TCU, Baylor, Houston, Rice, and UTEP.

This conference combines the old SEC with old SWAC into one football and ratings powerhouse. All the old great SWAC rivalries would be back (Texas vs Texas A&M, SMU vs TCU, etc.) and all the SEC teams would get to play each other every year again too.

Big Tens
East: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State.
West: Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas State, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Louisville, and Cincinnati.
Combining the original Big Ten and and Big Eight (plus Louisville and Cincinnati) would restore a slew of rivalries (Nebraska vs Oklahoma, Nebraska vs Colorado, Missouri vs Kansas, etc.) while letting the Big Ten Network keep a bunch of its new television markets. They would lose the DC market without Maryland, and the New York market without Rutgers, but neither Maryland or Rutgers have big followings in their regions anyway, and the Big Ten would be gaining the Denver, St. Louis, Kansas City, Louisville, and Oklahoma City markets. 

Pac Tens
Pacific: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, California, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State.
Mountain: BYU, Utah, Nevada, UNLV, Fresno State, San Jose State, San Diego State, Hawaii, Boise State, and Colorado State.
The WAC is back! And this time they will be paired with the original Pac-10. Admittedly there is not a ton of upside for the existing Pac-12 schools here, but they don't really lose anything either.

On New Year's Day, the ACC champion would meet the SEC champion in either the Orange or Sugar Bowl, while the Big Tens and Pac Tens champions would meet in the Rose Bowl. A week or so later there would be a national championship game.

Option 2: The Big 8s
If the NCAA is determined to keep almost all of the current FCS teams in one division, the existing schools can also be divided into 8 smaller conferences. Here is how those conferences could look:
ACC
East: Syracuse, Rutgers, Connecticut, Boston College, Pitt, West Virginia, Temple, Miami
South: Maryland, Virginia, Wake Forest, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Clemson, South Carolina
SEC
East: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Memphis, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida, Florida State
West: Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, Louisville
Big Ten
East: Notre Dame, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State
West: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana
Pac 16
East: Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force, New Mexico
West: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, California, Stanford, USC, UCLA
Big 8s
North: Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
South: Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, TCU, SMU, Baylor, Houston, Rice
MAC
East: Toledo, Bowling Green, Akron, Kent State, Marshall, Buffalo, Army, UMass
West: Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Ball State, Miami of Ohio, Cincinnati, Ohio University
Conference USA
East: Troy, Old Dominion, Navy, East Carolina, South Florida, Central Florida, FAU, FIU
West: Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, Lousiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette, Lousiana-Monroe, Southern Miss, Southern Alabama
Mountain West
East: Arkansas State, Texas State, UTSA, North Texas, UTEP, Tulsa, New Mexico State, Utah State
West: Fresno State, San Jose State, San Diego State, Hawaii, Nevada, UNLV, Boise State, Idaho

With eight conferences, there would be 8 conference champions, so there would have to be another round of games. Finding four existing pre-New Year's Eve bowl games willing to host the quarter final round of the college football playoffs should be easy though. And the NCAA could seed the teams just as they do for the NCAA basketball tournament.

Neither of these options are likely to be adopted anytime soon, but college football fans can always dream.

Scarlett Johansson: Planned Parenthood's Biggest Cheerleader

Scarlett Johansson may be known as the butt-kicking Black Widow in the "Avengers" franchise, but in real life her recurring role is less-than-heroic. Just call her Planned Parenthood's biggest cheerleader.

The Hollywood starlet is the enthusiastic new face of Planned Parenthood Action Fund's new advertising campaign. Their latest project, which comes on the heels of the Supreme Court's decision to exempt the Christian-owned company Hobby Lobby from Obamacare's contraception mandate, will target pro-life politicians. Johansson, an outspoken feminist, is more than happy to help aim the bow-and-arrow:

"When I heard that some politicians were cheering the Supreme Court's decision to give bosses the right to interfere in our access to birth control, I thought I had woken up in another decade," Johansson said. "Like many of my friends, I was appalled by the thought of men taking away women's ability to make our own personal health care decisions."

As a part of the campaign, Johansson will be helping design Planned Parenthood t-shirts, which will say things like, "Hey Politicians! The 1950s called… They want their sexism back!"

I think this tweet says it all:

Ms. Johansson, for your unequivocal support for an organization that performs over 300,000 abortions annually, you are unfortunately "Lost in Translation."

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.