Anti-Gun Groups No Longer Fighting For Assault Weapons Bans

Alas, gun control groups seem to have moved away from so-called assault weapons bans for reasons pro-Second Amendment groups have espoused for months; they’re ineffective and represent a very small fraction of firearm-related homicides. Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America now calls such policy initiatives “nonstarters.” Nonetheless, that does not mean that these people have abandoned their support for such bans on certain types of firearms (via ProPublica):

Nearly two years later, Watts works full-time as the head of the group, now named Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, is a significant player in a coalition financed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But while polls suggest a majority of Americans still support an assault weapons ban, it is no longer one of Watts' top priorities.

"We've very much changed our strategy to focus on public safety measures that will save the most lives," she told ProPublica.

It's not just that the ban proved to be what Watts calls a "nonstarter" politically, gaining fewer votes in the Senate post-Sandy Hook than background check legislation. It was also that as Watts spoke to experts and learned more about gun violence in the United States, she realized that pushing for a ban isn't the best way to prevent gun deaths.

A 2004 Justice Department-funded evaluation found no clear evidence that the decade-long ban saved any lives. The guns categorized as "assault weapons" had only been used in about 2 percent of gun crimes before the ban. "Should it be renewed," the report concluded, "the ban's effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement."

With more information, Watts decided that focusing on access to guns, not types of guns, was a smarter approach. She came to the same conclusion that other gun control groups had reached even before the Sandy Hook shootings: "Ultimately," she said, "what's going to save the most lives are background checks."

While many gun control groups still officially support the assault weapons ban 2014 "we haven't abandoned the issue," as Watts said 2014 they're no longer actively fighting for it.

Last year, the assault weapons ban amendment to the Manchin-Toomey gun control bill went down in flames in a bipartisan vote. If they’re waiting for public opinion to turn, they should expect to be resting patiently for a long time. The 2013 Colorado recall elections, which booted two anti-gun State Senators was successful thanks to blue-collar workers, Hispanics, and women. As for background checks, they’re already virtually universal. Most gun owners buy from dealers with a federal firearms license who have to by law conduct a background check. Regardless, gun control advocates still perpetuate the myth that 40 percent of gun sales are conducted without a background check. John Lott tore into this narrative in January of 2013 (via NRO) [emphasis mine]:

More important, the number comes from a 251-person survey on gun sales two decades ago, early in the Clinton administration. More than three-quarters of the survey covered sales before the Brady Act instituted mandatory federal background checks on February 28, 1994. In addition, guns are not sold in the same way today that they were sold two decades ago.

The number of federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) today is only a fraction of what it was. Today there are only 118,000; while back in 1993 there were over 283,000. Smaller dealers, many operating out of their homes, were forced out by various means, including much higher costs for licenses.

The survey asked buyers if they thought they were buying from a licensed firearms dealer. While all FFLs do background checks, those perceived as being FFLs were the only ones counted. Yet, there is much evidence that survey respondents who went to the very smallest FFLs, especially the “kitchen table” types, had no inkling that the dealer was actually “licensed.” Many buyers seemed to think that only “brick and mortar” stores were licensed dealers, and thus reported not buying from an FFL when in fact they did.

But the high figure comes primarily from including such transactions as inheritances or gifts from family members. Putting aside these various biases, if you look at guns that were bought, traded, borrowed, rented, issued as a requirement of the job, or won through raffles, 85 percent went through FFLs; just 15 percent were transferred without a background check.

If you include these transfers either through FFLs or from family members, the remaining transfers falls to 11.5 percent.

We don’t know the precise number today, but it is hard to believe that it is above single digits.

That hardly warrants federal action, especially since gun-related violence is down 39 percent since 1993. Pew Research has the figure higher, with a 49 percent decrease in firearm-related homicides. Then again, the American public is largely unaware that gun violence is down.

Gun control has become a political graveyard for Democrats. It’s an issue that cost Al Gore West Virginia, Arkansas, and his home state of Tennessee in 2000. If he had won those states, Gore would have become the president-elect, even with Bush winning Florida.

Liberal attempts to eviscerate the Second Amendment aren’t going away, but that doesn’t mean we should not stop defending the right to bear arms. Watching anti-gun liberals fail is spectacularly entertaining, but conservatives should be vigilant in their attempts to curb gun rights.

Poll: Huckabee Clear Favorite in Iowa

Two things are worth noting in the CNN/ORC survey released Friday vis-à-vis the 2016 presidential sweepstakes: (1) Hillary Clinton, who is gearing up to head to the Hawkeye State as I write this, is leaps and bounds ahead of her fellow Democrats; and (2) former Gov. Mike Huckabee is leading all of his presumed GOP rivals by double digits:

According to a new CNN/ORC poll, 53% of all registered Democrats contacted in Iowa said they would support Hillary Clinton if the 2016 caucuses were held today. That number far outpaces the 15% that would opt for Vice President Joe Biden, 7% who would choose Sen. Elizabeth Warren and 5% who would pick Sen. Bernie Sanders. ...

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee nearly laps the field with 21% of all registered Republicans contacted in the poll saying they would support the former Arkansas governor if the 2016 Iowa caucuses were held today. Paul Ryan is second with 12%, and there is a cadre of politicians -- including Sen. Rand Paul, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- with support in the single digits.

The reason why Huckabee is soaring? Well, in part because more than one-quarter of all registered Republicans who are women prefer him over everyone else:

Huckabee and Ryan are getting similar support with men -- 15% and 16%, respectively -- but it is with women that the former Arkansas governor jumps ahead of the congressman. Twenty-seven percent of registered Republican women polled said they would pick Huckabee, compared with 8% who choose Ryan.

Perhaps one reason why Huckabee is ahead, and has been for a while now, is because his unique brand of social conservatism is popular among social cons in the state. Or, perhaps, because he’s already won the Iowa caucuses before and therefore has great name recognition among voters. Whatever the case may be, however, he hasn’t yet definitely ruled out forming an exploratory committee. But if Mitt Romney doesn't run, and the former governor continues to blow away the competition in Iowa, I honestly can't see why he wouldn't.

Connecticut Triple Murderer on Death Row Suing State Over Kosher Food

Steven Hayes, who was convicted of raping and murdering three people (including two children) in Cheshire, Connecticut, and sentenced to death, is now suing the Connecticut Department of Correction for failing to provide him Kosher meals while in prison. Hayes was not Jewish when he entered prison, but is now calling himself an Orthodox Jew after he "signed up for Judaism."

In his handwritten lawsuit, filed in federal court, Hayes complains that he has lost weight and is starving because the food he is served in prison is not kosher.

The defendants "have been denying a kosher diet I have been requesting since approximately May of 2013," he writes in his lawsuit. "As an orthodox practicing Jew I am entitled to a kosher diet that follows the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut." Kashrut specifies what food Jews can eat and how it must be prepared.

The career criminal further complains that the kitchen at Northern Correctional Institution does not have an "orthodox kosher certificate or a Jewish overseer to maintain strict kosher storage, prep and cooking standards."

All meals at Northern, Hayes claims, are prepared using the same pots, pans, utensils, prep surfaces, washing and storage areas and cooking appliances. He further complains that kitchen staff has told him that "common fare" served at Northern is "kosher like."

"Kosher-like is not kosher," Hayes declared in the lawsuit.

Hayes continues in his lawsuit that "in January 2013 I signed up for Judaism after I learned that Rabbi Schectman was in fact coming to [Northern Correctional Institution] to perform services. Prior to this I was following the philosophy of Taoism since I was told no rabbi came to Northern. I had last practiced Judaism with Rabbi Schectman at Somers Correctional Institution in the mid to late 90s."

Jewish Prisoner Services International dispute Hayes' claim that he is Jewish, as one cannot simply declare oneself to be an Orthodox Jew.

Conversion to Judaism requires a lengthy and serious period of study, according to the organization's website, as well as involvement in the Jewish community that culminates in approval by a rabbinic court and certain religious rituals. It is also rare for a rabbinic court to approve the conversion of somebody who is incarcerated, according to the organization's website.

Hayes' lawyer also claimed that his client is in an "oppressive situation" because he is in a jail cell 24 hours a day. This is also not the first time Hayes has attempted to sue the state over prison conditions.

Cry me a freaking river. I'm sorry, but I cannot come to grips with his lawyer's claim that Hayes is in an "oppressive situation" due to his imprisonment. The three people who he killed are also in what you could call an "oppressive situation" of being dead in a coffin 24 hours a day for the rest of eternity. He killed two young girls who had the rest of their lives in front of them. This attention-seeking, drama queen-esque behavior is absolutely despicable. He's wasting the state's time and money. This is absurd.

The Future of the Gun

Townhall: You open your book by telling a story about a real person, an inner city kid named Mike K. Can you tell us how his experience sets the tone for your book?

Miniter: He’s an interesting guy and there are a lot of people like him out there. I’ve known the guy who changed his life for a long time, John Annoni. He runs an inner city school program that uses hunting, and fi shing, and shooting, and firearms ranges in order to help inner city kids. He took me in and introduced me to kids who used to be in gangs and used to have severe issues with crime, in this case, Mike had a felony conviction.

We’re living in these two very different gun cultures in this country. Often one side or the other side doesn’t understand the point of view of the other one. I wanted someone who could just bridge that in order to start that process of helping people understand each other so we can actually come up with real solutions to gun violence. That’s what led me to Mike.

Townhall: You refer to the gun as “Freedom’s Tool.” What do you mean by that?

Miniter: It’s interesting if you trace the history of the gun right from the beginning of the United States. Start off in 1775, when in Lexington and Concord rifles were being used against British troops who had smoothbore Brown Besses. The British fi rearm, the Brown Bess, would lob a fairly large bullet but through a smoothbore, which is easier and faster to load, but not nearly as accurate. The American colonials were getting their rifles from small arms makers, mostly in New England, they had these rifles because they were hunters and that’s what they had to do. If they didn’t get that rabbit, or whatever they were after, they weren’t going to eat that night. They knew how to shoot and they got the best firearms for that sport. So when they faced the British troops they actually had more advanced firearms than the British did. That actually turned that battle and started our Revolution off to what it became.

Ever since then, if you trace the history of military firearms and civilian firearms, they’re really related. In fact they’re linked. Usually the technology comes out of the civilian market and goes into military and law enforcement markets. If you look at semi-automatic firearms, which are called “assault weapons” today, they were much more popular as sporting arms in the early 20th century than military. The military didn’t really get into them; they didn’t want to, they thought you didn’t need rapid fire. They didn’t want that semi-automatic rifle until really World War II, when the M1 came around and the push to get a firearm was there. Well that technology had already been grown and used in the civilian market.

Townhall: Your book is called “The Future of the Gun,” why did you choose that title?

Miniter: Because politics and technology are fused. What the legislators are always trying to ban is the new technology, and they see a new technology as semi-automatic fi rearms, and many pistols. Well, OK, but those technologies are fairly old technologies, which is interesting to look at that way. But then when you really get into the technology and realize what’s just now becoming available, you realize smart gun technology, for example, is being stopped by possible mandates from legislators saying “once this technology where fi rearms will only go off for a person who’s been programmed into that fi rearm, once that becomes available then all fi rearms should have that technology.”

Well, that’s not feasible for many technological and cost reasons. A lot of the major gun manufacturers have told me again and again that that stopped them. And the possibility of lawsuits stopped them. Because, once they did come up with the smart gun technology, let’s say that gun was stolen and used to murder somebody else, well then could a smart lawyer come in and sue that gun manufacturer for not putting that on all guns?

Townhall: What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions that many Americans have about guns today?

Miniter: So many, I don’t know where to get started. I’ve always owned guns, I grew up with guns, and I had a certain view of them and I didn’t come to where I am on the issue all of a sudden or from my youth. It just kind of came through being a journalist and running around, and learning about these kinds of things.

But what surprised me when I dug into this book was, when I went into the inner city areas in New York, Chicago, and Maryland, I was surprised at the culture that is being traded in those antigun, inner city places where a good guy can’t carry a gun or isn’t supposed to carry a gun.

So, you end up only with a certain type of person illegally carrying a fi rearm, and when you only have that sort of person in a society, well who is the young guy or girl going to look up to?

Hopefully, they have some other type of role model, but a lot of them are just going to look up to that power figure that’s on their street. So they end up looking up to that bad guy with a gun instead of a good guy that they should be looking to. You end up with this break that’s tearing apart these two cultures in America on guns. •

How "College-For-All" Harms America's Students

President Obama has long considered college enrollment as a worthwhile goal for public policy. But college in and of itself isn't a panacea - results matter. And the negative outcomes for the students who struggle in college is outsized to some of the benefits.

As Robert VerBruggen writes at RealClearPolicy:

By the end of their first year, more than a tenth of college students have shown they almost certainly don't have what it takes to graduate, earning a C average or less -- and fewer than half of students have at least a two-thirds chance of making it, which corresponds to an A to B average.

Remember, these kids are self-selected -- they're the ones who decide, based on their performance in high school and the incentives in front of them, that going to college is a good idea. If we change the incentives to push even more kids into college, those kids will be even worse off, on average.

VerBruggen was writing about new policy prescriptions from Inside Higher Ed that analyzes the at-risk students. Students who end their first year of college with a GPA in between 2.0 and 3.0 - between a B and a C - graduate at surprisingly low rates.

First-year G.P.A., the researchers contend, offers a powerful indication of a student’s chances of graduation. Students who end their first year with a G.P.A. of 2.0 or lower are unlikely to graduate despite the best efforts of their colleges, Venit said. Students with a G.P.A. of 3.0 or above, on the other hand, graduate in high numbers.

But there’s also a third group: the students who end their first year with a G.P.A. between 2.0 and 3.0, who make up nearly half of total dropouts. Their fates are more uncertain. These students belong to what Venit and his colleagues call the “murky middle.”

As I wrote for Townhall Magazine earlier this year, college isn't for everyone - and the downsides of incentivizing marginal students to take risks and loans to go can be devastating.

Victory: Nigerian Soldiers Turn Tide Against Boko Haram Fighters, Kill 200

While the world has largely been focused on the developments with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, another militant Islamic group, Boko Haram, has made devastating gains in Nigeria as well.

Boko Haram in recent weeks has taken a string of towns stretching over 200 miles alongside Nigeria's northeast border with Cameroon in a new campaign to create an Islamic caliphate, mimicking the IS group in Syria and Iraq.

The extremists also have attacked a town and villages across the border in Cameroon, but that country's state radio said Cameroonian troops beat them off and forced them back across the border into Nigeria. […]

Thousands of civilians have been forced from their homes in the latest offensive, joining more than 1.5 million other Nigerians who are refugees within their country or across borders in Niger, Cameroon and Chad, according to U.N. figures.

Extremists who have taken other towns have told residents that their next target is Maiduguri, the headquarters of the military campaign in the northeast. Boko Haram has attacked the city several times, with suicide and car bombs that have killed scores. In December they launched a bold attack on an air force base on the outskirts in which they destroyed five aircraft and in February an assault on the main military barracks in the city in which they freed hundreds of detainees.

On Friday, however, in what has been described as a rare military victory, soldiers killed roughly 200 extremists as they were advancing on Maiduguri. According to one officer, a leading commander was among the militants who were killed. There were no military casualties.

Social Security: The Forgotten Crisis

In President Obama's first term, Republicans made a lot of hay by pointing out that our entitlement programs are on an unsustainable path, and that argument was supported by the Simpson-Bowles bipartisan commission to fix the long-term deficit.

In Obama's second term, other, more immediate crises have arisen. But entitlements still loom large on our budget ledger as a threat to our economic security.

A new report out from Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center drives this point home visually:

As de Rugy writes in the report:

Since 2010, the Social Security program has been running a permanent cash-flow deficit, as the first chart shows. This means that the taxes collected during the year for the program fall short of what is needed to cover the benefits paid out to retirees. The program draws from the Social Security trust fund to fill the gap (first using the interest, then the principal) to maintain promised level of benefits to retirees. When this option is also insufficient, the US Treasury will have to start borrowing to pay out benefits.


The program was stable when there were more than three workers per beneficiary. However, future projections indicate that the ratio could continue to fall to less than one worker per beneficiary, at which point the program in its current structure becomes financially unsustainable.

Make no mistake: social security still looms as a fiscal crisis. It's a drag on our federal budget right now, and is projected to get much, much worse in merely the decade we're currently in. It's not a far-off problem: it's here now.

ISIS Beheads British Humanitarian Aid Worker David Haines; Prime Minister Cameron Calls Emergency Meeting

The terror army ISIS has released a video titled "A Message to Allies of America" showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines. Haines was 44-years-old, has two daughters and dedicated his life to helping refugees. He was taken captive in Syria last year and the terror army has been threatening to kill him since beheading American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. It appears the same ISIS terrorist who killed Foley and Sotloff also killed Haines. ISIS has threatened to continue their killing spree and have another British citizen in their custody as a hostage. 

British Prime Minister David Cameron has already issued a response and has called an emergency meeting with COBRA, a committee specifically convened in times of national crisis. 

This post has been updated.

More Than Half Of Parents In Favor Of School Choice

School choice programs are a flashpoint in a few elections this year; Dan discussed a poll about Wisconsin's school choice program playing a major role in Scott Walker's re-election push. Another recent poll finds that most parents are in favor of some kind of school voucher program.

Paul E. Peterson writes:

Many parents would like even more choice of school than they currently have. No less than 56% favor a school voucher that would “give families with children in public schools a wider choice, by allowing them to enroll their children in private schools, instead, with government helping to pay the tuition.” Only 32% opposed the idea. In other words, two- thirds of all parents, including those who have never made use of a private school, are not opposed to the idea of giving families a choice of attending private school instead of public school.

It is true that a much higher percentage of parents (51%) express opposition to a proposal that would “use government funds to pay the tuition of low-income students who would choose to attend private schools.” It seems that many parents don’t like the idea of government support going to just low-income families; if vouchers are to be made available, they should be for everyone. Indeed 56% of parents favor a universal voucher option, while only 50% of the public is so inclined.

While a school choice program that targeted low-income families - similar to Washington, D.C.'s opportunity scholarship program that was dropped by the Obama Administration and only reauthorized with Republicans' advocacy - would be better than nothing, many families feel that programs like this should be open to all families.

Rand Paul on ISIL: "Victory Going to Require Allies That Are Part Of Civilized Islamic World"

With everything that has happened this week on ISIL and the crisis in Iraq and Syria, President Obama has not emerged with a decisive leadership strategy. This has left critics of the Administration in a place to counter the Obama narrative and push strategies of their own.

Sen. Rand Paul has urged caution in this arena, and got in a heated discussion with Sean Hannity this week on the topic. Sen. Paul said:

"The long-term victory is going to require allies that are part of the civilized Islamic world - which is the majority of the Islamic world. But they have to step up."


The Ineffective Death Tax

The estate tax - known pejoratively as the "death tax" - is a tax made for the purposes of "fairness" and justice, but it raises very little money and is mildly harmful to the economy.

The Tax Foundation ran the estate tax in their taxes and growth model and found that repealing the estate tax could create over 100,000 jobs:


Furthermore, as Alan Cole writes:

The estate tax is one of the least effective means of raising revenue in the federal tax code... It produces little revenue - only about $18 billion per year. And it is a tax on capital formation, which is highly elastic with respect to tax.

Those who are interested in raising federal revenue from wealthy individuals in an effective manner should look to taxes that are more direct, more income-based, and easier to administer.

In the grand scheme of things, the estate tax really doesn't cause too much economic harm or raise all that much revenue. But it's a good example of a tax that progressives have historically pushed for on the basis of morals or fairness rather than good economic sense.

Obama Policies "The Reason Why We're Facing ISIS Today"

President Obama made his big primetime speech addressing ISIS this week, underwhelming both conservatives and progressives at the same time. After the speech, GOP foreign policy stalwart John McCain had some choice words - saying President Obama made "a very weak argument."

McCain said that President Obama's policies are "the reason why we're facing ISIS today," and that it was President Obama's decision to overrule his advisors on Iraq strategy that has been disastrous.

The entire exchange is worth watching.

On 9/11 Anniversary, Iowa Democrat Would 'Not Urge' Taking Away Terrorists' Passports

Iowa Democrat Staci Appel debated her GOP challenger David Young on the 13th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. One issue that came up, was the revelation that dozens, and maybe even hundreds, of Americans have joined the terror group ISIS and are fighting alongside the terror forces overseas. While Young insisted the State Department should revoke the passports of any American who joins a terrorist organization, Appel didn’t seem so concerned.

AmericaRising PAC has the video of her strange comments:

“I would not be urging taking away their passports. I think we need to make sure that we work through the system and look through it on a very diligent basis.”

Appel was named one of MSNBC’s ‘30 in 30:’ Women Candidates to Watch in 2014. It’s a list highlighting “dynamic women” running for office this year. They named her the woman to watch on September 11 – you know, the day terrorists attacked our country?

As a reminder, ISIS is the group responsible for beheading journalists James Foley and Steve Sotloff.

I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure allowing terrorists belonging to such murderous groups like these to hold passports is not a winning campaign message.

O Audit, Where Art Thou?

Vulnerable Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu hit a campaign snag when it was revealed she billed a charter flight to taxpayers last year. Apparently, it wasn’t her first time either. She ordered her staff to conduct a comprehensive audit of all traveling expenses made during her entire tenure as a U.S. Senator from Louisiana. The audit was released today with Sen. Landrieu reimbursing the federal government over $30,000 for twelve years of improper billing her traveling arrangements to taxpayers (via CNN):

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu's campaign paid for more than 12 years of wrongfully taxpayer-funded travel, her office announced on Friday.

Landrieu's campaign reimbursed the federal government $33,727 for chartered flights that were wrongly charged to her Senate office. The payment comes a month after the Louisiana Democrat ordered her attorney to audit her office's travel spending to root out incorrectly-billed campaign travel.

Landrieu said the "mistakes," which go back to 2002, stemmed from "sloppy book keeping."

"I take full responsibility. They should have never happened, and I apologize for this," Landrieu said in the Friday statement.

CNN first reported in August that Landrieu used government dollars to pay for a chartered flight that took her to a campaign fundraiser last November. Landrieu's campaign spokesmen said then that the charter company mistakenly billed Landrieu's Senate office instead of her campaign and that mistake had already been rectified.

The next day, Landrieu's office announced she would refund the Senate for a separate $5,700 charter flight after CNN questioned the expense. It was shortly after that report that Landrieu ordered a full review of her travel expenses.

Landrieu said her office now has a new system successfully used by other Senate offices to prevent future mistakes.

The reimbursed funds accounted for about 11% of her Senate office's travel costs over the last 12 years.

In all, 43 trips were made due "sloppy book keeping," which amounted to 136 campaign functions, according to the Hill.  But, Sen. Landrieu is still facing criticism that she only audited travel records since 2002. She was elected in 1996.

Starting next week, Cortney will be giving you weekly updates on the Louisiana race until Election Day . We shouldn’t be too surprised if this little accounting error is cited pervasively.  

Editor's note: This post has been corrected since publication. Original post said there were nine additional travel charges Sen. Landrieu billed to taxpayers. After further review, it turns out this wasn’t entirely accurate  We apologize for the error. 

Fighter Pilot Was Tasked With Taking Out United 93 By Crashing Into It

On September 11, 2001, Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney had one harrowing mission: bring down United 93. She took off from Andrews Air Force Base, but without weapons. No missiles, machine guns, etc.; she would have to ram into the commercial airliner to save American lives.

“I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot,” she said. The 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks has come and gone; we will always remember those who have died. But this story of a fighter pilot who was willing to sacrifice herself to save others is surely worth the read. For years, she never gave her account of what happened; she later escorted Air Force One back to D.C. Now, she’s a mother of two daughters and the head of the F-35 program at Lockheed Martin (via Washington Post):

Because the surprise attacks were unfolding, in that innocent age, faster than they could arm war planes, Penney and her commanding officer went up to fly their jets straight into a Boeing 757.

“We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft,” Penney recalls of her charge that day. “I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”

But 10 years later, she is reflecting on one of the lesser-told tales of that endlessly examined morning: how the first counterpunch the U.S. military prepared to throw at the attackers was effectively a suicide mission.

“We had to protect the airspace any way we could,” she said last week in her office at Lockheed Martin, where she is a director in the F-35 program.

She was a rookie in the autumn of 2001, the first female F-16 pilot they’d ever had at the 121st Fighter Squadron of the D.C. Air National Guard. She had grown up smelling jet fuel. Her father flew jets in Vietnam and still races them. Penney got her pilot’s licence when she was a literature major at Purdue. She planned to be a teacher. But during a graduate program in American studies, Congress opened up combat aviation to women and Penney was nearly first in line.

A third plane hit the Pentagon, and almost at once came word that a fourth plane could be on the way, maybe more. The jets would be armed within an hour, but somebody had to fly now, weapons or no weapons.

“Lucky, you’re coming with me,” barked Col. Marc Sasseville.

“We don’t train to bring down airliners,” said Sasseville, now stationed at the Pentagon. “If you just hit the engine, it could still glide and you could guide it to a target. My thought was the cockpit or the wing.”

He also thought about his ejection seat. Would there be an instant just before impact?

“I was hoping to do both at the same time,” he says. “It probably wasn’t going to work, but that’s what I was hoping.”

Penney worried about missing the target if she tried to bail out.

It would be hours before Penney and Sasseville learned that United 93 had already gone down in Pennsylvania, an insurrection by hostages willing to do just what the two Guard pilots had been willing to do: Anything. And everything.

“The real heroes are the passengers on Flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves,” Penney says. “I was just an accidental witness to history.”

As Obama Stalls On Immigration Decision, Number Of Deportations Plummet

As Katie wrote earlier today, the Obama administration will issue executive action on illegal immigration by the end of the year. She cited White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest saying, “President Obama has been working with Attorney General Eric Holder at the Justice Department and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson ‘for months’ to form decisions about what action to take on the issue. He has also been taking suggestions from outside groups.”

This announcement comes after the Associated Press released their analysis of the Homeland Security Department’s numbers on deportations. Well, here’s a shocker: they’re decreasing (via Associated Press):

President Barack Obama, who has postponed until after Election Day his plans that could shield millions of immigrants from deportation, is already on pace this year to deport the fewest number of immigrants since at least 2007.

According to an analysis of Homeland Security Department figures by The Associated Press, the federal agency responsible for deportations sent home 258,608 immigrants between the start of the budget year last October and July 28 this summer. During the same period a year earlier, it removed 320,167 people — a decrease of nearly 20 percent.

Over the same period ending in July 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 344,624 people, some 25 percent more than this year, according to the federal figures obtained by the AP.

AP added that the decline of deportations could be due to the president prioritizing enforcement measures on “criminal immigrants.” Additionally, the surge of immigrants captured at the border from Central America is a situation doesn’t lend itself to a speedy deportation process. For starters, these people have to be flown back to their native countries. Right now, this influx has overwhelmed detention centers and legal entities handling the cases.

While the story also cites that the president can’t issue “blanket permission” for illegal immigrants to permanently stay in the U.S., does that mean he can’t issue a “blanket pardon,” as Guy discussed in a previous post. AP says much is unclear, but the less than 400 of the 59,000 illegals caught immigrating from Central America have been deported [emphasis mine]:

It remains unclear exactly what actions Obama will announce after the elections. He said earlier this month the U.S. would be better off if immigrants — who in some cases he said have been in the U.S. for longer than 10 years and have American children — "have a path to get legal by paying taxes and getting aboveboard, paying a fine, learning English if they have to."

As of early September, only 319 of more than 59,000 immigrants who were caught traveling with their families have been returned to Central America.

Video: Kerry Says US Not at War With ISIS

We flagged this quote yesterday afternoon, but here's our Secretary of State tap-dancing around the word 'war:'

"I think that's the wrong terminology. What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counter-terrorism operation, and it's going to go on for some period of time. If someone wants to think about it as being a war on ISIL, they can do so, but the fact is, it’s a major counter-terrorism operation that will have many different moving parts."

Susan Rice -- not exactly Ms. Credibility by any stretch of the imagination -- is playing the same semantics game.  The renewed and expanded war in Iraq and now Syria is not a war. Neither was the "kinetic military action" in Libya (which has since imploded). The smoking gun Benghazi emails weren't about Benghazi. The Fort Hood massacre was "workplace violence." The Boston bombings were not acts of terrorism.  And the Islamic State is not Islamic.  Words have meanings, and the American people shouldn't tolerate being treated like imbeciles. The newly-announced operation is aimed at degrading and destroying an enemy.  It entails heavy, sustained airstrikes.  It involves hundreds of additional pairs of "boots on the ground," even if they're in a non-combat role.  And officials warn that it will be a lengthy endeavor.  That's a war.  It may be a substantively different sort of war than one involving a large-scale ground invasion, but it's a war nonetheless.  Most voters are mature enough to understand this.  The administration seems intent on belaboring these trifling distinctions for the purposes of political insulation (most Americans, especially in the Democratic base, oppose ground troops), and as legal cover.  Just last year, President Obama called for the phase out and repeal of a 2001 AUMF upon which the administration is now relying as a legal basis for carrying out this new mission.  A number of scholars have argued the terms of that 13-year old Congressional resolution does not pertain to the operation against ISIS.

Let me stipulate that I favor much of the president's four-point plan outlined Wednesday night, with some caveats: It seems to me that he ought to seek -- and receive -- an updated Congressional authorization for the anti-ISIS campaign, the scope of which continues to widen, and arming the 'moderate' rebels in Syria appears to be a risky and quite possibly quixotic proposition.  I'm also concerned that the president reportedly discarded the military's advice on achieving victory; plus, the direct line connecting the president's studied indifference to the burgeoning ISIS threat and the current crisis cannot be ignored.  But now that action is finally being taken, Americans should support the fight against this unspeakably brutal and frighteningly well-resourced army of up to 32,000 radical jihadists.  That being said, this scenario still presents an object lesson in the incoherence of his foreign policy.  One year ago, Obama delivered a prime time address calling for airstrikes against the Assad regime in Syria.  We are now bombing Assad's primary enemy in Syria, and Assad is offering his assistance.  Several months ago, Obama dismissed ISIS as a "JV" team.  Now he calls them a "cancer" that will take years to defeat.  And four weeks ago, the president ridiculed the prospect of arming "moderate" rebels inside Syria, saying the idea "has always been a fantasy."  Today, it's step two in his own four-step strategy.  No wonder "smart power" is in the dumpster:


Planned Parenthood Buys Ads Criticizing Over-The-Counter Birth Control

Katie wrote the other day about Planned Parenthood's perplexing-but-not opposition to allowing oral contraception to be sold over the counter (OTC) without a prescription. (Read: $$$$$) Today, Planned Parenthood doubled down on their opposition to OTC birth control and released an ad criticizing two Republican politicians who support expanding access to birth control...because somehow they are also limiting access to birth control.

The ad depicts a terrible reality where birth control pills are treated just like those incredibly scarce and expensive drugs Advil and Benadryl.

As Ben Domenech sums up quite nicely in The Federalist, it's glaringly obvious that Planned Parenthood is more concerned with receiving taxpayer money than for actually helping women: (emphasis added)

Now you can understand why they wouldn’t want potential customers to be free to go to CVS or Walgreens or Rite Aid instead of heading to Planned Parenthood – providing those and other services is worth a lot of taxpayer money, $540 million in FY 2012 alone. And if you don’t provide those services, you can’t bill the taxpayers for them.

Polls have indicated that a large majority of Americans support OTC access to birth control.

White House: We Aren't Going to Get Into What The "Legal, Academic Definition of War" With ISIS May Be

Over the past few weeks, but more specifically since President Obama spoke to the country Wednesday evening about how he will "degrade and destroy" ISIS, Americans are asking one question: Are we at war with these people? 

Up until now, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have said the answer is no. Today White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said while the United States isn't at war with ISIS, the United States is at war with the terror army in the same way we're at war with al Qaeda.

"In the same way the United States is at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates around the world, the United States is at war with ISIL," Earnest said. "But make no mistake, I'm not just talking about the United States, I'm talking about a broader coalition of international partners."

"I'll leave it to others to determine what the legal, academic definition of war may be," Earnest said. 

Guess Who's Paying For Monkeys to Get Drunk?

You are obviously.

For some reason, the National Institutes of Health believes it’s a good idea to study the effects of monkeys getting hammered using taxpayer dollars. What redeeming quality or benefit this might have to the public is beyond me, but at the very least, it must be mildly entertaining -- and fun -- to participate in such edifying studies (via the Washington Times):

There’s a whole lot of drinking going on in the name of government science, and some watchdogs think it’s the American taxpayer who is getting hammered. Right now the National Institutes of Health is spending $3.2 million to get monkeys to drink alcohol excessively to determine what effect it has long term on their body tissue.

NIH also has handed out $69,459 to the University of Missouri to study whether text messaging college students before they attend pre-football game tailgates will encourage them to drink less and “reduce harmful effects related to alcohol consumption.” And the government’s premier research arm has doled out money in recent years for research on binge-drinking mice, inebriated gamblers and pilots seeking the sensation of flying drunk — on a simulator of course.

Veryyyyyy important stuff. And yet there’s apparently a case to be made for why such "research projects" are important:

NIH defends such expenditures on the grounds that these research projects help those they fund improve their “potential to develop into a productive, independent research scientist.” In an email to The Washington Times, the NIH pointed out that the goal of the Missouri text message project wasn’t just to save the lives of coeds but also to empower “promising predoctoral students to obtain individualized, mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting dissertation research in scientific health-related fields relevant to the missions of the participating NIH Institutes and Centers.”

That is to say, it’s a form of training, I suppose. Hence, it doesn’t matter what these researchers study, so long as they are studying something, and therefore honing new skills that will ultimately make them useful in their respective fields. Frankly, that rationale sounds…utterly ridiculous to me, but on the plus side, such wastefulness has not gone unnoticed: The NIH has earned itself one the Times’ most coveted and prestigious awards:

For its use of American tax dollars to study inebriated pilots, mice, monkeys and students, the NIH wins this week’s Golden Hammer, a weekly award from The Times aimed at highlighting examples of questionable or wasteful spending.

I thought welfare recipients using EBT cards to purchase porn and booze was bad enough. This, however, takes things to a whole new level.

BREAKING: White House Reconfirms Obama to Issue Executive Action on Illegal Immigration By The End of The Year

Speaking to reporters Friday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest reconfirmed President Obama will make an announcement and take executive action on illegal immigration by the end of the year, adding that the "bulk of the work" on the issue already done. 

"We're in a position where a vast majority of the work has been done," Earnest said in response to a question from TIME's Zeke Miller. "The bulk of the work has been done."

 "That [remaining] work will be done in sufficient time for the President to make an announcement before the end of the year,"  he added. "There are still some additional decisions that need to made."

Earnest also said President Obama has been working with Attorney General Eric Holder at the Justice Department and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson "for months" to form decisions about what action to take on the issue. He has also been taking suggestions from outside groups. 

Last week the White House announced President Obama will delay executive action on illegal immigration until after the 2014 midterm elections in an effort to save vulnerable Democrats from voters. Obama had originally promised to use executive action on the issue by the end of the summer. 

This post has been updated.

Six-in-Ten 'Very Concerned' Over Rise of Islamic Extremism

Sixty-two percent of Americans are ‘very concerned’ about the rise of Islamic extremism around the world, according to the Pew Research Center. This is the highest number ever recorded in the study.

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The escalating percentage should come as little surprise, particularly considering the recent discovery that ISIS has at least tripled in size since its original estimate. It is now believed that more than 30,000 ISIS fighters exist. There are also reports about individuals from around the world continuing to join the terrorist group.

The Daily Mail reported that two girls (aged just 15 and 16) fled from Australia to Syria to join the jihadist group. More than 100 Australians are believed have gone abroad to join ISIS, the article stated. We also know that dozens of Americans as well as citizens of other Western countries such as Britain and Canada have joined ISIS.

The founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, Imam Syed Soharwardy, explained to Business Insider

"I cannot believe that there is no one from ISIS on the ground here in Canada or the U.S. or Europe. They are now recruiting, so they are absolutely here,” he told IBTimes. “IS people, those who are very rigid fanatics, they do live in this country, they do recruit. They do facilitate in recruitment.”

The mentor-recruit relationship often begins through religious seminars, community activities or classes that might look normal to the average Westerner, Soharwardy said. Of the five known foreign fighters in Syria from Calgary, Alberta, three attended the same mosque, Soharwardy said.

ISIS is also likely recruiting in colleges and high schools under the cover of student groups, Soharwardy said. Recruits are seeking camaraderie, and they often know someone who has joined a militant group beforehand. For example, after U.S. citizen Douglas McCain from California went to fight with ISIS in Syria, it was later discovered that he had lived in the same building as a classmate who joined al-Shabab, the Somali militant group with ties to al-Qaeda.

To the 14 percent of Americans who stated they are ‘not at all’ concerned about Islamic extremism, you should be.

Diplomacy: 10 Arab States Promise to "Do Their Share" in Fighting ISIS

The international community is slowly if hesitantly coming around to joining the global fight on terror. Last week, for example, the Arab League tepidly endorsed a joint resolution to fight the terrorist organization ISIS. At minimum, this was a formal recognition that the Arab League and the United States have mutually beneficial interests and goals in seeing this army of murderers wiped off the face of the earth.

At the same time, Secretary of State John Kerry has been in the Middle East attempting to galvanize international support for the president’s 4-pronged strategy to combat ISIS, which was outlined Wednesday night in a primetime television address. To that end, he recently met with foreign ministers from nearly a dozen Arab nations, all of whom (except Turkey) signed a communiqué to “do their share” in vanquishing this threat, according to the New York Times:

Arab nations vowed on Thursday to “do their share” to confront and ultimately destroy the Sunni extremist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The promise came after the nations’ foreign ministers met here behind closed doors with Secretary of State John Kerry. A joint communiqué issued by the United States and 10 Arab states endorsed a broad strategy to stop the flow of volunteers to ISIS, curtail its financing and provide aid to communities that had been “brutalized” by the militants.

It also called for a coordinated military campaign in which nations would contribute “as appropriate.” Mr. Kerry, who was the only Western foreign minister at the meetings here, sought to use the talks to mobilize support against ISIS, a day after President Obama declared that the United States was prepared to carry out airstrikes in Syria in an effort to degrade and eventually defeat the Sunni militants. None of the Arab participants said precisely what they would do, and it remained unclear whether any would join the United States in mounting the airstrikes.

As outlined by the president on Wednesday night, the United States will not commit ground troops to the region. The president is thus relying on the peshmerga and other ground forces to take the fight to ISIS. But what role, it's worth asking, will Arab nations have in this joint undertaking? More details from the communiqué:

The communiqué said that the participants had discussed a strategy to “destroy” ISIS “wherever it is, including in both Iraq and Syria.”

It said steps would be taken to stop the flow of foreign fighters and money to ISIS, repudiate the group’s “hateful ideology” and provide aid to rebuild affected communities.

The communiqué made no explicit mention of training Syrian rebels; rather, it said that the signatories would join “in the many aspects of a coordinated military campaign.”

Even if the Arab world does not commit wholesale to this fight, stopping the flow of arms, personnel, and cash to ISIS terrorists is essential -- and not unrelated -- to defeating them. After all, we learned just today that ISIS’ ranks have swelled to perhaps as many as 31,500, way above the initial estimates the intelligence community first furnished us with.

Having these nation states on board, then, is a small yet significant step towards cutting off and ostracizing these butchers. Put simply, as the president keeps reminding us, their cooperation will go a long way.

"Jim Believed to the End That His Country Would Come to Their Aid," Foley's Mother Speaks Out

The frustration and disappointment in the U.S. government expressed by Diane Foley, the mother of beheaded American journalist, James Foley, is an outcry for the desperate need to defeat ISIS. 

Diane Foley sat down with CNN's Anderson Cooper:

"As an American I was embarrassed and appalled," said Diane Foley.

Foley believes that the family's desperate plea to get James back was an "annoyance" to the U.S. government and the capture of James was not in the strategic interest of the military. 

Diane Foley said:

"Jim would have been saddened. Jim believe till the end that his country would come to their aid."

The government gave several demands to the family including to refrain from going to the media and even threatened the family with charges if they attempted to raise funds to pay the $132 million ransom demanded by ISIS.

James' family could do nothing to save him. They had to have complete confidence that the government would rescue him. 

Diane Foley said:

"[We were asked] to just trust that it would be taken care of...we were just told to trust that he would be freed somehow miraculously...and he wasn't was he?"

Diane elaborates on how she believes America's response has only "increased the hate" ISIS has for Americans. She calls for the American government "to learn from the mistakes that were made" and "acknowledge that there are better ways for Americans to be treated." 

Obama to Attend Fundraiser Hosted by Pro-Israel Advocate

President Obama will travel to Baltimore Friday to attend a fundraiser hosted by Howard E. Friedman, described by the Baltimore Sun as "one of the nation's foremost advocates for Israel." Those hoping to attend the event will have to fork over a hefty fee:

Howard E. Friedman, a former president of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, and a leading patron of Jewish political causes, will host Obama for a dinner that will cost guests up to $32,400 — the maximum an individual may give to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the calendar year.

Friedman, who has served as chairman of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and as president of the Baltimore Jewish Council, has a lot of political clout in Washington. Since 2009, he's given nearly $100,000 in contributions, mostly to Democrats. 

The fundraiser comes in the midst of Israel's struggle with the terror group Hamas. The conflict raging on the Gaza Strip is currently in a ceasefire, but judging from past ceasefire attempts, it's perhaps only a matter of time before Hamas breaks the agreement.

Many have questioned the Obama administration's support of Israel. During the crisis that has unfolded in the Middle East, the White House decided to send a $47 million aid package to Gaza, which legislators like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) warned would go straight into the hands of Hamas. Others accused the administration of aiding Israel's enemy after banning flights to Israel. What's more, instead of defending Israel in its attempt to respond to the Hamas threat, Secretary of State John Kerry tried to reach out to Qatar and Turkey for a possible ceasefire. Qatar is known to be one of Hamas' biggest supporters. Still others criticize Obama for having an unnecessarily tenuous relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The president may have to do more than attend a pricey fundraiser to quell some of these criticisms and prove he truly does stand with Israel.